(Please note: Betfair Exchange will still carry original times of races before the rescheduled running order)
The 2m Supreme Novice Hurdle opens proceedings today and there has been an eye-catching move for Champagne Fever, now trading at [7.6] from an earlier [11.0].
Willie Mullins's 6 year-old was all-conquering in bumpers last term, winning the championship events here and at Punchestown. In the latter a 7 ½ length win over Melodic Rendezvous on heavy ground reads particularly well in the context of this race as that one was well fancied for this before being ruled out this week. Champagne Fever always races handily and has proven he gets up the hill so a fierce gallop, over the minimum trip, on testing going seems the ideal scenario. He disappointed at Naas over half a mile further but bounced back well last month at Leopardstown, plus it's possible his form this season has been a little held back by a rumored lung infection. My Tent Or Yours is a worthy favorite but Champagne Fever can get the Irish off to a flyer in the curtain raiser.
In the 2m Arkle Novice Chase Overturn has drifted alarmingly in the betting out to [5.1] from [4.3].
Donald McCain's 9 year-old has been an admirable performer, first on the flat, then over hurdles and now as a chaser. His prominent racing style and fluent jumping have made him a joy to watch at times and he ran with huge credit to claim 2nd in the Champion Hurdle on this day last year. This clash with Henderson starlet Simonsig is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the whole week and plenty of pundits are expecting Overturn to serve it up to the odds-on favorite. However, ground conditions may just have turned against him and will be totally unlike 12 months ago; rain last week followed by freezing temperatures will have left the Old Course sticky and holding. Therefore it will be hard work out in front and it is easy to imagine the younger Simonsig, with his high cruising speed, getting a nice tow into the race before unleashing a decisive burst up the hill.
Finally to the Grade 3 Handicap Chase, in which Merry King has been backed dramatically into [8.2] from [12.5].
Punters were quick to get stuck into Jonjo O'Neil's progressive 6 year-old once it was confirmed that this would be his target rather than the 4 mile novice chase tomorrow. He has a looked a natural staying chaser since making the switch from hurdles this season and there should be bags more improvement still to come. Despite his inexperience there is already some solid form in the book, narrow defeats at Newbury and Haydock stand up well to closer examination. In the former he was beaten by the highly regarded Rolling Aces in a race which has produced multiple winners since, while in the latter he failed by a nose in a gruelling 3m event at Haydock - a similar kind of stamina test to that which he will encounter here. On both occasions he battled on gamely at the finish and has even been mentioned as a future Grand National contender and so it will be fascinating to see what he can produce in this competitive handicap.
That's all for today. If you're on the move this information is recorded on 0870 90 80 181.