King looks set for heavy reign
THE forecast heavy conditions at Leopardstown today help to endorse a bet on Kings Advocate in what is admittedly a somewhat trappy handicap chase.
The race, run over two miles and a furlong, involves a renewal of rivalry between Tom Taaffe's charge, Show Blessed, Jaamid and Arkendale. There is reason to believe Kings Advocate can not only emerge best of that quartet -- but that he is also the best value to do so.
Undoubtedly the biggest concern is that the trip will prove a little short for the son of Saddlers' Hall. After all, three runs ago he stayed the Irish National trip; sent off favourite nearly three years ago, he was beaten just six lengths. However, because today's test is going to place demands on stamina, he ought to have more left than most once they turn into the straight.
Kings Advocate has had his training problems. After his performance in the big one at Fairyhouse, he did not reappear until last January. That was a noteworthy run in the context of today's race as it was run over course and distance and he finished less than five lengths adrift of the useful Conem.
However, the 10-year-old had another break then, before reappearing in quite a valuable event at this course on St Stephen's Day. Show Blessed was a very worthy winner then -- he made a very bad mistake three out -- but the effort of Taaffe's runner took the eye.
He was held up well off the pace, closing in to look a real threat from the third-last onwards. He was somewhat outpaced on the run-in, which was to be expected over the trip and on yielding ground on his seasonal bow. Expect him to go closer today.
Show Blessed is a dream horse to own, as he has won on the Flat, over hurdles and as a chaser; moreover, he rarely runs a bad race.
However, he was predictably punished in the weights for his win over Christmas and the general suspicion is that better ground would be more to his liking.
Top weight Dooneys Gate is feared, purely because he was a major Paddy Power Chase gamble last time out, even if he never got involved. His previous run over this distance would entitle him to go close, albeit off four pounds higher.
In the main, though, this is not a particularly strong race. Conor O'Farrell takes five pounds off the selection and -- if he comes on from his seasonal debut -- his 12/1 tissue looks well worth taking.
Kings Advocate to win at Leopardstown, 1pt e/w at best morning odds
The Carling Cup, maligned as it is, took centre stage last week when ten goals were scored in a madcap encounter at Villa Park and City edged United in the Manchester derby. Alex Ferguson's men look big at 21/20 to qualify with Totesport (all other bookmakers are odds-on) and are also long at bigger than 3/1 to win the Premier League on Betfair. They were pretty unfortunate to lose in the first leg and arguably should be slight favourites to progress.
Manchester United to qualify to Carling Cup final, 2pts at 21/20 (Totesport)
Also in football, Ivory Coast are worth opposing to win the African Cup of Nations. They face Algeria in the quarter-finals today, victory in which will likely mean a semi-final contest against Egypt -- who were unbeaten in their group. The Ivorians are probably over-rated by the British bookmakers, chiefly because Didier Drogba plays for Chelsea. Lay them at 2/1 on Betfair.
Lay Ivory Coast to win African Cup of Nations, 1pt at 3 (2pts liability, Betfair)
YEAR TO DATE
Profit to €10 stake: -€19
Still running: €305