The jumps season still has a few more cracking days of action to go before the obstacles are left dormant for most of the summer, starting with Fairyhouse’s Irish Grand National meeting.
Here are our three best bets for today, with a Grade 1 up first:
Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido, the second and third horses home behind 15l winner Vautour in the Cheltenham Festival’s JLT Novices’ Chase, renew rivalries in this Ryanair Gold Cup Grade 1, but a line of form with the fourth-placed runner that day (3l behind) says they’ll both struggle for supremacy.
Gitane Du Berlais beat said runner Irish Saint by 8l at the end of January at Sandown, and while she was carrying 11lb fewer than the Paul Nicholls runner that day, Willie Mullins’ latest supermare will lug round more than a stone less than the rest of the field here.
The five-year-old is on a three-race winning run since the end of December and won the Grade 3 Prix Juigne at Auteuil last month. Ruby Walsh taking the ride is another huge plus.
Don’t let this Gavin Cromwell runner’s racecard form fool you; Cristy’s Call has been in fine fettle on the All-Weather in Dundalk so far this season, with two wins, a second and a decent fifth in four races since mid-February.
Despite this, and the fact that the six-year-old won and claimed runners-up honours in big-field 2m hurdle runs last summer, Cromwell’s inmate gets in at second-bottom weight.
The soft ground at Fairyhouse isn’t ideal, but Cristy’s Call did manage another second in his last run over ground worse than good, and with expert pilot Paul Carberry on board he should outrun his long odds.
McKinley, Outlander and Snow Falcon look exposed over this distance after each of the trio disappointed in 2m4f events at Cheltenham, and Shaneshill stayed on well for second behind Douvan in a quick Supreme Novices Hurdle run around Prestbury Pak last month.
The consistent Wylie-owned animal will go off as a deserved odds-on favourite, but Sandra Hughes’ Prince Of Scars, with A P McCoy on board, could be the best hope for alternative seekers.
The five-year-old has progressed nicely this season, finishing a close runner-up and a dead-heat winner in his last two runs.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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