Poquelin set to go one better than last year

IT will be interesting to see how many of the 14 declared for this afternoon’s Ryanair Chase actually line-up come 2.40pm. Captain Cee Bee, Somersby and Rare Bob all look certain non-runners which means a maximum field of 11.

As the ground continues to dry out, the most obvious starting point is last year’s winner Albertas Run. He was hugely impressive 12 months ago and if he comes here in the same form, he is certainly the one they all have to beat. However, that really is the big ‘if’ as he has been woefully out of form so far this campaign. He was pulled up on his most recent start and took a horrific fall at Ascot before that. It’s not clear whether that spill has left its mark, but at just 11/2 with Sportingbet, I’m prepared to leave him alone.

Kalahari King is another who is now painfully short at 7/2 with Victor Chandler and even though he holds all the right credentials, he’s not guaranteed to stay. In my eyes, that leaves last year’s runner-up POQUELIN as the most likely winner. He was well beaten by Albertas Run when favourite last year, but has undoubtedly improved. He won the Vote AP Gold Cup (formerly the Boylesports) on his most recent start, but did so off a 12lb higher mark than the previous year. The ground, trip and track all suit and he looks a cracking bet at 11/4.

The opening race on the card this afternoon sees the inaugural running of the Grade 2 Jewson Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles. Philip Hobbs, who landed Tuesday’s Arkle Chase with Captain Chris, saddles Wishfull Thinking who is Paddy Power’s 3/1 favourite.

He was a 5/1 shot before Captain

?Chris ran and is now artificially short, although hugely respected, on his recent course win in a hot looking handicap on Trials Day.

The two horses that catch my eye are the Nicky Henderson trained Mr Gardner and Irish raider NOBLE PRINCE. Now, the former ran a cracker at Sandown last time behind Captain Chris (and Medermit) and that form doesn’t look too bad now. He also made a terrible mistake at the second last in that race and ran up Sandown’s hill with half the fence in his face! Yet, he was 12/1 a week ago and is now as short as 11/2 with William Hill.

Therefore, I’d rather side with Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince at 5/1 with Sportingbet as he has the Grade One form in the book – he was beaten a nostril by Realt Dubh in the Irish Arkle and he ran well here on Tuesday.

He handled the track well 12 months ago when just missing out on a place

in the County Hurdle and would relish any rain.

IN-RUNNING TRADING HINTS

The world and his wife knows that Big Buck’s runs in snatches and for that reason he never seems to trade artificially big in-running. I’m therefore interested in watching the market on Grands Crus, supposedly his biggest danger, particularly at the top of the hill.

There is every chance that he will have them all on the stretch at that point, but if he fails to settle like he did in the Cleeve Hurdle, I’d be amazed if he gets home. He looks perfect lay-in-running material as he could easily trade at a silly price when there may not be much left in the tank.

I’m also interested in a possible back-to-lay trade on Mourad as he looks sure to trade at a far shorter price than the 11.5 currently available on Betdaq. Paul Townend will sit motionless for a lot longer than the bulk of his rivals and the market will surely reflect that.

Look out for Kalahari King trading too short in-running at the business end of the Ryanair Chase. Ferdy Murphy’s charge may well come there cantering two fences from home, but he is not guaranteed to get home and is decent lay material.