By Michael O Leary
It’s the race that stops the County, but the popularity of Gowran Park’s most prestigious feature race the Thyestes Chase extends beyond the local community as it attracts visitors from beyond the South East Region with spectators coming from around the country and beyond for one of the biggest days on the Racing Calendar.
With the somewhat ease in the ground conditions, large fields are the order of the day as five out of the seven races have attracted at least 17 runners.
The feature race itself goes to post at 3pm, and most likely the winner will from either the all conquering Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott stables who between them supply 14 of the 18 runners.
The Champion trainer has won the Gowran feature six times, and supplies the likely favorite with Invitation Only as Ruby Walsh bids to follow up his success from 2015 when he partnered Dkajadam to success.
Isleofhopendreams and Pleasant Company who were unfortunate runner-ups in the Irish and English National respectively, are amongst the Clusotton brigade and will represent good each-way value, while Gordon Elliott has Monbeg Notorious back to follow up last years success as he bids to become the first horse since Priests Leap in 2008/2009 to achieve consecutive Thyestes victories.
Davy Russell is aboard last years Thyestes winner as Jack Kennedy takes the reins on last years Irish National winner General Principle. However, two outside the Mullins/Elliott contingent represent very good-way value. Patrick Mullins will finally get a taste of the Thyestes Chase action and his mount Mall Dini will be a strong contender for the Patrick Kelly stable.
A proven performer in big fields, Mall Dini was 2nd at last years Cheltenham Festival and was successful in the Pertemps Hurdle in 2016, while Mr. Diablo who was runner-up in the Troytown Chase at 50/1 in Navan back in November should attract support for a stable who is having a very good season.
It’s a huge day for the Patrick Kelly stable as Presenting Percy belatedly makes his seasonal debut after the prolonged dry spell. The Gold Cup favorite faces 11 rivals in the Galmoy Hurdle as he bids to follow up last years success on Thyestes and all going well, the plan is to return to Gowran Park for the Red Mills Chase on Saturday 16th February.
His nearest market rival is the Willie Mullins trained Limini with Rachael Blackmore aboard who will be in receipt of all almost a stone from the favorite.
The day gets underway at 12.45pm with a highly competitive Handicap Hurdle sponsored by Langton House with IknowwhereIamnow taking a lot of beating having 2nd last week in Mares Handicap Hurdle in Punchestown.
The 2nd race at 1.20pm is the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle with the Willie Mullins trained Voix Des Tiep and the David Mullins ridden The Big Dog battling out for favoritism, but a good each way bet is the Pat Fahy trained Kalum River with David Mullins onboard.
At 2.25pm is the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle which attracts a big field of 20, and Allez Kal from the Jimmy Barcoe stable is a consistent performer and she should run another big race.
There are two races to conclude after the Thyestes feature with the former Willie Mullins trained Arctic Fire making his debut for the Denis Cullen stable in the beginners Steeplechase at 3.35pm, while there is a 4-year-old bumper to concluded proceedings at 4.10pm with Blue Sari favorite to provide the Champion Trainer with another having dominated the race while under previous conditions when it was a winners Bumper.