The big race in Ireland on Sunday is the 2m 4f Grade 1 John Durkan Chase (13:50), and last year’s winner Min has leading claims of going in again.
Trained by Willie Mullins – who has landed this five times before and four engaged in this renewal – for Rich and Susannah Ricci, the eight-year-old has a good record fresh.
Min has won first time up in each of the last four seasons since joining the Closutton handler. He has also scored on ground ranging from good to heavy.
The Walk In The Park gelding has won the last two renewals of the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown and is three from four over this trip.
Min was a well-backed even-money favourite in the John Durkan Chase 12 months ago, but was forced to switch approaching two out.
Once he was out of traffic problems, he improved on the inner going best in-between the final two fences and only had to be ridden out to win.
As Min meets the re-opposing runner-up Shattered Love off the same terms, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t confirm the form.
He was always holding that Gordon Elliott trained mare and thus value for more than the 1 1/2 lengths winning margin.
Connections skipped Christmas with Min and went straight to the Dublin Racing Festival where he successfully dropped back in trip.
Although cold tactics didn’t work in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, he showed that to be all wrong at Aintree.
In the previous season Politologue had just beaten Min by a neck in the Melling Chase.
Under a more positive ride than he got at Cheltenham, however, he absolutely bolted up at the Grand National venue this spring – reversing the form with a 20-length romp.
Although Min had his colours lowered by old rival Un De Sceaux at the Punchestown Festival again, this intermediate distance is arguably optimum.
With Mullins stable jockey Paul Townend picking him over three others, he is clearly their first string.
Taking everything into account, the top rated Min looks a worthy 4/5 favourite with Betway to retain his John Durkan Chase crown and emulate Djakadam by becoming the eighth dual winner of this.
Trip too sharp for Presenting Percy on comeback trail
Cheltenham Gold Cup flop Presenting Percy also makes his return to action here.
Although the John Durkan Chase has often been won by horses that stayed further in the past, its distance on forecast ground that is the soft side of yielding looks a little sharp.
Presenting Percy is trained by the shrewd Pat Kelly and is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner. However, his prep for the Gold Cup was interrupted a lot last season.
Connections wanted softer going than they could find, so Presenting Percy only had a spin over hurdles when defending his Galmoy Hurdle crown at Gowran Park.
Nothing at all went right in the Gold Cup either. Presenting Percy made an early mistake and his saddle slipped, so he weakened out of contention and finished lame.
For a horse that has won the Porterstown Handicap Chase over the Irish Grand National trip at Fairyhouse, a race that’s more than a mile shorter isn’t ideal.
Presenting Percy was beaten on his only previous outing at 2m 4f by the ill-fated Our Duke. Despite John Durkan Chase odds of 5/1 with Betfair, he is readily opposed.
The same can be said of Tony Martin’s staying chaser Anibale Fly.
Owned by JP McManus, this is a Grand National and Gold Cup horse again starting off a season over way short of optimum. Anibale Fly is also the joint eldest in the line-up aged nine.
He looks very vulnerable indeed with all his form over further and because he was well-beaten in the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork over this trip on reappearance last term.
There are other targets for Anibale Fly who wants at least 3m. Large odds of 25/1 with BetVictor reflect this.
Real Steel the John Durkan Chase danger
The improving Real Steel made another step forward with a taking success on reappearance.
That came in a Grade 2 at Down Royal last month where he bolted up by 14 lengths from British raider Secret Investor.
Another of the John Durkan Chase horses trained by Mullins, the six-year-old has shown he can handle a softer surface.
While re-opposing stable companion came out five lengths better in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, the going is completely different here.
Real Steel has to be fancied to reverse that Easter Festival form in December.
He is a course winner in a Grade A handicap over 2m 5f back here in May when he defied top-weight to account for Hardline – another who re-opposes – by 6 1/2 lengths.
This demands more than that Punchestown Festival triumph, but Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres hasn’t backed up his Cheltenham Festival triumph.
Of Mullins’ novices from last season, Real Steel appeals more at this trip and given his winning return to action.
Leading Irish amateur Patrick Mullins now takes the ride on this Sullivan Bloodstock owned gelding.
With just seven chase starts under his belt, Real Steel rates a bigger danger to Min in the John Durkan Chase than odds of 8/1 with Betfred suggest.
He looks a solid each-way bet at that price ahead of last year’s second Shattered Love, who has finally regained the winning thread when eased to Listed level at Clonmel last time out.