THE PUNTER'S EYE: Three horses to consider in the Thyestes Chase
The Thyestes Chase is a high quality handicap chase that often brings top staying chasers to Kilkenny, including recent winners On His Own and Djakadam. Its most famous winners include Arkle, Flyingbolt and Hedgehunter.
The 2018 running of the race takes place on Thursday, January 25, and a host of participants from last year are back, including 2017 shock winner Champagne West. The horses that finished second and fourth, Ucello Conti and Pleasant Company are both returning for Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins respectably.
These are the three horses that could fill the places this time around:
1. Pleasant Company (12/1)
This horse is undoubtedly being geared up for another tilt at the Aintree Grand National in 2018. He has run once since the day Ruby Walsh steered him to ninth place behind One For Arthur in the 2017 National at the Liverpool track last April. In that subsequent race, he was held up and eventually weakened to 14th spot behind Anibale Fly at Leopardstown in December, finishing 35 lengths off the pace. However, he should strip fitter for that run and is now the first string for Willie Mullins following the withdrawal of Polidam, meaning Paul Townend has been confirmed for the ride. His jumping was exemplary for much of the mammoth trip in last year's Grand National, although it was a bad blunder four from home that cost him a run for ultimate glory on that occasion. However, Grand National fences are a law onto themselves, and for the most part, his jumping is very good over standard National Hunt obstacles, and 3M 1F on heavy ground will be right up his street. This horse has actually never fallen on the racetrack and showed he is up to winning a race like this by landing the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse last February. He was also fourth in this race last year. At around 12/1, he is certainly one to consider for the front three.
2. Ucello Conti (5/1)
This Gordon Elliott-trained 10-year-old is a worthy favourite for this race having warmed up nicely by finishing second in the Paddy Power Chase won by Anibale Fly in December, coming home just seven lengths in arrears. That run came after a 260-day break after he unseated his rider during the 2017 Aintree Grand National. This horse is an out and out stayer, and looks like one that could win a national before time is called on his career. He was sixth behind Rule the World in the race in 2016, and also showed his ability over the National fences in the 2016 Becher Chase. Heavy ground should be no problem, while the track also poses no problems - Ucello Conti was second in this race last year. Adding further to this horse's undoubted potential in this race is the seven-pound claimer on-board for the Elliott team. The 5/1 offered for him could seem generous at the end of the race.
3. Space Cadet (20/1)
Another Gordon Elliott runner that could sneak a place at a bigger price is Space Cadet from a basement weight. The horse ran with credit last time, also carrying a low weight, when he was 23 lengths behind Anibale Fly at Leopardstown. He was just 16 lengths behind stablemate Ucello Conti and finished ahead of the likes of Out Sam, Polidam and Pleasant Company. He hasn't won a race since October 2016, but in a far from vintage renewal of the Thyestes, he could just sneak into the money.
Elsewhere on the card, a horse worth considering is Presenting Percy, yet again for the Gordon Elliott team in the 13:50 contest on Thursday. It's unusual to see this Cheltenham winner revert to hurdles after impressing over the larger obstacles. He won impressively by 11 lengths over Forever Gold at Fairyhouse in December. His hurdling form is exemplary, highlighted perfectly in his win in last year's Pertemps Hurdle at Cheltenham under a colossal weight. If he captures any of that old sparkle over timber he can certainly account for the likes of Let's Dance and Bacardys here.