There’s only five weeks to Cheltenham and there should be some serious shake up of the ante-post markets after this weekend’s racing from Newbury and Leopardstown.
Gold Cup credentials are on the line with Silviniaco Conti and The Giant Bolster going head-to-head in the Grade 2 Denman Chase (3.00) at Newbury. Paul Nicholls improving chaser is on a hat-trick of wins this season after streaking home in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs battle it out for the Hennessy Gold Cupan hour later at Leopardstown. The pair were separated by a short-head when third and fourth behind Tidal Bay in a cracking Lexus Chase over Christmas. But both need to put on big runs to justify their place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in five weeks time.
While the Grade One Chases have attracted small-but-select fields – 23 runners line up for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (3.35) while 24 go to post for the Paddy Power.com iphone Fast Bet Handicap.
There’ll be no hanging around in these contests and Paddy hasn’t hung around either as he’s paying ¼ the odds the first five places in both races.
At Newbury, Nicky Henderson’s top-weigh Petit Robin renews rivalry with Gordon Elliott’s Cause of Causes who beat him four lengths in a Listed Handicap Hurdle at Ascot and followed up at Navan beating Midnight Game.
Henderson’s has six runners in the race with stable jockey Barry Geraghty on Cash and Go – who unseated the Meathman when favourite last time at Ascot while Tony McCoy rides Supreme Novice Hurdle hope My Tent or Yours for his guv’nor JP McManus.
David Pipe’s unbeaten mare Swing Bowler has been improving through the ranks and is at the foot of the handicap on 10 st 1lb.
Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh – who won the race last year with Zarkandar – team up with Pearl Swan while Nicholls also has Caid Du Berlais and Dark Lover in the field.
John Ferguson’s Cotton Mill has been on many people’s radar since tipping up at the second last when challenging eventual winner Simonsig in the Neptune Novice Hurdle at the Festival.
The six-year-old failed to stay when beaten over 3m at Aintree but could be a blot on the handicap here on his seasonal and handicap debut and is already a 16/1 chance with Paddy Power for the Champion Hurdle.
At Leopardstown, Inis Meain started favourite for the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown a fortnight ago but fell two out when appearing unlikely to threaten the leaders.
However, the winner that day Abbey Lane came from way off the pace to win going away in what was a furiously run race and Inis Meain may still be worth siding with one more time. Danny Mullins takes over in the saddle from trainer/rider Denis Hogan.
Willie Mullins saddles second favourite Tennis Cap while Dul Ar An Ol is looking for successive wins in this race.