Racing: With the weather having decimated the cards this weekend, it has given me a chance to take stock and have a look at the ante-post situation for some of the Championship races at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival in March.
Gold Cup: A case of out with the old and in with the new with no Kauto Star or Denman, and Imperial Commander just there to make up the numbers even if he does make it to the start.
I was lucky enough to have a punt on Bobs Worth to win both the Hennessy at Newbury and this race at 28/1 so I am sitting pretty ante-post, but the forgotten horse has to be Sir Des Champs.
The Willie Mullins-trained chaser already has two Cheltenham Festival victories on his CV and his previous runs down through the years on very soft ground in Ireland have merely been warm-up races for the main events in spring where the much quicker ground has suited him so much better.
He played a minor supporting role in one of the best National Hunt Grade One chases I have ever seen when staying on strongly to finish a close-up fourth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown and that despite hardly jumping a twig throughout the three-mile journey.
The fact he got so close to Tidal Bay and company shows he has both a huge engine and a massive heart and he will be a totally different proposition come March.
A price of 5/1 may not set the pulse racing, but I believe he has just as good a chance as Bobs Worth and is head and shoulders above the other intended runners including former winner Long Run.
Champion Hurdle: This is the most difficult of the Championship events, but I do know I want to be against Hurricane Fly who I feel is better with plenty of give in the ground and may find a few of his younger rivals have too much speed.
Don’t write off Countrywide Flame at around 25/1 and Zarkandar should reach the frame, but slight preference is for last year’s winner Rock on Ruby who shaped much like the best horse in the race in the International Hurdle and is a much underrated champion.
Other races: Sprinter Sacre is hard to knock for obvious reasons in the Champion Chase, but is short enough in the betting so if you are looking for something slightly bigger in the marketplace have a second glance at Monksland (8/1) for the World Hurdle and Blood Cotil (16/1) for the Triumph Hurdle.