Paddy Power Column: Stalking for a winner? Try Jack Bene

WE took a €40,000 bet on Big Buck’s at 5-4 on Saturday for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before he absolutely cantered over the opposition in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

WE took a €40,000 bet on Big Buck’s at 5-4 on Saturday for the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before he absolutely cantered over the opposition in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

I’m searching for horses that can beat him in March and the bookies weren’t helped by Voler La Vedette’s disappointing run at Fairyhouse on Sunday which meant that the 10-1 chance drifted in the betting and we were forced to shorten Big Buck’s even further to 4-5 favourite for a race that doesn’t go to post for three months. Big Buck’s and Ruby Walsh in the saddle are like poetry in motion and as I love watching the combination so much, it will almost be a pleasure to pay out. Almost!

This week the marketeers have got to work at billing Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase as a battle royale between Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.

Now they are not the only two quality horses in the line-up but both are very good horses, with the official handicapper almost unable to separate them with only 1lb between them, and I’m going to opt for Peter Casey’s Flemenstar.

Sir Des Champs comes from the powerful Willie Mullins stable so won’t be lacking any fitness first time out and as he’s unbeaten in eight national hunt starts, never usually has a problem on his seasonal bow, but I just think Flemenstar’s victory in the Fortria Chase at Navan last month might just give him an edge.

That success came over two miles leading some experts to query whether Flemenstar will get three miles later in the season. I’ll save that argument for another time but he’s already proved that he is ideally suited by the 2m 4f of the John Durkan, having won over this trip twice last season including in the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse in April.

Mullins is calm personified about Sir Des Champs recently stating that “he’s so relaxed, I’ve never seen him at full strength or full speed.”

To be honest there’s very little between the pair and the marketeers have this time got themselves an absolute dream match to promote. I think that it could actually come down to which of the two horses make just one little mistake but I’m sticking with Flemenstar and hoping for another truly comical winning Casey interview afterwards. Clonmel on Thursday isn’t quite up to the Punchestown standard but I’m going to go for Jack Bene in the Fethard Handicap Chase if Henry De Bromhead allows him to take his chance.

This fellow wasn’t a bad pointer, just being denied in a couple of starts, and finally got a win over hurdles when well backed at Thurles in January after finishing in the first four over timber seven times previously.

He hasn’t done a great deal over fences so far, although saying that his third behind Jetson at Downpatrick last month wasn’t a bad effort, and as he enters the handicap sphere he is rated 6lb less than he was over hurdles so De Bromhead might have a few pounds in hand.

The Manchester derby between United and City is no longer a game that I ever miss and I’m going for a draw at 12-5 with the blues at home on Sunday.

I just can’t see United getting a win as City are so good at home, last weekend stretching their unbeaten home record in the league to a 37th match, but saying that manager Roberto Mancini and his fans will be disappointed not to have beaten the blue half of Liverpool. United did get a win at Reading but managed to concede three which will have worried Sir Alex Ferguson.

Selections

Thursday Clonmel 3.15pm Jack Bene

Sunday Etihad Stadium 1.30pm Manchester City and Manchester United to draw

Sunday Punchestown 2.05pm Flemenstar