He has won his point, bumper and novice hurdle, and I always thought he would be better when he saw a fence. And he shaped very promisingly when third on his chasing debut at Naas recently. That was his first run since March, so he is entitled to be much sharper for it, and I think he has winning chances here, though Willie’s Bellow Mome was a fair hurdler and Jimmy Two Times ran well at Fairyhouse recently.
We won this race with Sir Des Champs last season, and we have two fair chances this time too, though a lot will revolve around how fit Champagne Fever is after his long absence. And the same is true of Lord Windermere, to an extent, as well. Roi Des Francs proved himself a classy staying chaser at the start of last season when beating Pont Alexandre and Sub Lieutenant in a Grade 2 at Naas before running below par at Cheltenham and Aintree. He goes well when fresh but a 10lb penalty makes life very tough for him. We had the option of the Hennessy with Wounded Warrior but we come here and you’d have to give him a good chance if he runs up to his best, which include good placed efforts behind the likes of Don Poli, Don Cossack and Valseur Lido. He hasn’t been out since the Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, though, and this race could well be decided by which of the main four is the fittest after their various lay-offs. Champagne Fever is probably the one to beat form-wise but there are question marks over this trip for him first time out, so I am hopeful.
It is always difficult deciding what horse to get on when you have been out injured and not ridden them in their most recent races – you can only learn so much from videos and riding them at home – and both Burndown and Dounikos have plenty to recommend them after their victories. I haven’t ridden Dounikos yet but he looks to be progressing well judged on his recent bumper win and a course and distance victory on his hurdling debut earlier in the month, so we know the trip won’t be a problem for him. It is a competitive little race though, and you can make a case for all of them bar Dontdelay.
I suspect that the rest of us are all playing for places if Augusta Kate can translate her bumper ability to hurdles, and Chesapeake is still learning the ropes to judge from her run at Cork earlier this month. She probably has a place chance at best if the favourite delivers.
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