16:40 Cheltenham – Paddy fancied to outgun his rivals
Foxrock heads the National Hunt Chase market and is considered by many to be the Irish “banker” of the week. Ted Walsh’s six-year-old has won three of his five races over fences and has a progressive profile.
He finished a highly creditable third to Carlingford Lough in the Grade 1 Topaz Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown before winning his last two starts in good style. He will relish this stamina test, and also has the services of Katie Walsh in the saddle, who is one of the top lady amateur riders in Ireland and won the race in 2010 on Poker de Sivola.
However, the one big negative is his age. Of 64 five and six-year-olds to have taken part in the the race since 1989, only Tricky Trickster in 2011 has managed to land the spoils.
Shotgun Paddy looks the main hope of the home team, and Emma Lavelle’s gelding has all the right credentials to run a huge race. The seven-year-old, who is officially rated 9lb higher than Foxrock, stamped himself as a leading contender when running out the impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick over 3m 5f on his latest start.
He stayed on strongly that day to score by six lengths, leaving the impression that the extra three furlongs of this race would be right up his street.
Another huge plus is that he will have the assistance in the saddle of crack Irish amateur Derek O’Connor. He is one of the best in the business, and gave Chicago Grey a superb ride from off the pace to win the 2011 running of this race.
JP McManus-owned runners always command the utmost respect, and Shutthefrontdoor looks more than capable of getting involved on the pick of his form. He already has some solid Festival form to his name having finished fourth over hurdles in last year’s Pertemps Final, and after winning on his chasing debut at Aintree, got beat just 3/4 of a length at this track over 3m 1f.
He does need to leave his latest run, where he finished a well-beaten last of four behind Sam Winner, behind him though and recent market support suggests connections are expecting him to do so. The step up in trip should suit too.
Of those at bigger odds, Donald McCain’s Beeves looks one of the more interesting. The seven-year-old scored in good style on his chasing debut at Carlisle, before going down by just 1/2 a length to Shutthefrontdoor at Aintree. Has been placed three times since that effort, on each occasion shaping as if he needs a stamina test like this to be seen at his best.
He is prone to clouting the odd fence in his races, but if putting in a clear round, he could be a lively outsider judged on his Aintree effort.