It's probably the biggest sporting day in Kilkenny outside of an All Ireland hurling final appearance by the black and amber in September. Thousands of locals from the South East will descend on Gowran Park on Thursday for Thyestes Chase day. The big race has been held since 1954, and previous winners include the legendary 'Arkle' and Aintree Grand National greats 'Hedgehunter' and 'Numbersixvalverde'.
The ground at Gowran always tends to be heavy, so it's a real test of stamina over fences over the distance of 3 miles and 1 furlong. 15 runners will face the starter at 3pm. Champion trainer Willie Mullins has won the race six times, but the pretender to his throne, Gordon Elliott, has never won it.
Last year's winner 'Champagne West' returns to defend his crown, but he has not demonstrated the same form this term. I would respect the Noel Meade trained 'A Genie In a Bottle', a horse that is crying out for a trip on heavy ground. On a line through form with Anibale Fly and Mala Beach, two winners of big handicaps this season, he has an each way shout. Mullins saddles 'Pleasant Company' and 'Isleofhopeanddreams' and while both horses must be respected, 'Pleasant Company' couldn't win the race last year and 'Isleofhopeanddreams' is inexperienced over fences. Money has come for the Elliott trained 'Monbeg Notorious', who is well weighted but callow. 16 year old James Bowen will ride 'Out Sam', who is short in the betting for his recent achievements. If 'Ucello Conti' wins, it would be well deserved, as he was second in this race last year and in the recent Paddy Power Chase. He has a big chance, but always seems to find one too good, which is off putting to me. 'Call the Taxie' has a nice racing weight and is talented, but the one I will back each way is 'Sumos Novios'. The Liam Burke trained 10 year old has been difficult to train, but on his day he is very good. He wants 3 miles on deep ground and is a lovely physical specimen. Robbie Power rides, having guided My Murphy to win this race for Burke two years ago. I think he's a solid proposition and can make the frame.
Another horse that is worth a look is the Willie Mullins trained 'Bacardys' in the 3 mile Galmoy Hurdle at 1.50. This horse was campaigned over fences recently, but fell at Leopardstown. This is a former winner of the Aintree bumper who landed a Grade 1 novice hurdle over 2 and a half miles at Punchestown last year. The rider of Bacardys, Patrick Mullins, nominated the horse to me as one to follow this season. He could be worth a small investment.