Gary Moore can be the scourge of the bookies once again
ARCTIC weather looks like once again decimating this weekend’s racing action and Newbury can really be no more than optimistic about staging tomorrow’s bumper eight race card. Temperatures are set to plummet to ludicrously low levels again overnight and the frost blankets, which have been down all week, have their work cut out.
If the meeting is given the green light, a field of 22 will go to post for the Betfair Hurdle (3.45pm) with Paul Nicholls’ Zarkandar currently heading the betting at 3/1 with Coral. Last season’s Triumph Hurdle winner has been the subject of good support for the Champion Hurdle and could well be in a different class to this lot.
In all honesty, I think he will be very hard to beat, but can’t resist backing both SIRE DE GRUGY and CICERON against him each-way at decent prices. The former was an emphatic winner of the Grade Two Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton last season before going on to run a cracker when third to Topolski at Aintree. He looks well handicapped and his shrewd trainer has won this race twice in the past four runnings, so the 14/1 on offer with Coral is hard to resist.
Ciceron travelled like a dream at Ascot last time before failing to see out the 2m3f trip. He will be extremely well suited by tomorrow’s big field and with a guaranteed strong pace could well outrun his current odds of 5/2 with Coral as he still looks ahead of his current mark.
Long Run should be very hard to beat in the Denman Chase (2.35pm), but I wonder whether his trainer will want to risk him on such uncertain ground, with the Festival so close. However, Nicky Henderson can start the day with a winner in the shape of SIMONSIG in the opener (12.55pm). He was outstayed by Fingal Bay last time and the drop back to a fast-run two miles looks just the trick.
SPRINTER SACRE can make it a good day for the yard by landing the Betfair Super Saturday Chase at 3.10pm. The six-year-old is one of the most exciting novice chasers in training and looks good enough to see off a few more seasoned rivals.
Leopardstown stages its Irish Hennessy meeting on Sunday and the feature race can go to the Willie Mullins’ trained QUEL ESPRIT. The eight-year-old seems to have ironed-out all his jumping problems and the fact that Jessies Dream, Quito De La Roque and Syncronised have all been ruled out this week makes his task much easier.
Mullins also holds a strong hand in the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase earlier on the card and his LAMBRO looks a decent alternative to hot favourite Last Instalment. Lambro is highly progressive and the step up in trip will play more to his strengths.
Looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival and I’m keen to add Noel Meade’s MONKSLAND at 14/1 for the Neptune Investment Hurdle into our ante-post portfolio. The Irish have won four of the last six renewals and this fellow looks to have slipped under the radar.
He made an impressive hurdling debut in December over two miles, but it was the manner of his win when stepped up another half a mile last time that really caught the eye. It was soft ground that day, but connections expect him to improve when he encounters a decent surface and the Neptune looks the ideal race. Meade saddled Nicanor to land this prize back in 2006, so knows exactly what is required. Admittedly, Fingal Bay is a rock-solid favourite, but with doubts about the participation of Boston Bob, I expect Monksland to be half his current price on the day.
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SIMONSIG 12.55pm Newbury (tomorrow)
SPRINTER SACRE 3.10pm Newbury (tomorrow)
SIRE DE GRUGY e/w 3.45pm Newbury (tomorrow)
CICERON e/w 3.45pm Newbury (tomorrow)
LAMBRO 2.40pm Leopardstown (Sunday)
QUEL ESPRIT 3.45pm Leopardstown (Sunday)
MONKSLAND 14/1 Neptune Investment Hurdle (Cheltenham)