By the time you read this, hopefully you will all be after having a dream day one of the Cheltenham Festival and will be fired up and ready to go for day two. After a slightly conservative start with my selections yesterday, I'm ready to pull back the string on my bow a few notches further in the hope of nailing a bullseye at a bigger price.
Mullins' second choice might prevail
The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (13:30) has finally taken shape in recent days and now that Willie Mullins has committed Sir Gerhard to it, he is sure to be sent off the odds-on favourite. However, he is unproven at the trip and did jump a bit out to his right last time, so I'm inclined to take him on with another one of Willie Mullins' in Whatdeawant.
The six-year-old is the only horse to have beaten Ginto, getting the better of him when making a winning debut in a bumper at Fairyhouse last year. He created quite a good impression when making a winning hurdling debut at Navan earlier this season, as he had to get himself out of a bit of hole having made a mistake at the third-last flight that left him with a bit to do.
Such was the impression he created, he was sent off at 2/1 for the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle, but little went right for him on the day. Too free off the steady pace, he was shuffled back at a vital stage after the third-last flight and was struggling to bridge the gap when a mistake at the final flight ended his bid. He appeals as being a fair bit better than that and it wouldn't surprise if he showed a good chunk of improvement here and ran a big race at a big price.
Step up in trip will really suit
The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (14:50) is always one of the fiercely-contested handicaps in the calendar, but I have had one in mind for it for quite some time and see no reason to change at this stage.
The Pat Fahy-trained Drop The Anchor may be more exposed over hurdles than most of his rivals, but there is a very clear case to be made for him. His biggest success to date came in the highly-competitive Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last year. That performance, in common with most of his performances, was characterised by how strong he was at the finish.
Despite taking a big hike from the handicapper, Drop The Anchor next appeared in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and ran an eye-catching race to be beaten just 3½ lengths. He shaped much better than the bare result that day, as he was upsides the eventual winner after the second-last flight only to get messed about and shuffled back before finishing well up the run-in.
After that run, stepping Drop The Anchor up in trip looked to be the way to go, but his connections have resisted the temptation so far and brought him along steadily this season. He gave a very strong indication that he is about to hit top form when very much catching the eye in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, looking set to be tailed off after third-last hurdle only to fly home up the run-in to finish fifth.
While the task of Irish-trained runners in the handicap hurdles has been made more difficult by the British handicapper's more lenient treatment of the home team and coming down harder on the visitors, Drop The Anchor has escaped the worst of it with his British mark being just 2lb higher than his Irish mark.
However, now that Drop The Anchor is finally set to be stepped up in trip in the Coral Cup, he could well take his form to the next level.
A final bonus is that he is ridden by Simon Torrens, who rode him to win the Ladbrokes Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last year. Torrens rode out his claim in Ireland by partnering his 60th winner back in August, but is entitled to claim 3lb in Great Britain until he has ridden 75 winners and as he hasn't hit that number yet, his claim will be back in play here.