Brendan Duke: Now is the Winter of our discontent but it won’t last forever

New Year's resolutions aren't for Dukey but shrewdie weekend punts & 50/1 pokes for the Gold Cup have focused his mind ...

Cheltenham crowd 2018


The lot of a Northern European in January, is not a happy one. Dying in any given month is an 11/1 shot.

I’d happily take 6/1 that January sees me exit stage left. For the purists among you pointing out that the price is actually 10.77/1, you have my respect. Please though, not now. Not a good time. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that abstaining from pleasure is the way to go.

Load negative upon negative, and something positive is bound to occur. Be it alcohol, meat, or some other indulgence, this is the month to knock it on the head. A foolish theory.

What’s next on the denial list? NFL playoffs, sex, open fires?

Turns out combining all three of those at the same time doesn’t work, but taken in isolation, they do a man good.


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If this madness continues, we will be left sucking the non existent marrow out of a decaying Brussel sprout for comfort. Whatever it takes to get you through this most trying time, just get it done. Gorge yourselves on the finest wines and game. Fortify your souls against the chilling darkness.

For soon it will be February. Not much better, but shorter.

Then March, and you will start to see a bit of a stretch in the evening. Then we’re home free.

The racing fan must endure a bit of a lean spell too. Mind you, some interesting fare this weekend, and the potential of Altior v UDS II at Ascot the following weekend means we shouldn’t be too gloomy. It’s hard to envisage Waiting Patiently lining up at Kempton.

There is no rain forecast. Still Charbel against Top Notch should see a shake up in the Ryanair Chase betting.


Over in Warwick, the exciting Birchdale takes the plunge into graded company. One of the weekend’s ante post markets caught my eye. Paddy are alone in not making Court Liability favourite for the Pertemps qualifier at Warwick.

They have probably made an error. It seems counter intuitive to suggest a horse on a five-timer would be overlooked, but I’m going to do so. The horse looks virtually certain to run. Trainer Harry Whittington kindly replied to a twitter question about his charge a couple of days ago.

He said the horse was running in a Pertemps qualifier next. While he didn’t say which one, this race on Saturday virtually guarantees the good ground that he thinks favours the horse. He could wait two weeks for the next qualifier, but why risk the weather turning?

The horse is unbeaten under rules. He finished runner up to last weekend’s Grade 1 winner Battleoverdoyen, no less, in a point-to-point.

He has been kept to second division tracks and Saturday undoubtedly represents a step up in class. The form of his last win at Musselburgh hasn’t really been tested. However, he beat a couple of in form rivals there. You will not see an easier two-length winner either.

He jumped and travelled sweetly. You could call him the winner a long way from home. If connections want to run in the Pertemps final at the Festival, he needs to go up about 7 or 8 lbs in the handicap.

Saturday’s qualifier looks a two birds, one stone job.

I expect Court Liability to go off about 3/1 and to win, so would advise a bet now.

Finally, a Cheltenham dart. Paddy are NRNB on the four championship races and the Ryanair Chase.

It’s a lot easier to take a flyer with a parachute, so let’s look at the Gold Cup.  Presenting Percy heads the market. His credentials are obvious. A proven Cheltenham performer, with scope to improve. I would marginally favour Native River. He’s the defending champ. His two efforts this term, under sub optimum conditions, suggest he can repeat last year’s effort.

The recommended bet is Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis at 50/1. He’s among today’s entries for the Blue Riband, but is probably not going to run. If he does, he won’t be anything like a 50/1 shot. This is just the type of horse to play with the NRNB concession. He was wildly impressive in winning the Troytown at Navan.

The form looks solid, with the second that day, Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light, subsequently bolting up at Newbury.


The handicapper raised him 12lbs to a mark of 150. Quite a bit short of Gold Cup standard in fairness. Tout Est Permis was entered in the Savills Chase and the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas but ran in neither.

He will likely get an entry in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. I’ve a hunch he will run there. Were he to run well, this improving six-year-old would have to come under consideration for Cheltenham.

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What do you think?