Ruby to ruin Pipe dreams Inchidaly Rock has the class to help Walsh spoil trainer's red-hot streak
An in-form David Pipe saddles likely favourite Madison Du Berlais in today's Grade Two Argento Chase at Cheltenham. The best horse in the race on previous form, the nine-year-old is bidding for a third win at this level.
With Pipe saddling six winners over the past two days, a first success in this event for the trainer would be a fitting end to his week.
However, much as Madison Du Berlais is respected, the Prestbury Park undulations have never brought out the best in him. He is winless in six previous starts there and, with a couple of smart young chasers among the opposition, is readily opposed.
Carruthers, the youngest in the field at seven, is a horse with a bright future. A facile winner from the front at Newbury last time, he comes here in good heart, but the fear is that his style of running will be a hindrance to his chances as he steps up in class.
Mattie Batchelor will doubtless go straight to the front on Carruthers, and Tom Scudamore on Madison Du Berlais won't want to give him a soft lead. This should play into Ruby Walsh's hands on Inchidaly Rock, an improving novice from Paul Nicholls' all-powerful stable.
Although Walsh set out to make the running on the big eight-year-old at Cheltenham last time, the suspicion is that he did so chiefly to ensure a sound gallop. Having to sit so handy on such an inexperienced horse wasn't ideal, and you could see in the early stages of the race that the rider had a job to educate his partner, while at the same time trying to ensure a true pace.
Once the race developed, though, Inchidaly Rock got his act together and ran out a ready winner from Hey Big Spender, which tackles the novices' handicap chase on this afternoon's card.
On just his third start over fences, then, there must be a real possibility that Inchidaly Rock can progress again and provide Walsh with his second win in this race, following Rince Ri's triumph in 2002.
At around 10/3, he looks a very fair price. Last year's winner Joe Lively also lines out, but that one has lost its form badly since its moment of glory 12 months ago.
In the other big race at Cheltenham, the Betfair Cleeve Hurdle, Katchit is a speculative selection. Winner of the 2008 Champion Hurdle, Alan King's six-year-old has always looked short of gears, and the wonder is that he ever had enough pace to win a Champion.
Katchit is, however, extremely game and dour, so this first attempt at three miles could well be just what he needs. When the Kalanisi gelding stepped up to 2m 5f at the track on New Year's Day, albeit in a three-runner race, he kept on for second having had to make much of his own running.
That effort at least showed that Katchit isn't a spent force. Back on his favourite track, he's taken to score for the first time since his famous Champion victory. There's no doubt the likes of Lie Forrit and Bouggler, with considerably fewer miles on the clock, will be formidable opponents, but Coral's 15/2 about Katchit is too good to ignore.
In the Betfair Handicap Chase, which will lose three of its more relevant declarations if Doncaster goes ahead, Tommy Stack's Perce Rock has solid claims. Stack has placed this horse carefully over the past year, and Perce Rock was well fancied at Cheltenham last March when he parted company with Tony McCoy four out.
He went on justify that confidence with a smart win over Conna Castle at Fairyhouse next time. Having had a blow-out over hurdles at the end of November, it would be no surprise to see him back in the winner's enclosure here. The British handicapper has raised Perce Rock only two pounds since March, so that gives him a chance to atone.
If Doncaster does get the all-clear, Victor Dartnall's booking of Davy Russell on Exmoor Ranger in the Sky Bet Chase catches the eye. Available at 9/1 generally, the Newbury winner is Russell's only mount of the day.
Best bet: Inchidaly Rock
There are some excellent entries throughout Clonmel's Thursday card, but maybe none more intriguing than For Bill. Michael Winters' unbeaten seven-year-old is engaged in the mares' novice hurdle and will take some beating if she turns out.