First run in 1987, the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup is the foremost Cheltenham Gold Cup trial in Ireland, but a prestigious Grade One prize to win in its own right. Jodami (93-95) and Florida Pearl (99-01) are the only hat-trick winners in the race, won last year by Sir Des Champs trained by Willie Mullins - the winning handler for the last three renewals. Easyodds' Irish correspondent, Eamon Hanlon, looks for some each-way value in this year’s race below.
Leopardstown Tips –
LAST INSTALMENT@ 4/1
In line with the last six years there will only be a single number field contesting this top graded prize over three miles and 17 obstacles with once again the ground very much on the testing side.
There can be no arguing with the view that First Lieutenant deserves to win a race of this calibre after finishing placed in no less than nine grade one chases in the past three years, the last of which came over course and distance when he was outstayed by the Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth.
Previous to that he was involved in one of the best finishes to a Grade One staying chase of all time when just touched off in the closing stages by Tidal Bay in the 2012 Lexus Chase. Just over a year on from that event the two horses meet again with the last named arriving here on arguably a career best effort when he just failed to give 26lbs to Mountainous and Hawkes Point in the Welsh National at Chepstow.
He may be 13-year-old but the Paul Nicholls’ charge shows little sign of deteriorating and if they go a decent pace here the old boy looks sure to be involved at the finish again. I suspect that Roi De Mee will try and make most at a solid pace and that augurs well for the veteran.
I fear that First Lieutenant will once again come up short even though this is arguably the weakest strength in depth Grade One he has contested for some time. The other inextricable fact is that the Mouse Morris runner is a better horse on a sounder surface in the spring time, factors that played in his favour when landing the Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree last April.
Texas Jack is a relatively lightly raced chaser compared to the majority of his rivals and as classy as he is; if we get a solid end to end gallop here I think he is unlikely to see out the three miles. He ran on well at the finish to take the scalp of Baily Green in the Kinloch Brae Chase but two and a half miles seems to be his optimum trip. Lyreen Legend is safely held by First Lieutenant on Lexus Chase form, but that was his first run of the season and he is entitled to erode that seven length margin to a certain degree.
Lord Windermere was a further two and a half lengths away in seventh place that day and is becoming a shade disappointing in my book since his RSA Triumph. It could be that he too needs a sounder surface to show his best form.
Which brings us to LAST INSTALMENT, a crack novice in 2011 when he won all four of his starts over fences, impressing most pundits with his superb jumping. He then suffered a leg injury and only returned to action last month when behind the aforementioned Texas Jack, having every chance between the last two fences before his lack of race fitness told.
That race should have brought him on a bundle and with his still untapped improvement to come, he could well improve past this field, as he must undoubtedly do, and claim this valuable first prize.
First Lieutenant is the most likely winner, but he all too often finds a way of getting himself beaten although betting odds of 2/1 are about right.
It’s not a race I shall be having a lumpy investment on, but I will be having a saver in running on Tidal Bay at bigger odds and maybe even a back to lay on Roi De Mee as the set-up of the race should suit both of them.
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