Ed Chamberlin: Cheltenham fever
Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to Festival Trials Day and reflects on another dramatic weekend in the Premier League.
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Dear Lord, Please let the weather to relent and allow Festival Trials Day to go ahead at Cheltenham this weekend. Many thanks. Ed.
Whenever Trials day happens, be it Saturday or re-scheduled for Sunday or the 27th January, it promises to be a sensational day's racing.
If Cheltenham asked for volunteers to get the snow off the covers, an army of people would arrive. Racing fans have been denied decent jumping for what seems like an age now and punters are desperate for action.
The upside to the cold snap has been watching the replays of the races at the 2012 Festival on television and that really does whet the appetite.
Festival Trials day will throw up clues galore as trainers have few options for their top horses now, which means there are some brilliant clashes and head to heads in store.
If the meeting at Leopardstown also goes ahead, starved racing fans really will suddenly be served up a feast, though it will be a great shame to lose Sky Bet Chase day at Doncaster.
All the snow gives the big trainers an advantage as they have the facilities and resources to carry on working their horses with little interruption, while smaller yards will have found things significantly harder.
I remember after the cold snap last year, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson made hay and plundered big prizes and this could easily happen again.
Henderson is set to unleash a potential star in the opener on Saturday, the Triumph Hurdle Trial. I've been hearing rave reviews about Rolling Star and it looks like there's been money for him already for the Triumph itself as he's down to 12/1 with Sky Bet without jumping a hurdle in public in Britain.
Henderson has a superb record in the Triumph and it sounds like Michael Buckley and the Vestey family have another star on their hands.
The next two races look very trappy, though Walkon sorely deserves to get his head in front in the Murphy Group Chase at 1.15pm. Then it's time to sit back and enjoy the brilliance of Sprinter Sacre, before the key Gold Cup trial in the Argento Chase.
It would fantastic to see Imperial Commander come back in style and he looked in great health when he worked at Warwick recently. However, I think he and all the others have their work cut out to beat Bobs Worth.
"He looked a better horse in the Hennessy, which I thought he won with a ton in hand and looks a rock solid Gold Cup favourite to me. If Bobs Worth is in the mix two out, no one will out-battle him up the hill."
Some might say Grands Crus beat him readily in the Feltham last season and can do so again but to me Bobs Worth sums up the difference between Kempton and Cheltenham and why so many impressive Kempton winners struggle at the Festival. The tracks are chalk and cheese.
Bobs Worth will always struggle at a speed track and going right-handed but is a totally different beast at Cheltenham, where he is unbeaten. If ever a course was made for a horse, then this it. I just love the way he puts his head down and relishes the famous hill. Remember, Bobs Worth had all sorts of problems last season and they did well just to get him to Cheltenham, let alone win the RSA.
He looked a better horse in the Hennessy, which I thought he won with a ton in hand and looks a rock solid Gold Cup favourite (3/1 with Skybet) to me. If Bobs Worth is in the mix two out, no one will out-battle him up the hill.
The top class action doesn't finish there - though I love the way the big races will be over before all the football kicks off - as the novice hurdle that follows could include another top notcher.
The New One reminded me a bit of French Holly at Warwick two weeks ago as he looks like a ferocious galloper. We know he handles the track and I could see him becoming a warm order for the Neptune after this.
The other novice I have been most impressed with recently was Un Atout, who bolted up at Naas last weekend. He beat nothing but looked majestic and it sounds like he's right at the top of the pecking order among Willie Mullins powerful novice brigade.
Un Atout shares the same sire, Robin des Princes, as Sir Des Champs and could also be a bit special. Willie Mullins said afterwards "he may go for the Deloitte Novice Hurdle in three weeks and I won't be anxious to step him up in trip for the moment."
I like that quote for two reasons.
First, he needs more experience and Mullins usually sends one of his to the Deloitte. Second, it sound like the Supreme Novices is the target rather than a step up in trip in the Neptune for which Mullins and Gigginstown have plenty of other options. That's enough to trigger my first Festival ante-post bet and I'll be snapping up some of Sky Bet's 7/1 on Un Atout to reign Supreme.
Super Sunday was eventful on and off the field at White Hart Lane last weekend. I sat with Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville in the studio convinced the game would be postponed. The ground-staff did a magnificent job to get the game on and were rewarded with a fascinating match.
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For 92 minutes Gary described it as very nearly the perfect away performance and exactly how Manchester United need to set up to take on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. They just won't want a repeat of the sting in the tail from Dempsey's equaliser.
Man United have had the 'sign' over Spurs for years but Tottenham deserved the point on Sunday and will take a lot from the two games against United this season. AVB's side have a real resilience about them.
United drifted in the title betting from 3/10 to 4/11 but I see the Tottenham game as a major hurdle cleared and ticked off. Arsenal are the only side in the top seven they still have to play away from home, with all the big guns having to travel to Old Trafford. United remain firmly in the driving seat.
Manchester City (9/4) are hanging in there well and with United, Chelsea and Arsenal hogging the newspaper headlines, for the moment Roberto Mancini's side are cruising along nicely under the radar.
Friday was crazy even by Premier League standards. The writing was on the wall for Nigel Adkins as soon as the money poured in all that morning on him to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked.
"Adkins was soon trading at 1/10 with Sky Bet and the rumours were swirling around on Twitter. The timing of the sacking was staggering, just two days after I'd been at Stamford Bridge to witness the Saints fans' ecstasy at the 2-2 draw."
Just 48 hours later Adkins and his excellent coaches, Andy Crosby and Dean Wilkins, were gone. Mauricio Pochettino immediately and ruthlessly installed.
Before the game at St Mary's on the Monday Night Football, Gary Neville explained his amazement at the decision and what a risk it is for the club. He was equally shocked by the lack of a single mention, let alone a thank you, in the Southampton match day programme.
It's not often a new manager sparks the odds on his team being relegated to shorten. Saints have the biggest cushion from relegation that they've had all season (4pts) but are still only 7/4 with Sky Bet for the drop.
However, there were encouraging signs from the first 45 minutes on Monday night and the squad are now in Barcelona getting to know their new manager.
It's over to the FA Cup this weekend but I'm already looking forward to getting back to action on Sunday week at the Etihad.