HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend preview of the top jump racing. This week the former Talksport focuses on Doncaster, Sandown and Leopardstown.
When you consider there are only 3 Grade 1 races per day at the Cheltenham Festival and there are 4 Grade 1′s at Leopardstown on Sunday it gives you some idea of the quality of the card at the Irish venue.
Cooldine the winner of the 2009 RSA Chase has been well supported earlier in the week for the Hennessy Gold Cup the feature event but the prospect of soft ground tempers enthusiasm.
Trainer Jim Draper insists we will see a better run from Notre Pere than we did in the Lexus over Xmas (Cooldine pulled up) but the handler has only saddled one winner so far this term which is a cause for concern.
Joncol looked a non stayer in the Lexus when travelling like a good horse for much of the race but he faded into third behind runner up Money Trix who is the sole British raider on Sunday. It is not a race that appeals as a betting medium but if Notre Pere were back to the form of last year’s effort when 5L behind Neptune Collonges he would be surely hard to beat.
Dunguib will be long odds on to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles but at Even money he looks very short for the Supreme Novices’ ahead of the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Stablemates Binocular and Punchestowns ought to land the odds in their respective Festival Trials races at Sandown where “Talking Horse” According makes his hurdling debut for the same yard of Nicky Henderson for whom it could be a red-letter day.
Exmoor Ranger and Massasoit (very well handicapped but will he jump?) are big dangers in the 3.40 at the Esher track but I will be throwing a few bob at Lorum Leader down the foot of the weights.
The big betting race of the day is the 15-runner Blue Square Chase at Doncaster where top weight Kalahari King puts his Champion Chase credentials on the line. If the Ferdy Murphy trained runner is to be a realistic Queen Mother candidate he ought to go very close off a mark of 157.
Henderson also saddles leading Arkle hopes Mad Max (2.25) and You’re The Top and Dave’s Dream (1.20) and the former certainly created a very favourable impression at Kempton on his chase debut.
I like the look of Battlecry dropping back in trip in the 2.20 at Wetherby although Bible Lord would be a threat to all if his jumping holds up. Wierd Al is partnered by Paddy Brennan for the first time in the Grdae 2 Chase at 2.50 and the apple of Ian Williams eye ought to take the beating and boost his RSA Chase claims next month.
Nap is Lorum Leader ew 3.40 Sandown.