Horse Racing Tips

Mark Milligan's Big Race Verdict: Blood Destiny to beat old rival at 15/8

Mark Milligan has previewed Sunday's big race at Fairyhouse

Mark Milligan sits in for Kevin Blake and delivers his Big Race Verdict on Sunday's Grade 1 at Fairyhouse...

On a relatively low-key weekend in the UK and Ireland, Sunday's 2m 4f Grade 1 WillowWarm Gold Cup Novice Chase (16:55) at Fairyhouse is the highlight, and it's a race that conforms to the familiar pattern of modern jumps racing, with the last five renewals having all gone to Willie Mullins.

The recent roll of honour includes the likes of Galopin Des Champs and Al Boum Photo, so it's a race that, as you'd expect, can throw up a high-class chaser.

You've got to go all the way back to 2017 to find the last time the race didn't go to a Closutton inmate and, even then, they were only narrowly denied when the Ruby Walsh-ridden Yorkhill was just touched off by Road To Respect in a stirring finish.

Destiny the pick of Mullins' pair

Mullins goes into this year's renewal double-handed, with Blood Destiny and Tactical Move looking to maintain the stable's stranglehold on the race.

While the ten-year-old Tactical Move is still low mileage for his age, he'll need to improve on the form he's shown when winning his last two chase starts if he's to play a significant role, something that could prove a tall task give his age/overall profile.

The five-year-old Blood Destiny looks the clear pick of the pair based on what he's done so far, including when taking the 2m Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase by over six lengths from Spillane's Tower, who reopposes here.

Prior to that, Spillane's Tower had gained the verdict over Blood Destiny by two lengths in another Grade 3 Novice contest at Killiney, that one over a similar trip to this contest.

Spillane's Tower closely matched on form

With the score currently standing at 1-1 between Blood Destiny and Spillane's Tower, it doesn't take a genius to suggest things may be tight between them again this time around.

It's probable that the drop to 2m counted against Spillane's Tower last time and he should put up a much better fist of things this time, but I'm not convinced it was purely the drop in trip that got him beat last time.

My thinking is that Blood Destiny is simply the more talented horse of the pair, and though some levelled the trip at him when beaten by Spillane's Tower at Killiney, I'm of a mindset that he just wasn't at his best that day.

He didn't look troubled by 2m 4f when bolting up on chase debut at Naas in December, form that was franked subsequently by the runner-up winning a big handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Elliott pair also in with a shout

While this has the makings of a two-horse race on paper, it would probably be folly to completely rule out Gordon Elliott's pair, Saint Felicien and Zanahiyr, though both will need to improve if they're to serve up a genuine challenge to Blood Destiny and Spillane's Tower.

Of the two, Saint Felicien is probably the one with most scope as a chaser and he was going as well as anything when brought down four out in the TrustATrader Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.

Prior to that he'd won a maiden chase at Gowran, though it did take him four attempts to get off the mark over fences and whether he's quite up to this level is open to debate.

Zanahiyr was a smart hurdler but has yet to match the pick of his form in that sphere over the bigger obstacles and again may just fall short at this level.

WillowWarm Gold Cup verdict

In conclusion, this looks to lie between Blood Destiny and Spillane's Tower, with Willie Mullins' impeccable record in this race the deciding factor.

Spillane's Tower looks sure to benefit by going back up in trip here and I'd be surprised if he doesn't get much closer to Blood Destiny with the added yardage very much in his favour.

I suspect doubts about Blood Destiny over this longer trip are something of a red herring and I expect him to confirm recent form with his old rival.

Tactical Move isn't entirely ruled out either, again the Mullins' yard's record in this race very much pointing to big run from that one, though he's unlikely to be getting any better at the age of ten and will likely have to give best to his younger stablemate.

Back Blood Destiny 16:55 Fairyhouse @ 15/82.88

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