The best of the green raiders

Irish Examiner - Racing - - CHELTENHAM PREVIEW 2017 -

Dou­van (Cham­pion Chase, Wed­nes­day): Only the al­ready-rich could gain sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit from back­ing Dou­van to win the Cham­pion Chase, and that is a fair re­flec­tion of his ap­par­ent su­pe­ri­or­ity in the two-mile divi­sion. With the ex­cep­tion of the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle of 2015, he has started odds-on for all starts for Wil­lie Mullins, and re­mains un­beaten since his de­but in his na­tive France, al­most three years ago. Quite pos­si­bly one of the best horses ever to travel from Ire­land to the fes­ti­val, he should pro­vide a first Ir­ish­trained suc­cess in the race since Siz­ing Europe, in 2011.

Let’s Dance (Mares’ Novice Hur­dle, Thurs­day): Quite pos­si­bly the bet of the meet­ing should she line up for the Mares’ Novice Hur­dle on Thurs­day. Her per­for­mance against Slow­mo­tion, at Leop­ard­stown, was breath­tak­ing and, while not as visu­ally ex­cit­ing last time, it’s quite likely we will see an even bet­ter per­for­mance this week. The trip may be con­sid­ered on the short side, but she is a strong trav­eller, adept jumper, and has the pace to burn off her ri­vals.

Yorkhill (JLT Novices’ Chase, Thurs­day): An ex­tremely tal­ented horse, he up­set one of the Bri­tish bankers of the 2016 fes­ti­val when prov­ing too good for Yan­worth in the Nep­tune Novices’ Hur­dle and, while his tech­nique over his fences hasn’t im­pressed ev­ery­one, his class re­mains ob­vi­ous, some­thing which is not as ap­par­ent in his ri­vals. Top Notch looks the best of the Bri­tish con­tin­gent, but lacks scope and will find these fences a true test.

Death Duty (Al­bert Bartlett Hur­dle, Fri­day): One of last sea­son’s top bumper per­form­ers in Ire­land, he is un­beaten in four out­ings over hur­dles, and is held in the high­est re­gard by trainer Gor­don El­liott, who has made favourable com­par­i­son to 2016 Gold Cup win­ner Don Cos­sack. El­liott is the com­ing force in Ir­ish Na­tional Hunt rac­ing, and yet there is a feel­ing this horse’s price has held bet­ter than if it were trained by Mullins. Will we re­flect on this in years to come, and won­der why we didn’t take ad­van­tage when we could?

On The Fringe (Fox­hunters’ Chase, Fri­day): The lead­ing hunter chaser of re­cent sea­sons, On The Fringe won this race in 2015 and 2016 and, in both years, went on to com­plete the ‘fes­ti­val tre­ble’ by win­ning at Ain­tree and Punchestown. He is 12 years old, and has some young pre­tenders chas­ing his ti­tle, but his re­cent prep should have put him spot-on for this, and his ex­pe­ri­ence can en­sure he com­pletes the hat-trick.

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