Mullins hotpot Allaho among 10 left in for Thurles Grade Two

Irish handler’s star turn may take well-tested route in bid to defend Cheltenham crown

Allaho could take a tried and trusted route to the Cheltenham festival via Sunday's Grade Two feature at Thurles. The Willie Mullins trained star is a general 7-4 favourite to successfully defend the Ryanair Chase crown he won in style at Cheltenham last March.

Prior to that spectacular front-running display at the festival Allaho had landed the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase in Thurles. He has the option of doing the same this weekend after featuring among 10 entries left in the race at Tuesday’s acceptance stage.

Ground conditions are likely to be very different though with the going currently “yielding” at Thurles and a dry weather outlook forecast for the rest of the week. It was a soft to heavy surface in 2021.

Allaho's Cheveley Park Stud owners have said they, if necessary, are happy to go the festival on the back of just one run this season. That start came in last month's John Durkan Chase at Punchestown when Allaho won from his stable companions Janidil and Melon.


Potential opposition this weekend includes Notebook from a four-strong Gigginstown Stud entry while Fakir D’oudairies is also in the mix.

Allaho added to a rich pedigree in the Thurles highlight still widely referred to as the Kinloch Brae. It proved a stepping stone to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory for Sizing John and Don Cossack in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Newmill emerged on top in 2006 prior to securing Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.

The most valuable contest on Sunday's card is another Grade Two, the €50,000 Coolmore Sires Novice Chase for mares. Just eight are left in and they include Minella Melody, runner-up to Stormy Ireland at Grade One level over hurdles last May, who could make her debut over fences.

Gavin Cromwell has the option of running his Naas winner Jeremys Flame and the Co Meath trainer is set to be represented cross-channel on Sunday also. His 2020 Champion Hurdle third, Darver Star, will line up at Lingfield's inaugural Winter Million Festival.

Darver Star returned to winning form over flights in Punchestown on New Year’s Eve and is on course to line up in a £100,000 hurdles prize on Sunday.

“I was delighted with him the last day. It was a massive improvement. As the race developed he warmed up into it and it was great to get his head in front again. There’s some good prize money up for grabs at Lingfield and we’re looking forward to running him,” said Cromwell, who hasn’t ruled out Wolf Prince from the same contest.

Cromwell’s Fameaftertheglory could try to break his duck over flights in a novice hurdle at Lingfield.

“He’s still a maiden but he’s been knocking on the door and I think he warrants running in the race on Sunday. The testing ground will be ideal for him,” said the Champion Hurdle-winning trainer.

Entries and tips

Meanwhile, on Tuesday 163 horses were entered for Cheltenham’s four major novice chase events in March. It is a drop of 30 on the same stage last year but what remains the same is Irish dominance at the top of the betting for every contest.

Bob Olinger has been left in the Brown Advisory Chase (formerly the RSA) but is a general evens favourite to land the shorter Turners Novice Chase. Instead, Galopin Des Champs is a clear favourite for the Brown Advisory ahead of Bravemansgame.

Another Mullins star, Ferny Hollow, dominates the betting for the Arkle with the leading English hope, Edwardstone, next best. Just 24 entries have been left in the Arkle with half of them from Ireland.

The National Hunt Chase is also dominated by Irish hopes with Gordon Elliott’s Troytown winner, Run Wild Fred, a 4-1 market leader in some lists. Capodanno, runner-up to Bob Olinger at Punchestown on Sunday, is also among 48 entries left in the old four-miler as is his stable companion Stattler.

There is action on the Dundalk all-weather track on Wednesday where top trainer Ger Lyons will try to get off the mark for 2022 with Obtain in a maiden. The Juddmonte filly was a beaten favourite at the track but should appreciate a return to six furlongs.

Ampeson has won twice from a handful of starts at Dundalk so far this winter and looks the one to beat in the finale.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column