RUBY Walsh must be a frustrated man today. If there was any way he could split himself into three, then he would. Yes, he has the plum ride on Silviniaco Conti at Newbury and several other fancied rides for Paul Nicholls, but he misses out on a wonderful card at Leopardstown that could prove to be a Willie Mullins benefit. And he also has to sit out the ride on the deliciously promising novice chaser Fago at Warwick.
The Newbury card is superb with the Betfair Hurdle the highlight. I’ll come to that in a minute but in the opening race Chatterbox will put his Cheltenham credentials on the line in the novice hurdle. Nicholls debutante Lac Fontana has been well touted but I like the four-year-old MILORD who has caught the eye on his two runs. This chap ran in the German Derby on the flat and receives 16lb from Chatterbox. He is good each-way value at around 16/1.
The 3m handicap hurdle is competitive and one of the biggest horses in training, ARALDUR, will be interesting going over three miles and could be decent value (16/1).
Silviniaco Conti is a fascinating runner in the Denman Chase but is no value at odds-on. The Giant Bolster should run well although he would prefer even better ground. Tom George’s Gold Cup dark horse Mail de Bievre is interesting while Menorah tries 3m for the first time. Definitely a race to watch rather than part with your cash on.
The Betfair Hurdle is a real conundrum; in fact, it’s hard to put a line through any of the 23 runners. I’m sticking with CAUSE OF CAUSES who is rapidly improving and is as tough as teak. Manyriverstocross is very well handicapped if he anywhere fit enough while I expect strong support for Swing Bowler
There are four Grade Ones at Leopardstown and it’s D-day for Flemenstar in terms of where he runs at Cheltenham. I’m not convinced he stays 3m so prefer SIR DES CHAMPS today although I would love to see Flemenstar go for the Gold Cup. Meanwhile, OUR CONOR should enhance his Triumph Hurdle claims in the opener.
At Warwick GODSMEJUDGE and Keppols Hill, who are both pencilled in for the four-miler at Cheltenham, clash in the novice chase. Alan King’s horse ran a blinder last time and deserves compensation today. SALMANAZAR should give King and Choc Thornton a double, while at Uttoxeter the useful SCHOLASTICA is taken to defy top weight in the mares hurdle.