Harrington can score rare Irish victory in Stayers Hurdle with Jezki
THIS afternoon's Stayers Hurdle isn't one of those Cheltenham races that Irish trainers make a habit of winning but we are well represented in it with six of the 16 possibles.
Charles Byrne's Solwhit took it four years ago and he was the last Irish-trained winner since Dorans Pride and Shane Broderick back in 1995.
For all his claims the favourite Unowhatimeanharry is a very skinny price and I can easily pass him over. Best of the Irish must be Jessica Harrington's Jezki despite his Gowran defeat by Tombstone. His 167 rating puts him on a par with Unowhatimeanharry and this Champion Hurdle winner of three years ago, when he beat My Tent Or Yours by a neck, can prevail again here. Nichols Canyon and Clondaw Warrior would both have to produce personal bests to get involved.
Ill-fated Vautour took last year's running of the Ryanair Chase, the first Irish winner of what used to be the Cathcart since Arthur Moore took it with Second Schedual (they spelt things differently in those days) back in 1993.
Three of the eight runners are Irish-trained and Un de Sceaux, Empire Of Dirt and Sub Lieutenant give us a nice hand.
Sub Lieutenant's form has seriously improved since he moved to Henry de Bromhead, and his two-and-a-half length second to subsequent Irish Gold Cup-winner Sizing John at Leopardstown is pretty solid form. He could possibly see off Un de Sceaux, who sets a clear standard, but is tackling this trip for the first time over fences.
Gigginstown's other representative Empire of Dirt is also a serious contender. The doubt about Un de Sceaux's stamina is puffed up by his style of running.
Empire Of Dirt was only rated 142 here a year ago when he won the two-mile-five-furlong handicap chase on this card which used to be called the Mildmay Of Flete. Has been lightly raced since, beating Abolitionist at Navan before his Leopardstown defeat.
Even off 20lb higher, the 10-year-old might still be an improver. Un de Sceaux can emerge on top.
The opening Grade One novice chase has been a good race for Irish-trained runners with five of the last six winners coming across the channel.
Yorkhill and Disko give us a powerful chance this time against Henderson's well-touted Top Notch.
Disko is stamina-proven over the trip but Yorkhill's tendency to jump left isn't going to help here. His Leopardstown school only served to issue a cautionary note. Between them I'd imagine Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have quantified the risk and he can follow up the stable's recent wins with Black Hercules and Vautour in the race.
We are weak in the two-mile-five-furlong handicap chase where Gordon Elliott's Diamond King might have to be preferred over the Noel Meade-trained Road To Respect but I have strong messages regarding the Tizzard-trained Sizing Codelco and he might merit the nap of the afternoon.
Mullins has kept his 147-rated girl Let's Dance for the Grade Two mares' novice hurdle and also saddles another multiple winner in Airlie Beach (141) as well as luckless Asthuria. 139-rated Naas winner Forge Meadow isn't out of it either and I wouldn't have put a 33/1 against Toe The Line. Let's Dance should be up for this. In the Kim Muir amateur chase, with just a 12lb weight range, I'd be keen enough on Squouateur over Mall Dini but this isn't a punter friendly contest.
(Next Best: Disko)
2.50 Un De Sceaux
(Empire of Dirt)
3.30 Jezki (Dbl)
4.10 Sizing Codelco (Nap)
4.50 Let's Dance