Alan Dudman continues his ante-post build-up to the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, and has picked out a Henry De Bromhead contender for Grade 1 success...
"This season he looks an improved model though, and he followed the Limerick virtuoso show with a really decent performance in a Grade 2 at Down Royal - a race in which he beat Outlander by a cosy margin by repelling his challenge."
Over the course of my four ante-post previews, there has been a distinct lack of Gigginstown horses. I aim to correct that now in perfect time for the boss and his race. A perfect coincidence.
Might I add; I really like A Genie In A Bottle at [12.0] for the National Hunt Chase. He runs in the maroon and white colours and has bundles of stamina, while Death Duty looks one of the best staying novices in Ireland - and he is at the top of the market for the Albert Bartlett. His season has been top-drawer, whilst Genie In A Bottle has real guts and determination.
Now that the Gigginstown issue has been addressed, I can discuss Sub Lieutenant, who surely is the identikit runner for the Ryanair Chase. I read an article in the Irish Press that told a tale of the writer's friend who absolutely fell in love with this horse when he scored at Limerick earlier in the season. I merely watched on TV, but the brute strength and raw ability can still be shared from a screen. His jumping was brilliant that day - typical of a runner for Henry De Bromhead.
Indeed, that was his first start for the yard having been removed from Sandra Hughes previously, but he'd always shown talent with Hughes, and was a rather classy novice. He even ran in the Irish Grand National as a 7yo, but it was too much for him at that stage of his career.
This season he looks an improved model though, and he followed the Limerick virtuoso show with a really decent performance in a Grade 2 at Down Royal - a race in which he beat Outlander by a cosy margin by repelling his challenge. Jockey David Mullins was full of praise for him afterwards, whilst the handler described him as a "very exciting horse".
I think we'll see the best of this horse on good ground, and he has form with Sizing John from their Kinloch Brae tussle at Thurles - which received a seismic boost from the latter's success in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown recently. Sizing John is now 10/1 for the Ryanair and 12/1 NRNB for the Gold Cup after his Irish Gold Cup victory - I hope he takes on Thistlecrack et al. Just don't let him race against Douvan again!
The Jessica Harrington star has an ideal temperament for Prestbury Park, as he switches off and is a touch lazy - which should help him get the Gold Cup trip at Cheltenham. His jockey Robbie Power also mentioned he was tailormade for the Ryanair prior to Sunday's show, which presents a nice poser for the two races. Sub Lieutenant is double figures - and there's not much between the two.
The favourite Un De Sceaux seems less flamboyant these days, but an altogether better model. The 'white-knuckle ride' that seemed to be the case with him in his early days has been swapped for a calmer and classier jumper. His price of 7/2 must be seen as the gift from the gods in comparison to some of the ridiculous odds he has been in the past.
UDS has been favourite in every single start since he joined Willie Mullins, and in the early days you would regularly see 1/16 and 1/14.
His jumping was good in the rerouted Clarence House (his second win in the race), in fact he was hanging in the air with some prodigious leaps at Cheltenham. He seems to jump better at Prestbury Park than at Ascot, and with a Timeform rating of 172, he is the standard-setter, and should have no problems with the trip now he settles in his races. He has form in France too over the distance.
Alan King's Uxizandre chased home Un De Sceaux last time after a mammoth absence in the Clarence House. Indeed, that was his first run since winning the Ryanair in 2015 - a race in which he broke the course record and jumped brilliantly out in front in the hands of Sir Anthony McCoy. McCoy commented that he ran away with him for a mile-and-a-half, and that was AP's final-ever Festival winner.
King was clearly delighted with the comeback last time. He said: "I'm thrilled, it was great. He's exceeded my expectations, especially after the rain came."
It was a mighty effort, but the bounce theory has to be raised, and at 7/1, you have got a question mark about him taking two top-level races after a long lay-off. He has to have good ground, so that's a plus, and the same comments apply to the former wildcard Josses Hill regarding the surface. He has produced some fine displays to win at Huntingdon and Kempton this season, and his jumping is now an '8' rather than a '4'. Although with Josses, he never takes two fences in the same fashion.
The big doubt however with the Alan Spence-owned runner is Cheltenham. The horse is best right-handed, and his jumping fell apart in the 2016 race. He likes to dominate, and so does Uxizandre, whilst Un De Sceaux will be handy. A rattling good pace will be perfect for Sub Lieutenant's jumping, and he can really apply pressure to his main rivals to see if they will crack.
Check out more Cheltenham Festival 2017 ante-post previews and tips in our dedicated Cheltenham Festival section on betting.betfair.com