With one eye on the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, Betfred’s Owen McMahon picks out some horses that caught his attention over the last week.
At Clonmel on Tuesday, the Willie Mullins duo of NIGHT AND DAY and GAELIC WARRIOR boosted their credentials ahead of that week in March – which is just 50 days away, ladies and gentlemen.
The former, who arrived at Closutton in February last year with a big reputation and was thrown straight into Grade One company on stable debut, absolutely bolted up by 22L in a two-mile maiden hurdle.
Time will tell what the six-year-old achieved there, but she passed the eye test with flying colours and has been cut into 8/1 to win the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Similarly, Gaelic Warrior ran out a 15L winner of the Munster Hurdle, beating the useful Blue Sari under a motionless Paul Townend.
Gaelic Warrior is in a different class to his rivals in the Munster Hurdle at @ClonmelR. Lands a double for @WillieMullinsNH & @PTownend pic.twitter.com/eHTDRsFThl
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) January 17, 2023
He’s tough to figure out on the back of two wide-margin victories in non-Graded company, but looks sure to be competitive wherever he shows up at Cheltenham – the five-year-old is 6/1 for the Ballymore and 16/1 for the Supreme.
The performance of the week, at least in my eyes, was that from IT’S FOR ME – another for that man Mullins, you won’t be surprised to read – at Navan on Saturday.
He was subject to an extraordinary amount of support for the Champion Bumper before his rules debut, and he was sensational in his 10L, on-the-bridle success.
Now then ….
It's For Me (4-9f) states his case for the @weatherbysltd Champion Bumper at the #CheltenhamFestival with an ultra-classy debut @NavanRacecourse for @WillieMullinsNH 👀@simon_munir | @agentbloodstock pic.twitter.com/Z8NdDxmNey
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 21, 2023
The son of Jeu St Eloi is now 4/1 favourite with Betfred for the aforementioned Champion Bumper – a very fair price, for I rate that run at the weekend as the best bumper performance this term.
Later on the card we saw MAHLER MISSION take a competitive three-mile beginners chase by a comfortable 10L.
The seven-year-old is improving with every run over fences and is now qualified for the National Hunt Chase, with trainer John McConnell name-dropping the race as a potential Festival target. His current price of 12/1 for that race is very fair indeed.
Onto Sunday, at Thurles, there’s a couple I want to talk about who we’ll certainly be seeing at HQ in March.
ALLEGORIE DE VASSY climbed back up into top spot in the market for the Mares’ Chase (6/4) with a facile 19L triumph in an admittedly weak Grade Two contest.
This is a mare I think very, very highly of, as does her trainer Willie Mullins. Her jumping can improve, but she has so much class and a brilliant engine, and I think she’s going to take the world of beating at Cheltenham.
Finally, Mullins had yet another notable winner in EMBASSY GARDENS, who left his early season form well behind when putting a whopping 35L between himself and his four rivals in the 2m7 novice hurdle.
Five races, five winning favourites at @thurlesraces this afternoon.
🏇 Embassy Gardens (5/6) is up in trip and wins by 35 lengths for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, with Ruby Walsh suggesting afterwards that the contest was all but over by halfway. pic.twitter.com/YzXeColm2m
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 22, 2023
He relished the step up in trip, and Mullins name-dropped the Albert Bartlett as his next race. He’s since been backed into 8/1 for that, showing just how impressive a performance it was.
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