Thursday’s Irish raiders
JLT Novices’ Chase
Yorkhill appears to have bundles of ability, and he stands out as the most likely winner on the opening contest of day three.
Both his runs over fences have yielded victories, and though his jumping this season has come under scrutiny, he looks to be the best horse in the race. If he sparks at all, then he should come up trumps here.
Disko adds depth to the Irish challenge. There was a lot to like about his victory in the Flogas Chase at Leopardstown, when he dropped back in trip, and he deserves consideration here.
Best of the Irish: Yorkhill Alternative: Disko
Pertemps Network Final
Presenting Percy was a good winner at Fairyhouse on his most recent outing but has been hit with a massive hike in the ratings for his latest success. That could prove too much to overcome this time around.
Isleofhopendreams has been thriving over three miles this season and the manner of his victory at Punchestown suggests that he could have much more to offer. He looks our leading hope in what is traditionally a very tricky contest.
Sutton Manor was runner-up at Punchestown and followed that up with victory at Thurles. He should feature here.
Best of the Irish: Isleofhopendreams
Alternative: Sutton Manor
Ireland landed a first, and well overdue, victory in this last year and hopes of retaining the prize will be high. Un De Sceaux has looked a much more settled horse this season and he comes here on the back of a very likeable win at the track in the Clarence House Chase.
While he did win a hurdles race over two miles and five, stamina remains a concern.
He also needs give underfoot to perform to his best.
Empire Of Dirt won over course and distance here last season. He ran a very good race in the Irish Gold Cup behind Sizing John back in February, where he shaped with much credit on his first outing in Grade One company.
Sub Lieutenant was a bit unfortunate on his latest outing in Thurles, where the last fence was omitted, but his form this season looks strong. He would seem to be at his best over this kind of trip and he could well go close.
Zabana has run well at the Festival before and could put in a bold showing.
Best of the Irish: Empire Of Dirt Alternative : Sub Lieutenant
Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
The Noel Meade-trained Snow Falcon could be the dark horse at this year’s Festival and he should run a big race in this renamed contest. He ran well as a novice at Cheltenham in 2015 and has been in fine form this season.
Runner-up at Gowran Park last time out behind Shaneshill, in a race that wasn’t run to suit, he should be seen to much better effect on a sounder surface over a strongly run three miles.
Former Champion Hurdle winner Jezki won over this trip at Punchestown in 2015. He would also appreciate better ground and should have a say for Jessica Harrington. Shaneshill seems to save his best form for Cheltenham, having finished second at the last three Festivals. He could sneak a place.
Best of the Irish: Snow Falcon Alternative: Jezki (right)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
This went the way of the Irish last year and Diamond King spearheads this year’s challenge. He won the Coral Cup in 2016 and, back here off a similar rating over fences, he makes plenty of appeal.
Blazer placed over hurdles at the Festival last year and could potentially be well treated. A big run should be well within his reach. Best of the Irish: Diamond King Alternative: Blazer
Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle
Let’s Dance is a filly on top form this term. She brings plenty of experience to the table, has improved massively this season and she could be banker material to go and win this. The biggest danger could come in the shape of her stable companion, Royal Bond winner Airlie Beach, who remains unbeaten after 6 runs over timber. Best of the Irish:
Let’s Dance Alternative: Airlie
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
The Crafty Butcher ran a blinder when second behind Noble Endeavour in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas, and if he can reproduce that effort he should be thereabouts again. He looks to be in off a very attractive mark.
Mall Dini goes in search of a second consecutive win at the Cotswolds. He has failed to get off the mark over fences so far this season, but he could be a real player on his first handicap outing over the larger obstacles. The return to a longer trip should help him.
Squouateur holds an entry earlier in the week, but if he lines up here he would definitely be of interest, given connections won the race with Cause of Causes in 2016.
Best of the Irish: The Crafty Butcher
Alternative: Mall Dini