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Prices shorten as big guns deliver

Sport
Prices shorten as big guns deliver

Michael Duffy

IT’S been a while since we had a Saturday as exciting as the one just past with meetings on either side of the Irish Sea producing a hosts of thrills and spills, moments that clearly showed National Hunt racing to be one of the most exciting sports in the world.
I had the privilege of being in Leopardstown on Saturday as a guest of Tote Ireland and it was one of the most enjoyable days I have had at a racecourse. Pride of place must go to Beef or Salmon, whose victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup for the third time was truly memorable.
Jumping the last, the ten-time grade one winner must have been 25/1 on Betfair, but with ‘The Listener’ toiling bravely, Michael Hourigan’s stable star dug deep, and buoyed up by a massive home roar, got up in the dying strides. The Gold Cup is probably a bridge too far at this stage of his illustrious career but ‘The Beef’ has to go down as a legend of Irish racing.
If one superstar of Irish racing was showcasing his talents for close to the last time, then another was merely displaying talent which should become all too familiar during the coming seasons.
Aran Concerto is ‘a machine’ by all accounts and those who had seen his latest piece of work at home – when he accounted for Harchibald – feel this could be the best horse ever trained by Noel Meade. Catch Me’s unfortunate exit did leave the race at his mercy but he would have won anyway. The sky’s the limit for this one and the general 9/4 for the Ballymore Properties Novices Hurdle looks generous.
Kauto Star’s jump in the last at Newbury has given the rest of the Gold Cup field some hope and pushed his price out to 2/1 in places while Well Chief’s superb return, predicted in this column last week, means he’s even shorter at a general 7/4 for the Queen Mother. Denman is also generally that price for the Sun Alliance and the price of Whyso Mayo has plummeted to around 3/1 for the Foxhunters after his fine performance in Leopardstown. The prices have certainly tightened and expect a few more changes with another busy weekend ahead.
Before that, there is an interesting meeting at Sandown on Friday where one to keep an eye on is James Fanshawe’s Song of Songs. This five year old has been off the track for a long time but he has some nice pieces of flat form in the book and his trainer usually has his horses well schooled.
There is a host of top quality action on Saturday, the highlight probably been the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park. Harchibald and Mac’s Joy are quality opposition but at the moment I am siding with Hardy Eustace being Ireland’s best chance of Champion Hurdle glory and he should follow up his AIG win with victory here. It should be another fascinating contest.
The Red Mills Chase is also a Grade 2 event but the field looks uncertain at present. It might be worth chancing Philip Fenton’s Sher Beau, who ran a cracker behind In Compliance before never getting into the race when favourite for the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas.
Over at Ascot, Glasker Mill can enter the Royal and Sun Alliance picture with victory over Gungadu and According to John while the Grade One Ascot Chase can go to Ireland in the shape of Mansony, who’ll love the conditions and distance. Central House could be the one to cause him most problems.
The Rendlesham Hurdle will be a true stamina test but Labelthou’s will love the conditions and should have too much in tank for Rowley Hill and Material World.
Finally, a couple of Grand National hopefuls go on the trial in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup. Cornish Rebel sets the standard but Cloudy Lane is very interesting off a featherweight and even though he is a novice, he has jumped well in the main and should stay the trip.

Selections
Friday
Song of Songs, Sandown, 3.35
Saturday
Labelthou, Haydock, 1.25
Glasker Mill, Ascot, 1.45
Cloudy Lane, Haydock, 2.00
Mansony, Ascot, 2.20
Hardy Eustace, Gowran Park, 3.45
Sher Beau, Gowran Park, 4.15

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