We're delighted to announce that racing expert Rhys Williams has come aboard to provide daily tips and insight and he's kicking off a with a couple at Thurles, including a 20/1 shot...
"I think she’s a thorough stayer, as she showed when winning a 3m handicap hurdle at Cork in testing conditions, so today’s test should suit."
Rhys on Chapter Two
The majority of the field in this 2m7f maiden hurdle an unproven over the trip. One horse that isn't is Mercury Lane, who ran well in defeat at Cork last time behind Velvet Elvis. He travelled well in midfield before making ground to track the leaders on the inside rail leaving the back straight for the final time. Angled towards the outside once in the straight, Bryan Cooper looked set to make his challenge at three out but Mercury Lane got in close.
That put him on the back foot and he had to be pushed along going to two out where once again he wasn't fluent. He was better at the last and kept responding to pressure to press Velvet Elvis on the run in but was half a length behind him at the line.
I think he has fewer questions to answer that his main rivals in this contest. Salt Wind looked a stayer at Navan but raced keenly last time over 2m4f which is a concern going into today. Point to points are rarely a true test of a horse's ability to stay 3m so Dunboyne still has to show he stays while this is a big step up in trip for Fais Ton Chemin and Meticulous, the former wearing a tongue tie for the first time.
Given the doubts over those horses, Mercury Lane is an appealing each way bet at 5/1.
Chapter Two returns to racing under rules for the first time in 646 days in a very weak staying handicap hurdle. Since then, she has been running in point to points and running quite well on occasions. She was still just in front of Longhouse Music at the last when making an error and getting rid of J J King on her final run of last season. On her first run back this season she was ridden very patiently out the back and couldn't get into the race and she improved on that on her latest outing when finishing third.
I think she's a thorough stayer, as she showed when winning a 3m handicap hurdle at Cork in testing conditions, so today's test should suit. She's now off a 3lb lower mark than she raced off that day and she could be more competitive than her big price suggests.
Some Festival pointers at Warwick
Paul's Saga has her prep run for the Stayers Hurdle at Warwick today in a listed race. While she is the clear class act in the field, it is worth noting for those thinking of getting stuck in at a short price that she showed a tendency to jump out to the right in France.
That wasn't so much of an issue at Auteuil as she could race against the far hedge in the back straight and the near rail in the home straight to nullify it but she doesn't have that benefit today.
It may turn out that they've worked on this at home and she jumps straighter but it will be something to keep an eye on, particularly with Cheltenham in mind.