Voler worth a Festival interest
VOLER La Vedette has an outstanding chance of winning the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham and can justify each-way support at 4/1.
There remains a remote chance that Colm Murphy's horse will run in the Champion Hurdle, but she is not far off 100/1 on Betfair in that market, reflecting the trainer's comments that it is almost certain she will be aimed at the race for her own sex.
Saddling the six-year-old in the Champion would hardly amount to a flight of fancy, as she has an individual piece of form that entitles her to be respected. Last November, Voler La Vedette beat Go Native by 13 lengths in a race for second-season novices at Down Royal, a performance that glowed all the more in the meantime.
Go Native is now 6/1 for the Champion after hacking up in the Fighting Fifth (with Solwhit comfortably held) and an all-out Christmas Hurdle win at Kempton. Obviously a superficial analysis of the Down Royal run flatters Voler La Vedette, yet against that Go Native had already made (and won on) his seasonal debut so he did not have many obvious excuses.
On the strength of that effort of such virtuosity, the daughter of King's Theatre was sent off at 1/3 to account for a Listed mares-only field at Leopardstown at Christmas. One could crab that she disappointed somewhat, winning only by two lengths against horses shy of the class she must contend with at Cheltenham.
It was obvious, though, that she was running too freely for much of the race -- which is unlikely to be a problem given the habitually strong gallops at Cheltenham -- and there was never any doubt about her winning the race. Murphy was then due to saddle the mare in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but a small setback intervened.
Obviously, last year's winner Quevega is to be greatly feared on March 16, though she has yet to run at all since last April and may indeed go to Cheltenham without a prep race. On a line of collateral form involving Solwhit, Voler La Vedette certainly has prospects of beating Quevega and, after only six hurdling runs, we cannot say with certainty that she has peaked yet.
Voler La Vedette to win the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, 1pt e/w at 4/1 (Paddy Power)
With the Allianz NFL commencing next weekend, it is well worth perusing the markets. Ladbrokes, for example, offer odds on each side in Division One finishing in the top or bottom half.
The Magic Sign also quote 28/1 about Laois triumphing in Division Two of the NHL and it may be worth an each-way poke (a third of the odds to reach the final). The O'Moore men are gradually improving under Niall Rigney and he has vowed that they will endeavour to be "ultra-competitive" in the league, which was not a major aim 12 months ago.
Moreover, Wexford and Clare are far from unbeatable at this stage and Laois face both of them at home.
Laois to win Division 2 of the NHL, 0.5pt e/w at 28/1 (Ladbrokes)
Ireland have been quite steadily supported to retain the Six Nations, albeit not strongly enough to overtake France at the head of the outright market.
England, conversely, have been weak in the betting after relatively uninspiring November Tests against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
However, some high-street bookmakers are happy to lay Wales at 11/8 ahead of their Twickenham opener next weekend, which you can do too on Betfair. Wales have won just once at the home of English rugby in 22 years.
Lay Wales to beat England in Six Nations, 2pts at 2.32 (2.64pt
YEAR TO DATE
Profit to €10 stake: -€23
Still running: €300