Horse Racing Preview 9 February 2013

DarlanRacing was hit hard this week with the high profile tragic loss of Champion Hurdle hopeful Darlan as well as fatal injuries for Mujamead and Desert Vision. High profile stars such as Silviniaco Conti, Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and My Tent Or Yours will hopefully put on a show this weekend to remind us all why we love this sport so much despite the tragedies that sometimes occur.

With top racecards from Newbury, Leopardstown and Warwick, racing fans are spoilt for choice as trainers hope to fine tune their festival hopefuls with just over a month to Cheltenham.

Newbury’s ‘Super Saturday’ is the perfect preparation for trainers on this side of the Irish Sea, and for punters; it answers a lot of questions as to what are serious festival players, and what simply aren’t.

The Irish however have their own preparations ongoing and the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown looks certain to be a classic.

Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs will lock heads for the third time this season in what looks to be a stunning Irish Hennessy and will also answer a lot of questions as to whether ‘round 4’ between these two stars will be in the Gold Cup.

Flemenstar’s convincing victory over Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan in December was nothing short of electrifying. The way he approached and took off at the fences with so much accuracy made the hairs on my back stick up and he never looked at one point like the race wasn’t his.

However we all know the class of Sir Des Champs and many thought he would come back in the Lexus Chase with questions over Flemenstar’s ability to stay the 3m trip.

It looked for the majority of the race like it was to be another sublime demolition for Flemenstar after gobbling up a number of fences in superb style.

He looked in full control coming to last fence but looked tired jumping it and the field began to draw him in up the running and was eventually beaten a close third by Tidal Bay but beat Sir Des Champs by a nose on the line in a pulsating finish.

However Sir Des Champs jumped very poorly that day again and he came on like a train at the end prompting many to think he can reverse the form at the third time of asking.

At 11/8 a piece for the Hennessy there is little to choose between them in the market and it will undoubtedly be close.

It comes down in my opinion to whether or not Flemenstar stays or not. If he stays the trip then it is hard to see anything but a victory as he jumps so well, if not then Sir Des Champs will be there to pounce.

The Betfair Hurdle is arguably the most open out of the many feature races tomorrow with Supreme Novice’s hopeful My Tent Or Yours leading the market at 9/2.

The promising Nicky Henderson trained 6-year-old has had a complicated season so far despite his two wins and a second from three runs.

His maiden victory over hurdles was an impressive one seeing off Taquin Du Seuil by 1½ lengths at Ascot, form which was boosted by Taquin Du Seuil’s Challow Hurdle victory. However his second run was less impressive when beaten 4½ lengths by Chatterbox over this course and distance at 4/11.

He did however return in superb style when beating Population by 7 lengths at Huntingdon last month and Henderson remains confident that he has got what it takes to be a player come the festival next month.

At 11-2 in the weights he has 10lbs in hand of top weight stablemate Petit Robin (11-12) and considering his form he is coming off a handy mark to strike.

Henderson has an army of contenders with Cash and Go, Punjabi, Lyvius and First In the Queue to add to My Tent Or Yours and Petit Robin so must have confidence of taking the race.

However, there is class all over this field of 23 including the likes of Cotton Mill and Swing Bowler both off handy marks, it is by no means a certainty that Henderson will be in that winners enclosure come 3.45.

Paul Nicholls leading charge comes in the form of Pearl Swan. The promising five-year-old had a topsy-turvy novice campaign last year which included a victory, a disqualification and a fall at the last at the festival.

That festival performance was one of the most peculiar races I have seen. Coming round the bend at the top of the hill Ruby Walsh was asking questions with the horse very much off the bridle and looked for all the world like he was to be pulled up. However he came charging from nowhere down the hill and had as much chance as any coming to last only to fall.

Off a mark of 10-13 he is poised to strike and at 9/1 with Ruby Walsh on his back, he is good value to do so.

Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls will also team up in the Denman Chase on Gold Cup fancy Silviniaco Conti. At odds of 4/6 he is a little more fancied than Pearl Swan in the Betfair Hurdle but still looks good value after his Betfair Chase romp in November.

Nicholls has deliberately held back his new Gold Cup hopeful so he is as fresh as possible come the festival, and this looks the ideal prep run. Despite carrying top weight he is still very much the one to beat boasting some tremendous form including defeating King George conqueror Long Run and Wierd Al.

Paul Nicholls will be cautious of the fact that Kauto Star once was beating in this race from top weight many years ago but it is by no means the same with Silviniaco Conti giving away weight to only 4 of the 8 declared runners with Menorah, Master Of The Hall and Weird Al all going off that 11-10 mark.

Nicholls was quoted as saying he would not swap Conti for any other of the Gold Cup contenders so it would seem like it should be procession for him this weekend.

    5 Horses to Follow for National Hunt Season 2012

    With the clocks going back last week and the Breeders Cup being on this weekend you kind of know its the end of the flat season and it is time to embrace the jump season. Our Horse Racing Correspondent Tom Park has picked out his 5 to follow for the upcoming jump season. Do you agree with his selections? What are you 5 to follow please leave your comments below we would love to hear your thoughts. OK without further ado he is our 5 to Follow:

    Betting Portals 5 to Follow for 2012 National Hunt Season


    Darlan looked in sensational form in his first season over hurdles and will take his rise to senior field with a pinch of salt.
    Darlan scored on four of his six starts last year but if things had turned out differently and a little luck had gone his way he could easily be unbeaten going into this season.
    Darlan has an aura about him which is very different to his rivals. You get the sense this 5-year-old knows he is special and with a little luck on his side it would be no surprise to see him destroying the competition this season.
    Darlan won his first three starts at odds-on before falling 2 out in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in his first real test.
    The timing of his fall was critical to the race as he had just made a move on the rest of the field and would have taken all the beating in that race.
    Punters realised how unlucky he was not to score in that race and backed him in to 7/1 from 16s to win the Supreme Novices where again he fell short but stayed on very strong to finish second behind Cinders and Ashes.
    Trainer Nicky Henderson holds the horse in high regard and was not surprised one bit when Darlan romped home at Aintree at 7/4 a month later.
    Although I think this 5-year-old will take to fences eventually, another season over the smaller obstacles would seem the wiser choice with the Champion Hurdle the most likely of targets for the Darlan camp.
    Darlan is currently 16/1 to be crowned Champion Hurdler and it will be very interesting to see where this potential superstar goes this season and beyond.


    We are yet to see this much talked about horse travel over the Irish Sea and it may be that the first time we do will be for the Gold Cup.
    But don’t be surprised if this 7-year-old comes over in March and blows the racing world away, taking the jumps most prestigious prize in the process.
    Flemenstar was so impressive last year it was scary. The way he took a very competitive Irish Arkle field apart at a foggy Leopardstown made the hairs on my back stick up.
    He pinged over the fences similar to the likes of Kauto Star but the control in which he executed the jumps was like nothing I have seen before.
    Don’t get me wrong, this season is going to be no doubt more competitive but the fact he has never come over here before could turn him into the dark horse for the season.
    I think trainer Peter Casey will go for the Gold Cup (12/1) but he has other options such as the Ryanair (7/1) and should he not fancy the bigger trip, the Champion Chase (20/1).
    However from what we have seen from Flemenstar I think he needs 3m and I expect big things from this 7-year-old once he takes the ferry ride over from Ireland.

    Cue Card

    Collin Tizzard’s stable star had a very up and down novice season over fences which ended up with the talented 6-year-old finishing a very respectful second to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle at the festival.
    However, a better ride from jockey Joe Tizzard in the London Pride Novices and a more fluid jump in the unseating of the jockey at Cheltenham, we could be talking about Cue Card in the same breath as Grands Crus.
    However, despite an encouraging end to the season over 2m, the prospect of trying to take the scalp of the imperious Sprinter Sacre may be too much for Cue Card and Tizzard may look to move him up in trip to 3m.
    We have seen many times before that some good novices come through the off season a more mature chaser.

    Grands Crus

    I think most racing fans would agree that Grands Crus’s failure to win the RSA Chase at Cheltenham came as a shock to the system.
    If you disregard that race Grands Crus is an out-and-out superstar. Second only as a top staying hurdler to Big Bucks, Grands Crus looked accomplished over fences and is a serious Gold Cup contender.
    I was surprised that trainer David Pipe didn’t opt for the Gold Cup last year with him previously having no problem entering his novices in the big races.
    It may have been complacent to think that Grands Crus would go to Cheltenham and take the RSA, but I think that was the thinking behind Pipe’s decision at last year’s festival.
    That defeat may spark a resurgent comeback and I predict big things from this French 7-year-old this season and could be worth every penny of his 20/1 (non-runner no bet) ante-post price for the Gold Cup.
    The way that Grands Crus won the Feltham on Boxing Day last year was simply dazzling and few would back against him winning the King George VI this year on the same day and track.
    Although he will very much be in contention in the Gold Cup, the King George may be an easier race as it does not include Gold Cup favourite Sir Des Champs. He is currently 6/1 to win the big race at Kempton.

    Boston Bob

    Boston Bob went quietly about his business in Ireland last year before falling to the late Brindisi Breeze at Cheltenham when going off 6/5 favourite.
    Despite that loss, Boston Bob was always a very fluent hurdler, winning a grade 1 in Navan, and should take to the fences should trainer Willie Mullins decide that as the route to take this season.
    Currently 8/1 favourite for the RSA Chase, bookmakers are certainly expecting him to go chasing this season.
    Due to him hiding on the other side of the Irish Sea last season, we have not seen too much of the impressive 7-year-old. However, we have seen enough to see that he should have no problem in the transition from hurdles to the bigger obstacles.
    There will be another year of strong novices this season and should the Neptune Investment Hurdle winner Simonsig also decide to go chasing, Boston Bob could have some serious competition with the impressive Fingal Bay already starting his season as a chasing novice.
    Although Simonsig looks the real deal, I think trainer Nicky Henderson will take Simonsig down the same route as Sprinter Sacre and go for the Arkle.
    That would mean him coming down in trip allowing Boston Bob to be the leading contender in the 3m novice division and at 8/1 is certainly one to keep an eye on.

    OK so they are our 5 to follow but who are your 5 to follow we would love you to join the debate, either comment below, or on Facebook or Tweet Us

    Also you can tweet Tom Park @Tom_Park4