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A grade one chase over just shy of 2 miles and 5 furlongs. Last year we saw a demolition job in this often intriguing race, it requires both high tactical speed as well as stamina, both of which we saw in abundance with Allaho last year. In fact, we ended up with over half of the field being pulled up, including the reining champ Min, as Allaho galloped them into submission; simply taking them out of their comfort zones by sustaining such a high cruising speed. A freak performance by a horse who had been good but not brilliant beforehand, often fading over three miles, he had actually been beaten 34 lengths by Min on seasonal reappearance. We weren’t totally sure whether that performance was just a one-off. A horse that had never won first time out, I was actually hoping for a loss in the grade one John Durkan so we could get a better price for this race. However, he made all winning by 2 lengths from a high-class field. Not quite as brilliant as the Ryanair last year, Mullins said that was a tough race first up and we probably wouldn’t see him until Cheltenham. Obviously none the worse for those excursions, he turned out just 6 weeks later in the same grade two he won on route to last years Ryanair. Last year was a three-length victory to the decent mare Elimay, the pair 80 odd lengths clear of the next. This year he saw off last years Ryanair second Fakir D’Oudaries by the same 12 length distance of the Cheltenham race.


If we look at some of the other protagonists' Fakir Doudaries is a good place to start, last years' second, he finally won his Grade One in the Melling at Aintree. This year he’s kept a decent standard of form, winning a grade two on reappearance he was then an 8 length fourth in the John Durkan, with Melon and Janidil just in front. Then as already mentioned he was 12 lengths second to Allaho again, this is despite all but falling at the first and losing any chance. He has a good chance at grabbing a place again here, but it’s hard to see him turning the form around.

We have Envoi Allen in the market too, and despite not backing him I would love him to bounce back here and be the horse we all thought he would be; however, I think for whatever reason he just hasn’t taken the step up to open company. Despite winning a weak grade one, I couldn’t back him with any faith here.


That John Durkan form could hold a lot of clues for this race, second-placed Janidil ran a career-best that day being beaten just two lengths by Allaho, he then ran in the Savills at Christmas but didn’t appear to fully stay the extra trip. A novice grade one winner over the Ryanair trip, I think he could also put in a good performance here, and has previously run a good fifth in the Albert Bartlett two years ago. Melon, second many times at the festival, was staying on strongly and finished third in the John Durkan despite being brought to a standstill by stablemate Asterion Forlonge. At that point Asterion Forlonge had been travelling comfortably and looked the most danger to Allaho, an Enigma, he was the set to challenge in the King George before again unseating. It’s not certain which race he will be going to; whether here, the Gold Cup, or even the stayers hurdle, he rates an excellent hope in any. The main question mark with him is whether he will complete the race, the engine is clear to see.


The market has Energumene as second favourite, but I would be very surprised to see him run here, the Champion Chase is the race for him with Mullins never having won that race, and having a plethora of options here, including the short-priced favourite. Shan Blue is a short price too having looked set to bolt up in the Charlie Hall, he would be an interesting runner should he be fit in time, but took a heavy fall in that race and hasn’t been seen since.

Saint Calvados for Paul Nicholls was second in the race two years ago, but connections seem to be favouring the Gold Cup, though I’d rate him as a good each-way bet if they came here and he is entered in the Ascot Chase over the Ryanair trip so perhaps that is a pointer towards this race. I don’t think he is good enough to beat Allaho but could be there to pick up a place.

At bigger prices there’s a few who would have decent each-way shouts, I’ve already spoken about Melon. Fusil Raffles for Nicky Henderson would be interesting and has been in decent form this year. Franco De Port, another Mullins contender, would interest me having reinvented himself as more of a stayer. He was a very close second in the Thyestes and perhaps would be better at this intermediate trip than stepping up further to the Gold Cup. If the ground came up an unlikely soft or heavy then you’d have to give Dashel Drasher a chance but he is a real mud-lark and would struggle to lead as he usually prefers. The final one who I’ll give a shout to would be Fanion D’estruval who was 5th in the race last year, the last of the finishers. He has run his way out of the handicap route, now rated 162 he would be top weight in the Plate and has definitely improved this year.

In terms of betting on this race, I think I’m going to hold off any further bets until I post my daily selections the week of the festival. My previously advised Ante Post bets-

Fakir D'oudaries - Ryanair 12/1 0.5pt each way (26/04/2021)

Fusil Raffles - Ryanair 40/1 0.5pts each way (21/06/2021)

Allaho - Ryanair - 4/1 2pt win (25/10/2021) (Also advised a double with Telmesomethinggirl at 44/1)

Melon - Ryanair - 50/1 0.5pts each way (10/01/2022)

Generally speaking, I'm more than happy with these, Fakir Doudaries ran second to Allaho recently despite an awful mistake and I'd still think he has a great chance at grabbing a place. Allaho looks like one of the best bets of the festival and I'm delighted with the 2pt win we took when it was apparent they'd decided against the 2-mile route. Fusil Raffles has been running well enough this year without being brilliant, and there's a chance he could hit the frame, likewise with Melon at huge prices.




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