SHOULD the present six-day shutdown be extended for any length of time it will hand the Cheltenham-bound Irish runners a significant advantage.
Unlike their British counterparts, they will not only be about to run their horses, but they have free movement to take part in racecourse gallops in the vital build-up.
Bearing this in mind, I’ve highlighted a few of the Emerald Isle challengers which may be worth a dabble as their prices will contract if the UK ban continues towards the end of the month.
First up is PRESENTING PERCY in the Gold Cup. With Davy Russell sitting motionless, he romped away with last year’s RSA Chase, putting 15 lengths between himself and third-home Elegant Escape, a future Welsh Grand National winner.
Presenting Percy made a successful return to action over hurdles at Gowran Park last month and his high cruising speed is an indispensable asset. He is trading at 11-4 generally, with some 3-1 in places NRNB.
The problem with betting just now on big-field handicaps is the each-way terms. Currently most firms go three/four places but this can rise to six, seven or even eight come the day of the race. The only firm going NRNB on every race is Skybet.
URADEL is one I’ll be backing if Willie Mullins sends him across for the County Hurdle. Ruby Walsh gave him an awful lot to do in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Leopardstown, eventually staying on into fifth spot behind Off You Go.
Uradel, beaten a whisker in last autumn’s Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket, probably found the track on the sharp side and his stamina will kick in at Cheltenham. Mullins has won this ultra-competitive contest four times with Arctic Fire, Wicklow Brave, Final Approach and Thousand Stars (third last year with Whiskey Sour) and Sky Bet have Uradel a 14-1 shot.
There is the possibility that Uradel could line up in the 2m 5f Coral Cup, a race Mullins won last year with Bleu Berry. The Irish also mopped up the two previous renewals, with Supasundae and Diamond King, and they have a strong hand this time round as well with the likes of Off You Go, Jezki, Jetez, The Storyteller and Wonder Laish.
The horse on my radar is MR ADJUDICATOR. After finishing runner-up to Farclas in last year’s Triumph Hurdle, he occupied a similar position at the Punchestown festival in April. Mullins has given him just one run this season, when well held by useful Espoir D’Allen in a Grade 3 at Naas in November.
Mr Adjudicator would have a big weight in his first handicap but another five-year-old, Sky’s The Limit, hacked up in the 2006 Coral Cup carrying 11st 12lb. More recent five-year-olds to be successful were Spirit River, Carlito Brigante and Aux Ptits Soins. Mr Adjudicator is 33-1 with Betfair and the annual Mullins pre-Cheltenham Press day will reveal more about running plans.
Cross Country Chase
It’s fairly safe to assume Ireland will dominate the Cross Country Chase yet again and last year’s winner TIGER ROLL can continue his love affair with the Cheltenham festival. A previous winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle and National Hunt Chase, Tiger Roll won this unique contest last year before Grand National glory beckoned at Aintree. Odds of 5-2 are freely available.
15:05 Worcester - Race: 1
15:10 Sandown - Race: 6
15:15 Cork - Race: 6