What a time to be alive! My heart beats out Cue Card but my head says THISTLECRACK for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Josses Hill looks sure to set a nice even tempo up front and going a grade one pace will suit the Tizzard novice so much better than the egg and spoon races he has contested to date.
To my eyes he simply has the bigger engine of the pair and if he puts in a clear round of jumping on the first circuit he will be odds-on in running in my book.
Tea For Two just isn’t good enough and Silviniaco Conti has seen better days.
But if there is to be fly in the ointment it could come from Irish challenger Roi De Francs (now a non runner). It’s such a small field that normal each-way terms are lost to us, but I’ll risk a wager in the event that something happens to the principal contenders.
I always thought that the Gordon Elliot charge needed more time to develop physically and he looked a picture first time up when behind Champagne Fever at Thurles. He is a huge price though for a reason.
For big race action the Christmas holiday period is simply unbeatable both in Ireland and the UK. The Paddy Power Chase (3pm) at Leopardstown is a massive 3m handicap full of plots, not least the ante-post fav THE CRAFTY BUTCHER – IF he gets in.
The nine-year-old looks as though he has been laid out for this valuable prize and has been backed accordingly but he’s still pretty far down the entry list and needs about 10 runners to come out to be guaranteed a run. Willie Mullins’ runner has absolutely everything in his favour but wait to see if he makes the final cut.
The one I fear most is Noble Endeavour. He’s quirky but wasn’t far off some decent staying hurdlers in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan before finishing fourth to stable-mate Empire of Dirt in the Troytown Chase at the same track and that’s normally a fair guide.
Just 40 minutes later at Chepstow, the annual slog-in-a-bog that is the Welsh Grand National takes place and the recent weather forecast has annoyingly turned on its head…again! And some of these may not make the cut so be careful.
When I first penned this piece the local area was set to greet over 28mm of rain on ground already described as soft. Now the weathermen have done a dirty and suggested only 5mm of rain will fall! Who would be a pundit?
If a deluge arrives then top weight and ante-post favourite Native River will probably not run and the weights will rise.
But on ground currently soft (good to soft in places) the Hennessy hero will almost certainly take his chance.
I was going to plump for mud-lovers in Unioniste and Firebird Flyer on hock deep ground. Should the forecast change again then they would be my tips at double-digit prices with 50/1 poke Kingswell Theatre my outside bet.
But that approach has been changed and my two against the field now are Goodtoknow and Viva Steve.
The former, a stable mate of dual winner Mountainous, has reportedly been working out of his skin at home and trainer Kerry Lee considers the eight-year-old to be very well weighted off a mark of 138.He is a notoriously hard horse to get fit at home and still needed his second run badly when fifth at the track in the National ‘trial’ three weeks ago.
Viva Steve returned to action with an authoritative success at Ayr and this was always going to be his target. Fergal O’Brien has his team in fabulous form and there is more to come from this lightly raced eight-year-old.
As for the Lexus Chase next Wednesday, twice placed in a Gold Cup Djakadam is a better horse than Valseur Lido and the money for him suggests he may take his chance despite his John Durkan Chase win coming earlier this month.
However, Gordon Elliot reports DON POLI in brilliant form at home so I’m happy to grab the 10/1 each-way about this confirmed mud lover and last year’s winner.
And finally, put into you 2017 horse racing notebook, LUCENT DREAM. Let’s just say he wasn’t seen to best effect at Dundalk on Friday December 16 behind Cresendo from his wide draw!