Brendan Duke: I’m scrambling for a light on the horizon to lift the January Blues

The Duke is adopting a wait and see approach for Haydock on Saturday as his long-range Festival fancies hover into view ...



Things haven’t improved/disimproved much from last week. I’m still here, and it’s still January.

Lost money on Saturday, clawed most of it back Sunday. After racing, had an agreeable meal, served by a disagreeable waitress. Went for a swimming lesson, didn’t drown. Altior will almost certainly run on Saturday, Un De Sceaux almost certainly won’t. It’s an even Stephen world at the moment.

The non appearance of Court Liability last weekend was a blow without a redeeming quality. My apologies to readers. The logic of the wager still seems sound, but I must try harder in future. I fear that bruising experience has left me somewhat gun shy this week.

Quite liked the look of the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on Saturday. The front end of the market all seem to prefer deeper ground than appears likely. Rain seems to be rarer than rickets these days. Robinsfirth caught my eye, but will he run?

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At this point I began my descent of the rabbit hole, and come out the other side with what is known as paralysis by analysis. I googled the trainer. Colin Tizzard has a new website coming soon. Also a very fetching logo. Not much use for my purposes mind. I googled the horse. He was a late withdrawal at Cheltenham on New Years’s Day. The ground was too quick. The ground should be slightly easier at Haydock, but not by much.

Another story mentioned that Robbie Power thought he got bogged down on heavy ground, when finishing second on his penultimate start. At the risk of mixing fairytale metaphors, was I looking for Goldilocks down the rabbit hole?

I googled the owners. One story recounted how Tizzard had tried to convince them to enter the horse in both the Welsh and Aintree Grand Nationals. They didn’t like the sound of either. Nationalism can be a hard sell in fairness. Then I noted that Robbie Power has ridden the horse on his last three runs.

Could he be the key to getting the go ahead from choosy owners? The answer is probably, but while the Potts family, who retain him, have entries at Haydock, they also have a Jessica Harrington-trained mare entered in the Grade 2 at Ascot and Fox Norton in the Clarence House Chase. I googled Robbie. He’s suspended at the moment.

You will be delighted to hear that he’s staying chipper in the face of this setback. He will be back for the weekend. Less delighted to hear, that he said nothing about where he’d be on Saturday. So there you have it. Clear as mud.

I think this lightly raced horse would have a big chance on Saturday.

He looks a very fair price at around 8/1, but I just can’t be sure enough yet that he’ll run to recommend a bet.


It’s a potentially interesting weekend for my Cheltenham ante-post portfolio. Carefully Selected is entered at Navan on Saturday. Willie Mullins apparently hasn’t wanted to risk him on the quicker ground.

The ground won’t be soft on Saturday, but If he wants to get two run in before Cheltenham, he may be forced to bite the bullet. My long-range Cheltenham Gold Cup fancy, (where at least it’s non runner no bet with Paddy), Tout Est Permis is entered in a Grade 2 at Thurles on Sunday.

The declarations are uninspiring. Unless Total Recall shows up, Tout Est Permis should win handily, without proving whether a tilt at the Blue Riband is justified. Sunday would give him two weeks until the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, so I suppose that remains a possibility.

Tomorrow week brings us the race that stops a county. I will return this day next week to preview the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. I promise to put up an actual tip. In the meantime, enjoy Altior. It’s not much of a contest, but he’s a horse to stir the soul.

I’m off to watch some snooker. The way my month is going, we can’t rule out the possibility of a draw.

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What do you think?