Matt Brockelank has eyes on a horse set to run over the Grand National fences next month, while Steve Bramley has fallen for Scotland after their narrow defeat to New Zealand.
Yes - Faugheen is back. Like ripped denim, pin badges and grass-fed, humanely sourced meat.
Cheltenham’s third and final day of the November Meeting was essentially hijacked by the stunning performance of Willie Mullins’ bull of a gelding on the big screen at Prestbury Park.
He battered his rivals in a display of complete dominance under Paul Townend and was rightly promoted to the top of the betting for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race he bossed from the front when landing the odds in a Mullins one-two-three in 2015.
Not getting too carried away is often easier said than done, but with JP McManus’s big guns Buveur D’Air and Defi Du Deuil yet to be sighted this season the 9/4 for Faugheen can definitely be left to stew for a while.
A few moments after the warm applause at Prestbury Park for Punchestown’s Morgiana winner, Fox Norton bounded up the Cheltenham hill to catapult himself right into the reckoning for seemingly just about every Grade One contest between the Tingle Creek and the Gold Cup.
Colin Tizzard is keen “not to pigeon-hole” a horse he clearly holds dear for obvious reasons, and while Sandown does look his next port of call, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise were he to end up contesting the Ryanair Chase come the spring. A standout quote of 5/1 appears a fraction big, even at this early stage.
Predicting ‘What Happens Next’ with Apple’s Shakira is a little less daunting: she develops into a top-class two mile hurdler and provides her trainer Nicky Henderson with a seventh career Triumph success next spring.
But there are many more pressing matters, including Cue Card claiming a third straight Betfair Chase on Saturday, Three Faces West returning to winning ways at Newbury’s big ‘Winter Carnival’ and SAMETEGAL going for glory on his first start over the National fences in the Grand Sefton at Aintree.
He didn’t run this weekend but the form of his comeback run received a notable boost as Wetherby fourth Splash Of Ginge took out the BetVictor Gold Cup. The winner in West Yorkshire, Guitar Pete was left with next no chance in the same Cheltenham feature after being badly impeded at the first fence, but the form could get another shot in the arm when third Royal Vacation runs in the newly-named Ladbrokes Trophy.
Paul Nicholls’ sweet-travelling Sametegal can surely win a Grand Sefton from a mark of 144, and he’s 9/1 to do so with a couple of firms.
Like torn jeans, I suggest it’s a price that may not be around for too long. (Matt Brocklebank)
England silenced their critics with a 30-6 victory over Australia at the weekend – their fifth successive victory over the Wallabies under Eddie Jones.
They had luck on their side with Australia having two tries ruled out, but overall were the better team and deserved the win – although the margin was flattering to say the least.
While England were underlining their Six Nations favouritism, Wales and Ireland both struggled to see off second tier opposition in Georgia (13-6) and Fiji (23-20) respectively.
But the performance of the weekend undoubtedly came from SCOTLAND, who were agonisingly close to recording a first-ever victory over New Zealand, eventually going down 22-17 at Murrayfield.
Scotland were brave, taking the match to the All Blacks with a rousing display and could have snatched it late on when Stuart Hogg was bundled into touch.
Based on that performance alone, this Scotland side could be a genuine dark-horse for the Six Nations and it didn’t go unnoticed by Sky Bet’s rugby traders who cut Gregor Townsend’s team from 16/1 to 10/1 for the title.
Further progress can be judged with another strong performance against Australia at Murrayfield this weekend, but with home matches against France and England and winnable trips to Wales, Italy and Ireland this could be Scotland’s year. Available at 18/1 with BoyleSports, they're worth a small bet.
I’d also been keen to support Hogg in the top tryscorer market. If he stays fit he is world class and is certainly one to stick in your notebook ahead of February’s tournament opener. (Steve Bramley)
Another bonkers Sunday of gridiron and there seems to be a gap growing between potential Super Bowl winners and those heading in the wrong direction.
Buffalo, Dallas and Denver may have all fancied their chances of making the play-offs a few weeks ago but all have hit the skids to various extent and are on the brink of watching their season disappear down the tubes at a rate of knots.
Kansas City’s current fall from grace has been even more surprising following back-to-back defeats on the road and head coach Andy Reid will need to find some solutions pretty quickly although they still hold a two-game advantage in the AFC West.
They are long-odds on to take the division but it might be worth taking a punt on the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS to hunt them down over the coming weeks on the back of a momentum-building thrashing of Buffalo at the weekend when they racked up over 50 points.
They have always been rather erratic down the years – much in the mould of quarterback Philip Rivers – but can run extremely hot when they get on a roll and victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving could start to give the Chiefs a serious case of the wobbles. (David John)
For a full preview of the 2018 majors following the conclusion of the Race To Dubai, click here.