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Mouse Morris trained First Lieutenant primed to be the big cheese
First Lieutenant, pulled out of tomorrow’s Gold Cup to run in today’s Ryanair Chase, can prove the wisdom of that decision by taking the honours in one of the feature races on the penultimate day of a wonderful Cheltenham Festival.
Trained by the astute Mouse Morris, a man who has the reputation of not sending horses to this prestigious gathering simply for the good of his health, First Lieutenant has yet to win this season, but his form stands up to close inspection.
One of last term’s top novice chasers, the Irish gelding, who finished second to Bob’s Worth in the RSA Chase here 12 months ago, filled third spot behind that same horse – the Gold Cup favourite – in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in December. He has since been beaten a head by Tidal Bay, the Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up, in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
This two miles and five furlongs should be spot-on for First Lieutenant, who is fancied to have the edge over the admirable Cue Card, directed to this race by trainer Colin Tizzard instead of taking on the brilliant Sprinter Sacre in yesterday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. Davy Russell, already on the Festival scoreboard this week, has the mount on the nap selection.
In the opening Jewson Novices’ Chase, all eyes will be on Dynaste, who is three from three over fences this season.
Like First Lieutenant and Cue Card, he had a tricky choice of entries at Cheltenham this week, but trainer David Pipe selected this two-and-a-half-mile event in preference to yesterday’s longer and more gruelling RSA Chase.
For a horse as pacey as Dynaste, Pipe’s decision is probably a shrewd one. That said, this exciting seven-year-old still has a hefty task ahead of him and one which may include a superior rival, Captain Conan, trained by Nicky Henderson.
Likewise unbeaten in three starts over fences this season, Captain Conan may not be as flashy or as ebullient as Dynaste, but he is a classy horse and we may not have seen the best of him yet. He may need to raise his game to beat Dynaste, but that may not be beyond him.
Plenty of punters will be banking on Henderson winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with Oscar Whisky. He promises to run a big race, but he appeared not to get home over this three miles when unplaced in last year’s race and it could be worth looking elsewhere, at least for a horse who offers each-way value. Solwhit may fit that bill.
Charles Byrnes’s Irish raider has been a classy horse all his life and although his form falls short of that of Oscar Whisky and Reve de Sivola, who has been in great heart this winter, he makes appeal at around 8-1.
1.30 Captain Conan, 2.05 Jetson, 2.40 First Lieutenant (NAP), 3.20 Solwhit, 4.00 Walkon, 4.40 Relax, 5.15 Arabella Boy.
Today’s other meetings: Hexham, Towcester and Wolverhampton.
5.25 Exceedexpectations, 5.55 Flying Tempo, 6.25 William Van Gogh, 7.00 Tartan Jura, 7.30 Spiritual Girl, 8.00 Harvest Mist, 8.30 Fleetwoodsands, 9.00 Joyously.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Cheltenham, Fakenham and Lingfield.