LET me start off by wishing every one of you a Happy New Year after I’ve had a couple of weeks off recharging my writing batteries.
Last Saturday’s Welsh Grand National provided a master class from Paul Carberry about how to ride a waiting race, taking it up on Monbeg Dude before the last fence and then staying on well to beat gamble of the contest Teaforthree.
The world and their dog seemed to know that the runner-up had been plotted up for the race with multiple champion jockey Tony McCoy on board and I can assure you that a monumental punt was foiled by Carberry and his charge.
No disrespect for Jamie Moore, who had been due to ride the winner but was required at Sandown, but I think winning connections and the bookies were lucky that Carberry got the mount in the end because his tactical brilliance was invaluable in getting the ‘jolly’ turned over.
The racing in Ireland this week is not brilliant so as we’ve just priced up the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown, I’m going to have an advance look at those.
Both races have got 1-2 favourites in Hurricane Fly and Arvika Ligeonniere so I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tip them because they clearly have an obvious chance anyway.
English trainer Nicky Henderson has an abundance of riches in the two mile hurdling division and he has stated that Binocular, who is a 9-2 shot, is in great form and is likely to come over for the Irish Champion so a few quid each-way might be just the job. Clearly Hurricane Fly himself is in fine fettle and couldn’t have done the job any easier in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle but without trying to put a downer on an Irish horse who I hope can recapture the Champion Hurdle, so he should have done as his nearest rival on official ratings that day is reckoned 10lb less than him.
My selection only finished a length behind Hurricane in last year’s Champion Hurdle and I’ve dug up a very interesting statistic – he has run six times in January and February since 2008 and won all six races.
That little nugget alone makes the 9-2 each-way worth a small investment.
Looking at the Arkle, readers will already know the esteem in which I hold Arvika Ligeonniere and as we’re paying two places each-way, I’m going to have to get it right so I think I’ll go for Oscars Well at 7-2.
Bar a fall at Punchestown, the only horse to have beaten him in four starts over fences is Arvika, who could be exceptional, and I still liked the manner in which my fancy kept on gamely into second in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day.
He’s only been tried over the minimum trip over fences so far but he was top-class over 2m 4f over hurdles and I suppose connections could have one more bash here at two miles, probably not getting the better of Arvika, before possibly avoiding that rival and aiming him at the Jewson Novices’ Chase over the extra half mile at Cheltenham.
My old friends Norwich didn’t enjoy the best of Christmases, losing four Premiership games, but I still think they’re a bit of value to beat Newcastle at home on Saturday at 11-10.
My selection will obviously be gutted to have lost four, but home defeats to Chelsea and Man City are far from disgraceful and the two away losses to West Brom and West Ham came against teams that are far from easy to beat in their strongholds.
Newcastle lost at Brighton and have lots of problems.
Saturday 3pm Norwich to beat Newcastle
Sunday, Jan 27 Leopardstown 1.25pm Oscars Well each-way
Sunday, Jan 27 Leopardstown 2.30pm Binocular each-way