Previews05 February 2023

'It looks his for the taking' - Blue Lord camp confident of victory

This is the least appealing Grade 1 of the weekend with little to get excited about. Blue Lord should win barring accidents.

There is no real strength in depth at the top level in the two-mile chase division and, with Shishkin set to step up in trip, there appear to be only four horses with realistic chances of winning the Champion Chase. Blue Lord is most certainly one of that quartet and he is a big player.

You would not have guessed that at the start of the campaign when we presumed last season's crop of novice chasers were a pretty moderate bunch. Now that Edwardstone has stormed away with the Tingle Creek and Blue Lord won the Paddy Rewards Club Chase over Christmas in emphatic fashion we know they were anything but.

Blue Lord has only been beaten once over fences and that was in last season's Arkle when third to Edwardstone. He spent too much time in the air there, but has been much slicker this term and a repeat of his last visit to the track should see him comfortably win his third Grade 1.

He has course form, he has the best form and he comes in here at the top of his game having posted the best RPR of his career last time.

Gentleman De Mee was superb last spring when making all in the Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree in April, where he had none other than Edwardstone four and a half lengths behind him. A repeat of that effort would put him right in the mix, but his performances this term have left an awful lot to be desired.

He was beaten when coming down at the last on his comeback at Naas in November and once again folded very tamely in the Tingle Creek. Last time he was 41 lengths behind Blue Lord here so it is hard to see that form being turned around. That said, he remains the most likely to follow the favourite home if he recaptures some of his old sparkle. He looks set to get a freebie up front, which would obviously aid his cause.

Dunvegan was second in this race last year and ran well off a big weight in a hot handicap at Fairyhouse last month, while Fastorslow, who was just denied in last year's Coral Cup, ran better than his finishing position suggests in the John Durkan against Galopin Des Champs.

Then we have Sceau Royal. What a legend he has been over the years. A 17-time winner who was so unlucky in the 2021 Champion Chase and was third in the 2019 running as well, his best days might be behind him now but the track will suit and he might be best of the rest after Blue Lord.

Sceau Royal: decent record on quick going at Sandown
Sceau Royal: could complete a one-two for the double green silksCredit: Edward Whitaker

Townend: 'Blue Lord my best ride of the day'

Paul Townend picked Chacun Pour Soi over Blue Lord in the Paddy's Rewards Club Chase at Christmas, but he is delighted to be back on board the eight-year-old who is long odds-on to register his fourth success at the top level.

Indeed, the five-time champion jockey has been in the saddle for all bar one of Blue Lord's wins since joining Willie Mullins, with Daryl Jacob steering him to success at Christmas. He has, unsurprisingly, singled him out as his best ride of the day.

Townend said: "Blue Lord was very impressive at Christmas in what was a very fast-run race. You would have to be impressed with the rate he is improving at. He won at Clonmel earlier in the year and dropped back to two miles at Christmas. The manner in which he won was quite taking. He will be my best ride of the day and it looks like his for the taking."

What they say

Pat Fahy, trainer of Dunvegan 
We're delighted with him. He has come out of his last run well and we couldn't be happier with him. He ran well in the race last year but met with a setback afterwards, but he's in good form now and we are looking forward to it.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Blue Lord and Gentleman De Mee
Blue Lord should have an outstanding chance and if he’s able to replicate what he did at Christmas he’ll be very hard to beat. Gentleman De Mee needs his A-game in this company but he’s another I don’t think the watering will have helped. He might be one who’s better on spring ground later in the year.

Martin Brassil, trainer of Fastorslow
There are so few options for him and it's frustrating that we have to run him in a race like this. I was happy with his run in the John Durkan, but the rating says he has it all to do.

Alan King, trainer of Sceau Royal
Although he'll have a stiff task taking on Blue Lord, I'm full of hope he'll run well enough to make the trip worthwhile. He's a remarkable horse who holds his form year after year and he’s been close to his very best this season. He schooled on Monday and remains in fine heart. He is better going left-handed over fences and is suited by decent ground, which suggests that he should be suited by Leopardstown this weekend.

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