First run in 1870 over a distance of 3m4f, the trip was increased to 3m5f in1991. Historically it had been something of a Dreaper family benefit, with the legendary Tom (trained Arkle) winning nine renewals, including with the great horse in 1964. Tom actually won the race on an unprecedented seven consecutive times between 1961 and 1966, and son Jim continued the good work with four victories, that included a hat trick between 1974 and 1976. Alas, the last time the winner was led up by a Dreaper was back in 1978, when Brown Lad won with an impost of 12st2lbs on his back.
Perhaps this unhappy state of affairs can be rectified this year by Jim’s live contender, Los Amigos. Weight has been most important, with only three winners carrying more than 11st, to victory, since the immortal Desert Orchid won with 12st on his back in 1990. Unusually for such a competitive race, relatively inexperienced animals have thrived, with none of the last ten winners having had more than a dozen runs over the larger obstacles. Indeed, counting the 6yo Garoupe in 1970, nineteen novices, including last years winner Shutthefrontdoor, have hit the back of the net. So what of this years renewal?
Willie Mullins, ( who has never won the race, although his father Paddy was three times successful ), tries with his National Hunt Chase 4th Perfect Gentleman,and looks to have a serious chance. Jumping soundly in the four mile test at Cheltenham, he took it up at the 16th, and only faded into fourth place, when not quite seeing out the trip. He enjoys a 6lbs turn around with the National Hunt Chase winner Cause of Causes, so this lightly raced 10yo, with less than 11st on his back, must have serious prospects of correcting a serious gap in the Mullins C.V.
The previously mentioned Los Amigos is Definitley one to consider. On only his third outing over fences, in last years Thystes Chase, he ran a fine race to finish runner up to the subsequent shd Gold Cup second On his Own, off a mark of 126. He then ran the useful Gallant Oscar ( rec 11lbs) to 3 1/4L when finishing 3rd at Naas (3m sft March 2014). We didn’t see him again until his reappearance at Fairyhouse at the end of January, where he proved his wellbeing, beating the 134 rated Lion Na Bearni (2m5 1/2F sft-hvy). Bred to be a stayer, Jim Dreapers Overbury gelding looks well treated off a mark of 138, and is one for the short list.
Another Lightly raced animal to be interested in is the Ted Walsh trained Champagne James. A very well backed favourite for the 3m2f Kim Muir at the Festival, he wasn’t the recipient of one of Katie Walsh’s best rides. Always behind when held up out the back, he was never in a position to challenge, but did run on through beaten horses to finish 7th. Perhaps the faster ground at Cheltenham was against him, as he does seem well suited by plenty of give, well demonstrated by his run at Naas in Febuary (2m4f sft-hvy), when despite losing a shoe, he was a closing second to Empire of Dirt,(rec 6lbs) who was rated 125. His style of racing strongly suggests that staying is his game, and given easy conditions at the weekend, he is one to consider.
Lucy Wadham’s 7yo La Reve, has won three of his twelve starts over fences, and off Monday’s Mark of 147 is likely to carry more than 11st, but still makes some appeal. He does love racing right handed, and has won five, and been placed four times, from his twelve clockwise starts, so Saturday’s track should be ideal. A reproduction of his run at Sandown at the end of January (3m1/2f sft) where he won very easily from that good yardstick Theatrical Star, would put him firmly in the mix.
Michael Hourigan’s 7yo The Job Is Right is another who may be well suited by Monday’s test. He finished third in The National Hunt Chase (5L ahead of Perfect Gentleman), where he led at the last ( normally the 2nd last) and was only run out of it in the last 100yds, finishing 3rd, (1 1/2L and 5L) behind Cause of Causes, and Broadway Buffalo. Reservations for Monday would be his very hard race at Cheltenham, and his less than fluent jumping.
Selection: Perfect Gentleman.
E.W. : Los Amigos.