There's some major racing at Gowran Park and Leopardstown in the coming days so let Tony Keenan talk you through the Thyestes Chase and Irish Arkle...
"Irish Arkle preference is for Gilgamboa. He wasn't as good as Un De Sceaux or Vautour over hurdles but looks improved for fences, no surprise given his trainer. He caught my eye at Christmas, jumping and travelling supremely, and is a bet at 3.7511/4."
I've voiced doubts about Djakadam before - his unproven stamina, Willie Mullins' poor record in handicap chases, a reputation based on supposition and jockey/trainer talk - but his mark of 145 might be the biggest hole is his Thyestes Chase claims. That figure was achieved as a five-year-old chaser in receipt of an overly generous weight allowance last season and such runners do much outside novice company. At odds of 4.03/1 he has to be taken on.
Sadler'sflaure is on a fair mark but looks a two-and-a-half specialist while the likes of Sword Fish and Thelobstercatcher will enjoy a slog on deep ground.
This race is all about Gallant Oscar, however. He's been trained for the Thyestes all season by a master target trainer. Tony Martin had the option of going for the Troytown or Paddy Power but this race looks a better call with a long-term view to the Aintree National. He won his sole completed chase start for the yard with ease at Naas, the form working out with the second and fourth running well in the Irish National afterwards, and while his runs over hurdles this season have been good - particularly over an insufficient trip last time - the 9yo looks a better chaser. He should be clear favourite for this.
Our Champion Hurdle is a no bet race with little between Hurricane Fly and Jezki but it might be time to make a play in the real thing at Cheltenham. Jezki is the obvious each-way bet but also the right one and the non-runner, no-bet concession available on the Sportsbook makes the 5/1 look big. Faugheen is not a horse I'm rushing to take on after he blocked off another chink in his armour by winning well over a speed test at Kempton. He is short enough though having not achieved as much as Jezki, albeit opportunity playing its part there.
The New One, however, is worth opposing, his improvement having flat-lined and a tendency to jump right-handed becoming evident this season; given he doesn't want to be in front too soon, having a moderate hurdling technique is not ideal. Jezki is a spring horse - form figures of 183111 from March through May - and has been trained with Cheltenham in mind. In a race where there is no depth outside the front three, he should be backed.
The Irish Arkle is a race framed around the effect it will have on the respective targets of Willie Mullins' novice chasers at the Festival. Un De Sceaux wins and then sticks to two miles and the Arkle proper; Vautour goes for the JLT, likely along with Valseur Lido; Don Poli remains an RSA horse. This approach has problems: one fall could move all the pieces and it assumes Mullins is the only show in town with the Irish novices which simply isn't true - only five of Willie's 33 Cheltenham winners were novice chasers.
I don't like Un De Sceaux here. Gemix is the only horse of note he has beaten and he is hard to rate in an Irish context. Also, why hasn't he run in a Grade 1? It's hard to put a positive spin on that. He faces good horses like Clarcam who has been revolutionised by a wind op but preference is for Gilgamboa. He wasn't as good as Un De Sceaux or Vautour over hurdles but looks improved for fences, no surprise given his trainer. He caught my eye at Christmas, jumping and travelling supremely, and is a bet at 3.7511/4.
Back Gallant Oscar @ 5.59/2 in the Thyestes Chase
Back Jezki each-way 5/1 in the Champion Hurdle
Back Gilgamboa @ 3.7511/4 in the Irish Arkle