Phillip Hobbs has been close, but no cigar, in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle. The admirably tough Cheltenian finished fourth and second in 2014 and 2015 respectively the closest he has been to nabbing this tasty prize, but this weekend could see his Sandhill yard celebrate its first success in this famous handicap.
At first glance WAIT FOR ME has been more than a shade disappointing in his nine-race career. However, look a bit closer and he could be more than just an interesting proposition at double-figure odds for the Newbury feature.
Third in Moon Racer’s Champion Bumper win, the seven-year-old was beaten 11 lengths into second place by Buveur D’Air (did anyone say Champion Hurdle?) on his hurdling debut before winning two novice events, one over course and distance.
Fourth off 139 in the County Hurdle last March, the bay gelding gets another chance to run off exactly the same mark here.
And with a nice pull in the weights with William H Bonny on recent Cheltenham form, the selection is twice the price of that rival here which makes no sense to me.
At 12/1 today with Paddy Power, we can afford to have a covering bet and CONSUL DE THAIX fits the bill despite being near the head of the market. Unexposed, suited by a fast-run race and give in the ground, Nicky Henderson’s charge looks sure to be involved and is preferred to the well treated Ballyandy and Beltor.
Bragging can sometimes be a tedious ritual, but the Irish Gold Cup and I are lovers of the most intimate kind as I have managed to back the winner in 13 of the last 15 renewals and fancy my chances of making it 14 on Sunday.
Dual winner Carlingford Lough gave me my biggest return last year when he retained his title at 20/1, but I doubt the veteran will be able to fend off the youngsters this time around.
Don Poli has obvious claims at the head of the market following his back to form second in the Lexus Chase although I was disappointed that he didn’t outstay Outlander that day.
However, I am a huge fan of MINELLA ROCCO and he has been reportedly schooling like a buck at home.
His run at Aintree was laboured to say the least, but that tight track allied to the upright fences there was never going to suit his long, raking stride pattern and this gallop is more his terrain.
If he can get into a rhythm early on, then his power turning for home could be too much for what amounts to a sub-standard field and he can further boost the form of last year’s National Hunt Chase in which Native River finished second, Scottish National hero Vincente was fifth and Becher Chase hero Vieux Lion Rouge a laboured sixth.
FLECKERL is a horse I have had in the back of my pocket for a while and Saturday at Wolverhampton 6.30pm could be his D-Day.
Finally returned to his optimum trip of 7f he may be able to give the weight away to inferior animals at a salivating price.
And keep an eye on old WAR ROOM who caught the eye last week at Dundalk. He is entered up over 7f at the Dowdallshill track on Friday.