One of the most visually impressive winners at the entire Cheltenham Festival was Gordon Elliott’s Blow By Blow, who was never headed after taking an early lead in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, and a bare reading of that form suggests he’s up to adding a Grade 2 to his haul.
I beg to differ, however, arguing that his win didn’t necessarily demonstrate that he was in a different league to his opponents, but merely that his jockey was on the day, and that better form was shown than those who finished in the first five in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, namely the Willie Mullins pair Scarpeta and Duc de Genievres.
I’d also want to keep the consistent Jetz on side, and I’d be confident of getting Blow By Blow beaten given the depth of this race. He might also be worth laying for a place, but could conceivably run to his pre-Cheltenham form and still sneak into the frame.
Patricks Park is one of three for Willie Mullins in the novice handicap chase, and he may start favourite on the strength of victory in a competitive-looking handicap at Leopardstown in February. I say competitive looking because the visual impression of that race was that very few were ever competitive and I’m somewhat wary of the form as a result.
Patricks Park was well held on heavy ground over hurdles here prior to winning at Leopardstown, and his ability to handle really deep ground is still unproven, with both efforts on heavy coming to little. He’s been given a 10lb hike for Leopardstown, and while Paul Townend rides here, he wouldn’t have had the choice in reality, with the other pair owned by J P McManus.
In Monday’s Irish Grand National, I’ve had an ante-post bet on Mall Dini, and while there are plenty of dangers, I’m putting my neck on the line by saying I don’t think Pairofbrowneyes is one of them, despite his position at the head of the market. There is no doubt that Willie Mullins inherited a well-handicapped horse from Barry Murphy, as he showed when winning the Leinster National at Gowran on his debut for the yard, last off the bridle and winning with something to spare over a trip just short of three miles.
It can be argued that he is unexposed as a staying chaser, with all his form for Murphy coming over shorter trips, but I prefer to go with the argument that he had too many gears for slower horses at Gowran, and that to win an Irish National in the mud, you need to truly stay the trip, and that is something which Pairofbrowneyes has yet to prove, and an extra five furlongs off a revise mark and up against similarly unexposed rivals will test him to the full.
He either stays or he doesn’t, and if it’s the latter, he won’t be in the frame. Take the place lay option.
15.20 Lay Blow By Blow @ 5.5 or shorter
15.55 Lay Patricks Park for a place at 2.5 or shorter
5.00 Lay Pairofbrowneyes for a place @ 3.5 or shorter