WHAT a week of sport and it’s very unusual that I begin with anything bar racing, but I must begin with rugby after Ireland won the Six Nations in a thrilling match against France with Brian O’Driscoll wearing the green jersey for a final time.
A couple of weeks’ ago I tipped England to win the tournament and I wasn’t far wrong as we only beat the French by two points and if they hadn’t thrown a forward pass close to the end, the trophy would have gone astray.
The feeling when the referee blew-up was unreal and it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a second half of rugby as much as that. It’s been a pleasure watching BOD for so long and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him a brilliant retirement.
Cheltenham went the way of the bookies who got lucky after Annie Power wasn’t good enough for More Of That in Thursday’s World Hurdle and former multiple champion Big Buck’s couldn’t make the places.
The following day Briar Hill took an expensive tumble for punters in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle before 20-1 shot Lord Windermere brought the Gold Cup back to Ireland for Jim Culloty.
Those three results made the week for us, but all is fair in love and war and it’s worth remembering that the Friday last year was an absolute bonanza for backers with Jane Mangan’s unseat from Oscar Delta costing the books a packet.
The following week’s racing is always an anti-climax but I think it’s interesting that top Flat trainer Jim Bolger looks likely to launch an international raid on the Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday with Parish Hall.
I think this is the Coolcullen conjuror’s first ever runner on the all-weather in England which is quite encouraging, especially as the selection has already shown some form on such a surface, winning a Group 3 contest at Dundalk in October.
It’s no gimme with Grandeur likely to be amongst the opposition and I would prefer the distance to be a mile and a half rather than the mile and a quarter.
But at current odds of 8-1 I think he’s certainly a value bet as the five-year-old drops in class here after disappointing last time in the Champion Stakes.
I’ll obviously return to the Grand National in a few weeks but I thought Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D’Alene, 20-1 at present, ran a fine trial in the Cheltenham Gold Cup despite only mustering tenth place.
He was less than five lengths off the leader taking the penultimate obstacle before dropping away but I think he’ll be much better suited by the four-and-a-half miles of the race in Aintree, which has always been his main aim this term.
The outing at Cheltenham should bring him on for Liverpool, as his first outing of the campaign at Ascot did before he landed the Hennessy at Newbury, and I think his class gives him a very fine shout in the National.
I’m not sure that West Ham can actually beat Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, but I’m convinced that the Hammers can at least put up a fight and secure a draw.
West Ham’s home record is not too bad, winning almost as many as they’ve lost and scoring as many goals as they have conceded, and, as usual, they’ll very much be up for it against United.
While Manchester United being second best to Liverpool and losing to them was not the greatest shock last Sunday, considering their respective league positions, the manner of their defeat will have alarmed Red Devils fans.
Saturday, 3.50pm, Lingfield - Parish Hall; Saturday, 5.30pm - West Ham to draw with Manchester United; Saturday, April 5, 4.15pm - Aintree Triolo D’Alene