A busy weekend for the Road To Cheltenham column with plenty of Festival clues coming from both sides of the Irish Sea this weekend...
"Sizing John earned his ticket to the Cheltenham Gold Cup by holding off the Gigginstown pair of Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli to win the Irish equivalent. Jessica Harrington’s gelding was having his first try at 3m but he passed that test in flying colours and will surely be a big player for the blue-ribbon event at Cheltenham next month."
Let's start with the action from Leopardstown which hosted a star-studded card featuring four Grade 1 races.
Sizing John earned his ticket to the Cheltenham Gold Cup by holding off the Gigginstown pair of Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli to win the Irish equivalent. Jessica Harrington's gelding was having his first try at 3m but he passed that test in flying colours and will surely be a big player for the blue-ribbon event at Cheltenham next month. He was backed down from the 25.024/1 mark into 15.5, having been available at the rooftop price of 1000.0 earlier in the season.
Bacardys stayed on really well to get the better of stable-mate Bunk Off Early in the 2m2f Deloitte Hurdle and he could be one for the Neptune Hurdle now. Usually a Willie Mullins-trained winner of this race will become a leading contender for the Supreme Novice Hurdle but Bacardys is still available to be backed at 48.047/1 for that race. In contrast he was supported from 33.0 into 15.014/1 for the Neptune Hurdle and from 23.022/1 into 10.09/1 for the Albert Bartlett.
Disko put on an impressive display, now 9.517/2 from 13.012/1 amongst firms for the JLT. Leading all the way and finishing near two lengths clear of the notable strong finishing Our Duke who certainly looks like wanting further.
Now onto the Champion Bumper, which many feel is the best flat race of the year, it was another huge blow for the Ricci/Mullins team with the news that the long-time favourite Getabird is now out of the race. Mullins' Carter Mckay who really impressed in Leopardstown at Christmas did the very same yesterday at Naas and now heads the market having been backed from 34.033/1 into as low as 4.84/1. The form of yesterday's win looks pretty solid as West Coast Time who was two-and-a-half lengths away in second was a very easy winner on his only start at Cork in January.
Meanwhile, punters elated and bookies frustrated with six out of seven winning favourites at Newbury.
The Betfair Exchange Chase was a simple showcase for Altior. Displaying the strength and composure expected and drawing clear on bit from four out, odds on backers certainty has been cemented - he now trades at 1.51/2 for the Arkle.
In the Betfair Hurdle, Ballyandy, now into 19.018/1 from 28.027/1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle, put the concerns of Nigel Twiston-Davies to rest with a supreme display of confidence, staying on stoutly under pressure to win by three quarters of a length from second favourite Movewiththetimes, 32.031/1 into 22.021/1.
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