IT seems ages since my last column even though it’s only been a couple of weeks due to the holidays and it’s probably because so much has happened in the racing world during this period.
For me the best performance over Christmas came from Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, where he gave connections some seasonal cheer after the disappointment of Sprinter Sacre the day before.
In many ways Bobs’ victory was similar to his one in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which at one stage he appeared to be struggling badly, but then he came alive and stayed on well past his rivals.
His trainer Nicky Henderson said that the horse’s will to win is enormous and obviously he’ll now take all the beating again in the Blue Riband in March. Saying that, anyone who backs him can expect another rollercoaster ride for the reasons stated in the last paragraph, but once he gets into fifth gear he should be too good.
Meanwhile Hurricane Fly put the young pretenders to the sword in the Ryanair Hurdle and while those associated with Jezki and Our Conor will be hoping for a reversal in the Irish Champion Hurdle later in the month, I just can’t see it happening.
If there was an unlucky horse in the race it was Jezki who was trapped at one stage, but Tony McCoy was realistic to acknowledge that he’d have to have been Pegasus to have kept tabs with ‘The Fly’ and I think he’ll win the Champion Hurdle again.
When I last put pen to paper who’d have thought Bryan Cooper would have now usurped Davy Russell as Gigginstown’s number one jockey? But well done to the former, who has benefitted from a fine grounding with Dessie Hughes on The Curragh, and Davy’s too good a horseman to let this setback hinder a fine career.
The racing here doesn’t stand out this week so I thought I’d provide a couple of antepost shots to keep us dreaming starting with Free Eagle who is a 16-1 shot for the English Derby.
Regulars will know I’m always keen to forgive a horse one run and I just think that his running when a six-length second to Australia in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial at Leopardstown in September was too bad to be true.
I think he’ll bounce back in something like the Derrinstown and then we’ll hopefully be going to Epsom with a nice voucher in our pockets.
Before then I’m also keen on Clive Brittain’s Rizeena in the 1,000 Guineas and hopefully the 79-year-old will be doing a jig in the hallowed Newmarket winner’s enclosure in May.
The Newmarket trainer expected her to win the Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh in September which she duly did and then she just got touched off by Chriselliam, who did the form no harm in America, in the Fillies Mile at Newmarket on her last start.I think she might reverse that form in the Guineas and at 12-1 is worth a bash.
Turning to the footy I have no hesitation in going for Cardiff at 11-10 to beat West Ham on Saturday. The Hammers were woeful in their 5-0 thrashing from Nottingham Forest on Sunday and it honestly seemed like a training game in which West Ham were the second team thrown to the slaughter by the first team maestros.
I know that West Ham have injury problems but their lack of commitment and second best in everything on the park to lower league opposition was absurd and they’re there for the taking at present. In contrast Cardiff are on a high after getting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer off to a perfect start.
Saturday 3pm Cardiff to beat West Ham
Sunday, May 4 English 1,000 Guineas Rizeena; Saturday, June 7 English Derby Free Eagle