DONN MCCLEAN: Paisley Park is a horse fancied by many at this year’s festival and Donn McClean reckons he will take some beating. Read Donn’s thoughts on the Stayers Hurdle and more from Day Three below.

⭕ Marsh Novices’ Chase

If either of Samcro or Faugheen were to win this it would bring the house down. You’d love to see either of them winning and on their best form both would have strong chances. Faugheen is a pretty incredible horse. He’s a 12-year-old and you wouldn’t think he should do what he’s doing, but he just keeps delivering. You abandon the usual rules for horses of his age because he’s such a good horse. Samcro is reported to be back in much better form than he has been too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them won it.

I do think Itchy Feet sets a high standard after his win at Sandown and he has course form as well. He ran very well to be third in last year’s Supreme and he’s probably the one the two Irish horses have to beat.

It’s not a betting heat from my perspective, but it’s a race I can’t wait to watch.

⭕ Ryanair Chase

I backed A Plus Tard (pictured) a while ago, so I’m hoping he gets the job done in the Ryanair. He’s probably the right price now at 2.75 and is the one they’ve got to beat. He won the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at the Festival last year off 144 and was given a rating of 160 on the back of that. It looks justified given his performances over fences this year and although he was beaten by Ballyoisin at Navan, that rival loves that course and it was a very good run by A Plus Tard on his seasonal debut.

He then beat Chacun Pour Soi over Christmas convincingly over a trip short of his best, which is obviously solid form. He hasn’t run over this 2m4f trip since that Cheltenham win, but this intermediate distance is probably his optimum, even if he was entered in the Champion Chase. He’s proven he’s a classy horse with lots of improvement left in him and he’s got to go close.

Min is a very good horse, but he’s nine now and I just think A Plus Tard has the scope to improve past him.

The other one who might have gone slightly under the radar is Duc Des Genievres. His win in the Arkle was very good on the clock and and Willie Mullins has said that he has been keen to step him up in trip again. His form at the start of the season wasn’t great, but he did run well at Kempton a couple of starts back. He’ll need to step on that to feature here, but back at Cheltenham he could be a big price at 19.0.

⭕ Stayers’ Hurdle

It’s very hard to see past Paisley Park in the day’s feature. He just keeps on winning and is a modern day Big Buck’s and it’s no surprise to see him at 1.61. He will take an awful lot of beating here.

I won’t be backing him, but it will be interesting to see how City Island goes here. He was a good winner of last year’s Ballymore and although it hasn’t happened for him over fences this season, he showed last year he’s a horse with plenty of ability. It’s a big ask to come and win it, but Martin Brassil is a top-class trainer and if he were to come back to that form, he’d be an interesting contender.

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