Smoking Gun looks worth siding with to cash-in on what looks a lenient mark and land the spoils in a typically fierce, wide-open renewal of the 3m 1f Grade A Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday (15:00).
Trained by Joseph O’Brien, this Gigginstown House Stud owned seven-year-old showed progressive form over hurdles last season when winning for of his six starts.
In the last of those successes in a 10-runner handicap over 2m 6f at Thurles, Smoking Gun stayed on strongly to account for Plan Of Attack by three-quarters of a length off a mark of 128.
He then failed to shine off a revised rating of 136 when a well-beaten 19th of 23 at the Punchestown Festival, but that race may have been a case of one to many.
Smoking Gun then had his attention switched to fences at the start of this campaign and, after shaping with plenty of promise in his first two starts over the larger obstacles, impressed when beating Early Doors by four lengths over 3m 1f at Punchestown last month.
Unexposed and better to come
After tracking the leaders and making a couple of mistakes, the son of Gold Well took up the running going two from home under JJ Slevin.
Smoking Gun was then ridden clear and found plenty for pressure on the run-in to win with plenty in hand at the line.
It was a most taking display and the runner-up, whom he met on level terms, is a smart sort who landed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival off a rating of 145.
That gives the form a strong look and also suggests the assessor may have taken a real chance in allotting Smoking Gun an opening handicap chase mark of just 136.
He also relished the step up to the 3m 1f trip of this that day, and remains unexposed and open to plenty more progression over fences.
Other pluses are that he is 1-1 at the venue, once again has the services of Slevin in the saddle, and has sneaked in at the foot of the weights of just 10st 5lb.
There is simply nothing not to like about Smoking Gun’s profile for this, so – at 15/2 with SportNation – he looks well worth a wager to go in again.
Total Recall the pick of Mullins mob
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins is the most successful in Thyestes Handicap Chase history having won it seven times, including three of the last six renewals.
He launches a six-pronged attack this time round and Chef Des Obeaux is the shortest in bookmakers’ betting here.
However, at the odds on offer, Total Recall is the one that makes more appeal as he has become well-treated and proven form in big field handicaps like this.
This 11-year-old enjoyed his finest hour in the 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury when staying on strongly to land a monster gamble by a neck from Whisper off a mark of 147.
That game victory in that valuable Grade 3 handicap chase better known as the Hennessy Gold Cup earned Total Recall a revised rating of 156.
He was in the process of running a good race off it in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when racing in sixth and six lengths down but coming to grief three from home.
Things haven’t gone to plan since, but he did run well first time up last season when chasing home stable companion and subsequent Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo in a Listed contest at Tramore off 156.
Total Recall is now able to race off 7lb lower, and a revised rating of 149 is just 2lb higher than when landing the Ladbrokes Trophy.
It makes him a key player at the weights on the pick of his form. He comes into the Thyestes Handicap Chase on the back of a spin over hurdles when a tenderly handled third at Clonmel.
That quiet prep run is sure to have put Total Recall spot on for this, so at odds of 18/1 with William Hill – who pay five places – he makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Ex Patriot another with Thyestes Handicap Chase claims
In a race where a case can be made for most of the 18 runners, Ex Patriot looks another well worth considering from an each-way betting perspective at odds of 10/1 with Paddy Power.
This Ellmarie Holden trained seven-year-old was a smart hurdler who has quickly made up into an even better chaser.
He rounded off last season with successes at Thurles and this venue – landing gambles on both occasions.
Ex Patriot is yet to get his head in front in three starts this season, but has run well in defeat on each occasion.
After finishing runner-up in a Cork Grade 3, he finished a solid third to the hugely exciting Battleoverdoyen in a Grade 2 over 2m 6f at Punchestown when keeping on to be beaten just over eight lengths after making a mistake two from home.
He has since run a cracker to finish a 4 3/4 lengths fourth of 12 to Oldgrangewood in the Grade 3 Paddy Power Handicap Chase over 2m 4f at Cheltenham off a mark of 147 and is now able to race off 1lb lower.
It gives Ex Patriot every chance from a handicapping perspective under crack amateur rider Derek O’Connor, who is two from five on him.
The big question is whether Ex Patriot will stay the 3m 1f trip which he now tackles for the first time.
If he does, then on the pick of his form he has every chance of hitting the frame at least and Paddy Power are paying six places.