Only seven runners in this hurdle but it’s quite a difficult race to call. Hidden Cyclone has to carry a 10lb penalty and Diakali could be the one to beat at these weights in first-time blinkers, though Willie also has two very interesting horses in here returning from long breaks. Tycoon Prince probably has a lot to find to be winning this race but we have always thought a lot of him and he shaped okay on his return at Punchestown in December and I hope he runs well. It is difficult to see him winning but I obviously hope I am proved wrong.
He won his bumper and then chased home the Supreme favourite Melon here in January. He then went to Navan last time and went off a very short price, only to finish a pretty tame third to be honest. He is better than he showed there and hopefully this is a good opportunity for him to show that.
He was obviously a very smart hurdler on his day and I was delighted with him when he won at Punchestown for me in November. It is fair to say that things haven’t gone to plan since, though, and it could be that Cheltenham comes too soon for him now. But let’s see how he gets on here first. I had to pull him up after some early mistakes at Leopardstown on Boxing Day as he didn’t feel right – he returned lame – and then he unseated at the first next time out. And then we had to miss the Flyingbolt at Navan last time because he pulled out sore in the morning. It’s not been plain sailing. I don’t have any doubt that he still has the class and potential to go a long way over fences but he has questions to answer now and the likes of Great Field and Don’t Touch It make this a very hot race in its own right. But I have schooled Identity Thief this week and all seems well at home, so hopefully he can get his season back on track. I’m very happy with him.
He hasn’t raced since facing a very stiff task behind Sub Lieutenant and Outlander at Down Royal in November and has generally been lightly-raced since coming over from France. I won on him over 2m at Punchestown last season, after which we went to the Kauto Star at Kempton, and I think a mark of 129 is probably fair for him and the trip should be fine. He is weighted to go well.
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