All ROADS will lead to Gowran Park when the Thyestes Chase comes down for decision tomorrow (Thursday).
The E80,000 three mile Grade A contest, the Thyestes Chase is the centrepiece of the year’s action at Gowran Park and has attracted a quality entry. Ad Idem looks the likely top weight but there is growing confidence behind the Paul Nolan runner Glam Cherry after he landed a huge gamble on his handicap debut at Leopardstown. He will have the assistance of 7lb claimer Brian Hayes, who is currently riding out of his skin.
Local interest will centre around the all-conquering Willie Mullins yard, which has five runners left to choose from, while Windgap handler Kieran Purcell has his good money spinner Paddy Pub engaged.
Another cracking race on the Gowran Park card is the Grade Two three mile Galmoy Hurdle which commemorates the memory of John Mulhern, with a prize fund of E40,000 it has attracted most of the top staying hurdlers while the E21,000 four-year-old P.J. Foley memorial hurdle is also an extremely competitive affair.
Racing on this all-sponsored card gets underway with the Irish Racing Post maiden hurdle. With the Martinstown opportunity handicap hurdle as well as the Netwatch handicap chase and the Gowran Park racing club bumper completing the card it looks like being a day to remember. A free shuttle bus service will operate from the gates of Kilkenny Castle at 11am. The first race goes to post at 1pm.
The Willie Mullins runner Apt Approach booked his passage to Cheltenham with a smooth enough success in the two mile and four Grade Two Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles on Thursday.
Sent to post an odds-on favourite the Bob Back gelding was ahead almost from the drop of the flag under Ruby Walsh.
All seemed to be going to plan until the nine-year-old pecked badly on landing at the third last which allowed last year’s winner Follow The Plan to gain the initiative. Undeterred, Walsh gradually got his mount back in the race and went on to record a four and a half victory.
In his post-race remarks Mullins revealed that the horse will have an entry in both the Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase at the Cotswolds festival, with the latter contest his main objective.
While Mullins and Walsh have been sweeping all before them in recent months they suffered something of a reverse when Bishopsfurze crashed at the second last in the W.T O’Grady memorial novice chase, leaving Quietly Fancied to come home alone.
Up to the point of his departure Bishopsfurze looked well in control. His jumping had been almost foot perfect and if the fall does not leave a mark he will surely be recovering any losses incurred before very long.
It must be said however that Quietly Fancied was running a big race. A maiden hurdle winner over the course, he spent two years on the easy list because of injury before making his return this season. A son of Presenting and out of an Orchestra mare he will pay his way if remaining in the one piece. His trainer Oliver McKiernan told me that he likes decent ground and has no stamina problems, so he is one to keep on the right side of as the season progresses.
Paddy Hughes has been out of the limelight in recent times, but signalled his return in no uncertain fashion when saddling Prince Of Forwards to capture the two mile and six handicap hurdle at odds of 25/1.
Without a victory in a couple of years, the Sonus gelding is regarded as being a good ground animal so connections were in for a pleasant surprise as he came from mid division to lead early in the straight. Sonus went right away to record an impressive seven and a half length success over Beckett Rock.
Hughes, who has landed many a spectacular gamble in his time, revealed that he has not run many horses this season and sees the winner as a nice chaser in the making. Prince Of Forwards is owned by John Foley, a long standing patron of the stable, who also owned Barrow Line a horse that helped to put the stable on the map several years ago.
Dermot Weld recorded a rare hunter chase success when Merchant Royal, which is owned by his son Kris, took the concluding hunters chase under Robbie McNamara.
Easy to back, the Kayf Tara gelding came for his race in the straight but had to battle hard before disposing of longtime leader Viking Splash by a neck. A similar type race at Leopardstown on Hennessy day is next in line for the winner, after which a decision about Cheltenham will be made.