Shot From The Hip set to fire
NOTHING is certain in racing and Ireland's grip on Cheltenham's Champion Bumper is threatened.
However, for now, we have a relative monopoly on the market. Last year, so much fuss was made about Willie Mullins' runners -- none of which ran into a place on the day -- that a certain Dunguib almost escaped the scrutiny of many.
If anyone analysed his form, he did not deserve to be the 8/1 that was available days before the race. And if you look at the form of this year's pretenders, Shot From The Hip is surely the pick at 10/1.
The six-year-old was clearly not a surprise winner on his debut at Clonmel, as punters saw fit to return him at 4/5. He lost ground at the start but made it up stylishly and won with a bit in hand, while hardly showing enough ability to be considered a festival bumper fancy.
However, his next run at Leopardstown was exceptional. There is little reason to question the strength of the race, with classy mare Araucaria, which was in receipt of considerable weight from the winner, a three-length second. In addition, Dunguib's highly-regarded Old Charm was nearly seven lengths behind Shot From The Hip.
It does not seem that the race was run to suit him either. Shot From The Hip and Sole Witness cut out the running, with the remaining runners strung out. Normally, if this is the case, the leaders were going too fast (and Sole Witness, to endorse that suspicion, was tailed-off last at the wire).
Shot From The Hip seemed ripe for easy picking early in the straight, but JP Magnier still had not asked a question and he was the last horse to come off the bridle. Soon sent on, he won going away.
Furthermore, trainer Edward O'Grady stressed afterwards that his preparation for the race had been rushed and that he would improve.
This very classy performer, in my view, should be favourite for the bumper. The prices of some of his foes are hype-based and the golden rule in racing betting is that form is a man's best friend.
Shot From The Hip to win the Champion Bumper, 1pt at 10/1 non-runner no bet (Ladbrokes)
ANTEPOST betting can break your heart and it is frustrating that this column's tip in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle, Quantitativeeasing, is probably going to skip the race.
Still, the demise of one bet means the birth of another and the horse makes plenty of Coral Cup appeal at 8/1 (non-runner no bet).
Nicky Henderson has other shorter-priced options in the novices' race; moreover, he has a horse potentially thrown-in in the handicap. Quantitativeeasing will surely prove better than his mark of 139.
Quantitativeeasing to win the Coral Cup, 1pt at 8/1 non-runner no bet (Coral)
THE Champion Hurdle has spawned quite a market, with Binocular effectively ruled out at one stage and Solwhit appearing to be a highly improbable runner less than a week before the race. Now, both are set to take their chance.
Binocular may appear to be fine when examined by the vet but his runs this season give him virtually no chance of winning the Champion Hurdle.
His jumping has been palpably flawed and there are numerous other negatives: he was third in the race last year; re-opposes both the first and second; now tackles at least three other horses with better form this season than his; and he has never convinced us that Cheltenham is his ideal track.
Lay Binocular to place in the Champion Hurdle, 1pt at 3 (2pt liability, Betfair)
Lay Master Minded to win 2010 Queen Mother, 1pt at 1.92 (.92 liability)
Fiveforthree to win the 2010 RSA Chase, 1pt at 10/1
Celestial Halo to win Champion Hurdle 1pt e/w at 10/1
Captain Cee Bee to win Arkle, 1pt at 25/1
Menorah to win Supreme Novices Hurdle, 1pt e/w at 12/1
Lay Dunguib to win Supreme Novices Hurdle, 2pts at 2.46 (2.92 liability)
Voler La Vedette to win David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, 1pt e/w at 4/1
Quantitativeeasing to win Neptune Novices Hurdle, 1pt e/w 16/1