The 2023 Goffs Thyestes Chase: enjoy every moment live on Racing TV!
The nine-year-old has mixed it between fences and hurdles over the past couple of years, but it is over the larger obstacles where he has shown his best form – notably finishing second to Coko Beach in a Grade Two novice chase in 2021 before finishing down the field in the Irish Grand National.
Last time out he was fifth in a two-mile-six-furlong hurdle race, meaning Thursday’s contest represents a return to fences as well as a step back up in trip to three miles and a furlong.
Espanito Bello is likely to be suited by the soft going at Gowran and with confidence seemingly high, he has attracted significant support ahead of Thursday’s €100,000 feature.
“He’s in good form. He had a very good novice season and was second in a Grade Two, but he’s been lightly raced since so he’s come down the handicap ratings,” said Connell.
“He’s in good form and we expect a big run from him on Thursday.
“Soft ground is what he wants, he needs heavy ground, even. He has a nice weight and I think all of the boxes are ticked there, so we’re looking forward to a big run.”
Owner-trainer-breeder Robert Murphy has a leading contender in Darrens Hope – a nine-year-old last seen landing the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase by a head from Minella Crooner.
With that victory registered in November, Murphy’s mare has enjoyed a freshening-up period ahead of her Thyestes bid off a weight of 10st 6lb, with Danny Mullins retaining the ride.
“She’s good, we jumped her on Tuesday and she jumped grand. She’s in good form, I can say that,” said Murphy.
“She’s had a good gap, we don’t run her too often because she’s getting on a small bit. We wouldn’t want to run her too often and she needed her break, but she’s grand now.
“She’s back up to three miles and the soft ground should suit her as well.
“We’ve a good jockey on board, we’d like to see her get her nose in front and we’re hopeful.”
Gordon Elliott’s nine-strong team includes two of the market principals in Pencilfulloflead and Escaria Ten – the latter a good quality stayer owned by the McNeill Family.
The nine-year-old finished eighth in last year’s Thyestes Chase on what was his seasonal reappearance before missing out in the Bobbyjo Chase by just a nose, after which he came home ninth in the Grand National at Aintree.
He got the current campaign under way in a Listed Thurles Chase on December 1 and was far from disgraced in finishing a two-length second to Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso.
The Welsh Grand National was vetoed in favour of another Thyestes tilt, despite the fact Escaria Ten will carry top weight of 11st 12lb in the hands of Adrian Heskin.
“He hopefully has a nice chance, he’s had his prep race this year,” said Iain Turner, racing manager to the owners.
“He ran well at Thurles and everything has gone fine, it’s just going to be very difficult carrying top weight. It’s not often you wish Willie (Mullins) had one in the race, but I really wish he had Franco De Port in there as it would have kept the weights down 6lb!
“He goes there with a good chance. It will be difficult carrying that weight but there’s not much we can do about it.
“With him the softer the ground, the better. Last year we went for his first run of the season and he needed it, he’s had his run this time and then it was a choice between the Welsh National and the Thyestes. We’ve made the decision and fingers crossed it all goes well.
“Max (McNeill, owner) is in the final few days of his winter holiday and is flying straight to Ireland from sunnier climes for his first ever trip to Gowran, let’s hope it isn’t an unwarranted extension to his holiday!”
Elliott Is also represented by Braeside, Coko Beach, Defi Bleu, Dunboyne, Fakiera, Frontal Assault and Punitive.
Willie Mullins could saddle up to five runners, with Captain Kangaroo, Carefully Selected and Egality Mans all guaranteed a run in the top 18, while Rambranlt’jac and Stones And Roses are on the reserve list.
Hatton’s Grace hero Teahupoo tests the water over three miles for the first time in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott’s charge finished last behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last season, but turned that form on its head when inflicting a first career defeat on Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare at Fairyhouse last month.
That victory came over the intermediate distance of two and a half miles and Elliott is keen to see how he fares over an even longer trip in a bid to discover whether the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March is a realistic target.
When asked if he was looking forward to running Teahupoo over three miles, Elliott said: “I’m looking forward to every day!
“It is a step up in trip and it looks like it will suit him, so we will see what happens.
“We will get Thursday out of the way, but that (Stayers’ Hurdle) is what we are thinking. We are dreaming rather than thinking!”
Teahupoo will be ridden by Davy Russell, who is out to secure his first Graded success since coming out of retirement to fill in for the injured Jack Kennedy.
“It was no surprise to us what this lad did in Fairyhouse last month as he was simply returning to the level we know he can perform at,” Russell told his Star Sports blog.
“He was good here in Gowran last February and we know conditions are in his favour. He’s always shaped like he’s worth a crack at this sort of a trip so we will learn plenty about him.
“This is no easy task though as it’s a good deal further than he’s gone before and he’s a fair penalty to shoulder too. That said, it does look the ideal opportunity for Teahupoo.”
Martin Brassil is looking forward to saddling Longhouse Poet, who won the Thyestes Chase on this card 12 months ago before going on to finish sixth in the Grand National at Aintree.
While his better form is over the larger obstacles, the nine-year-old did make a successful switch to hurdling at Limerick over the Christmas period and Brassil is happy to roll the dice.
He said: “We’re looking forward to his run and he’ll love the ground and he’ll love the trip. It looks like there’s a horse a stone and a half better than him in there, but we’re happy to run him anyway and see how he gets on.
“We were very pleased with his Limerick win and we are hopeful he can build on that. He took the Limerick race very well and we’ve been very happy with him since, so we will see how we go.”
Beacon Edge is fitted with blinkers for the first time by Noel Meade, while De Bromhead is represented by the veteran Summerville Boy.
Early Doors (Joseph O’Brien) and My Design (Declan Queally) complete the Grade Two field.
Willie Mullins is looking forward to seeing his dual Cheltenham Festival winner Sir Gerhard belatedly get his novice chase campaign under way on the Thyestes Chase undercard.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned eight-year-old won the Champion Bumper at Prestbury Park in 2021 and returned to the Cotswolds to land the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last season.
He suffered his first defeat in four hurdles outings at Punchestown in the spring, but was still expected to take high rank over the larger obstacles this season.
Having suffered a setback before Christmas, the point-to-point winner starts off over regulation fences later than planned in the Daly Farrell Chartered Accountants Beginners Chase, but will nevertheless be a short price to make a successful return.
“He schooled well this morning and I’m looking forward to him running,” Mullins said at Fairyhouse on Wednesday.
“It’ll be a big task for him in that ground coming so late in the season against more experienced horses.
“If his hurdle rating is anything to go by and if he jumps well, he’s one to look forward to.”
Sir Gerhard is set to face four rivals over two miles, with Henry de Bromhead’s Largy Debut bringing decent placed form to the table, having finished third behind Mighty Potter, Minella Crooner and Gentlemansgame in his three chase starts to date.
Indiana Jones (Mouse Morris), Battle Of Mirbat (Michael McDonagh) and Natural Ability (Tony Martin) are the other contenders.
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