Irish jumps racing has been forced to the sidelines for the past week due to Storm Ciara but business looks set to pick up at Gowran Park tomorrow with a quartet of Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders going through their paces.
The Grade Two Red Mills Chase has long been a notable warm-up for the Cotswolds – subsequent Gold Cup second Anibale Fly was runner-up to Monalee last year – and there will be plenty of blue riband clues up for grabs at the Kilkenny track with one fifth of the Gold Cup field set to take their chance.
The strongest of the four on official ratings is Willie Mullins’ Real Steel, a progressive sort which is as short as 20/1 for the Cheltenham showpiece having put former stablemate Footpad to the sword with ease in a similar event at Thurles last month.
Chris’s Dream is another Gold Cup dark horse – 20/1 with some firms – having strolled home in the Troytown last November and while a change in going saw the eight-year-old taken out of the Irish Gold Cup, this drop in trip looks like ideal preparation for Henry de Bromhead’s charge.
Gordon Elliott is responsible for the remaining pair, both of which harbour Gold Cup ambitions, but Death Duty and Shattered Love face a stiff task in a mouth-watering renewal which could also feature last year’s Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill.
Another eyeing the Cotswolds is Martin Brassil as the Kildare trainer makes a three-pronged attack on the Festival with last year’s Ballymore hero City Island, Longhouse Poet and You Raised Me Up primed to run.
The chase career of City Island is on hold and “it’s all systems go for the Stayers’ Hurdle” where he faces Paisley Park, while connections are “favouring” the Ballymore for novice Longhouse Poet. You Raised Me Up will be in handicap company with Brassil confident “they all have a chance”.
Meanwhile, next year’s Dublin Racing Festival will remain as a weekend meeting (Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7) at Leopardstown with a possible change to a Friday/Saturday fixture dismissed.