Tout Est Permis will try to make it three in a row for Noel Meade
Troytown hero one of seven Gigginstown entries for Cheltenham Gold Cup
Sean Flanagan on Tout Est Permis winning the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Steeplechase at Navan Racecourse in November. Photograph: Peter Mooney/Inpho
Michael O’Leary’s Tout Est Permis will try to maintain his unbeaten record for new trainer Noel Meade at Thurles on Sunday and maybe in the process force himself into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture.
The youngest of the eight runners in Sunday’s Grade Two Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase is one of seven entries still left in the Gold Cup by O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team.
They include the triple-Grade One winner Road To Respect, as low as 10-1 for steeplechasing’s “Blue Riband”, and the festival-winning mare Shattered Love.
The Ryanair boss’s two victories in the race he covets most of all famously came a decade apart with Don Cossack (2016) adding to War Of Attrition’s landmark success 10 years previously.
The latter’s trainer Mouse Morris had Tout Est Permis in his care before the horse was switched to Meade for this season.
The grey won a relatively undistinguished handicap at Galway first time back but stepped up considerably to subsequently win the prestigious Troytown handicap impressively in November.
That brings his official mark to 150 which still leaves him rated 19lb inferior to both Road To Respect and the Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy who is expected to finally return to action over hurdles at Gowran next week.
Maybe Presenting Percy will put his stamp on the Gold Cup picture on Thursday. However there looks to be a wide open feel to the big race at the moment, possibly evidenced by how Kemboy jumped to third favourite after winning the Savills Chase when rated 157.
Sunday’s Thurles feature was won by Don Cossack prior to his Gold Cup victory and Sizing John pulled off the same double a year later.
Few anticipated Sizing John as a Gold Cup hero in waiting although he could already boast a Grade One-winning profile, something none of the eight runners this weekend can manage.
However, Tout Est Permis is clearly progressive and could be open to more improvement. Continuing good ground won’t be a problem and of O’Leary’s three runners in the race he looks the most interesting.
Sunday’s other Grade Two is the Coolmore Mares Novice Chase where Meri Devie will try to follow up her impressive chasing debut at Naas earlier this month.
She faces a task though against her former stable companion Camelia de Cotte who can already boast four victories over fences on a variety of surfaces.
Ucello Conti won for the first time for Gordon Elliott in a point to point last weekend and will look to boost his potential Cheltenham prospects in Sunday’s Hunters Chase.
The veteran has a number of fine-placed efforts to his credit in big handicaps over the years and was sixth in the 2016 Aintree Grand National as well.
Ucello Conti is currently a general 8-1 shot for Foxhunters glory at Cheltenham in March, a price that could look generous if he can impressively get the better of Gwencily Berbas and Home Farm in Sunday’s finale.