I think there should be a new subject on Mastermind – Guess what Mullins and Elliot are going to run in the big race a few days beforehand.
With a combined entry of nine of the 14 runners in the John Durkan Chase on Sunday (Punchestown 1.50) it takes a massive degree of guesswork to try and formulate the field for this Grade One, two and a half mile event.
Well-backed in the last few days, it looks likely that Min will lead the Closutton team, but which stable mates will support him?
Shattered Love looks likely to turn out for Elliot following her straightforward task in landing the odds at Clonmel last time out. However, this looks a much sterner test and could well require a career best from the eight-year-old mare who none the less has a tremendous strike rate over fences. She has very little to find with Min on last year’s JD form, while stable mate The Storyteller wasn’t far off the pair of them.
But if he goes to post this could be a cracking opportunity for REAL STEEL to land his first success at the head table of chasing.
The youngster posted a career best on his comeback run at Down Royal when he simply toyed with Secret Investor in the Daily Mirror Chase and his quick and accurate jumping will be a huge asset here. He proved his effectiveness over the track when successfully giving the weight away to his 11 rivals in the Copiers Novice Chase last season. A win here could see the son of Loup Breton cement his claims for a place in the Ryanair Chase field next March.
Whichever way you look at it Un De Sceaux is a bloody remarkable animal and reportedly still retains his enthusiasm at home for the game. With £1.5m prize money to his name and 23 career wins from 32 starts he has been the archetypal stable stalwart for Willie Mullins.
Sandown Park was made for this wily old veteran and he pushed the mighty Altior to the limit in last year’s Tingle Creek before Nicky Henderson’s ace put on the afterburners up the Esher hill.
But in the hope that he does lead this field a merry dance that could well set the race up for Sceau Royal and DEFI DU SEUIL.
The former will need the rains to stay away to play his part and although the selection is short enough in the betting I see this as merely a stepping stone to better things in the second half of the season including the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Liverpool and the National Fences always give me a tingle and the road to the big race in April begins on Saturday.
I think this years Becher Chase (Saturday 1.30) is one of the best in recent years with Alpha Des Obeaux set to carry top weight off a mark of 159 with Richard Johnson an intriguing booking for the big horse. The nine-year-old looks a huge player here after jumping for fun in the 2018 Grand National before tipping up when in midfield at The Chair. He looks solid each-way betting material at a double figure price.
However, I cannot understand why pundits and punters alike have deserted last year’s hero WALK IN THE MILL. He looked badly in need of the run when going well for a long way in the Badger Beers Silver Trophy at Wincanton on his seasonal debut and being only 4lbs higher than 12 months ago his chance is there for all to see especially with more rain on the way.
LOOKS LIKE POWER has a cracking record at Chepstow and Debra Hamer’s charge looks a solid player in the Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase at 1.55. The nine-year-old can add to impressive course figures of 2113.
Finally, for those of you still in the running at the end of play in the afternoon, have a second look at AMOR FATI in the Wolverhampton 7.50. The each-way selection runs over 12 furlongs for the first time in his career and looks massive value at a huge price off a handicap mark of just 55.