National clues aplenty in Thursday’s Thyestes Chase


The Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park over 3m1f features a number of horses with interesting profiles regarding potential Grand National bids and for those looking for Aintree pointers, it is a race well worth watching with notebooks in hand.

In recent years the storied handicap chase; a traditional Thursday feature, has been won by Gold Cup contenders Invitation Only, Djakadam and On His Own but the race threw up back-to-back National winners in 2005 champion Hedgehunter and 2006 scorer Numbersixvalverde earlier this century.

Last year’s renewal saw almost half of the field subsequently running in the National although with disappointing results. National second Pleasant Company pulled up in this the year before en-route to Aintree so clues are sometimes well hidden for the Merseyside spectacular.

Looking for potential pointers this time one must first look at horses with past National form. Livelovelaugh was 11th behind Tiger Roll a year ago. In the same race none of Dounikos, General Principle or Noble Endeavour really got involved. Total Recall was favourite for the National in 2018 but ran no sort of race. The quartet all go in the Thyestes, although none are particularly well fancied.

Perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, who won the 2005 National with Hedgehunter, has triumphed in the Thyestes seven times and he has six representatives this year highlighted by joint-favourites Acapella Bourgeois and Chef Des Obeaux. The pair were high class novices for other yards who have both had mixed times of it since.

Acapella Bourgeois was a Grade Two winning novice for Sandra Hughes but he has won just once in nine starts since moving to Closutton. He showed signs of his old self recently when second to last year’s Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo at Tramore. Relatively unexposed over marathon trips; he was third under a big weight in last year’s Irish National, a race won by current second favourite for Aintree Burrows Saint.

Chef Des Obeaux, trained by Nicky Henderson last season, always looked a thorough stayer and after winning over 3m2f as a novice he was well fancied for the 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham which is a crack National trial. He was badly hampered and pulled up in a dramatic race where only four of the 18 runners completed. A good fifth in the ultra-competitive Paddy Power over Christmas suggested him a winner in waiting and his running style indicates a test like the National could be just what the doctor ordered.

Others potentially having prep races for Aintree include Borice who at 33/1 is the shortest-priced of these for ‘The People’s Race’. Borice rattled off a hat-trick last year, culminating in winning the valuable Galway Plate in the summer. Borice stayed beyond 3m in France earlier in his career and the fact that he hails from Gordon Elliott’s yard makes him an even more intriguing proposition.

Elliott has won the National three times this century, marking him out as the most successful trainer in the race of recent years. Like Mullins, he runs six here with youngster Roaring Bull, who wasn’t far behind Acapella Bourgeois in last year’s Irish National, among the more intriguing of his runners given he is still only seven.

A top handicap in its own right, the Thyestes is certainly a race to watch closely with one eye on Aintree in April.

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