A small yet select field have assembled for today’s Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase, with €30,875 up for grabs.
In its short history the race has been won by some of Ireland’s very best chasers. The Roll of Honour includes Imperial Call, Beef or Salmon, War of Attrition and Sizing Europe. The race is run over two and half miles and was last year won emphatically by Willie Mullins’ classy gelding Champagne Fever.
Mullins has been successful in the last two renewals and saddles Felix Yonger this time round. Now a nine-year-old, the son of Oscar has won six and finished second three times in his 11 chase starts. His record suggests he’s happy on any ground and was last seen winning the Grade 1 Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown. Mullins said of his runner: “He seems in good form and had a great end to his campaign last season.”
Giggginstown are set to be represented by First Lieutenant and the Gold Cup third Road To Riches. Top rated in the race, Noel Meade’s eight-year-old is stepping back in trip but has proved adaptable in previous campaigns. He thrashed a decent field in the Galway Plate last year before losing out by a head to Sizing Europe at Gowran Park over today’s trip. He enjoys making the running and I would be surprised if the distance proved a problem.
Meade appeared positive when speaking of his star chaser, saying: “There will be no excuses on the fitness front. We took him to Naas last weekend and he did a piece at the Curragh before that. I’m looking forward to getting a run into him and getting his season going. It looks like it is going to be some year for staying chasers both here and across the water.”
First Lieutenant is set to take his chance though his form tailed off badly last year. His rating has dropped from a high of 170 in 2013 to its current 147, and although he gets half a stone from the main protagonists it’s hard to see him being competitive.
Mallowney will be taking on the trip for only the second time in his chasing career. He’s probably at his best with give in the ground and is not without a chance. His pedigree suggests the trip would be fine but he appears to have a little to find if he is to get the better of Felix Yonger.
If fit enough Road To Riches should be good enough, though this is very much a starting point for a horse that will be aimed at all the major staying events over the winter.