Sadly the big news last weekend did not emanate from the track as Nicky Henderson revealed on Sunday evening that Sprinter Sacre will not bid to retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
There is nothing actually wrong with the eight-year-old but he is just not showing connections the usual spark of genius that they have become accustomed to and have decided to draw stumps until next season.
Myself and everyone associated with the sport are gutted that he’ll be an absentee from Prestbury Park, but at the end of the day, if they can get him back to his brilliant best that we saw in an unbeaten run of five wins last campaign, his Cheltenham absence will be a good thing in the long run.
One horse that did book his place for Cheltenham was Irving who looked absolutely electrifying when landing the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday and Paul Nicholls’ charge is now 3-1 (from 7) for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day.
Perhaps the best Cheltenham clue to be had at Paddy Power Cheltenham Trials Day at Naas on Sunday came in the very last race when Killultagh Vic booked his ticket on the ferry with a 16 length defeat of odds-on favourite Golantilla in the bumper.
The winner is trained by Willie Mullins and as usual the Carlow conjuror has an abundance of riches in the bumper department and he heads for England with four live candidates in this fellow, favourite Black Hercules, Shaneshill and Westhorpe.
Things slipped a bit after Mullins won the champion bumper in 2008 with Cousin Vinny as he drew three blank years but normal service has been resumed and he’s won the last two courtesy of Champagne Fever and Briar Hill.
It’s the calm before the storm and I think Knock Stars has a good chance of following up on her recent Dundalk success in the 5f handicap at the same track on Friday evening.
I’m very much hoping Conor Hoban continues his winning partnership with the mare as I think he’s exceptional value with a 3lb claim and was instrumental in their last triumph when he guided her up the inner for a half length success over Antiquus.
The selection’s last win came over 6f but I think either of the two minimum trips are fine for her and she certainly didn’t lack for speed when winning over five at this venue in October.
Before that I’m hoping we get to see Renneti in the Grade 2 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles on Thursday. I don’t think he’ll be out of place in either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdles at Cheltenham.
This fellow took a tumble at the second last at Limerick last time when he surely would have scored and was only narrowly defeated by The Tullow Tank in the top-class Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December before that.
Turning to the footy I’m opting for a rejuvenated Hull side to beat Newcastle at home on Saturday at a current price of 7-5. You could have been forgiven for thinking that you were watching one of the top Premier League teams as Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic gelled up front as the Tigers thrashed Cardiff 4-0 in a very important relegation scrap.
Newcastle secured a last gasp win against Aston Villa on Sunday – a result which probably just kept Geordies boss Alan Pardew in his job after a run of five home losses. While they were better in the second period, I’m still not impressed and I think they could be there for the taking at the weekend.
Thursday, 3.55pm, Thurles - Renneti; Friday, 6.15pm, Dundalk - Knock Stars; Saturday, 3pm - Hull to beat Newcastle