The Final Furlong
LAST weekend we saw the Champion Hurdle favourite cement his place at the top of the market. This weekend there are at least four other favourites putting their reputations on the line in proper recognised trials for the blue riband events at the Cheltenham Festival.
Detroit City was workmanlike in his defeat of Straw Bear but his victory proved beyond doubt that he has a stomach for battle which few Triumph winners have displayed over the last two decades.
It will be fascinating to see what tactics his owner and trainer adopt for the big race. But it does seem like he will have to be ridden handy, as he does not have the electric turn of foot some of his opposition will have. All in all though, he is a worthy favourite who has won eight on the bounce, three of them at Prestbury Park, where we will see him next on March 14.
This weekend sees a plethora of Cheltenham hopefuls in action on both sides of the water. Before that, however, My Petra can book his place in the Triumph Hurdle line-up with victory in the juvenile novice hurdle at Huntingdon. The ground is the key to this Alan King hurdler and provided it’s not too soft, she should be too good for the likes of Freeze the Flame and Punjabi.
Saturday sees one of the best meetings of the year in Ireland where all eight races on the Leopardstown’s card look laden with quality. The opening juvenile hurdle has plenty of promising sorts entered, but a lot of them have holes in their form. So it may pay to side with newcomer Galileo Galilei, who was decent on the flat for Aidan O’Brien and will be schooled well for his hurdles debut by Meath trainer Luke Comer.
Paul Carberry is busting a gut to be back in time for Saturday so he can partner Aran Concerto in the Deloitte Novices Hurdle. This should be a fascinating race with Catch Me and Arrive Sir Clive providing notably opposition but Aran Concerto has looked a bit special and should do the business for Noel Meade.
The other novice Grade One race on the card is much more open with its currently hard to decipher who will be favourite. The staying novices chasers in Ireland look a mixed bunch to be honest with no stand out prospect at present apart from Cailin Alain. Patsy Hall is the next Irish horse in the betting for the Sun Alliance Chase at 16/1. If he runs on Saturday, I expect him to win, with perhaps Gazza’s Girl and Mister Top Notch giving him most to do.
The Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup has cut up badly and it looks likely there will be five or six runners with three having a chance of success. Beef or Salmon may just be getting a bit long in the tooth, and it has to be taken on trust that In Compliance will definitely stay this trip. So The Listener looks the solid option after his hugely impressive display in the Lexus Chase, especially if the ground has a little bit of cut in it.
Over at Newbury, they have a top-class card of their own where the Game Spirit is the competitive highlight. Voy Por Ustedes is undoubtedly a class horse, while a case can also be made for Foreman, Ashley Brook and Sporazene. But Well Chief oozes class when in top form and although he has been off for a long time, he goes well fresh. With Newmill looking off colour and Nickname wanting soft ground, he could also be the one for the Champion Chase so 5/1 looks tempting.
The Aon Chase looks at the mercy of Kauto Star (barring an unlikely fall) so the last race we will look at this week is the Totesport Trophy. Acambo and Mister Hight have been heavily backed but both have plenty of weight so an each way alternative looks to be Pedrobob, who has some nice piece of form in the book, has a handy weight of 10st 9lbs and wont be inconvenienced by the ground.
The one downer of a fabulous day’s racing is that the powers that be on both sides of the water have inexcusably not sat down and come to a compromise in relation to scheduling. So there will be a direct clash of top class races at 3.15 and 3.50. It just doesn’t make sense.
Finally, this is your last chance to enter our fabulous Cheltenham competition where you can win a four night trip to the world’s premier National Hunt event. It really is a brilliant prize so make sure you have those three tokens from the last three issues of the newspaper and you could be winging your way to Prestbury Park. See the entry form on Page 13 of the newspaper.
My Petra, Huntingdon, 3.10
Galileo Galilei, Leopardstown, 1.15
Kauto Star, Newbury, 2.40
Aran Concerto, Leopardstown, 2.45
Pedrobob, Newbury, 3.15
Patsy Hall, Leopardstown, 3.15
The Listener, Leopardstown, 3.50
Well Chief, Newbury, 3.50