There should be some excellent racing at Cheltenham this Saturday where the featured event is the Letheby & Christopher Chase. Competition is likely to be intense in this extended three-mile, one-furlong event and it should prove profitable to row in behind Exotic Dancer.
This Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old has been without doubt one of the best chasers of the past couple of years, except that he has been most unlucky to be around in the same era as Kauto Dancer. Exotic Dancer however attained his due reward by winning a Grade 1 on his most recent start and that was when he was left in lead by the penultimate fence departure of Neptune Collonges in the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, the French-bred ultimately defeating War Of Attrition by 20 lengths.
That victory showed that Exotic Dancer remains as good as ever this season and he should prove capable of conceding four lbs to Howard Johnson’s current stable star Tidal Bay.
The main supporting event is the Grade 2 Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle and Lough Derg is the one to row in behind here.
One of David Pipe’s undoubted stable stars this season, Lough Derg is as tough as they come and it cane be even argued that he has redefined the phrase ‘tenacity’. Lough Derg has won his two most recent starts and he’s taken to continue on his merry way here at the expense of likely favourite Punchestowns.
Imperial Commander, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, can bounce back from a slightly disappointing sixth-placed effort behind Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas by disposing of Stan in the Grade 3 betchronicle.com Trophy Chase. Walkon is taken to continue the fine run of trainer Alan King by showing a clean pair of heels to Helium in the Wragge & Co Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
At Doncaster’s Saturday fixture, it’s the Sky Bet Handicap Chase that will occupy centre stage and Ungaro will surely represent excellent each-way value in this coveted three-mile contest.
Keith Reveley’s Ungaro showed a return to something like his best form by coming a creditable fifth behind Monet’s Garden on his most recent foray in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last month. Ungaro appears quite well-treated here on 11-10 and the probability is that According To Pete will be the one to chase him home.
Perhaps, According To Pete’s trainer Malcolm Jefferson will go one better by sending out Cape Tribulation to oblige from Definity in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
There’s also plenty of domestic racing action down for decision over the weekend with racing at Navan on Saturday whilst enthusiasts can choose between Leopardstown and Limerick on Sunday.
At Navan, Borrowaddy stands out in the Navan Golf Club Open For Membership Hurdle.
Borrowaddy has won his two starts to date for Willie Mullins, starting off by obliging in a Dundalk bumper in early November. The son of Presenting showed that he was ideally suited by the switch to timber by posting an excellent stamina-laden performance to collect a two-mile Wexford maiden hurdle on November 29. Whilst this event will reflect a genuine step-up in class, Borrowaddy seems a most progressive type and he’s likely to see off Charlie Yardbird.
Lord Lansdown will surely go close in the www.navanracecourse.ie Maiden Hurdle over two miles seven furlongs.
Lord Lansdown, trained by Gordon Elliot, was sent off a virtually unconsidered 50/1 shot when making excellent progress from off the pace to finish third to former Cheltenham festival bumper winner Cousin Vinny in a two and a quarter mile maiden hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period. Lord Lansdown definitely won’t go off at such odds here and this former winning point-to-pointer looks likely to excel from Fitzfirth.
Carl Dore’s Lady In The Mist could attain due reward for her consistency by beating Goinforporter in the Navan Membership Handicap Chase whilst Skorcher is put forward to score from West Of The Border in the winningwaysracing.ie (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
There’s bound to be an excellent attendance at Leopardstown on Sunday with the Toshiba Irish Champion Hurdle occupying centre stage. A vintage line-up is probable with the likes of Sizing Europe, Sublimity, Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace and Won In The Dark featuring amongst the 13 entries for the race earlier this week.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Europe of course destroyed the opposition when beating Hardy Eustace to the tune of eight lengths in this race last year and the Knockeen horse is taken to record back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 race.
Sizing Europe hasn’t won as of yet this season, but he made a hugely encouraging return by finishing second to Hardy Eustace in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November whilst there were extenuating circumstances for his below-par fifth-placed effort behind Sublimity in the Grade 1 Leopardstown Golf Centre December Festival Hurdle at this same venue on December 29th.
It’s to be hoped that Sizing Europe can put that effort behind him here and he’s expected to beat Brave Inca, who seems almost as good as ever as an 11-year-old this season. Sublimity is passed over as he probably won’t be at his best on the expected soft underfoot surface.
Follow The Plan is the most likely winner of the Grade 1 Arkle Perpetual Challenge Cup Novice Chase.
Oliver McKiernan’s Follow The Plan has already attained a Grade 1 success over the larger obstacles for he caused a shock 12/1 upset by leading in the shadow of the post to beat Paul Nicholls’ Tatanen in the Durkan New Homes Novice Chase over this same course and two mile one furlong distance on December 26. Clearly on the upgrade, Follow The Plan is recommended to outpoint Forpadydeplasterer here.
Charles Byrnes’ Weapon’s Amnesty should supplement his Grade 2 victory at Limerick over Christmas by denying Alpha Ridge in the Grade 2 Synergy Security Services Novice Hurdle. Chargen meanwhile is the one for the ‘getting-out stakes’ as Tom Mullins’ charge is recommended to return to the coveted number one slot from Ballinderry Babe in the Sandyford (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
At Limerick, Quiscover Fontaine appeals as the most likely victor of the Greenmount Racing Club Novice Hurdle.
Willie Mullins’ Quiscover Fontaine gamely beat a 116-rated opponent in Alpine Eagle in a four-year-old conditions hurdle here over Christmas and the French-bred should attain his third career success here by claiming the scalp of Tramore New Year’s Day winner Porto Calero.
Michael Cullen’s Special Deal is likely to master Got The Urge in the Annual Members Raceday Handicap Hurdle whilst Takeyourpick should conclude the afternoon on a profitable note for punters by dispensing with McAlpine in the Munster European Champions Novice Handicap Chase.