Six runners are set to line up for the Listed feature at Carlisle on Sunday (although two are declared at Wetherby on Saturday), and with the calibre of recent winners of this it’s certainly a race to keep an eye on. Recent winners include:
- Many Clouds (2014)
- Waiting Patiently (2017)
- Lostintranslation (2019)
- Fiddlerontheroof (2021)
GG editor Tom Aldridge previews this years race, running through the four runners, before giving his expert verdict on who he expects to win.
Last year’s renewal saw Nigel Twiston-Davies’ BEAUPORT hold off the late challenge from Millers Bank to make it a winning start on Chase debut:
(Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jordan Nailor)
Last year’s winner is one of the two-runners in here that is also entered at Wetherby on Saturday, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he opted to go here, considering his record over this trip. Outside of Graded level, his record over 2m 4f reads 1211, and all four of his career wins have come on soft ground, so he’ll have optimum conditions here. He did disappoint after winning this race last year, failing to get his head in front in the other four races, and was last seen falling over in the Grade 3 Freebooter Handicap Chase at Aintree. He did win this on seasonal reappearance last year, so if he does opt to come here I wouldn’t discount him by any means.
2. Bill Baxter
(Warren Greatrex/James Bowen)
Warren Greatrex’s runner was nothing special over hurdles but was seen to much better effect over fences last season, winning four of his six races. He improved with each run, culminating in a victory in the Topham Chase at Aintree in April, which was by far a career best performance. He had wind surgery after a disappointing chase debut and that seemed to do the trick, winning all four of his completed races (the only loss came when falling at Hereford in January). James Bowen is booked for the ride and he’s 2/3 on board, and providing Bill Baxter is fully fit I’d expect him to be in the mix in here.
3. Bass Rock
(Sandy Thomson/Ryan Mania)
Sandy Thomson did win this in 2016 with Seeyouatmidnight, who put in a huge performance to beat Bristol De Mai, but I don’t think she’ll have much luck this year with Bass Rock. The 7YO made the perfect start over fences when running out an easy winner at this course last year, but that was about as good as it got, failing to win any of his other three races last season. He was last seen unseating jockey Ryan Mania at Ayr in April when well beaten, and although he goes well fresh, he’s the lowest rated in here and I think he might struggle in this field.
4. Mahler Mission
(John C McConnell/TBC)
Trainer John C McConnell has a rare entry at Carlisle (he actually has two on Sunday’s card), where he’s only ever sent three runners previously. He isn’t having much luck in Ireland this season, but is doing much better in the UK, currently operating at a 33% strike-rate (13 winners from 39 runners). Mahler Mission was last seen falling two out when out in front in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup at Cheltenham, so it’s perhaps an interesting move from connections to drop him down to 2m 4f on his seasonal reappearance. He did run out an easy winner on his sole race over this trip over hurdles so I don’t think it will inconvenience him, and he’ll relish the soft ground. He’s a deserved favourite in my opinion, and I think he’ll be difficult to beat.
5. Monbeg Genius
(Jonjo O’Neill/Jonjo O’Neill Jr)
Jonjo O’Neill’s runner is entered at Wetherby on Saturday and I expect that will be his preferred choice, with this a likely fallback option in case the Wetherby card gets abandoned on Saturday. If he does line up here, I expect him to go extremely close, as I fancy him to win that Premier Handicap at Wetherby. This is a shorter trip than ideal for him, but that Ultima form is so impressive that I think his class could see him prevail here. To chase home the Grand National winner and the Punchestown Gold Cup winner is no mean feat and I’m expecting him to have a big season this year, but I do feel that his priority will be the Sodexo Live! Gold Cup on Saturday.
6. Thunder Rock
(Olly Murphy/Sean Bowen)
Thunder Rock had an excellent debut season over fences, winning his first two and only finishing outside the top three once in his four races at Graded level. He comfortably finished ahead of Beauport when chasing home The Real Whacker in the Dipper Novices’ Chase, and it was another excellent effort to finish within six lengths of Gerri Colombe in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase next time out, who is one of my ten to follow for this season. The step up to three miles didn’t suit him in the Brown Advisory so I would ignore that run, and he it was a much better performance in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase when runner-up behind Datsalrightgino, despite the ground being on the better side than ideal. Sean Bowen is on board for the first time but he will know exactly how to ride him to get the best out of him, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won this. He should have a big season ahead of him, and it won’t be long until he’s winning in Graded company.
Five of the last eight favourites have won, and although this looks pretty open I expect MAHLER MISSION to enhance that record on Sunday. He’s versatile when it comes to ground and trip, so I don’t think it will be too much of an issue, and I think the top-rated runner will simply have too much for his rivals. If Monbeg Genius does line up here, I expect him to go extremely close, but I do feel he’ll line up at Wetherby rather than here. Thunder Rock looks the best of the rest, so I expect him to chase home John C McConnell’s runner, but for win purposes, it has to be Mahler Mission.
SELECTION: MAHLER MISSION TO WIN
The 2023/24 Jumps Season is underway and we’ve got all our team to give their ’10 to follow’ for the NH season. Next up it’s the turn of GG’s chief editor Tom Aldridge to give his selections, which include one he thinks could take on Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup, plus one he…
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