With the switch of courses on Thursday it means we’ll have fresh ground which probably aides DEFI DU SEUILL’s chance.
There is a school of thought that Lostintranslation is more of a stayer but as a former winner of the Triumph Hurdle, which it always used to be said was all about stamina, I don’t think Defi Du Seuill lacks in that department and what we do know is that he possesses a better turn of foot than Colin Tizzard’s horse.
Philip Hobbs has worked wonders getting Defi Du Seuill back to his best given how he looked completely gone at the game in two runs last season, but he is now fulfilling his early promise. Do not forget how far clear of the rest he was as a juvenile, winning the Triumph Hurdle by five lengths and following up at Aintree.
Twice this year he has displayed he is a quicker horse than Lostintranslation. It’s just that on the first occasion Barry Geraghty used his turn of foot too soon and it gave his old rival time to battle back. Geraghty learned from his mistake and in the Scilly Isles at Sandown he was held on to longer before pulling away up the hill with Vinndication back in third.
I’ll also give a mention to Charlie Longsdon’s CASTAFIORE, the outsider of the field. I’d have preferred it if she’d run in a handicap off 139 but her effort against Bags Groove in the Pendil was a really good one and she gets a handy 7lb allowance from the geldings.
After a quiet couple of years at the Festival I’m hoping Philip Hobbs can bag a double as his SHAMBURU SHUJAA arrives for the Pertemps Final on a hat-trick after two easy wins at Chepstow.
The six-year-old began the season with a lowly rating of 125 after four runs over hurdles that showed promise without suggesting he was a star. This year his form has been taken to a new level, catching the eye behind Birchdale at Warwick, placing second at Lingfield and then racking up his double in Wales. He looked to have a fair bit in hand when beating Tobefair last time and a mark of 136 looks fine.
One with a similar profile is Dr Richard Newland’s AARON LAD who has also won his last two including a qualifier for this over course and distance. I’m a bit worried about his successive 9lb rises but the rain will have helped him and he looks an out-and-out galloper.
There will probably be an Irish runner lurking who has been hiding under a bushel but I’m struggling to find which one.
I’ve got to admit it is concerning the way Balko Des Flos breezed past UN DE SCEAUX in the Ryanair last year but I’m letting my heart rule my head once more and staying with Willie Mullins’ little warrior.
He is ultra-consistent, the ground is in his favour and in his sole outing this year he gave Altior more to think about than anyone has over fences. That was over two miles but we know he stays this trip as he’s a former winner of this race. He may be 11 but he certainly didn’t look like age had caught up with him when he was making Altior pull out all the stops at Ascot and I think he has fewer questions to answer than most.
It is a wide open renewal though, and the late additions of Monalee and Frodon give it extra strength in depth and even horses like Road To Respect, Coney Island and Terrefort cannot be ruled out with any confidence.
I haven’t even mentioned Footpad but I just have a feeling he may have been beating up a fairly weak novice division last season and he appeared to have no excuses when beaten by Simply Ned.
It’s a case of rolling back the years as having tipped up one 11-year-old from the Mullins yard I’m going for another in FAUGHEEN.
I’ve been against him in the build up to the meeting but the confidence is oozing from the yard and he wouldn’t even need to reproduce his effort from Punchestown last year where he beat Penhill, winner of this race last year but missing through injury this time, by 13 lengths.
It was somewhat surprising when Mullins then decided to start him off over two miles this season and his stablemate Sharjah was just too quick for him. Then when he was stepped up to three miles at Christmas he fell against Apple’s Jade just before the race began in earnest. We are taking a punt he retains his ability but those closest to him and struggling to see him beaten.
The favourite Paisley Park has an unblemished record this season and looks the perfect type for this, racing behind the bridle, but quite what he has achieved this year is still up for debate, although all he can do is keep winning.
On trials day Janika and Sirruh Du Lac dominated a good handicap, pulling well clear of a good yardstick in Ballyhill and the pair dominate the betting for this. There was little between them, with Lizzie Kelly getting an extra effort out of Sirruh Du Lac to prevail and the pair meet again with Janika just 1lb better off.
However, on the same afternoon in the novice handicap which has produced plenty of Festival winners in recent years Dan Skelton’s SPIRITOFTHEGAMES caught my eye when third to Kildisart.
In truth there appears to be quite a lot of dead wood in this and it would be no surprise to see the three market leaders dominate, hopefully Skelton’s runner has more in hand than the other two.
When Nicky Henderson fancies one he finds it very hard to cover it up and EPATANTE has long been touted for this.
She arrived from France with a pretty tall reputation and went off odds-on for her British debut at Kempton which was a bit of a cakewalk. She was not seen again until Exeter last month where once again she strolled to victory.
Henderson has purposefully kept her low key, skipping the endless mares’ black type races to avoid picking up a penalty, which several of her main rivals have not managed to do. Henderson has fitted her with a hood to keep a lid on her and she is coming up against several unknowns from the Willie Mullins yard but she has looked very good to date.
Young trainer Henry Oliver has his string in great order right now and he can gain a breakthrough first Festvial victory with KILFILUM CROSS in the Kim Muir.
The eight-year-old is very lightly-raced, his victory at Ludlow last time out was just his seventh run under Rules, but he was value for a fair bit more than the winning margin for me. This obviously represents a step up in class but I liked the fact Oliver went to the trouble of getting Derek O’Connor over to ride him as the leading amateur had ridden him in point-to-points.
Now, the thing is O’Connor has jumped ship today to ride ANY SECOND NOW for Ted Walsh and JP McManus so the wise thing to do is to probably have a saver on him, too.