As many of the other races are, this is a race dominated by the Irish horses, with the first three in the betting all Irish trained. At the head of the market is Vauban for Mullins and Ricci; he's a 2/1 shot having beaten previous favourite, Fil Dor, at the Dublin Racing Festival. On his only previous start he was outbattled by Pied Piper who is 5/2 here. On Pied Piper's next start he bolted up over course and distance in the Grade Two Triumph trial. He won under a hands and heels ride and couldn't have looked more impressive. The two are closely matched on their first start having been just half a length apart. They pulled 15 lengths clear of the third, HMS Seahorse, who was a next time out winner. Both were very good flat horses, Pied Piper a Gosden horse rated 96. He showed his best form on heavy ground but won that trial race on real good ground so seems versatile in that respect. Vauban was a listed winner in France on the flat, and had a huge reputation in the Mullins yard, they couldn’t believe he was beaten. Of the two I'd lean towards Pied Piper personally, he's already beaten Vauban and has course form now, Vauban also jumped out to his right a few times at the DRF and it's the small margins in races like this. So at 5/2, Pied Piper would be my preference.
Fil Dor is now 13/2 having been a short priced favourite before his defeat by Vauban. A 16 length winner on his debut, he won the same race that Quilixios won last year en route to winning this race. He then followed up in Grade Three company a month later, and won a Grade Two over Christmas beating mostly the same horses. It was a little disappointing to see Vauban beat him at Leopardstown in that Grade One, but I wouldn't be certain that he couldn't overturn the form. That race was run fairly slowly and turned into a bit of a sprint, as a flat bred horse Vauban had that little extra turn of foot. Fil Dor, contrastingly, looks to be a real stayer, possibly even a three mile horse in the next few years. If the Triumph is as strongly run as usual, it could really play into his hands. He made an uncharacteristic bad jump at the last at Leopardstown when previously he has jumped well. I think at 13/2 there are definitely worse bets. I'm not saying he will definitely overturn the form, but there is reasons to believe he could, people have been a little quick to write him off, and Gordon Elliott said he thinks he is a better horse than Pied Piper. The next three in the betting are all British trained, Porticello at 12/1, Knight Salute at 14/1 and Doctor Parnassus at 16/1. Porticello is another horse, who, similar to Fil Dor looks like more of a stayer than a speed horse, and definitely one who is a horse that would favour softer ground. A winning hurdle last April in France, he won his first start for Gary Moore in the Listed Wensleydale hurdle, it wasn't the strongest field but the third horse has recently won, and clearly Moore thought highly of him, to throw him in at the deep end. He then contested the Grade Two Summit Juvenile, where he was beaten three parts of the length by Knight Salute. It's good to have a line of form between the two but there was no decisively better horse. Porticello hit three out and lost momentum having tried to make all. Once headed he did battle back and had to switch out to his right as Knight Salute went left infront of him, he stayed back on but ran out of time to get up, but there was enough there for me to think he could overturn the form. Porticello then won his next two starts, winning the Grade One Finale hurdle getting his soft ground. He pulled a long way clear, as he did when winning a few weeks ago in the Victor Ludorum Hurdle, pulling 17 lengths clear on Heavy Ground. I'd give him a decent each way chance, especially if the ground came up soft at all.
Knight Salute is a very interesting runner, coming into the race unbeaten over hurdles. He's another that had a decent flat rating, once being rated as high as 91; after that he was then poor on the flat but has turned the corner massively over hurdles, racking up four hurdles victory’s, including three straight Grade Two races. After winning his maiden hurdle by 9 lengths, he won his next four by only a total of 10 lengths, often just doing enough. He's already beaten Porticello, so possibly being 16/1 and bigger than him makes him a little bit overpriced, he's not done anything wrong and is certainly not one to write off. The other British runner is Doctor Parnassus for the Skeltons, who is very unexposed over hurdle. His best bit of flat form was to finish just half a length second to Grade Two hurdler, Indefatigable, actually giving away weight to her that day. After that run in October he was moved to Dan Skelton. He recently won twice in a two week period, by a combined 19 lengths. His debut was just a four runner field that he won by 10 lengths. The third and fourth were previous winners, and he pulled 31 and 92 lengths clear of them, it was very taking. His next start again wasn't the strongest race ever, but he pulled way clear, upped in trip to 2 miles 3 furlongs against the older horses. I think he could be a bit of a dark horse for this race and the fact he stays that little bit further is not something to ignore in this race.
There's really only three other runners that are likely to run here with a chance, this could obviously change by the festival. Il Etait Temps for Willie Mullins, is 16/1 and chased home Fil Dor and Vauban on his only start, he doesn't have a handicap mark and is only entered for this race, he was pitched into that Grade One race on debut and is clearly a decent horse. Icare Allen, also 16/1 and also trained by Mullins, ran in that race as well, but was only 5th. He had previously won a bumper in France and his maiden hurdle. He shortened for this race after winning a Grade Three this weekend, and depending on his mark he could also go for the Boodles. I don't see how he finds 9 lengths with Vauban let alone beats Fil Dor and Il Etait Temps but he could be a decent horse. Finally, Teddy Blue at 20/1 for Gary Moore, was a disappointing 7 length second on debut, but ran a brilliant race this weekend chasing home Knight Salute in the Grade Two Adonis. Arguably he was a real danger to Knight Salute and still travelling well but for a poor jump at the last that stopped all his momentum. Knight Salute was carrying a penalty, when they would meet at level weights here. But it was a good run and he is clearly closely matched with Knight Salute.
A difficult race to find the winner of Ante Post, I only played one in my blog, who isn't going to be running.
Gentleman Joe - Triumph - 33/1 1pt win
No longer entered in the race we won't get a run for our money unfortunately.
At this point I will play one further bet, a 1pt win bet on Pied Piper at 5/2, for me he should be favourite and that's why I'll back him at a price which is slightly too big.