WE might have seen a potential superstar in Kingsbarns, who won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster relatively easily on Saturday, although Van Der Neer gave him a bit to think about in the final furlong.
Last year trainer Aidan O’Brien, saddling the winner to a top-class success on just his second start, won the same race with Camelot and he went on to land both the English 2,000 Guineas and Derby.
Our odds compilers now make Kingsbarns 4-1 favourite for the Derby which I think is fairly short and if I was going to have a bet, I’d probably have a go on The United States at four times those odds, although he hasn’t been seen since winning his maiden at The Curragh, a race whose form has worked out outstandingly well.
Down Royal serves up tasty cards this Friday and Saturday and I’m going to opt for last year’s winner Quito De La Roque to retain his JNwine.com Champion Chase title at the weekend.
This is a horse who has had his fair share of problems and hasn’t run since finishing third to Synchronised in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. But his affable trainer Colm Murphy reports him well and has actually said he is ‘probably a bit more forward this year than last year’ which bodes extremely well for his assignment on Saturday.
Last year the ground was soft but that was no problem for the now eight-year-old who went through it well and was produced at just the right time to master Sizing Europe by a length and a quarter.
Ground conditions are likely to be about the same so there’s no problem there and five victories over around three miles before he was a beaten favourite at Leopardstown make him, to my mind, one of the most exciting horses over this trip in Ireland.
He’s only suffered two reversals in eight outings over fences, one of them by just three-quarters of a length in a Grade 1 race, and with luck this year, the Wexford handler could have a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse on his hands.
Friday’s feature is the WKD Hurdle and I’m taking Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle third Monksland to prove too strong for his rivals.
This horse has never been beaten over timber in this country and looked a brilliant animal when beating Lyreen Legend by four and a half lengths at Naas in January. When the Beneficial gelding was beaten at Cheltenham, the race was over two miles five furlongs, just a furlong more than he was successful over at Naas.
But before that he had won a hurdle over Friday’s trip of two miles and also prevailed over the same distance in a bumper. It could just be that Noel Meade is starting his campaign over two miles and he will then step up again, but I have no concerns about the distance.
This could be an exciting season for my selection and who knows, he could end up a World Hurdle type?
Moving on to the footy, after defeats to Norwich and at home to Schalke04 and a narrow win at home to QPR, some people might be surprised to find me tipping Arsenal to get a draw at Manchester United on Saturday.
But there is method in my madness and the Gunners seem to have reserved their very best performances away to the top teams this season, winning 2-0 at Liverpool and gaining a fully deserved draw at Manchester City. So the draw at 11-4 could be a bit of value at the weekend, especially as these matches between the top sides are often very tense affairs with little room for error for either side.
Friday Down Royal 1.35pm Monksland; Saturday Down Royal 2.20pm Quito De La Roque; Saturday 12.45pm Arsenal to draw at Manchester United