BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE RSA, FRED WINTER AND CHAMPION BUMPER
DAVID Pipe’s decision to switch Dynaste to the Jewson Novices’ Chase tomorrow has left the RSA Chase with a wide-open feel even though only 11 runners now face the starter at 2.40pm.
The market is currently headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Boston Bob, who is as short as 5/2 with Ladbrokes. Last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle runner-up has won both his starts over fences this term and looks to be crying out for this step up to three miles.
However, he has looked a little slow in his races and struggled to hold his position in the Dr PJ Moriarty at Leopardstown last time, before flying late on from an impossible position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
He is certainly one of the more likely winners of this gruelling novices’ contest, but the very fact that Ruby Walsh has deserted him for Unioniste means he is passed over.
Paul Nicholls’ charge showed that the ground holds no fears when winning the December Gold Cup, and followed that up with a win over three miles at Newbury. That trip looked to stretch his stamina to the hilt and I think he’ll be running on empty up the Cheltenham hill.
Hadrians Approach is respected, but I’d be worried about his jumping, while the same can be said for David Pipe’s Goulanes who might just not have the necessary experience. Venetia Williams is keen on the chances of her stayer Houblon Des Obeaux, but I’m just a little bit worried about the form of her string.
That leaves Irish pair LYREEN LEGEND at 10/1 with Star Sports and LORD WINDERMERE also at 10/1 with Blue Square Bet, and I’ll be backing them both to cause a little bit of an upset.
The former was a smart hurdler and mixed it with the very best, but he was always going to make a better chaser and duly went on to make an impressive winning debut over fences in a beginners’ chase at Galway. He then chased home Back In Focus in a Grade Two before falling at the third when still in contention in the Topaz Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Dessie Hughes’ runner apparently returned sore from that run, yet still ran a cracker behind Boston Bob in the Dr PJ Moriarty on Hennessy Day. He stayed on gamely when headed that day and he will certainly improve for the run and the step up in trip.
The reason for recommending Lord Windermere is that his profile is very similar to Lyreen Legend and he was also involved in that blanket finish to the Dr PJ Moriarity. He has yet to race over three miles, but his trainer Jim Culloty is confident he’ll get the trip.
At their current prices, I see no reason why we need to side with one or the other and I’m happy to back them both at combined odds of around 5/1.
Go back three years and Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh landed the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle in tremendous style when Sanctuaire destroyed his rivals. It was a hugely impressive performance and they could have lined up a similarly progressive animal in this afternoon’s race (4.40pm).
SAPHIR DU RHEU won a novices’ hurdle at Taunton by 11 lengths in early January and he has deliberately been kept off the track since then to protect his mark. The stable have another similar contender in Ptiz Zig, but Walsh has nailed his colours to the mast and I’m happy to stick with Saphir Du Rheu at 7/1 with Ladbrokes and with Coral.
There are plenty of other interesting contenders in the race, in particular Kalmann on his first start for Willie Mullins. He has had three starts at Auteuil, winning his last comfortably, and it is intriguing that Mullins has brought him here first up.
John Ferguson is certain to have a Cheltenham winner soon and Bordoni won really well at Market Rasen last time. However, he ran out the time before that at Leicester and you’d have to be worried about him in a big field like this.
Nicky Henderson won this last year with 40/1 shot Une Artiste and his sole entry is Megalypos this time. Simon Munir’s four-year-old had some decent form in France and ran respectably behind Ruacana, who also lines up this afternoon, at Chepstow in the Future Champions Finale Hurdle. He has claims but is another who might be better next season.
The Weatherbys Champion Bumper (5.15pm) has been a benefit race for Willie Mullins over the years. The Irish champion trainer has won it eight times, including last year with Champagne Fever, who won yesterday’s Supreme Novices’. He has three runners tomorrow, but I get the feeling he doesn’t really have a superstar in his armoury this time.
Golantilla has been the ante-post favourite all winter, following his high profile purchase by leading owner Barry Connell. However, he reportedly worked very badly at Leopardstown recently and it will be very difficult for him to win this race after such a poor effort. Ireland’s best chance looks to be Le Vent D’Antan. Cue Card proved three years ago that four-year-olds can win the Bumper. Liz Doyle has a good record with her Bumper runners and her inmate is well-respected.
British runners have done better in recent years, though, and the one I will be backing is
SGT RECKLESS for Mick Channon and champion flat jockey Richard Hughes. He won a Jumpers Bumper at Lingfield earlier in the season and has been working alongside some really good flat horses.
Apparently Channon is thinking about some of the top staying races in the flat season and if he’s up to that level he should be able to beat this lot. He can be backed at 8/1 with Coral – and that is worth taking.
LYREEN LEGEND e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
LORD WINDERMERE e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
SAPHIR DU RHEU e/w 4.40pm Cheltenham
SGT RECKLESS e/w 5.15pm Cheltenham