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Paddy Power Column: Sole Witness to step forward and make case

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THE weather has so far made things worse in England than Ireland but still unfortunately managed to claim Fairyhouse on Sunday and fingers crossed that we don’t get a repeat for this weekend’s Irish Champion Hurdle weekend at Leopardstown.

I’ve already tipped Binocular each-way for Sunday’s BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle and Oscars Well each-way for the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase on the same day. However, while I think both horses will run well, my hand was forced really because both races have strong favourites in Hurricane Fly and Arvika Ligeonniere who both have an obvious chance and will take a bit of beating.

So I’m going to concentrate on the shoulder races and firstly opt for my friend Brendan Duke’s Welsh Nayber in Saturday’s leopardstown.com Maiden Hurdle.

This fellow put in an eye catching first run over course and distance when sent off at a big price of 50-1 but belied those odds to finish fourth behind Flaxen Flare who has gone on to finish second to Diakali, one of the best juvenile hurdlers in Ireland, in a Graded race at Punchestown.

I think the selection seemed unlucky not to make the frame that day as favourite Diplomat was slow at the last hurdle and impeded Welsh Nayber, meaning that he was practically forced to stop and jockey Dave Crosse did well to get him going again.

Both Flaxen Flare and Diplomat had had the benefit of a schooling race at a racecourse beforehand which my fancy didn’t and I think with normal improvement, he will be there or thereabouts and hopefully in the winner’s enclosure.

Gowran Park will as usual be heaving on Thursday for Thyestes Handicap Chase day and I’m quite keen on Colm McBratney’s Sole Witness in the feature event. The nine-year-old had been an intended participant in the Troytown Handicap Chase but unfortunately scoped badly on the Monday before that race.

When connections were happier with him they allowed him to take his chance in a handicap chase at Navan last month and I was very impressed as Ben Dalton eased him close home to master Ballinahow Lady by four lengths. That race was over 2m 4f but I’m unconcerned about the step up to 3m 1f as this horse stays well and jumps well out of heavy ground.

He’s a bit of an enigma of a horse as while he isn’t able to win over hurdles off a handicap mark of around 100, he is able to over the bigger obstacles off a mark two stone higher so I suppose he’s just one of those horses that likes a fence.

This looks a good renewal of the Thyestes and local trainer Willie Mullins seems to have a strong hand with three of his four entries currently heading our betting as he chases a fifth success in the race.

Horses with less than 10st 5lb on their backs tend to do best so of the Mullins quartet, I’d probably favour Sweet My Lord but with just 10st 5lb himself, I wouldn’t swap the selection for anything else.

I hope readers will digest this before 7.45pm on Wednesday as I think a draw at 100-30 between Arsenal and West Ham is quite a reasonable bet. I don’t think the Hammers are quite good enough to win and they will be disappointed not to have beaten QPR on Saturday after being much the more attacking team.

You already know that I wasn’t impressed with Arsenal against Manchester City and their performance against Chelsea in the first half on Sunday was almost woeful. They did improve in the second period but West Ham might possess enough team spirit to make it a frustrating evening for Arsenal.

Selections

Wednesday Emirates Stadium 7.45pm Arsenal to draw with West Ham

Thursday Gowran Park 3.20pm Sole Witness

Saturday Leopardstown 1.10pm Welsh Nayber

 

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