How do you pronounce Lieutenant?
That's a cracking question to start the day, and the source of the biggest argument among colleagues at the Cheltenham Festival, with some very strong views, notably among the "If you don't say First LEFT-enant, you should probably be deported" lobby. It's a vocal case, but not a compelling one, as there's something not quite right about an Englishman insisting on a bizarre pronunciation of a word drafted in from the French. Is French military terminology an oxymoron itself? I really don't know, and I don't care how you say Lieutenant Miller, as long as you're shouting him home in front at Doncaster (16:10) this afternoon.
Nicky Henderson is obviously better known for what he's achieved with his jumpers, but his Flat record over the years is not too shabby, either. 28 winners from just 140 runners in the last 10 full seasons is a more than respectable return, particularly as the majority of the Seven Barrows runners on the level are in competitive handicaps, and that fact has ensured that the prices have remained quite attractive too. A £10 bet on every Henderson runner in that period would have netted close to £900, and while it's not rocket science to suggest that his staying handicappers are worth following, it's clearly an angle which hasn't been overplayed as yet.
Lieutenant Miller showed himself well handicapped when collared late by the progressive Sign Manual at Newbury on his return, and while he's a 7-y-o, there remains the distinct possibility of further improvement after just 3 starts in this sphere. The obvious dangers are Gabrial's Star and Eagle Rock, the former making his debut for Ed Dunlop after a blank 2012, and the latter sure to be suited by a return to 2m after finding 1½m too sharp on his return. That pair demand a second look, but Henry Ponsonby's gelding looks the one to be with.
Jamie Spencer and David Simcock teamed up to good effect with Trade Storm at Meydan earlier in the year, with the gelding winning 2 of his 3 starts there, and the combination look worth following again, courtesy of the progressive Line of Reason in the 16:45 at Doncaster. The son of Kheleyf was an impressive winner of a 6f Kempton handicap last month, and while that 4-runner affair may not have looked too competitive at the time, the form has been franked when runner-up Hard Walnut beat Purcell at Lingfield last time. With Purcell himself a next-time-out winner, the form takes on a solid look, and the handicapper has taken a big chance in raising Line of Reason by just 8 lb. He does need to prove himself as effective on turf, but there is nothing about him which raises concerns about today's surface, and he looks certain to go very well.
Both at Doncaster
Back Lieutenant Miller @ 3.3512/5 in the 16:10 (NB)
Back Line of Reason @ 4.216/5 in the 16:45 (NAP)
Punchestown Race Cards only £2 at timeform.com!