Zaynar ran a good race in the champion hurdle to claim third & I had to wait till the very last race to get my first winner. I said yesterday that the champion hurdle would give a good indication of the credentials of the leading two in the mares hurdle & it proved to be true. Go native ran like a distressed sheep which meant I immediately discounted Voler La Vedette’s defeat of him. This left last years winner Quevega who landed the double in stylish fashion.
I’ll now attempt to right some of day one’s wrongs & hopefully send the bookies back under the rock from which they crawled in the process.
- 2.05 Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle
This is quite a strong renewal with two Irish runners dominating the market. The first of these is the Dermot Weld trained Rite Of Passage who ran third in the champion bumper here last year. He looks a lovely horse but i cant help but think that his future lies on the flat, a point consistently highlighted by his trainer. In my opinion his form over hurdles does not look as strong as that of the Willie Mullins charge Quel Esprit & this step up in trip isn’t certain to suit.
The other horse at the top of the betting is the aforementioned Quel Esprit. I really fancy this one’s chances & his form looks almost bulletproof as he has beaten both Hugo De Vindecy & Last Draw who are well regarded by connections. He seemed to be outpaced by Coole River over a shorter trip last time out & I am of the opinion that this step up in distance is just what he needs.
- 2.40 RSA Steeplechase
I really like Weapons Amnesty in this race. He won the Albert Bartlett over the course & distance at the festival last year on similar ground conditions. He has been second in two grade one novice chases this year. In the first one he was beaten by the very useful Pandorama on ground that he wouldn’t have relished. In the second he came home behind Citizen Vic over an inadequate trip. I think this step back up in distance will really play to his strengths & he looks a nailed on each way chance.
The home challenge is spearheaded by Nicky Henderson’s Long Run. This looks a very nice sort. Unfortunately he is being ridden by a jockey that i wouldn’t put on a rocking horse. The only reason the jockey, namely Sam Whaley Cohen, gets the ride is because his father owns the horse.
Weapons Amnesty each way for me
- 3.20 The Queen Mother Champion Chase
I believe that Master Minded is a very worthy favourite for this race as he has won the previous two renewals in impressive fashion. However, he hasn’t had an ideal preparation this year, receiving a rib injury when third here in November.
I prefer the chances of Ferdy Murphy’s Kalahari King. Murphy is one of the shrewdest trainers around & his horses have really hit form in recent weeks. Kalahari King was beaten by a goose feather in the Arkle Chase over the course & distance at last years festival. I was very impressed with his most recent run at Doncaster where he carried top weight of 11 stone 12 to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Irish raider Big Zeb also cannot be discounted as he ran Master Minded very close at the Punchestown festival. However his jumping nearly always lets him down when it comes to the crunch
It has to be Kalahari King for me & I’ll back him to win & each way
- 5.15 The Champion Bumper
Irish runners, particularly those trained by Willie Mullins, have dominated this race since its inception in the early 90’s. However, I don’t believe us Paddy’s will have it all our own way this year. I think Al Ferof has a leading chance here. He was purchased by trainer Paul Nicholls for leading owner J Hales after winning a bumper at Fairyhouse for Liz Doyle in December. On his first run for Paul Nicholls he beat Made in Time at Newbury, a horse that was bought by JP McManus for a large sum of money with this race in mind.
Other horse to keep an eye on are Irish raiders Shot From The hip, trained by Eddie O’Grady & the Willie Mullins inmate Day Of A Lifetime. Another Irish runner of note is Jimmy Lambe’s Drumbaloo who has been constantly talked up by the trainer in the lead up to the festival.
I’m going to stick with Al Ferof who has improved on every run. He has being backed in from big prices to around 10/1 & I think he is a great each way bet.
I pray to god we all have a pot of the bookies gold by the end of racing on Paddy’s day.