Thyestes Chase preview: Donn McClean horse-by-horse guide

Check out our man’s horse-by-horse guide to Thursday’s Thyestes Chase and his 1-2-3-4 verdict.

1. Escaria Ten

Third in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 2021 as a novice, he finished eighth in the Thyestes Chase last year on his seasonal return, but he ran better than the bare form suggests. He made a significant mistake at the first fence, which left him further back than ideal early on, but he still traveled well into the home straight just behind the leaders, in a leading group of seven, before he retired from the second last. He has had a run this season, he ran well on ground that should have been faster than ideal at Thurles last time and, although he has to carry top weight, he gets to race off last year’s handicap rating of 151.

2. Pencilfulloflead

He beat the 2021 Thyestes winner Coko Beach in a beginners’ chase at Galway in 2020, and he followed up by landing the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase at Punchestown. He has only run four times since, and he ran well for a long way on his debut this season, when he finished fourth of four in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase in November over an inadequate two and a half miles. That was his first run in almost a year, and it should have brought him forward. First-time cheekpieces could help.

3. Carefully selected

Winner of his first three chases in 2019/20, he was beaten when unseating at the final fence in the 2020 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. He didn’t race again until he made his debut this season in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown, his first run in over a thousand days, when he just retired from the second last fence. He is 11 years old now, but he has raced just five times over fences, and he could come forward quite significantly from his Leopardstown run.

4. Coco Beach

He won the Thyestes in 2021 off a handicap rating of 138, before going to Navan and winning the Grade 2 Ten Up Chase the following month. He hasn’t won since, but he is back down to a handicap rating of 145, just 7lb higher than the mark off which he won the race two years ago, and he didn’t run badly in the Troytown Chase at Navan last time .

5. Gabby’s Cross

He proved that he could operate in a competitive handicap chase when he won the Galway Blazers Chase at the Galway Festival during the summer, staying on strongly up the hill to come home over two lengths clear of subsequent Kerry National winner Busselton, and third-placed Fan De Blues, who won his next two. It didn’t happen for him in the Kerry National, but he ran a big race in the Paddy Power Chase last time, a mistake at the final fence halting his momentum in the home straight. He stayed on well enough though, at the end of three miles at Leopardstown, to suggest that the Thyestes trip is a good trip for him, and he is proven on soft ground as well as goodish ground.

6. Frontal Assault

Second in the Irish Grand National last April, he was good in winning at Galway in October, recording his first win over fences, when he had subsequent Florida Pearl Chase winner Darrens Hope back in second place. Fifth in the Troytown and well beaten by Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, he goes well right-handed and he will get to race off a handicap mark that is only 3lb higher than his Irish National mark.

7. Braeside

He would be a big player if he could bounce back to the form that he showed when he won the Cork National in October 2021, or when he finished fourth in the Paddy Power Chase two months later, and he is back down to a mark of 141, 2lb lower than his Paddy Power Chase mark.

8. Espanito Bello

He beat the 2021 Thyestes Chase winner Coko Beach by 18 lengths when he won his beginners’ chase at Naas in December 2020. He hasn’t won again since, but he has been relatively lightly raced, and his latest run in a handicap hurdle at Galway in October, his first run back after a break, was mildly encouraging.

9. Defi Bleu

He ran a big race in the Cork National in November when he finished second behind Captain Kangaroo. He has been well beaten in the Troytown Chase and in the Paddy Power Chase since though, and he is going to have to bounce back.

10. Lieutenant Command

He was right there with a chance when he unseated his rider at the second last fence in the novices’ handicap chase that Gabbys Cross won at Naas in February last year. He fell in his next two races, however, and he was well beaten in the Tim Duggan Memorial Chase at Limerick last time. The addition of cheekpieces will have to elicit significant improvement.

11. Punitive

A three-time winner over hurdles for Henry de Bromhead, he has been nicely progressive this season for Gordon Elliott. He put up a career-best performance last time when he won the Porterstown Chase at Fairyhouse on Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day. He is 8lb higher now in the handicap, but he stays well, he goes well on soft ground, and his rate of improvement may not have leveled off yet.

12. Donkey Years

Winner of the Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival in April off a handicap rating of 128, he finished third in the Muster National at Limerick in October off a 6lb higher mark. He unseated early in the Paddy Power Chase last time, a race that was won by his lesser-fancied stable companion Real Steel, but he remains feasibly handicapped on a mark of 134.

13. Dunboyne

He is good on his day, as he proved when he won a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Gowran Park at the end of November. He was pulled up at Fairyhouse last time, and he refused to race at Punchestown earlier in November, but he stays well and he goes well on soft ground, and he is one for one at Gowran Park.

14. Equality Mans

He hasn’t won since he won his beginners’ chase at Wexford last March, and he was well beaten in the Troytown and in the Paddy Power Chase on his two most recent outings.

15. Captain Kangaroo

He got off the mark over fences at Cork in November, when he ran out an impressive winner of the Cork National. He unseated in the Becher Chase at Aintree next time, and he fell early on in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, but if he can return to the form that he showed at Cork in November, even off a 10lb higher mark now, that would bring him into it, and he was only just beaten in a novices’ chase at Gowran Park on his only run there to date.

16. Fakir

A dual winner over hurdles, and fourth in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2021, he has yet to win over fences, but he ran his stable companion Punitive to two and a half lengths in the Porterstown, and he meets him now on 4lb better terms. He stays well and he remains potentially well handicapped on a chase mark that is 6lb lower than his hurdles mark.

17. Darren’s Hope

She sprang a bit of a surprise when she battled on well to beat Minella Crooner last time and landed the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase at Punchestown, providing her trainer Bob Murphy with the biggest win of his training career. She is a really likeable mare and she should run her race.

18. Flash De Touzaine

He looked very good in winning a handicap chase at Galway in October, when he beat subsequent Paddy Power Chase winner Real Steel by eight lengths. He was well beaten in the Troytown next time, however, and he was a beaten horse when he fell in the Tim Duggan Chase at Limerick last time, but if he could bounce back to his Galway form, that would bring him into it.

19. Rambranlt’jac (reserve)

He battled on well to win his beginners’ chase at Galway in July on good ground, and he didn’t run badly in the Troytown Chase last time. He is only seven, and he has the potential to progress, but he still has to prove that he has the stamina for this type of test.

20. Stones And Roses (reserve)

Fourth in the Porterstown Chase last season, he is a thorough stayer, but he was pulled up in the Paddy Power Chase on his debut this season, and he is going to have to put that run behind him.

21. Regina Dracones (reserve)

A winner over two miles, over two miles and six and a half furlongs, and over three miles and one and a half furlongs over fences, she is a versatile mare who stays well and who goes well on soft ground. She would be one of the more interesting outsiders if she did get into the race.


  1. Gabby’s Cross
  2. Escaria Ten
  3. Donkey Years
  4. Punitive

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