There’s quality everywhere you look this weekend, with Leopardstown’s Irish Gold Cup card featuring a mammoth four Grade 1’s, Sandown staging both the Contenders Hurdle and the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, Wetherby throwing their hat into the ring with the Towton Novices’ Chase, Ffos Las welcome the Channel 4 cameras for West Wales Natuional day, while Flat lovers will be delighted with a top notch card on the all-weather at Lingfield.
I’ll be at Leopardstown, where four of the day’s races will be shown live on RTE1, kicking off with the Grade 1 Deloitte Noivce Hurdle at 1.55pm, in which Bellshill will attempt to show why he’s no bigger than 4/1 for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in a few weeks time, followed by a cluster of RSA/National Hunt Chase hopefuls such as Pont Alexandre in the Flogas Novice Chase at 2.30pm.
There’s also a quality 16-runner handicap hurdle for terrestrial viewers to enjoy at 3.05pm – no non-runners please – followed by the big one at 3.40pm, in the shape of the €150,000 Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup, which has attracted a field of 10, including last year’s 1-2 Carlingford Lough and Foxrock.
Lexus winner Don Poli hasn’t rocked up, but in his place literally all the horses who chased him home at Christmas are in court to testify on his behalf, which in this order are: First Lieutenant, Foxrock, On His Own, Sir Des Champs and Carlingford Lough.
Which one of the quality cluster is favourite?
That honour goes to last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches, who filled the same spot in the equivalent race at Punchestown, and reappeared recently with a confidence boosting win at Thurles.
He must’ve been some cert when he won the Galway Plate off 149 back in summer 2014!!
Breathless stuff, but where to look for a wager?
Irish trainers and indeed punters are well aware of the opportunities offered up by West Wales venue Ffos Las, with many making the five hour Rosslare to Fishguard crossing to take advantage.
It’s somewhat ironic that on the track’s big day of the year there isn’t a single Irish runner on the card, but don’t let that put you off a more locally-trained horse, in the shape of the Rebecca Curtis inmate Racing Pulse.
A facile winnner on deep ground over fences at Chepstow on Welsh National day four weeks ago, the Pembrokeshire-trained seven-year-old will be a hugely popular winner if he can oblige here, lining up live on Channel 4 in the Dribuild Ltd Welsh Champion Hurdle, a handicap worth £50,000.
He handled Heavy ground with aplomb last time, crowning his recovery from an injury that kept him off the track for 18 months.
Can he be as good over hurdles?
Bear in mind he’s only seen the track eight times under rules, and three of those have been wins, while his hurdling form from 2013/14 is threatening to escape under the radar…
Remember he won his maiden by 17 lengths (when trained by John Quinn), and then went off favourite when third for a traditionally hot novice at Cheltenham on new year’s day 2014.
His subsequent placed form behind Dipper winner Seeyouatmidnight now looks smart, and he then went off just 9/1 for a Grade 1 at Aintree.
Back in form and with ground to suit, Racing Pulse looks a cracking investment at 7/1 each way with either Stan James or Paddy Power.
Ffos Las also benefit from Channel 4 coverage for the West Wales National (3.15pm), in which Curtis goes for safety in numbers by saddling four of the seven runners!
For the reduced in distance 2016 renewal she’s got last year’s winner Bob Ford, Red Devil Lads, Audacious Plan and Minella On Line, in a race where bizarrely, only one of the six runners managed to finish last time out.
One of those who didn’t finish is Cogry, who pulled up at Chepstow in the Welsh National depsite being despatched the 8/1 favourite.
Jamie Bargary’s five pound claim could be vital for a horse who has been successful on Heavy ground twice previously, and he gets the vote.
Finally on the racing front, Curtis could be joined by fellow female trainer Ventia Williams in getting among the winners, with the latter responsible for Saroque in the second last at Sandown Park (3.30pm).
A racing weight of just 10.5 looks tempting for a horse who has lifetime form figures of 124 at Sandown Park, and arrives off the back of a fine fourth in the Welsh National.
Saroque stays all day and can give Aidan Colmen yet another winner.
Finally, in the year of the underdog in the Premier League, surely I can’t be the only one tempted to throw a couple of quid at Leicester and Sunderland for their respective matches in the ‘draw no bet’ markets’?
The Foxes are top on merit, but although they face their toughest test yet, they look too big at 17/5 with BetVictor in a two horse race away to Manchester City, while Sunderland at 5/1 looks extremely inviting away at Liverpool.
The Mackems are fighting for their lives and were unlucky not to get something against City midweek, while Liverpool haven’t been impressive recently.
Saturday’s best bets:
2.05 Ffos Las – Dribuild Ltd Welsh Champion Hurdle (Hcap) – 9 Racing Pulse (each way) @ 7/1 (Paddy Power)
3.15 Ffos Las – Dribuild Construction West Wales National (Hcap) – 2 Cogry (win) @ 3/1 with Skybet
3.30 Sandown – Betfred Masters Handicap Chase – 7 Saroque (win) @ 6/1 with bet365
Leicester City to beat Man City @ 17/5 draw no bet (BetVictor)
Sunderland to beat Liverpool @ 5/1 draw no bet (General)