Some unseasonably dry January weather hasn't put Tony Keenan off finding a pair of bets in Thursday's Thyestes Chase while he also has longer term pick for the Irish Gold Cup...
"The other one I like is Montys Meadow though he too comes with ground worries. His second place at Limerick over Christmas was excellent as it was effectively his first run since the previous March and the early signs from the form are good; both the third and fourth hit the frame in good races afterwards."
I have no interest in playing the Willie Mullins Lucky Dip ahead of the weekend's racing at Leopardstown; suffice to say that - in general - these Ricci-owned hotpots win when they run.
That's been the case with both Min and Faugheen ahead of their respective targets in the Irish Arkle and Champion Hurdle, each defeated only once since being trained by Mullins, and while that sort of thing may be beloved by short-price punters and multiple players, it certainly doesn't help when writing an ante-post column.
Elliott holds the key at Gowran
The more adventurous punters - and that's most of us - will in any case be more enthused by the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday. It's an interesting market as the favourite The Crafty Butcher may not get in; he needs six to come out and while three are almost certain to do so as they ran on Sunday (Clarcam, Tennis Cap and Shadow Catcher), it's not easy to see where the rest come from.
Gordon Elliott trains seven of the horses above The Crafty Butcher and I can't imagine he'll be rushing to withdraw his runners; not only does he tend to be mob-handed in these races but he might want to block a short-priced Mullins runner getting into a valuable race that could impact the trainers championship. There is no point in having all this firepower if you're not going to use it now and then and Mullins has often done likewise to scare off opposition in graded races.
Elliott has a tremendous record in valuable handicap chases in 2016/17, adding the Leopardstown Chase on Sunday to a list that already includes the Galway Plate, the Kerry and Munster Nationals, the Troytown, Paddy Power and Dan Moore. The trainer has used the novices A Toi Phil and Ball D'Arc well in his two most recent wins and has a couple of similar types lined up for the Thyestes.
Prince Of Scars is the market pick but I want to oppose him; he looks well-in on his hurdles form but his Grade 1 win in that sphere is false and his temperamental side has been increasingly evident in recent starts. At roughly twice the price, Jetstream Jack is more appealing and his form with A Toi Phil in November suggests 140 is not too bad. Drying ground is a concern for him but that's a worry for most of the field and I prefer to concentrate on finding the best handicapped horse and put some faith in Gowran delivering going that is on the slow side. While there has been little rain in the past days, it is hardly drying weather either.
The other one I like is Montys Meadow though he too comes with ground worries. His second place at Limerick over Christmas was excellent as it was effectively his first run since the previous March and the early signs from the form are good; both the third and fourth hit the frame in good races afterwards. His trainer has some history with the race having won it Whinstone Boy in 2010 and he actually took a similar route having placed in the same Limerick race as Montys Meadow.
John can improve for step up to three miles
I also want to have a quick look ahead to the Irish Gold Cup on February 12th. As has been the case in recent years, the race is likely to be a weaker affair than its Christmas cousin, the Lexus, and while horses like Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt and Carlingford Lough are likeable, they basically top out at the mid-160s and are vulnerable to an improver.
The obvious one for that role is Sizing John. There were some murmurings that he didn't stay two-and-a-half miles last spring after an ordinary run at Aintree but he was likely just below par on the day and he won well over that trip in the Kinloch Brae last week, looking like the step up to three miles could bring more improvement. His trainer seems to think so and more or less committed him to the race yesterday and quotes of 9.08/1 are very big about what is likely the most talented horse in the field.
Back Jetstream Jack @ 15.014/1 and Montys Meadow @ 17.016/1 for the Thyestes Chase
Back Sizing John @ 9.08/1 for the Irish Gold Cup
Note: This article was written on Tuesday January 24, quoting the Betfair antepost market. Links have since been changed to the day of the race market.