Despite three past winners lining up in today’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Klassical Dream has the form to topple the old guard. KLASSICAL DREAM (3.30, nb, ITV), the impressive winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham three years ago, failed to fire on his recent start when fourth behind Royal Kahala at Gowran in January.
But there were valid excuses from his trainer Willie Mullins as he believed it was an easy prize to take when the gelding was far from match fit. He had earlier shown his true colours when slamming Flooring Porter, the winner of this race last year, at Leopardstown in the Dornan Engineering Christmas Hurdle.
Admittedly, on that occasion he was helped when stealing lengths off his rivals at the start. But the ease of his victory, even after an absence of 243 days, suggests he would have won under any circumstances. Flooring Porter made all the running when comfortably winning a year ago and he is likely take on Klassical Dream at the head of affairs as he tried to do at Leopardstown.
But Gavin Cromwell’s six-year-old has not won since 12 months ago and the selection clearly has the beating of him. Paisley Park, who took the prize in 2019 and was third last year, dismissed any suggestions that he had lost the plot and was in perpetual decline, in his recent start in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January.
On that occasion he overcame a mulish start, losing many lengths and became detached from the rest of the field. But despite still having plenty to do rounding the turn into the straight, the 10-year-old rallied after the last and went on to beat Champ by three and a quarter lengths, with Lisnagar Oscar, the 2020 winner of today’s Grade One, in third place.
But Emma Lavelle’s popular hurdler cannot repeat that behaviour with the front-running Klassical Dream expected to make it a furiously run contest. Thyme Hill, ruled out of last year’s contest after an injury, is held on his running at Ascot in the long Walk Hurdle where he finished second to Champ. The progressive Royal Kahala needs to find further improvement despite winning his last two races.
On his latest start he had Home By The Lee on his coattails at Gowran. The former Mullins-trained Koshari found his form for new trainer David Christie at Aintree in November but that was in a handicap and his credentials fall way short in this top company. On his past form Song For Someone would have a shout but recent performances suggest that he is falling out of love with the game.
ALLAHO has everything in his favour to make it back-to-back victories in the Ryanair Chase. Last season, ALLAHO (2.50, ITV) was a sensational winner of this Grade One contest when beating Fakir D’oudairies by 12 lengths. On his recent outing, he again slammed Fakir D’oudairies, an impressive winner on his following outing at Ascot, by 12 lengths at Thurles.
Conflated, owned by race sponsor Michael O’Leary, will be primed to take this contest. His trainer Gordon Elliott had hoped the gelding would line up in tomorrow’s Gold Cup but O’Leary understandably wants to get some of his own money back. Today’s trip is a concern for Conflated as he posted his best effort when beating Minella Indo, last season’s Gold Cup winner, over three miles at Leopardstown last month.
Connections of Shan Blue have talked up his chances, but this will be his first run since taking a thumping fall at Wetherby in October, which will be a huge ask. Willie Mullins, the trainer of Allaho, is expected to start the meeting on a winning note with GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (1.30, nap, ITV). The impressive winner of last year’s Martin Pipe Hurdle at the Festival has looked like a superstar when winning his two races over fences.
He faces a tough nut in Bob Olinger, winner of last year’s Ballymore Hurdle at the Festival. But despite his two wins over fences, his attitude was not convincing and he will be asked to knuckle down against a smart performer today. After some notable runs in defeat, SIRE DU BERLAIS (2.10, ITV) will now be ready to add to his 2019 and 2020 success in the Pertemps Final Hurdle.
He faces a tough task under top weight but his cause will be helped by the capable 7lb claiming Rob James taking the ride. His stablemate Sassy Yet Classy can make the frame judged on her second to Futurum Regem at Navan in December. She is only up 5lb for that effort and has shown that races with big fields bring out the best in her.
Local trainer Fergal O’Brien can celebrate with IMPERIAL ALCAZAR (4.10, treble, ITV) in the Craft Whiskey Co. Plate Handicap Chase. With just three runs under his belt over fences, he is improving with every outing. There was plenty to like about his second to Pats Fancy on his penultimate run at Chepstow.
He built on that when trouncing Beakstown at Cheltenham in January. He is up 8lb but remains on a winnable mark. Stolen Silver offers each-way value at 20-1. A repeat of his running when second behind Editeur Du Gite at Cheltenham in November highlights his claims. Of the seven Mullins runners in the Ryanair Mares’ Hurdle, DINOBLUE (4.50) gets the vote.
She can only improve on her 15-length victory over La Prima Donna at Clonmel in January. Her owner JP McManus is also expected to take the finale with SCHOOL BOY HOURS (5.30). The gelding returned to form in impressive style when beating Ben Dundee at Leopardstown in December. Leading amateur Derek O’Connor is an eye-catching booking.
THE SCOUT TIPS CHELTENHAM DAY THREE
1.30 GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (nap)
2.10 Sire Du Berlais
3.30 KLASSICAL DREAM (nb)
4.10 IMPERIAL ALCAZAR
5.30 School Boy Hours