Timeform preview the two graded races at Gowran Park on Saturday, including the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase...
"An uncomplicated, prominent racer, he looks likely to dictate terms here, and will prove a very hard horse to pass despite the drop back in trip/carrying a penalty."
Timeform on Monalee
The Red Mills Chase (14:30) may have lost its main protagonist Presenting Percy at the 11th hour, but the small and select field still looks like providing an intriguing contest.
Run over two and a half miles, Gowran's Red Mills Chase was won by Willie Mullins-trained runners in 2015 and 2017, though his 2017 winner Ballycasey could only manage a distant third last year behind winner Our Duke and runner-up Presenting Percy. Mullins' contender on Saturday is Killultagh Vic. He is prone to mistakes over fences, with his most high-profile blemish coming when falling at the last when looking set to win last season's Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. He's spent this season over hurdles, and ran his best race for a long time when third to Presenting Percy here last time. He's a leading contender on ratings, but will Monalee get Killultagh Vic out of his comfort zone now the latter is dropped in trip on ground quicker than ideal?
Monalee, who is the clear market leader at the time of writing, has been a credit to connections since making his debut here in 2016, making the frame at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals as novice hurdler. The same might have been said about his novice chasing campaign, too, but for falling two out when still in with every chance in Punchestown's Champion Novices' Chase last April.
He was conceding 7 lb when a creditable third to Snow Falcon and Shattered Love at Down Royal on his reappearance this term, and then ran at least as well as ever when seven and a half lengths second to Kemboy in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown last time, albeit no match for the winner. An uncomplicated, prominent racer, he looks likely to dictate terms here, and will prove a very hard horse to pass despite the drop back in trip/carrying a penalty.
The four-strong field is completed by the J.P. McManus-owned Anibale Fly and Edwulf. While the last-named is trained by the in-form Joseph O'Brien and has an Irish Gold Cup win to his name, the more obvious candidate is Anibale Fly. Despite winning the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown (by seven lengths from Ucello Conti) last season, his best efforts arguably came when third to Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and when fourth in the Grand National at Aintree the following month. He was considerately handled over an inadequate trip when sixth to Castlegrace Paddy in the two-mile Hilly Way Chase at Cork last time, and will appreciate this longer distance, though in truth he still looks on the path to those more high-profile staying events once more. The forecast rain may also come too late in the day.
It's unclear which race the Red Mills Trial Hurdle, which takes place 40 minutes earlier, acts as a precursor for, but the now-Grade 3 contest looks wide open despite the presence of last year's winner Forge Meadow. As well as this race, she won a listed mares' event at Punchestown last season, but hasn't been at her best in five starts this term, three of which came over fences. She took a small step forward at Naas last time but looks one to take on here.
The race's penalty grading system means that last year's Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas has to concede weight to all of his rivals, despite three lacklustre runs so far this season. Should he do so - and it seems unlikely on what we've seen of late on ground that might be quicker than ideal - then he could force his way into the Champion Hurdle 'best-of-the-rest' picture.
Of more interest is Farclas' stablemate Coeur Sublime. He won a juvenile at Down Royal (by one and a half lengths from Our Legend) in November, and only went down by a short-head in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse next time. He was upsides when falling at the last in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle won by Rocky Blue at Leopardstown last time, likely to have won, and commands plenty of respect here if none the worse for that experience.
Darasso tops Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings, and it would be no surprise if connections have found the perfect race for him. A multiple winner in France, he was a creditable nine lengths fifth to Presenting Percy in the three-mile Galmoy Hurdle here last time, though seemed stretched by the longer trip; though it's by a mile, this drop in distance looks a good move, and his yard continues in fine fettle at present.
With Glamorgan Duke and Cristal Icon having a lot to find on ratings, the only other realistic contender appears to be Rashaan. He blotted his copybook when refusing to race in the Drinmore Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse in December, but has proven himself to be useful over both hurdles and fences, and was on his best behaviour on the Flat at Dundalk earlier this month.
In summary, while the Red Mills Chase is harder to call, with Monalee well-fancied but having to concede 7 lb to the talented Killultagh Vic, the Red Mills Trial Hurdle looks more straightforward. Coeur Sublime is a young horse who is progressing well and - in receipt of lots of weight - he can get back to winning ways.
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Back Coeur Sublime to win the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at 3/1