MOST bookmaker markets couldn't separate Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs throughout the week for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown (3.20), but, having watched plenty of reruns of the Lexus Chase since Christmas, it's a pure no-brainer for me and Flemenstar can be backed with confidence at 5/4.
In that Leopardstown race, both horses were beaten, but Sir Des Champs ran the worst of the pair and I'm struggling to see why punters are so forgiving.
Fair enough, he had a fantastic novice campaign, including a very impressive win in the Jewson at Cheltenham and it is foolish to dismiss any Mullins runner after one bad race. But it was difficult to ignore his mediocre jumping and lack of sparkle last time out. He was off the bridle very early, looked laboured throughout (clouting the 10th fence) and, despite rallying well and staying on for third, he never truly looked like winning.
Those who backed Flemenstar at 1/10 in-running were left cursing Ruby Walsh and Tidal Bay, who snatched it at the death. But otherwise Flemenstar put in a solid performance and looked the best horse in the race until the dramatic finish.
On any other day, he would have claimed the prize and he deserves a chance at redemption before he heads to Cheltenham, even though the three-mile trip might not be ideal.
In the rugby, Ireland host England tomorrow in what could be a championship decider, even at the early stages of the competition.
We have a great record against the old enemy in recent years and haven't lost at home since 2003.
Many of Ireland's main injury concerns have not materialised, while England will be weakened by James Haskell replacing Ben Morgan and Billy Twelvetrees retaining his starting berth ahead of Manu Tuilagi.
I'll take a chance on backing Ireland at just over evens, but the standout bet for me is Ireland/Ireland in the half-time/full-time market at 7/4 (Boylesports).
If they can get parity at the setpiece then I think they'll have greater firepower out wide and they should start well and hold England at bay.
It'll be a feisty encounter and England will try to do what Wales didn't by preventing Ireland getting quick ball at the breakdown. Therefore, the 1/2 on there being a sin-binning (Paddy Power) is as close to free money as one can get.
I was chatting to Gordon Elliott about Cause Of Causes recently and it was clear that he holds the gelding in very high regard. Considering Elliott's record with overseas raiders, I was tempted to back him in today's Betfair Hurdle (3.35 Newbury), but you can't help feeling that off 152, the handicapper has his measure. Instead, a chance is taken on the Emma Lavelle-trained Claret Cloak (14/1), which is somewhat unexposed, having tackled hurdles just four times.
1.30 Warwick: Kells Belle
2.25 Newbury: Silviniaco Conti
2.40 Warwick: Majala
3.20 Leopardstown: Flemenstar
3.35 Newbury: Claret Cloak (e/w)
Rugby: Ireland to win (evens)
Rugby: Ireland HT/FT (7/4)
Rugby: Sin-bin to occur (1/2)