I like jump racing, love it in fact, but Cheltenham ante-post quotes in October are enough to send me over the edge and I doubt many punters want to hear them either. If you're backing a horse for the Festival at this stage I can only assume it's for fun rather than profit given all that can go wrong between now and then. In any case, Cheltenham is the single best meeting of the year to have a bet on day as the industry goes mad stepping over each other with offers in customer acquisition wars.
Given Ireland hosts a single flat card at Leopardstown this afternoon we should be safe from ante-post quotes though some PR whizz will surely have odds for Quick Jack in the Champion Hurdle and Laganore in the Dawn Run should they hit their respective European targets for Tony Martin today!
14:35 - Stronger Than Me can build on impressive course record
Zawraq is the sort of horse I'm hardwired to oppose, off the track for 560 days and connections were worried if he'd ever make it back to the track early this year, so at odds-on he opens up the race for a win and place bet. Hibiscus is certainly of interest; she caught the eye at the Curragh two runs back, travelling strongly and meeting trouble, and there are reasons for thinking she can improve on her Naas effort last weekend; she was keen on ground too soft and might have been racing on the wrong side while the weight of money for her seems significant.
At the prices though Stronger Than Me stands out. He was set an impossible task from in the final race of Irish Champions Weekend, doing well to finish so close in a race that developed from the front, and seems to peak at this time of the year; he has won over course-and-distance in October in both 2014 and 2015. If the favourite is below form - and that's a distinct possibility - his form is as good as any and he's more likeable than many.
15:40 - Panda can put punters in the Green
Pandagreen has offered something to work with on all three of her starts to date, travelling well but meeting trouble on debut at Listowel before winning second time up here despite being hampered leaving the back. Her most recent effort when sixth in a valuable sales race at Naas last weekend was eye-catching too, all the more so because it came off a break.
Travelling well and not given a hard time, she did well to get amongst horses rated 80 and up while she looked to be racing on the worst of the ground too against the rail. Back on better ground with a run under her belt, she could make a mark of 75 look very lenient. Just be careful with your bets as the same connections have Greenpanda in the same race!
16:50 - Fighter can be Cool for Dooly
All-weather races aside, Coolfighter has been a revelation this season, winning five of his last six races on turf and his improvement may not be finished yet; four of those wins have come over hurdles and if translating that form to the level, 77 could underrate him. He beat a similar field at Gowran in the week and that he could do it on soft-heavy going is a positive as he'll be better suited by a sounder surface here. Rated 83 at his best, there could be more to come here and in a race where likeable horse are thin on the ground, he is worth backing.
1 Point Back Stronger Than Me @ 26.025/1 or bigger in the 14:35 at Leopardstown
1 Point Place Back Stronger Than Me @ 5.79/2 or bigger in the 14:35 at Leopardstown
1.5 Point Back Pandagreen @ 9.08/1 or bigger in the 15:40 at Leopardstown
1.5 Point Place Back Pandagreen @ 2.89/5 or bigger in the 15:40 at Leopardstown
1 Point Back Coolfighter @ 15.5 or bigger in the 16:50 at Leopardstown
1 Point Place Back Coolfighter @ 4.57/2 or bigger in the 16:50 at Leopardstown
Flat Season P+L: -1.5 points