The Irish initiative has been richly rewarded this weekend, with two tremendous days of racing at Leopardstown – more of which in a little while.
First, let’s tackle the best of the UK action on Saturday afternoon at Sandown where I’m hoping that Cyrname can win the Scilly Isles Novices Chase.
Paul Nicholls normally goes quite quiet in January, but he’s roared back in the last week with several winners. This horse has had a nice little break since winning the Wayward Lad at Kempton over Christmas – form that now looks significantly stronger given Shantou Rock’s excellent effort at Doncaster last weekend.
His style ought to be very well suited to Sandown and he may have a little more speed than his main market rival Terrefort.
Cyrname is my best bet of the afternoon.
I’ve got a feeling that our old friend, Buywise, who did this column a significant turn when winning the Veterans Chase Final, might be able to help us out again. He’s able to run off a hurdles mark 12Ibs below his current chase mark and 5Ibs below the mark from which he was successful last time.
There’s no reason to believe that he shouldn’t come here in the same form and very little reason to believe that he shouldn’t be just as effective over hurdles. Most of the horses in this race are fairly exposed and at 14/1 he, once again, looks too big a price under Leighton Aspell, the man who gave him such a terrific ride last time.
In the three-mile-chase at 3.35, I like the claims of Quite By Chance. This is the easiest race he’s run in for some time, he’s had the benefit of a breathing operation and he was staying on strongly enough over two-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham last time to suggest that he’s worth a go at this trip.
He’s only tackled something approximating three miles twice in his career: one was a bloodless victory at Taunton and the other was a fairly decent fourth at Cheltenham.
I’m happy enough to watch the Irish Champion Hurdle just for the intrigue surrounding Faugheen. I suspect that he’ll put that aberration behind him and win but you couldn’t back him at his current odds (evens) which have contracted since he looked quite a generous price in the week.
If I were to have a bet in the race, I would back Supasundae each way – he has the class to be placed at least and the notion that he needs much further might not be borne out – he is after all, a course and distance winner and you need a fair bit of speed to win a Coral Cup.
Elsewhere I will be backing Min to beat Yorkhill in the Dublin Chase. I didn’t think he ran too badly at all last time, given how hard he pulled early in the race and if he settles better I can see him having too much pace for Yorkhill. With Special Tiara in the field, he ought to have a decent enough gallop to enable him to switch off.
On Sunday, I’m sweet on the chances of Invitation Only in the Flogas Novices Chase. He looks a really progressive horse, I loved his attitude at Punchestown last time and he should put himself inline for one of the big races at the festival with victory here.
The field for the Irish Gold Cup has cut up a little bit but it remains an interesting race. There have been a few people talking up Anibale Fly and Killultagh Vic as likely Gold Cup winners and they’ll need to be winning or going very close here to justify a place in the line-up.
Our Duke deserves to be favourite given that there was a valid excuse for his seasonal debut but the one that makes some appeal at the prices is Valseur Lido, who shaped at Christmas as though all of his ability was intact, before getting tired late on. It’s worth remembering that he would have won this race two years ago but for getting rid of Ruby Walsh at the last fence.
He’s a multiple grade one winner and it would certainly be in his favour if the ground continued to dry up a little bit.
2.25 – Cyrname 11/4.
3.00 – Buywise 14/1.
3.35 – Quite By Chance 14/1.
1.45 – Min 9/4.
3.30 – Supasundae (Each way) 18/1.
3.00 – Invitation Only
3.35 – Valseur Lido 9/1.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.