IT’S that time of year when every big race on a Saturday has bookies and punters alike searching for Cheltenham clues, but it has to be said that last weekend was rather unsatisfactory in that respect.
Un De Sceaux landed the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park very easily indeed, while across the pond Captain Chris stormed clear to win the Ascot Chase by 19 lengths.
But the former now looks likely to miss the Champion Hurdle, for this year at least, while Captain Chris is set to run in the Gold Cup, although his actual chance is possibly reflected in the fact that we left him at 40-1 immediately after the Ascot win and he is still a 25-1 poke.
I actually think the Un De Sceaux decision to be the right thing for the horse as he is only six and his three successes this term have come in uncompetitive company so a race like the Champion Hurdle, always run at a fierce pace, could blow his brains until he has a bit more experience.
Captain Chris has bounced right back to form and while you can’t blame connections in any way for having a tilt at the Blue Riband, despite winning the Arkle at Cheltenham in 2011, there’s a strong suspicion that he is much better going right-handed with seven of his nine career wins coming that way around.
You know the big fixture in Gloucestershire is nearly upon us when Paddy Power Cheltenham Trial Day comes around at Naas on Sunday and I fancy Days Hotel to score in the paddypower.com Chase (registered as the Newlands Chase) for a second year running.
Henry De Bromhead’s charge proved six lengths too powerful for Realt Dubh in the 2013 renewal and while he was no match for Sire De Grugy last time out in Ascot’s Clarence House Chase, that was the second time he has run at the top level and I think that he is a genuine Grade 2 performer.
The Waterford wizard was considering the Ryanair Chase for the selection but he has now been removed from the entries for that so I would imagine that he will head for the Webster Cup over two and a half miles at Navan after Sunday.
I have no idea what happened to Dessie Hughes’s White Star Line when he last appeared in a novice chase at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power Meeting in November, when he ran no race at all having previously looked highly progressive with wins at both Listowel and Clonmel.
But I’m hoping that he can bounce back in Saturday’s Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, where he ran a great race in defeat when finding only Home Farm too powerful in a beginners chase a year ago.
The Curragh conjuror reports the fancy still on course for the Grand National and there would be worse 50-1 shots than a horse who was only a length and three-quarters behind Felix Yonger at the Punchestown Festival and beat Carlingford Lough by five lengths in the Kerry National.
There’s no point crying over spilt milk but I do feel a bit aggrieved not to have collected on Arsenal to draw with Liverpool last weekend as Luis Suarez appeared to have collected a second stonewall penalty – but Howard Webb saw differently and he’s the man that matters.
These are heady times on Merseyside as despite losing, I think Liverpool are now a very good team and Everton also impressed me with their easy victory over Swansea in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Chelsea couldn’t break West Brom down recently and I’ve just got a hunch the Toffees may be able to secure a draw at 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Saturday, 12.45pm - Chelsea to draw with Everton; Saturday, 3.45pm, Fairyhouse - White Star Line; Sunday, 4pm, Naas - Days Hotel.