Quite obviously, he has a small mountain to climb form-wise and you have to be worried about the ground as all his form is on a better surface so far. He will be among the outsiders I am sure, but he ran his best race yet when third in the Dovecote last time, and I think everyone will be delighted if he finishes in the first ten or so. But, whatever he does here, I certainly wouldn’t ignore him going forward. He has an awful lot of ability and I can see him winning a big handicap down the line. I think Al Dancer is the one to beat; he has course form, was impressive in the Betfair Hurdle, handles any ground, and is already one of the class horses in the field with plenty more to come.
An open Arkle, but I like Duc Des Genievres best. I was very impressed with him over 2m4f at Gowran last time, and I think 2m on soft ground around here will really suit.
I think Coo Star Sivola will win this race for the second year running. I fancied him last year, and I imagine this has been the plan for him all season once again. And the stable is running into form at just the right time.
Everyone has been saying Laurina has a lot to find in the Champion Hurdle – and she has – but I was blown away by her at the Festival last year, and the pace of the race and the soft ground will really suit her. I think she is a huge talent.
She has a bit to find with the form horses in here but she is a great mare to be associated with, and one that loves this track and soft ground, so don’t rule out a big run from her. She is yet to finish out of the first two in seven starts, and among those performances she can number a bumper win at this track and a second to Laurina in this race last season. Who knows, Benie Des Dieux could be another unbeatable mare in here for Willie [Mullins]. But I can tell you that Cap Soleil goes really well when fresh, so I wouldn’t be too concerned by the fact that she hasn’t run since this race last season. She had a niggly problem with a back hock, so we sent her for a bone scan, which came back clear, so we kicked on with her. She comes here in great nick, having had a nice blow out at Newbury last week, and I can definitely see her getting into the frame at a price, even though this does look a hugely competitive race this year. And we can always dream of the win, too.
Brian Hughes has picked up a brilliant spare ride on Riders Onthe Storm. I was hugely impressed by him over 2m at Punchestown last time, the front two miles clear of the third, and the step back up in trip will suit. I think he is on a winning mark.
Ok Corral looks more of a RSA horse to me, so I have to side with Ballyward. He beat a good horse easily over 3m at Naas last time, and last year’s Albert Bartlett fourth could relish the step up to 4m. He also has very few miles on the clock, too.
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