Wednesday 20 February 2019

Mr Diablo can foil big guns to take Thyestes with all eyes on 'Percy'

Dempsey: Chance aboard Mr Diablo. Photo: Sportsfile
Dempsey: Chance aboard Mr Diablo. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

All eyes are on Presenting Percy as the Gold Cup favourite makes his much-anticipated reappearance but that's just one of many sub-plots on a cracking Thyestes card today.

With racing royalty like Arkle (1964) and Flyingbolt (1966) among its illustrious roll of honour, the Goffs Thyestes Chase (3.0) is one of the staples of the jumping calendar as crowds hit Gowran Park in their droves.

More recently, Hedgehunter (2004) and Numbersixvalverde (2005) prevailed before landing Aintree Grand National glory while Djakadam took the 2015 renewal before hitting the post twice in the Gold Cup.

Gordon Elliott landed the €100,000 prize for the first time last year with Monbeg Notorious and the progressive eight-year-old leads a six-strong team as he bids for back-to-back victories 10 years after Tom O'Leary achieved that feat with Preists Leap.

Monbeg Notorious is not without a chance but 11-6 is a hefty burden while Irish National hero General Principle may struggle to repeat that effort for the Cullentra handler.

Willie Mullins has the likely favourite with Ruby Walsh aboard Invitation Only - third behind stablemate Al Boum Photo on his seasonal debut on New Year's Day - but carrying 11-6, he represents little value at short odds.

Some Neck is an interesting challenger for the champion trainer having taken the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase last November but his inexperience may catch him out against many seasoned chasers.

Course winner Pairofbrowneyes will improve significantly for his effort in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas while Grand National runner-up Pleasant Company is another of the strong Closutton contingent.

Patrick Mullins reunites with Pat Kelly's Mall Dini having finished second in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival last year but the nine-year-old is still, amazingly, a maiden after 14 chase efforts and would need another big step forward to take this.

Most attention will focus on the Elliott and Mullins runners but they may be outdone by Mr Diablo, which can continue the high-flying form of the Dempseys with father Philip as trainer and son Luke in the plate.

The bottom-weight (10-5) ran a belter when second in the Troytown over 3m with the 10-year-old the only one to get any way close to Tout Est Permis, which scored at Grade Two level last Sunday to frank the form.

Mr Diablo was outpaced behind De Name Escapes Me over 2m4f at Navan last time out but looks to be crying out for this 3m1f trip and ticks many boxes in a typically competitive affair.

The RTÉ cameras will centre on Presenting Percy long before then, however, as Kelly takes the wraps off last year's scintillating RSA Chase winner in the Grade Two John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle (1.50).

With the unusually dry spell causing havoc, the Athenry handler has been ultra cautious with the eight-year-old and it'll be interesting to see if he can back up the victory in this race 12 months ago.

Having been off the track 316 days, race fitness is no guarantee though and Davy Russell's mount is scarcely a betting proposition at around 2/1 in a hot contest with the blue riband in March - and a switch back to fences - his ultimate goal for the season.

Other past winners like Mullins' Shaneshill (2017) and Elliott's Mala Beach (2014) also take their chance as Closutton send six challengers.

Coquin Mans - a Grade Two scorer at Fairyhouse on testing ground - may be the most potent of the chasing pack under Walsh, however, and the seven-year-old can cause an upset.

The Connolly's Red Mills Auction Maiden Hurdle (1.20) is an ideal opportunity for The Big Dog to open his account with the recent Leopardstown second of Peter Fahey's charge the strongest form available.

Rovetta is coming to the boil and a reproduction of her Christmas form can take the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle (2.25) for Jessica Harrington and Katie O'Farrell.

Irish Independent

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