A very informative weekend’s racing with Sprinter Sacre and Flemenstar taking the two clashes of the titans on either side of the Irish Sea.
The former destroyed his rivals in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and is now 1-2 favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
I know those odds look cramped but what is there that is going to beat him and the race is likely to cut up dramatically with some other good horses being diverted to the longer Ryanair Chase in an attempt to avoid the favourite.
Flemenstar gave his charismatic trainer Peter Casey another win in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and is now a 6-1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It was great to hear Casey say that he might run in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas instead of the Lexus Chase at the same fixture, but his owner then almost ruled out the option of our race saying that he would definitely be stepping up in trip.
Don’t tell anyone that I wrote this but I think the owner’s right. If he’s going to be a genuine Gold Cup contender, I don’t think that he needs to be going back in distance and it’s probably better for the horse to start running over these longer trips.
This Sunday I’m looking forward to seeing Don Cossack in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle and I think he’s the one to beat. He’s twice won at this course, hacking up by nine and a half lengths from Sizing Gold in a maiden hurdle last month when he looked a seriously nice prospect.
Wily trainer Gordon Elliott has said that his charge has come out of that race very well indeed and while his last victory was over the minimum two miles, I have no fears about the step up to two and a half here as he won a bumper over 2m 3f on heavy ground at Naas over a year ago.
This fellow jumped brilliantly last time apart from not being fluent at the last, when understandably he might have been tiring, and I think in time he’ll take high rank among the Irish novices and will hopefully also line up in the paddypower.com Future Champions Novice Hurdle over Christmas.
Another horse who impressed me recently was Pat Hughes’s Speed Dial who showed his toughness when strongly pressed by Jacks Island on the run-in to a handicap hurdle at Wexford earlier in the month, but he wouldn’t let him past and held on by a short head.
The Co Carlow wizard has done really well with this horse this year after he has arguably underperformed previously. The Wexford success was hardly coming out of turn as he had finished runner-up on two of his previous three starts and I’m hoping that he is allowed to take his chance in Thursday’s Scraggs Alley Carlow Novice Handicap Hurdle at Gowran Park.
Back in the novice division I think that this fellow can go in again.
Turning to the footy Norwich have turned themselves into a good team and I think the current 11-10 to beat Wigan at home on Saturday is a nice price.
I don’t think I’ve ever tipped the Canaries before (please feel free to let me know if I have) but amazingly they haven’t lost since an away defeat to Chelsea on October 6, which is hardly a disgrace. Confidence is obviously very high at Carrow Road and they have won their last two away to Swansea and at home to Sunderland. Wigan’s recent performances are nowhere near as good, drawing at home to QPR after two defeats including a 3-0 drubbing at Newcastle.
Thursday Gowran Park 1.35pm Speed Dial
Saturday 3pm Norwich to beat Wigan at home
Sunday Navan 12.50pm Don Cossack