MY Ante post Diary

Thread: MY Ante post Diary

  1. ganjaman2's Avatar

    ganjaman2 said:

    Default MY Ante post Diary

    Hello and welcome to my Ante-post Diary which will be updated each Tuesday from now until the start of the Cheltenham Festival in March. I will run through the general format from week to week. In each update I plan to go through the four Championship races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle & Cheltenham Gold Cup) initially before discussing the novice divisions over hurdles and fences. Obviously as we get closer to the Festival the handicaps will also be discussed in depth as well as some of the other shoulder races and bets will be recommended where necessary




    Champion Hurdle




    A glance at the early markets for next year?s Champion Hurdle suggests that there isn?t much depth to this division this season. Having said that, the main reason that there are only four runners priced at shorter than 20/1 is that the 2015 winner Faugheen made a successful return to action at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago.




    Willie Mullins? nine-year-old had not been seen on a racecourse since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016 but seemed to be back in full working order, beating the reliable Jezki by sixteen lengths. I have to say I was very impressed and all indications were that he retained plenty of ability but having been off the track for nearly two years, we just have to hope that he can stay sound between now and March. To be honest, when he was winning two years ago I thought he was just about unbeatable over 2m and arguably one of the best Champion Hurdlers we had seen. I am not surprised to see him head the market now and although I suspect he will be a good deal shorter on the day (if he gets there), I don?t think there is much to be gained from taking a best-priced 15/8 now.




    According to the market, his main challenger at this stage looks to be the defending champion Buveur D?Air who is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday. Nicky Henderson?s six-year-old improved throughout last term and although he was an impressive winner at both Cheltenham and Aintree, I can?t help but think he would have a bit to find, if he was taking on a full-strength Faugheen.




    Prior to last weekend, there were plenty of people looking to Defi Du Seuil to make an impression on this division, having proved much the best of the juveniles last term. However, Philip Hobbs? charge could only finish fourth in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot and most firms have reacted by pushing him out from as short as 6/1 to as big as 20/1. Personally, I thought he just didn?t see out the extra half mile as he travelled as well as anything and having jumped the third last, Barry Geraghty seemed quite content to take a pull on him. However, the petrol seemed to run out soon after and was outstayed by Lil Rockerfeller and L?Ami Serge, who both have the Stayers? Hurdle as their primary target for March. Of course it is disappointing that he finished behind Wakea but I think it is still early days with him and I would hope to see him dropped back to 2m next time. His trainer reported afterwards that he was seemingly fine and as long as that remains the case, I think he can bounce back next time and still mount a serious challenge come March.




    The fact that the only other horse generally available at less than 20/1 is Melon gives you an idea of how few contenders there seemingly are for this race at the moment. Last season?s Supreme Novices? Hurdle runner-up didn?t manage to win last term after making a winning debut but there was plenty to like about his win at Down Royal at the beginning of this month. His jump at the final flight left plenty to be desired and although he has only had four runs over hurdles and is open to further improvement, I think he has plenty to do to get up to this level.




    Champion Chase





    The major news in this division so far is that Altior looks more than likely to head straight to the Festival having had a operation on his wind a couple of weeks ago. Nicky Henderson?s charge was being prepped for a tilt at the Tingle Creek but made a noise during routine work and connections have decided to operate on his wind to help him. This is reportedly the same procedure that Sprinter Sacre had at the end of his novice hurdling campaign and I have every faith that he will return in A1 condition come the Spring.




    However, I have to say that I think the market is a little skewed at present as I feel Douvan should be at least the same price as Altior. Prior to running below-par in last year?s race, Douvan was widely regarded as an exceptional chaser and having suffered a stress fracture to his pelvis during that race, I am happy to put a line through it. It has also been interesting to read comments from Rich Ricci and Willie Mullins that they were never really happy with him last year, that despite him winning all three of his starts prior to Cheltenham. Following the news of Altior?s issues I thought Douvan would supersede his rival at the head of the market but the pair have remained much the same. The only reason I can see for not siding with Douvan here is that he has the option of going up in trip but in truth I don?t see him as a Gold Cup horse and frankly the Ryanair Chase doesn?t have the same prestige as the Champion 2m race. The indications are that Douvan will make his return to action in the next couple of weeks in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork or the Tingle Creek at Sandown and I think if he wins there, he will be much shorter than the 3/1 currently on offer. There is no doubt that Altior was a very good novice but it seems people have quickly forgotten just how good Douvan is and considering that he is likely to have race fitness on his side come March, I think he is the one to side with at this stage.




    Douvan?s stablemate Min also threw his hat into the ring for this race when winning at Gowran last weekend. He too would have the Ryanair as an option and he seemed to see the 2m4f trip out well here, for all he only beat Flaxen Flare on the day. It is worth remembering that his only defeat came when splitting Altior and Buveur D?Air in the Supreme in 2016 and having had just the eight starts, he looks one to keep an eye on as the season goes on.



    It would also be remiss of me not to mention Fox Norton who looked in the form of his life when winning the Shloer Chase for a second time a couple of weeks ago. He was relatively unlucky second in last year?s Champion Chase to finish second and proved his class when winning Grade 1s at both Aintree and Punchestown. Like many in this division, he also has the option of going up to 2m4f and it could be that he ends up in the Ryanair, especially if Douvan and Altior both turn up in the Champion Chase.





    Stayers Hurdle




    Harry Fry?s Unowhatimeanharry had an excellent campaign last term and although he came up short in March, there is every chance that he can go a little closer this year. The key factor for him is likely to be the ground as his only defeat last term came on good ground at the Festival and he was just caught out by the speedier Nichols Canyon. He did manage to turn the tables on that rival at Punchestown however on slower ground and I imagine he will likely have a similar campaign to last year in the hope that the ground is in his favour come March. The form of his reappearance win was franked at the weekend as Top Notch ran out a ready winner of the Christy 1965 Chase on Saturday and with fitness on his side, Harry Fry?s horse looks likely to give Thistlecrack plenty to think about at Newbury on Friday.




    In truth, this looks a division that has the potential for something to come through and make a real name for themselves and it will be interesting to see how the form of last year?s Albert Bartlett works out as the season goes on. Monalee and Ami Desbois have both gone novice chasing but Penhill has the potential to make a smart hurdler on quick ground. He won?t be seen until the New Year but with most of his best form coming on a sounder surface, he shouldn?t miss too many targets.




    The Worlds End fell in the Albert Bartlett and despite failing to fire at Haydock on Saturday, I wouldn?t be too quick to write him off. Despite the fact he won on soft ground last term, I?m not sure Saturday?s conditions were ideal and I still think he has the potential to make an impact in this division.




    One other one I want to mention is Apple?s Jade who would interest me were she to go down this route. Her stamina came to the fore when winning the Mares? Hurdle at last season?s Cheltenham Festival and I think there is every chance that she would get 3m. Obviously retaining the Mares? Hurdle is more than likely to be her main objective but I would see this as a viable alternative and it will be interesting to see if connections decide to go down this route with her.





    Gold Cup





    For me, there is only one place to start here and that is with Thistlecrack who looks all set to make his return to action over hurdles at Newbury on Friday. Colin Tizzard has been pleased with the nine-year-old?s preparations and all being well, he should be able to see off whatever turns up in the race. Looking ahead, this looks likely to be a prep for the King George, which he won so well last year before heading to the Gold Cup. Clearly he has to prove all is well on Friday but I am led to believe that the setback he had wasn?t too serious and there shouldn?t be any danger of him suffering a recurrence. The only question mark I have is whether he would really see out the Gold Cup trip but looking at those around him in the market, I think he looks the most attractive at this stage.




    Second in on most lists is last year?s winner Sizing John who swerved Saturday?s Betfair Chase with connections unwilling to run the horse on heavy ground on his seasonal reappearance. He has plenty of form on soft ground but with the season ahead, it seemed the sensible decision to wait for an alternative target. There is no question that he improved immensely once stepped up to 3m last term but having run two big races at Cheltenham and Punchestown last Spring, I wonder whether those may leave their mark this term.




    Of last year?s novices, at this stage Might Bite looks the most likely to play a leading role in the Gold Cup picture but given his wayward tendencies at Cheltenham in particular, I would be unwilling to back him with any confidence. He is clearly a very talented performer and would have won the Feltham in a very quick time but for falling at Kempton last year but I think there are more reliable options in the race.




    One of our ante-post selections last season Disko could also develop into a Gold Cup horse come the end of the season, having won a Grade 1 over 3m at Punchestown. I have to admit it is a little frustrating to read comments such as ?I?ve always seen him as a three miler? from his trainer, having tipped him for the RSA last term but it might be that wasn?t the right sort of race for him at that stage of his career. His bold front-running style means he rarely finds trouble in his races and if he continues to improve, there is no reason why he can?t end up in the Gold Cup picture come March.




    The fly in most ante-post markets for the Cheltenham Festival is Yorkhill who is towards the head of the market for most of the Championship races. Personally, I didn?t feel he was a natural over the larger obstacles last term but there is no question that he was very impressive when winning the JLT at last year?s Festival. The form of that race is strong and on breeding at least, he looks to have every chance of staying 3m. Having said that, I would be inclined to go down the Champion Hurdle route with him but it is likely to be a case of wait and see with him.




    Novice Chasers




    Arkle




    It is still early days for the novices but there have been a few performances which have caught my eye including Footpad who made a winning debut over the larger obstacles at Navan a couple of weeks ago. Willie Mullins? five-year-old was a smart hurdler, finishing fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham before going one place better over 3m at Punchestown. What impressed me most was how well he jumped under Daryl Jacob and the way he attacked his fences was synonymous with a much more experienced horse. One thing that you have to do in the Arkle is jump at speed (as we have seen to our cost in the last two renewals) and at this early stage of the season, it seems that this five-year-old is well equipped. We are likely to learn more as the season goes on but he looks an above-average recruit to chasing at the moment.

    Petit Mouchoir finished one place ahead of Footpad at Cheltenham and having also won twice in Grade 1 company last term, he looks another smart recruit to chasing. He jumped very well when winning at Punchestown in October and being trained by Henry De Bromhead, I have every faith that his jumping will stand up to the rigours of a championship race at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, he had a setback following his debut win and is unlikely to be back until February but should he run well on his return, I think he will end up in the Arkle come March.




    On this side of the Irish Sea, Brain Power put his name forward as a potential Arkle contender with a thrilling debut success at Kempton on Monday. He jumped well on the whole and although got in a little tight to a couple of fences, it is nothing out of the ordinary for a novice chaser. Nicky Henderson has a very good record when it comes to the Arkle and if this horse can go on improving, he could be a leading contender for the master of Seven Barrows.





    RSA




    I mentioned Monalee briefly when talking about the Stayers? Hurdle earlier on and judged on his chasing debut at Punchestown, he looks another one for the Henry De Bromhead team to look forward to. He only had the five runs over hurdles but showed he was a strong stayer and having had enough pace to win over 2m4f on his chasing debut, it is no surprise towards the head of the market for the RSA.




    It will be interesting to see which novice chase at the Festival Finian?s Oscar ends up in and at this stage, I would have to say that the RSA looks the most likely option. His jumping needs a bit of work as he made errors at Chepstow and Cheltenham but he showed a real winning attitude last time to hit the front up the run-in and win going away at the line. It could be that the JLT proves to be his race but I imagine we will have to wait until nearer the time for targets become clearer.




    Friday?s novice chase at Newbury has been won by some smart performers in the past including Bobs Worth and Coneygree and it looks as though we will see Yanworth and Willoughby Court take each other on this year. Both arrive with questions to answer with Alan King?s seven-year-old having fallen at Exeter last time and Ben Pauling?s charge having jumped out to his left on his chasing debut at Huntingdon. Newbury should suit the latter in terms of if he does tend to jump that way and if anything Yanworth just overjumped at Exeter. Both have the potential to make up into smart chasers and I will certainly be an interested spectator on Friday.




    One who I did have half an eye on over the summer for this race is Constantine Bay who ran a fine race to finish fourth in the Albert Bartlett, having been hampered by the fall of The Worlds End at the second last. He ran well to finish fourth at Aintree but having won a point-to-point, there is every chance that he can make up into a better chaser. Sadly he will miss the whole season with an injury and although his trainer has said it isn?t too serious an issue, it is enough for him to miss the entire campaign.





    Novice Hurdlers





    If it is early days for the chasers then the novice hurdlers have been pretty quiet although there have been a couple of notable performances that I want to quickly mention.



    With Rich Ricci revealing on Monday evening that ante-post favourite for the Supreme Annamix will miss the whole season through injury, yesterday?s Monksfield Novice Hurdle winner Samcro has now moved to the head of that market as well as the one for the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices? Hurdles. Gordon Elliott?s five-year-old was as smooth a winner as you are likely to see of a Graded race as barely turned a hair in winning by twelve lengths at Navan. The world appears to be his oyster at present and as novices go, I think he is by far the most impressive I have seen this season so far. One thing he will have to prove eventually is that he is as effective on quicker ground but his trainer believes he could be even better on a sounder surface so he might take a lot of beating come the Spring.




    Another performance which caught my eye in the early part of the season is that of Next Destination who saw off some useful rivals when winning at Naas. Willie Mullins? five-year-old saw off the likes of Someday, Paloma Blue and Pallasator when making a winning start over hurdles, pulling clear impressively in the hands of Paul Townend to win by thirteen lengths. He was a close fourth in last season?s Champion Bumper and has all the makings of a smart novice hurdle prospect.




    One final horse who I feel has a bright future is Slate House who has won his first two starts for Colin Tizzard. Both of those victories have come at Cheltenham and although the last win is unsatisfactory in that the final two hurdles were omitted, he still found enough on the run-in to get the job done. He looks a strong stayer at 2m and at this stage of the season, I could see him developing into one for the Ballymore novices? hurdle.





    My Bets:




    DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) ? 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral)



    The first of my bets for this year?s Festival is a little shorter than I normally look for but I feel there is plenty going in Douvan?s favour in order to side with him at this stage. As I mentioned earlier, I don?t feel there is much between Altior and Douvan and considering that the former is now sidelined until the Sping, I am surprised that the bookies have not shortened up Willie Mullins? horse more. He seems to be on course to run in the next couple of weeks and if he wins as expected I have no doubt he will shortened up. The only risk I see is that he steps up in trip and goes down a different route but I think the percentages are that he will run in the Champion Chase and if does, he would have a leading chance.




    THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) ? 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)




    I discussed a number of the concerns I have about the other leading contenders a little earlier on and with that in mind, I think this is the right time to be backing Thistlecrack for the Gold Cup. Friday?s assignment is unlikely to tell us anything other than that he is fit and well but even so, it is hard to see him not shortening afterwards. The indications are that he is as good as ever and all being well I think he will head to the King George before going to the Festival. There was clearly something amiss when he was beaten at Cheltenham last term but the rest of his form in the past two seasons suggests he is a cut above his rivals. At 6/1, I think he has the potential to shorten as the season goes on and although there is a small risk involved in backing him before we see him, I think this is the time to get on.




    DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) ? 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)



    My final bet this week is a bit of a flyer and although he was clear disappointing on Saturday, I think Ladbrokes and Coral have overreacted by pushing him out to as big as 20/1. As I have said, I think he just ran out of petrol last weekend and having been fresh in the early part of the race, he should come on for this outing. He remains a horse with plenty of potential and in a market where there isn?t much depth, I think it is worth us having a small each-way punt on him at 20/1, especially considering some firms are as short as 12/1.



    Ante-Post Diary



    DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) ? 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral)


    THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) ? 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)


    DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) ? 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)
     
  2. akimba's Avatar

    akimba said:

    Default Re: MY Ante post Diary

    I bet on Thistlecrack last year at Newbury last year ;-)
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  3. ganjaman2's Avatar

    ganjaman2 said:

    Default Re: MY Ante post Diary

    MY Ante post Diary Part 2


    Champion Hurdle

    Following Faugheen?s successful return to action a couple of weeks ago, all eyes were on Buveur D?Air at Newcastle on Saturday and Nicky Henderson?s six-year-old didn?t disappoint as he ran out a ready winner of the Fighting Fifth. In truth, it wasn?t a vintage renewal of the race but he travelled smoothly throughout under Barry Geraghty before stretching clear of his rivals in the closing stages. For all that the opposition may not have been up to much, you have to be impressed with the performance of the winner, particularly how quick and nimble he is over his hurdles. Barry Geraghty said on Sunday that he felt Buveur D?Air had filled into himself over the summer and he could potentially be a better horse this term.

    Ultimately, only time will tell whether he can get beat Faugheen but that clash could come sooner than we thought, with the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day likely to be Buveur D?Air?s next port of call. The race was won in 2014 and 2015 by Faugheen and although plans are yet to be confirmed for Willie Mullins? nine-year-old there would have to be a strong chance that the pair could clash at Christmas.

    Over in Ireland, Apple?s Jade put up what was arguably a career-best performance to win the Hatton?s Grace Hurdle on Sunday. Gordon Elliott?s mare was brilliant in beating off Nichols Canyon by nine lengths and although the Mares? Hurdle remains her number one target at the Festival according to her owner, the temptation to run her in the Champion or the Stayers? Hurdle is likely to increase as the season goes on.


    Champion Chase

    Not much to report on in this division this week but both Douvan and Un De Sceaux remain on course to make their seasonal reappearances this weekend according to Willie Mullins. The former is set to tackle the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday, with the latter waiting until the following day to run in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

    In terms of Saturday?s race, there were 11 entries confirmed when the Tingle Creek closed on Monday. Ar Mad, Fox Norton, Politologue and Special Tiara look the most likely dangers to Willie Mullins? runner, who also left in Un De Sceaux at the five-day stage.

    Willie Mullins also spoke of Min on Sunday who he was reluctant to commit to either a 2m or 2m4f campaign this term. It is still the early part of the season so there is no need to make a firm decision at this stage but he did suggest that himself and Douvan will be kept apart where possible. That raises the possibility of one stepping up in trip come March but as I suggested last week, I would suggest that Min is more likely to run in the Ryanair than his older stablemate.


    Stayers? Hurdle

    Beer Goggles put himself forward as a possible Stayers? Hurdle contender with a game victory in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday. Richard Woollacott?s six-year-old has improved no end since joining the yard last December and having started on a mark of 115, he now finds himself rated upwards of 150. It has to be said that I thought he got the run of the race out in front but there was no doubting his attitude in the closing stages as he saw off the challenge of race-fit rival in Unowhatimeanharry before drawing clear on the run to the line. He is clearly improving all the time but I would imagine his next intended target, the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January is likely to tell us more about his chances at The Festival.

    I briefly mentioned Unowhatimeanharry who ran a fine race despite being beaten on the day. It is worth remembering that he was conceding 6lb to most of the field here and although you would have fancied him to pick up the winner in the closing stages, he probably gave him too much rope. He remains a top-class staying hurdler and I would imagine we will see him next in the Long Walk at Ascot.

    Over in Ireland on Sunday, last year?s Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon lost little in defeat behind Apple?s Jade at Fairyhouse. Willie Mullins? seven-year-old does have a good record fresh but I think he just found a race-fit Apple?s Jade too hot to handle on the day. He still looked to be in with a chance on the run to the second last but having pecked on landing, his chances of victory were ended. He ran on again after the last but he should benefit physically from this run and although he has plenty of form on soft ground, I think over these longer trips, he is better on a sounder surface.


    Gold Cup

    Having been pretty positive in last week?s post about the prospect of Thistlecrack returning, I have to admit I was pretty disappointed by his display at Newbury on Friday. I think that was largely down to the fact that the comments coming from the stable beforehand indicated he was spot on in terms of fitness for his return to action. His trainer has since admitted that they talked him up too much and having watched the race a few times, I am happy to agree with the assessment that he travelled well into the race but just got tired in the closing stages of the race. Clearly you would have preferred him to finish ahead of the likes of Taquin Du Seuil but Tom Scudamore was kind on the horse once he realised his chance was gone. The bookmakers reacted to his defeat by pushing him out to as big as 12/1 which was fair enough considering the display and you have to admit that he now goes to the King George with plenty to prove. That run should have done him good in terms of fitness but the Tizzard team now have three weeks to get him right for what looks likely to be a vintage renewal of the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. In terms of the Gold Cup, it all depends how he comes he fares in the King George but I certainly wouldn?t be tearing up our betting slip just yet.

    The below-par return to action of Thistlecrack has also forced Colin Tizzard into a rethink of plans for last year?s Gold Cup third Native River. The plan had been to give him one run before the Gold Cup but now connections are thinking two runs would probably be better for him. He is likely to start in the New Year and having started last season over hurdles, it would be no surprise to see him have a spin over the smaller obstacles on his first run back.

    The big winner in the Gold Cup market this weekend was Might Bite whose form got a significant boost with stablemate Whisper finishing an agonising second in the Ladbrokes Trophy. I would be the first to admit that before Saturday, I thought Whisper had it all to do off a big weight but he looks to have really improved this term, getting the better of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton prior to his brave effort at the weekend. Having said that, I think he would need to step up again to play a significant role in the Gold Cup come March, so I think he is short enough at around the 12/1 or 14/1 quoted by most firms.

    We may get a better idea of the Irish Gold Cup contenders at the weekend with Sizing John and Djakadam both possible runners in Sunday?s John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. The latter has won the last two renewals of the race but should Jessica Harrington?s Gold Cup winner turn up, it will be a better field than he has faced in each of the last two years.


    Novice Chasers

    JLT

    Death Duty moved to the top of several lists for the JLT following an authoritative victory in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Gordon Elliott?s six-year-old jumped well out in front under Davy Russell and although most of his rivals were still in touch turning for home, he quickened up well between the final two fences and stayed on well to the line to win by three and a quarter lengths. As a novice hurdler he was very exciting at this time of year before disappointing at Cheltenham in the Spring and I was interested to hear his trainer discuss that on Sunday. He mentioned that the horse didn?t travel very well from Ireland to England and he was a bit light on condition on the day of the race, confessing that if he had his time again he wouldn?t have run the horse. He also mentioned that although he believed the horse did stay 3m, he felt that the horse had plenty of speed and therefore the JLT might be the more likely option come the Spring rather than the RSA. Wherever he turns up, he is likely to be well-fancied and although I think the excuses for last season are genuine, I still think he needs to prove himself on a sounder surface as most of his best form has come on soft or heavy ground.

    Should he line-up in the JLT, he could face Willoughby Court who made it two from two over fences at Newbury on Friday. Ben Pauling?s six-year-old was not entirely convincing on his chasing debut at Huntingdon in November but this was much more like it as he jumped well out in front. He got a little low at one or two of the fences but other than that it was a fine round of jumping and he stayed on strongly to win the Grade 2 prize by three lengths. He won the novice hurdle equivalent, the Neptune (now Ballymore), at last season?s Festival and all roads appear to lead there again following this fine performance.

    RSA

    In behind Willoughby Court on Friday was Yanworth who I have to be honest, never really looked comfortable throughout the contest. He jumped a little slow and big early on and looked to be struggling to keep up with the leaders when making a mistake at the fourth last. To his credit, he kept going and got within three lengths of the winner at the line. My initial impression was that he might be more comfortable over 3m where they might go half a stride slower and therefore he might have more time to measure his jumps. He hasn?t looked the most natural of jumpers so far but he wasn?t beaten far at the line on Friday and if he can sharpen up his jumping, he could win a nice prize before the season is over.

    The mover in the RSA market over the weekend was Presenting Percy who may have been beaten at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago, but bounced back to form with victory on Sunday at Fairyhouse. Patrick Kelly?s six-year-old was dropping back into handicap company but was conceding plenty of weight to more experienced rivals and ran out a ready winner. He was given a confident ride by Davy Russell and having cruised into the lead at the second last, he came nicely clear in the closing stages to win by eleven lengths. The heavy ground was cited as the reason for his moderate display in the Grade 2 last time and assuming the ground is close to good come the Spring, he looks likely to take a leading role in the RSA.


    Novice Hurdlers

    Supreme

    Gordon Elliott?s Mengli Khan is now as short as 5/1 for the Supreme following his victory in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The four-year-old only had two starts over hurdles last term but has won his last three starts since returning to action in September. He seems to be settling better in his races and for such a big horse, he is very nimble over his obstacles. It is also worth remembering that although he has been winning on soft ground, he won on the all-weather at Kempton last year so a return to a sounder surface is unlikely to inconvenience him. My gut feeling is that other contenders for the race will emerge as the season goes on and whilst he is clearly a smart novice, I wouldn?t be racing to take 5/1 just yet.

    It is quite possible that these contenders will emerge in the coming weeks and it is also worth remembering that the loss of last season?s Champion Bumper winner Fayonagh and the injury to previous ante-post favourite Annamix may have left a hole in the division. However, I am sure the likes of Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins all have horses they are hoping will develop into Supreme contenders so it might just be a case of keeping our eyes open in the coming weeks.

    Whilst I?m not sure he will make up into a Supreme horse, Amy Murphy?s Kalashnikov looks one to keep on side, having extended his unbeaten record to three at Doncaster on Saturday. He pulled well clear of the rest before putting a previous winner to the sword by ten lengths and he looks ready for a step up in grade next time. His trainer has indicated he could well do just that come January, with Cheltenham?s Trials Day meeting likely to be on his agenda. He could well step up in trip there and it is hard to put a limit on his prospects given the manner in which he has performed in his career to date.

    Ballymore

    I also wanted to briefly mention Samcro in this week?s update following his owner?s comments that the horse still had plenty to prove in his eyes. He was right to point out that Death Duty won the same Graded race in similar style last term before disappointing in the Spring and that he would wait for his five-year-old to prove his worth on the track before talking him up. It is not surprising to hear the Ryanair boss talking his horse down and even the most ardent of Samcro supporters would have to admit that 2/1 for the Ballymore is pretty short considering what he has done so far.


    Bets

    I have no bets to advise this week.


    Ante-Post Diary:

    DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Chase) ? 2pts win @ 3/1 (SkyBet, Ladbrokes, Coral)

    THISTLECRACK (Gold Cup) ? 2pts win @ 6/1 (Betfair Sportsbook)

    DEFI DU SEUIL (Champion Hurdle) ? 0.5pt e/w @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)