The Grade One over three miles has been won by such racing legends as Denman, Beef or Salmon and Best Mate in the past decade, and while the 2011 renewal doesn’t boast such a superstar it promises to be an informative renewal nonetheless.
Connections of the top two in the market, Quito de la Roque and Rubi Light, will feel that victory is essential if they are to emerge as a genuine contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
The former, trained by Colm Murphy, is on a five race winning sequence and after taking in last month’s Champion Chase in Down Royal. Having looked beaten almost a mile out, the French-bred gelding used all his bravery and courage to grind his way past Sizing Europe and win by a length-and-a-half. His stamina is assured, and having won on every going from good to heavy the ground seems to hold no fears for him.
Rubi Light rapidly improved last term, and his third place in the Ryanair Chase hinted at further potential for improvement. While he has yet to race over three miles, Robert Hennessy’s charge won easily on heavy ground over two-and-a-half last time out in the John Durkan Chase; and showed no signs of stopping at the finish. At only six he is an improving horse, and his trainer believes he should come on for his most recent run following a setback in November.
Of the rest, Joncol has come third in two weaker renewals and it’s hard to see where the necessary improvement is going to come from. Magnimity could prove to be a nice horse this term, but winning a Grade One at this stage of the season on his first run back should prove too big an ask.
Quito de la Roque is clearly a very smart horse, but at 3/1 Rubi Light appeals as slightly better value given his progressive profile.
Elsewhere, there are no clear betting opportunities. The Fort Leney Novice Chase has attracted a weaker calibre of horse than usual. First Lieutenant heads the market, but at around 13/8 he is priced more on reputation rather than what he has achieved over fences. While clearly he possesses a lot of talent, having already been beaten by De Valira in a beginner’s chase and having been pulled up on his last start it’s hard to have much faith at a skinny price.
Last Instalment boasts some reasonable form, but the fact that Davy Russell chose to ride First Lieutenant instead is an obvious negative.
In the Woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle Mourad has a great chance of reversing Hatton’s Grace form with Voler la Vedette. Under slightly more favourable terms and over a longer trip that Colm Murphy’s mare has never won over he may well be able to win the race for the second year running. The 6/4 on offer for the popular Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins combination is a little short though, even if he is the most likely winner.
Rubi Light 2pt win @ 3/1 Ladbrokes