Thursday’s race of the day – Expert preview as two former Cheltenham winners clash at Thurles

Jon Vine takes a look at each of the runners set to contest the Listed Boomerang Chase at Thurles and sides with one of the market leaders in Thursday’s race of the day.

Midweek punters are in for a treat on Thursday afternoon, as two impressive winners from the 2019 Cheltenham Festival lock horns for the first time in the Listed Boomerang Chase. I’ve taken a closer look at each of the five runners and picked out my best bet.


Thursday’s Race Of The Day at Thurles

Balko Des Flos

Impressive winner of the Ryanair in 2018, but has failed to register another victory in in seven starts since. Balko Des Flos suffered heavy defeats in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase and the Savills Chase in the winter, before crossing the line a well-beaten seventh as Frodon wrestled away his Ryanair crown.

Henry De Bromhead’s charge did run well in defeat on his second start in the John Durkan and again in the Aintree Bowl, where he made the running alongside Kemboy and was only beaten into third after the final flight. He ran very poorly on his reappearance at Punchestown, but always comes on from his first start of the season and could relish this shorter trip.

Footpad

Like his rival, Footpad has suffered a significant fall from grace since that sparkling victory in the 2018 Arkle. Willie Mullins’ chaser fell when beaten behind Saint Calvados on his return to action last year, was pipped to the post in dramatic fashion by Simply Ned over Christmas and laboured over the line a place behind Balko Des Flos in the Ryanair.

Footpad was a stayer over hurdles, but showed an electrifying turn of foot during his novice chasing campaign and didn’t seem to relish the extra distance when stepped up in trip in the Ryanair. Clearly the most talented runner here, but the conditions of the race could suit his rival better.

Footpad was the impressive winner of the Arkle two seasons ago.

Jetz

Made it onto my list of tracker horses last term and secure a couple of decent victories at Navan, the second coming in the Grade Thee Flying Bolt Chase in March. Tried trips over two miles on five occasion last term and his best result was an eight-length defeat to Delta Work in the Drinmore. Could have more to offer over fences but has plenty to prove in this company.

Mala Beach

Only ran twice last season before turning up in the Grand National, where he tailed off two from home and was pulled up. Romped to victory in a point-to-point 18 months ago, but this trip could be a little on the short side and likely to be outclassed.

Oh Me Oh My

Barely worth mentioning really. 26 pounds short of the second-lowest rated horse in this Listed contest and was beaten by 60 lengths in a Listed Mares Hurdle back in October. Will need a couple of fallers just to snatch some place money.

Verdict

Footpad will, more than likely, come in from considerable support leading into the race and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see Mullins’ charge return with a win. However, I’ll side with BALKO DES FLOS (9/4 Unibet), a horse I have been rather sceptical about throughout his career.

I’m not sure Footpad is crying out for a trip of this length and he’d probably want the ground to be softer than this. Balko Des Flos, who has previously struggled to see out three miles, will be perfectly suited by this slightly short trip and he will strip fitter following that return run at Punchestown.