Rebel Fitz the bill in Cheltenham

Some pundits weren’t all that impressed with War Command’s victory in last Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, but our traders certainly were and cut him to 9-1 from 12 for next year’s 2,000 Guineas.

Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has done extremely well to get this fellow back after he was beaten in the Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh, having previously looked a wonder horse with a six length win in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

You can do no more than win as he did in the Dewhurst, which is traditionally considered the strongest two-year-old race of the season in Britain, but all the talk afterwards was of Australia, who landed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial at Leopardstown last month.

Aidan has made a few comments that would suggest that Ballydoyle believes this fellow is the “second coming”, but, at this stage, I don’t think we or they really know the pick of their crop and with recent Dundalk winner Giovanni Boldini a possible for next week’s Racing Post Trophy, we need to wait for next year’s trials for a greater picture.

Some proper racing at Cheltenham this week and I’m looking forward to seeing the Michael Winters-trained Rebel Fitz take on some better opposition in Friday’s Annual Members Novices’ Chase than he has been facing in early-season action at home.

The celebrations that ensued after this fellow won last year’s Galway Hurdle will live in my memory for a long, long time – it was absolute chaos and mayhem in the Ballybrit winner’s enclosure!

A high-class horse like that over timber is entitled to be good over fences and he has now won five of his six starts over the bigger obstacles, the only loss coming when runner-up on his first outing in a beginners chase.

After his latest success in a Grade 3 novice chase at Tipperary, where he mastered Owega Star by three and a half lengths, jockey Barry Geraghty enthused: “He’s such a natural jumper – as good as you’d get.”

Coming from someone who rides superstar Sprinter Sacre, that’s some praise and I just hope there’s not too much rain as Winters has already said that this will probably be his last run during the winter as he dislikes bad ground.

I expect him to win and then come back for something at the Cheltenham Festival.

I was quite taken by Big Bad Lily’s recent win at Navan when she looked to need every yard of the 5f trip, leading close home under apprentice Ross Coakley, and I think the 6f apprentice handicap at Cork on Saturday could bring even further improvement.

That was only my selection’s second run for Curragh conjuror Ken Condon and he may just have got her at a good time as she was winning off an official rating of just 57.

She’s still rated a couple of pounds higher on the all-weather, despite Condon believing Dundalk is too quick for her, and she managed to win on that surface off a mark of 68 two years’ ago so she could still be well-handicapped on turf.

Turning to the footy things are starting to look dicey for Crystal Palace who have lost their last four Premier League matches and while their last reversal, 3-1 away at Liverpool, doesn’t read that badly on paper, the Reds didn’t play well and were criticised by their manager Brendan Rodgers.

I think that Fulham can turn them over at Selhurst Park on Monday at current odds of 8-5, having won two of their last three matches, including a defeat of Everton in the League Cup, and away from home only Chelsea have scored two goals against them in the league.


Friday - Cheltenham 2.40pm Rebel Fitz; Saturday - Cork 2.05pm Big Bad Lily; Monday - Selhurst Park 8pm Fulham to beat Crystal Palace




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