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What's coming down the tracks

With such a lack of racing to keep the sanity levels normal since the turn of the year, there has been plenty of time to look ahead to some of the major points in racing we have to look forward to over the coming 12 months.

Firstly, a return to action would be a good place to start, and there is still a slight possibility that racing in Ireland could be put off until next week, although that is now very slight with Thurles upbeat about prospects for Thursday and Friday. However, don't be surprised if we are staring into another blank weekend.

Thurles are hopeful the heavy rain forecast arrives in time to thaw out ahead of their two-day meeting, while both Naas and Fairyhouse are both looking unlikely with Naas under six inches of snow yesterday afternoon and not welcoming downpours, while Fairyhouse were in a similar situation.

Meanwhile, there will be plenty of doom and gloom talk over the coming months so we are going to avoid all that tonight and look at the exciting prospects to start off this decade.



Kauto Star v Denman

Following Denman's rampant display under top weight in the Hennessy, where he beat subsequent Lexus winner What A Friend, and Kauto Star's fourth consecutive King George win at Kempton, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham has all the hallmarks of being one of greatest renewals of one of the sport's greatest races. Nobody in the UK could avoid the hype surrounding their battle in 2008, and while it may not have been the same build-up last year, with Denman clearly not at his best, expect the anticipation ahead of the battle of these two neighbours to outweigh anything that went on in 2008 when Denman triumphed. Ruby Walsh ensures a strong Irish connection but you could be from any corner of the globe to appreciate this potential classic.



'That' Champion Hurdle

It hasn't taken place yet, but I just have an inkling that the 2010 Champion Hurdle could well be remembered as 'that' Champion Hurdle. At this stage -- and most of the evidence is on the table by now -- it looks to be one of the most competitive renewals of what is always a fascinating race anyway. Opinions are greatly divided, some bubbles have all but burst, while certain connections could well become millionaires. It really has everything. Zaynar and Go Native, two festival winners from last season winning the Triumph Hurdle and Supreme Novice Hurdle lead the way respectively with the latter on the £1m bonus.

Punjabi, who won this very race last March, is yet again being almost written off for no good reason, while Celestial Halo and Binocular, who were within touching distance last season, have failed to ignite their hopes fully just yet. Add in Solwhit, who has won four Grade One's in five starts, possibly Voler La Vedette who defeated Go Native this season and looks an above ordinary mare, previous winner Sublimity and maybe even the Willie Mullins-trained Mikael D'Haguenet and this could end up being even more thrilling and talked about than the year Hardy Eustace, Harchibald and Brave Inca flashed past the line together. What a great start to a great week that will be in the middle of March.



George Washington's only offspring

Gorgeous George, a four-time Group One winner including the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, was a horse with bags of attitude, quality and even more attitude. He was retired on the back of his four Group One wins but having been found to have fertility problems he returned to the racecourse, racing four times in 2007, tragically breaking his leg in what turned out to be his final start at the Breeders' Cup. His only offspring, a filly, was sold last year for 320,000 guineas and was sent into training with Richard Hannon. Now two, she will be ready to run this season and is likely to be ridden by Hannon's stable jockey and Irish native Richard Hughes, who had one of his best seasons in 2009.



Dunguib

He looks a superstar. The best bumper horse we have seen in some time, he has now gone unbeaten three times over hurdles and will have probably three more runs this season, taking in a Cheltenham prep run at Leopardstown next month, Cheltenham itself and then Punchestown. Philip Fenton couldn't have done a better job to date and by missing Christmas he continues to put the horse first. However, it will be the latter part of this season that will really get us excited. Should Dunguib go on to win at Cheltenham even half as impressively as he was there last season, talks of the Champion Hurdle will grow -- many already say he should go there this season as a novice -- and, well, we quite simply have found the closest thing to Istabraq we are probably going to get. Will he fulfil that? We will be on the way to finding out even more come the end of 2010.



Kieren Fallon

All the spotlight and media frenzy are long gone, but there is still going to be a constant eye kept on the movements of Kieren Fallon this year as he attempts to prove he is back to his best. Bookmakers have a host of specials under his name -- he's 5/2 to win a UK Classic, 12/1 the Epsom Derby, and 9/4 to be champion jockey again. If anything, the timing of his return last year has given him every chance to give the championship of 2010 a real good rattle and I certainly wouldn't back against him.



The next Sea The Stars

Oh, you thought I was going to give you his name? Sorry, that won't be happening. There won't be another Sea The Stars for many years to come, but Aidan O'Brien has set the bar so high in recent years you just never know either. We won't witness anything like it in 2010, but we can hope.


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