Invitation Only has featured in the Top 40 Prospects of One Jump Ahead a couple of times and, while he won races, he never quite lived up to expectations being plagued with minor setbacks during the early part of his career. However, the eight year old came good at Gowran Park when providing Willie Mullins with his seventh win in the Thyestes Chase. The gelded son of Flemensfirth had finished third over two miles five at Tramore on New Year's Day but relished the step up to three miles here. Prominent throughout, he jumped well and stayed on strongly to beat Alpha Des Obeaux by a length and a quarter off a mark of 152. One would imagine the Grand National will be his main target in the spring.
It has been a long wait but the return to action of Presenting Percy following an absence of 316 days proved worth it as Pat Kelly's dual Festival winner claimed the Galmoy Hurdle for a second consecutive year. The Pertemps and RSA Chase winner was taken wide by Davy Russell and wasn't hard pressed to beat Bapaume by a length and a quarter. The eight year old looked every bit as good as he did last season jumping and travelling smoothly throughout. He will presumably return to the same track for the Red Mills Chase, a race in which he finished runner-up last season, before heading back to the home of National Hunt racing for a crack at the Gold Cup. The omens looked good for a third successive Festival win.
Mullins capped an excellent day all round with a treble. Cilaos Emery hadn't seen a racecourse for 391 days but it didn't stop him from making a winning start to his chasing career. A four lengths winner from the 131 rated Impact Factor, he quickened away after the last and put himself firmly in the Arkle Trophy picture. It remains to be seen whether he gains any more practice over fences between now and March. I thought his stablemate Duc Des Genievres ran well in third over a trip shy of his best. Fifth in the Ballymore NH at the Festival last spring, it was only his second run over fences. I would be tempted to give him one more run and perhaps qualify him for the novices' handicap chase (0-145) on the first day of the meeting. He was rated 146 over hurdles.
Blue Sarri looked very useful in the concluding four year old bumper scoring by a hard held eleven lengths. Like Presenting Percy earlier on the card, he raced towards the outside and the Saddex gelding quickened away inside the final two furlongs. Given his age, he is by no means certain to head to Cheltenham for the bumper according to Mullins but I suppose much depends on whether Ireland's champion trainer unearths any others for the same contest. He invariably does.
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