Plenty of life left in Comply or Die
WITH the Cheltenham Festival now just over a week away, spare a thought for the poor Human Resources managers across Ireland who'll have to deal with plenty of phone calls from staff that week who have mysteriously become ill for three or four days.
I know a bloke that used to work in the staffing section for the Corpo' in Dublin, and he told me that sickies in March increase by a whopping 20pc every year compared to the average! At least most punters will have St Patrick's Day off in the middle of the festival and while I don't want to mention the 'R' word, in some ways, it will be good for the country if people choose to take a few days to relax while enjoying a few pints and a couple of bets. Hopefully the mood can be lifted slightly even for a short time -- and I know publicans are anticipating a little boost in sales.
The festival is often described as 'Christmas for adults' and while I agree that the sense of anticipation is similar, I don't ever remember being worried about losing a monkey as a kid during the festive season. For better or worse, that nice round €500 figure is how much I have going on Dunguib on day one at various prices all the way down to 10/11. I was quite happy with the situation until I saw a big poster in Paddy Powers offering a refund on all winning singles if your horse is beaten by Dunguib in the Supreme Novices'.
My first instinct was to figure out a way of hedging my bets by backing Dunguib's rivals in order to cut some of my liability down -- but I also got a sinking feeling as I remembered similar specials on Cousin Vinny and Detroit City in the past, both of which were turned over. It's a pretty good deal in fairness and it makes it easier to win money on the race but I'm hoping that Paddy hasn't put the mockers on the festival banker for many Irish fans.
My own betting has been bobbing up and down lately with no real big wins or losses, and regular readers will know that I've been trying hard to get a nice price handicap win under the belt before the season reaches its peak.
This week's instalment comes from Doncaster, where the 2008 Aintree Grand National winner Comply Or Die will attempt to carry the top weight burden in the sportingbet.com Grimthorpe Chase (3.25). At the time of writing, he's trading in double figures which has got to be worth a couple of euro each-way despite the weight.
Last year, he attempted to emulate Red Rum by winning back-to-back English Grand Nationals and even though he was 15lbs higher than the year before, he ran a terrific race in second to 100/1 outsider Mon Mome. He's best priced at 25/1 for the 2010 National and while there's a worry that he won't be fit enough for today, a race over timber in November will have shaken off some cobwebs at least.
David Pipe has been doing a fair amount of work to keep him going at home and Timmy Murphy knows exactly how to get the best from this animal. I'm not overly concerned about his fitness to be honest and the 11-year-old has already proved that weight doesn't necessarily hold him back too much. He has the form, he has the profile; and at 10/1 he's ticking all the right boxes for me.
As usual, I like to have two running for me in the big handicaps so I'll also take a chance on Nicky Henderson's Wogan, which will probably be chalked up around 8/1. We know he'll stay the distance and I think he surprised a lot of people by putting in a career best to take the robinhoodairport.com Novices' Handicap Chase at Doncaster in late January.
It looks like Henderson has fixed the gelding's jumping problems and I'll be surprised if the 10-year-old can't place at the very least. Henry Daly's Possol is the danger horse and the trainer has been keeping the gelding over sticks lately to preserve his chase mark for the Grand National. Now that the weights are out, it will be interesting to see him over fences again but this is essentially a warm-up run for the big on in April and I can't be having 11/2 about the seven-year-old today.
3.0 Kelso -- Bedlam Boy
3.25 Doncaster -- Comply Or Die (e/w)
3.25 Doncaster -- Wogan (e/w)
3.35 Kelso -- Sa Suffit
3.55 Kempton -- Latanier