It's the opening day of the Punchestown Festival, and it's an afternoon that Alan Dudman is hoping the great Un De Sceaux can enhance his legend status...
"He disappointed in the Ryanair, but he travelled well enough in the race last time and will be much happier dropping back down in trip swapping Cheltenham for Punchestown. He is pretty lethal around here."
For those that have moved into Flat mode, we are not quite done with yet as we have one huge final hurrah at Punchestown for five brilliant days in County Kildare, and it seems business as usual with strong hands for both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. Mullins had 18 winners last year - so it's no surprise he's got a couple of odds-on favourites to start the festival on day one in the shape of Min and Klassical Dream.
And a reminder, you can click here to read the exclusive thoughts of Elliott on his runners each day.
Tuesday presents three Grade 1s, a big handicap at 16:55 and a pair of bumpers with 19 and 25 runners and I am always in favour of the later starts. It all gets underway at 15:40.
Aramon could go well, but fresh angle worth exploring with Quick Grabim
The first Grade 1 on a sparkling opening day is the Champion Novice Hurdle at 16:20, which unsurprisingly has been dominated by Willie Mullins with six of the last ten winners coming from his Closutton base.
On the face of it, the 8/13 favourite Klassical Dream is probably the right price to follow up from his Supreme Novices' Hurdle victory. Connections made a "spot-on" decision in skipping the Ballymore, which is why we should never get too bogged down with trips in Ireland for those sort of races ranging from 2m to 2m5f before March. His stamina was a major asset in the conditions at Cheltenham - as the ground was bordering on heavy.
Klassical Dream really did look a class act at Prestbury Park, but the form doesn't look the strongest and quite a few under-performed given how the rain in the morning had turned the ground. The layers will have the suspect form as their main weapon in terms of taking on the odds-on favourite, and I certainly won't be backing him at those odds anyway. He could be slightly vulnerable to something with plenty of speed at this track.
Rain is forecast for Tuesday and there were reports suggesting the course was due some on Monday evening too, so I am basing our selections on yielding ground that could turn softer. If conditions had "good" in the description, I would be tempted to throw a couple of euros or pounds at Aramon.
He's a tough customer too, and takes his racing well. The conditions totally went against him at Cheltenham (where he finished sixth behind Klassical Dream), but he did bounce back behind Felix Desjy at Aintree last time in a race that might not have totally suited.
His conqueror at Liverpool that day made the running again and he's an obvious one to present for a back-to-lay trade. He looks a bare two-miler who likes to boss with his own way in front. He produced a real heart-stopper of a jump at Aintree with a shuddering error, and done remarkably well there to re-galvanise himself and go on and win.
At the prices, though, Aramon is a dangerous floater at a juicy 11//1 on the Sportsbook.
However, coming from the different angle is the route to take in terms of a bet, and the 11/2 price on Quick Grabim is tempting.
He hasn't been seen since winning the Royal Bond back in December, and in truth, that was a mess of a race. However, he'll be the fresh horse in the line up against those that competed at Aintree and Cheltenham, and he isn't ground dependent either with form on soft and good. That's at least one box ticked.
Quick Grabim missed Cheltenham after a little setback, but he has also gone well fresh in the past. Whether he is up to the standard of Klassical Dream we'll see, but I am not totally convinced about that Supreme form, and his price is big enough to take a chance.
Front-running burn-up on the cards in a sizzler
The Grade 1 Champion Chase at 17:30 might not be the biggest punting race of the day for some with a small field and an odds-on fav, but trying to second-guess what will happen with the pace is a conundrum in itself.
Min is the 4/7 market leader, and he was brilliant at Aintree last time in the 2m4f Melling. A lot has been said about the change of tactics to front-running, so there's no need for me to go over that topic again. He sulked at Cheltenham with the different tactics, so surely dropping back down in trip to 2m for the race, they'll stick with that game-plan that suits Min better?
However, we also have the presence of the Willie Mullins trail-blazing pacesetter Great Field. He's a real tearaway but is on a recovery mission with two falls next to his name and he hasn't been seen since the last of them at Leopardstown over Christmas. He can go off quick, and it could be dangerous to completely rule him out as he bolted up to win a Grade 1 novice at this festival in 2017.
And then there's the legendary Un De Sceaux - who has a fine record in the Punchestown festival.
He disappointed in the Ryanair, but he travelled well enough in the race last time and will be much happier dropping back down in trip swapping Cheltenham for Punchestown. He is pretty lethal around here.
Add to that if he gets his rain, he is the bet for me and is a fair enough price at 11/4 on the Sportsbook, especially as he hasn't had the most arduous campaign. What a racehorse he has been, though, and I wouldn't mind owning one that had won so many races as he has down the years. We'll salute the UDS, and hopefully he's still got some fire in his 11yo legs for Tuesday. He'll bring the house down if he can do it.
All mentioned above can lead. So can Hell's Kitchen, and I think he's a better horse up top. He's a giant, an enormous specimen, but I would be surprised if he was anywhere near good enough to take this.
Delta Work to continue his impressive season
We'll go through the Grade 1 races in chronological order (I know how to walk on the wild side), and have a look at an eagerly anticipated match-up with Delta Work versus A Plus Tard.
I'm a huge fan of Delta Work who has established Grade 1 form this season with two victories at the top-level - including a superb success in the Drinmore in seeing off Le Richebourg. His trainer thought he travelled like the best horse in the race in the RSA last time, although he didn't jump like the best. A couple of mistakes really scuppered his chances to get closer, but there's no doubting that is tip-top form.
Delta Work, is officially rated 1lb inferior to A Plus Tard. I guess the handicapper had no option but to allocate him a rating of 160 following a brilliant success in the Close Brothers. He won there by 16 lengths and his jumping was different class - like so many from the Henry De Bromhead yard. Rain clearly won't be an issue either as he scored in the soft in a Beginners' earlier in the season when beating Duc Des Genievres.
There was support for Getabird last night from 11/2 to 7/2 on the Sportsbook and he certainly looks as though he has a bit of class. Plenty of class. He'll enjoy soft conditions too.
However, he has been keen in some races and he'll need to settle better over 3m - a new trip for him as goes up in distance. He can't afford that against stronger stayers here - especially Delta Work.
O'Brien sends decent prospect handicapping
Working back on the card now to the 16:55 Grade B Handicap Hurdle, the two I like are favourite and second-favourite, so I'm not exactly inventing the wheel. But they are priced-up at 11/2 and 13/2.
The chances of Golden Spear are more obvious from a 10lb higher mark than his easy win at Down Royal last time. That was smooth, although he is a horse who does stay well at the end of his races. He scored by five lengths on good to yielding ground, and that was in a Grade B handicap hurdle.
With a 5lb claim from his jockey he is still very interesting on some decent Flat form - including a second in a "Ces" trial from 86. He also acts on soft.
I wonder if it is worth chancing Joseph O'Brien's Konitho? He's massively unexposed and goes handicapping for the first time from 132.
He looked a decent prospect when winning on his yard and Irish debut with a five-length victory at Naas and was mentioned as a potential Triumph contender. Therefore it was disappointing that he suffered defeat when last seen at Navan. There were excuses for that, as the steady pace was against him and the quicker surface might not have been ideal.
If he copes with the bigger field at a better pace he can play a part here. Any rain looks as though it will aid his chances too and he's a fine, big type.