Racing Review and Cheltenham Festival 2014 Tips – This weekend provided a feast of pointers towards the Festival in March. With only 14 weeks to go, the markets for the major races are really starting to hot up. Here’s a round up of the crucial results from this weekend’s racing!
This year’s renewal of the Grade 1 John Durkan chase at Punchestown promised, for a long time, to be a mouthwatering clash between three of Ireland’s best chasers. Sadly the multiple graded winner Flemenstar was announced as a non-runner due to lameness. This left a field of three with the young gun Arvika Ligeonniere taking on the more experienced pair of Sir Des Champs and Rubi Light. I’m a big fan of Sir Des Champs and was hopeful that he’d back up my Gold Cup anti-post tip by beating his stablemate Arvika Ligeonniere. Unfortunately, a crashing fall at the third fence ended his chances and detracted from what surely would have been a great contest. Providing he none the worse for wear then his Gold Cup aspirations are still intact. Arvika Ligeonniere (14/1 Betfred – Ryanair Chase) went on to win convincingly ahead of Rubi Light, and could well offer some value for the Ryanair Chase (providing his issues going left-handed have been sorted out).
Saturday saw a great card at Sandown for the Tingle Creek Meeting. Sire de Grugy (16/1 Ladbrokes – Champion Chase) took full advantage of Sprinter Sacre’s absence, and picked up the feature race authoritatively. Finishing ahead of both Somersby and Captain Conan, it was great to see both Gary Moore and son Jamie Moore pick up their first Grade 1 winner. It was a real family affair, and the emotion between them all was obvious. The first three home are in the betting for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with Sprinter Sacre (1/3 Coral – Champion Chase) still the odds on favourite and still the horse to beat.
With an eye on the Arkle market; Hinterland (10/1 BetVictor – Arkle Trophy) beat a top class field in Sandown’s two mile Novice Chase. That field included Grandouet, who finished second, and Taquin de Seuil back in third. Hinterland was the most experienced over fences having finished second to Captain Conan in the same contest last year. Grandouet has always been a sketchy jumper, but I was much more impressed with him on Saturday. Taquin du Seuil made a blunder towards the end of the race, yet managed to stay on strongly towards the finish giving the impression that a longer trip would suit. Away from Sandown, Felix Younger (12/1 Betfred – Arkle Trophy) staked his claims with another victory for the permanently in-form Willie Mullins. All the aforementioned horses however continue to sit in the betting shadow of Champagne Fever (7/2 bet365 – Arkle trophy) who currently heads the market.
Paul Nicholls’ had a memorable weekend picking up a number of victories including that of Unioniste (33/1 bet365 – Gold Cup) in a Listed Chase at Aintree. With the Lexus a possible target for this 5 year-old, he is turning out to be a real dark horse for the Gold Cup. Undoubtedly, the field he beat wasn’t the strongest, and he looks an awkward ride at times; however, he is a very game horse who seems to be determined to please. These attributes will stand him in good steed and he is clearly a horse with a bright future.
Another horse to note for March is the Ben Case trained Deep Trouble who claimed victory in the December Handicap Hurdle. His supporters would have been a little concerned as he jerked over the last with Leighton Aspell on board, however he showed his class as he went on to win the race, even with Aspell’s feet out of the irons. I think that this horse will be seen to best effect when allowed to settle in mid-pack and bowl along. I really do think that this horse has a lot of potential, and it’s nice to see a smaller yard with a potential Cheltenham raider. It remains to be seen where he goes next.
Current Ante-Post Prices –
Arvika Ligeonniere (Ryanair Chase) (14/1 Betfred)
Sire De Grugy (Champion Chase) (16/1 Ladbrokes)
Sprinter Sacre (Champion Chase) (1/3 Coral)
Hinterland (Arkle Trophy) (10/1 BetVictor)
Felix Younger (Arkle Trophy) (12/1 Betfred)
Champagne Fever (Arkle Trophy) (7/2 bet365)
Unioniste (Gold Cup) (33/1 bet365)
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