TV TIPS (SATURDAY)
Caid Du Berlais came from another parish to nail Johns Spirit right on the jam stick around here in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last time and the handicapper may have taken a chance, as the Nicholls five year old only has to carry an extra five pounds today. That penalty seems very lenient to me given the runner up was almost certainly aimed at the race and I suspect a repeat here will be enough for the follow up. Edgardo Sol and Eastern Meteor were well beaten behind the favourite in the aforementioned Paddy Power and look to have no chance of reversing the form. Erict was another in behind that day and he looked like playing a big part in the finish too until blundering three out, he could be a contender for the places but a reversal looks unlikely and the Nicholls horse should take all the beating. No Butts and Barrakilla are very closely matched and both have solid chances but perhaps the dark horse is Attaglance. The latter is a former Festival winner over hurdles whom probably should have won at this years festival but for trouble in running. He’s rarely sighted on soft ground and is hardly prolific but clearly likes it here and is taken to place if he takes his chance.
Caid Du Berlais (WIN)
This is complicated by the fact Paul Nicholls has entered Marracudja in the 12:15 at Cheltenham, should he instead turn up here he would be a very interesting runner as his handler recently stated he liked the horse a lot. Peace And Co makes his British debut after readily seeing off his opposition on soft ground in France, the second that day has since ran well in Grade Two company and the third has won to further bolster the form. Nicky Henderson generally does well with French recruits and he is hugely respected, the downside though is his likely odds-on price. and so we shall reluctantly take him on. Starchitect was bought from Ireland for 110,000gns having shown clear signs of ability in Flat maidens. He won on debut having jumped slowly but followed the victory up with a much better performance at Aintree and beat a decent sort in the process, his yards recent form is slightly worrying but he is taken to improve further and remain unbeaten. L’aigle Royal comes from a yard who have taken two recent renewals of this, he should be taken very seriously but lacks the scope of the ‘big two’
This looks like a shoot-out between Blakion and Port Melon, there was little to separate the pair behind Parlour Games at Cheltenham last time though Blakion did come out on top. He has improved bundles this term but he very much had the run of the race last time and a reversal is no forlorn hope. Port Melon was making his seasonal re-appearance last time and there was a lot to like from the performance, despite being a little chancey at a few of the hurdles. Paul Nicholls has applied the cheekpieces today and with that in mind, he is taken to score. Binge Drinker is improving with each run and comes here looking for the four timer, his chance must be respected with McCoy taking the ride.
Port Melon (WIN)
A very disappointing turnout with only four runners set to take their chance, the race is interesting though and all four have something to recommend them on. Kayserberb has twice won here and he’s two from two this term, the big concern for him today would have to be the ground though as it will surely be testing after the recent rain. The percentage call would be to oppose him on the ground but his form makes him a leading player if should he cope on it. Virak is another Nicholls horse with an entry at Cheltenham, this is his first preference though and he too seeks a hat trick. It could be argued he was slightly lucky last time as he appeared to be struggling to reel in a decent sort before being left in front four out, it would be dangerous to dismiss his as lucky though and he should be respected now he’s seemingly got his act together. Wakanda beat a decent sort at Kelso last Sunday and connections appear to be trying to take advantage whilst he’s in form, he wouldn’t have been as good as the rest of these over hurdles and probably isn’t over fences either. His confidence is ought to be high though and his yard are going well. Killala Quay is strictly speaking handicapped to win if you go on hurdles form and he’s shown himself to be decent enough so far over fences. Second behind Puffin Billy last time, he is taken to improve significantly for the run and take advantage of the allowances from all the rest.
Killala Quay (WIN)
The Champion Hurdle market is sure to be affected after this and current second favourite for that is todays odds-on favourite, The New One. Nigel Twiston Davies stable star has plenty of doubters ( including me ) but his performance last time was impressive enough and he will take some beating. Zamdy Man re-opposes having attempted to expose any fitness doubts about the favourite last time and although beaten fair enough in second that day, the four pounds weight swing gives him every chance to be closer. Vaniteux finished second in last seasons Supreme Novice Hurdle and followed that up with a decent effort off top weight in the Greatwood last time. He received a peculiar ride that day ( Raced well away from the others ) but had travelled well throughout, he must find plenty to upset The New One but a chance is taken he will and an upset may be on the cards. The rest are difficult to recommend though the enigmatic Mad Moose makes his long awaited return to the track, hopefully he will consent to run too.
Another disappointing turnout to close proceedings with only five lining up, former Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby is one of them though and he has every chance of scoring. Connections sensibly aborted a rather disastrous campaign over fences which culminated with a shocking blunder in last seasons Arkle. Since returning to smaller obstacles he has proven he retains all the ability of old and a reproduction of his second behind The New One at Aintree last term is by far the best piece of form on offer. Harry Fry’s stalwart really should win this today but he’s not getting any younger and should he need it there are a few interesting ones. Volnay De Thaix was sent off a hot favourite for a valuable contest at Haydock last time, he rather disappointed in the event but the three mile trip may have been beyond him and he was ridden widest of all. Nicky Henderson’s charge is taken to atone for that here and back down in trip he is very interesting, especially given the manner of his victory at Huntington. Lac Fontana is solid and clearly likes the venue, he has every chance but conceding weight may prove beyond him.
Volnay De Thaix (WIN)
by Chris Connolly