Oscar can stake World claim
Man On The Spot previews Saturday's feature action from Cheltenham and Leopardstown.
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1345 Leopardstown Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase
Although Benefficient, a shock Grade 1 winner over hurdles here last February, is doing well over fences he was well and truly put in his place by ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE here on St Stephen's Day and is most unlikely to reverse the form barring accidents. The winner made all for a convincing success from today's rival Oscars Well, who tried his best to get on terms but could never quite manage to get there and was beaten just over 2l. The winner jumped to the right on a couple of occasions which allowed the runner-up to get so close and there may not be too much between them again though it has to be Willie Mullins charge who gets the vote to land his third successive Grade 1 over fences.
1350 Cheltenham Murphy Group Chase
SPRINTER SACRE has the incredibly high rating of 179 over fences and it's not difficult to understand why. The most exciting two-miler seen for some time, he's hardly been out of a canter in all six starts over fences and had no problems whatsoever picking off the front-running Sanctuaire in the Tingle Creek at Sandown. The latter has since easily reversed form with Sandown runner-up Kumbeshwar in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid at Kempton and can beat that rival again while he also holds a verdict over the returning Somersby at Sandown last April. The remainder are playing for places with Oiseau De Nuit, who easily beat Kumbeshwar at Chepstow in October, possibly the best of them.
1415 Leopardstown Boylesports.com - Bet On Your Mobile Novice Chase
MARITO and Mount Benbulben fought out a tremendous finish in a novice chase at Naas three weeks ago with the former just prevailing by a head. A better round of jumping was the key as the latter made a couple of minor errors at crucial stages and there's unlikely to be much in it again. The form can be confirmed over this longer trip though this is by no means a two-runner affair as Lord Windermere is looking a very smart recruit to chasing and beat what looked a very strong line-up in a beginners' event over slightly shorter here last month. Texas Jack has by no means been disgraced in two Grade 1's after making a winning debut over fences at Naas and looks best of the remainder.
1425 Cheltenham Argento Chase
It's good to see the return of the 2010 Gold Cup hero IMPERIAL COMMANDER after almost two years off and it must be remembered that he was odds-on when beating Tidal Bay in the Betfair at Haydock that year. Race conditions are very much in his favour and he's taken to make a successful return. Tidal Bay was receiving 6lb when beaten by Midnight Chase in this last year but the latter pulled up when Paul Nicholls' charge won the Lexus last month. Midnight Chase is much better around here but may prefer slightly quicker ground. Weird Al won twice here as a novice but hasn't had much luck on the track subsequently and broke a blood vessel in the Gold Cup while Grands Crus has yet to fulfil early promise though he's still young enough to do so. Hunt Ball's progress appears to have stalled and Cape Tribulation would probably have run in the Sky Bet at Doncaster had it been on.
1445 Leopardstown Handicap Chase
Glam Gerry is generally to be feared around here though he's 21lb higher than when last successful on the track. Hidden Cyclone was attempting 3m for the first time in the Lexus and didn't stay though his jumping let him down. He's a class act at his best and shouldn't be far away but Organisedconfusion has struggled at the weights since winning the Irish National in 2011. Canaly is going well though this will be his first start in a handicap over fences and though the veteran Dancing Tornado is capable of winning from this mark he was well beaten in the race a year ago. The novice Sweet My Lord may not have enough experience and though that remark could also apply to CARLINGFORD LOUGH it's John Kiely's charge who is handed the vote. A progressive hurdler, he's taking his time to find his feet over fences but was noted staying on strongly when tackling 2m1f on his handicap debut here last month and looks to have been laid out for this.
1500 Cheltenham Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle
THE NEW ONE won a Listed bumper here on New Year's Day last year and a Grade 2 at Aintree in April. He had a fight on his hands against Village Vic on his second start over timber here but that rival is very useful and he's won his two other races in a canter. He can remain unbeaten over timber though Coneygree is a huge threat. He's also unbeaten in three starts over timber and, as two of those were in Grade 2's on this track, it will take a major performance to beat him. At Fishers Cross has won his last three over hurdles including a handicap here last month while Whisper gained plenty of admirers when ploughing through the mud for an easy victory at Ffos Las.
1520 Leopardstown Boylesports.com Hurdle
This is always one of the season's toughest handicaps to unravel but there's no denying the obvious chance of INIS MEAIN this time. From a yard that place their horses brilliantly, he was a revelation on the Flat last summer, winning four times and leaping a colossal 52lb in the ratings as a consequence. He reverts to hurdling on a very lenient mark and has to be the selection. Citizenship won this a year ago from Leah Claire and it's the runner-up who looks to have the best chance of the pair this time as she's been in better form. King Of Queens is doing everything right though a 10lb rise for his latest success looks harsh while the novice Ted Veale may lack the experience for such a gruelling event. Discoteca could provide each-way punters with some joy as he ran very well here last month on only his second start since the Galway Festival in July.
1535 Cheltenham Rewards4Racing Cleeve Hurdle
This revolves around whether OSCAR WHISKY lasts out the trip. He's proved himself virtually unbeatable at half-a-mile shorter but didn't appear to stay in the World Hurdle in March. That was run at a ferocious pace and he didn't jump with his usual fluency so the hope is that he'll have enough in reserve this time. He has a penalty to carry for a Grade 1 success as does Reve De Sivola for his convincing victory in the Long Walk at Ascot. Crack Away Jack is well held by the selection though the longer trip will certainly suit him but it's a bit of a surprise to see Kauto Stone reverting to hurdles though he did win three times over them in France including a Grade 2.