Sunday 17 November 2019

Ante-post angles

One advantage of the big freeze is the opportunity it presents to take the longer view. There's no better way to pass idle time than by looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The jumps season, now into the second of its two semesters, has revealed little about the collective merits of the staying novice chasers. Many of those quoted prominently for the RSA Chase have run just once over birch to date -- and in some cases not at all. And this market in particular looks poised for a major shake-up.

Punchestowns is favourite at 9/2, yet he has only landed a four-runner chase at Newbury to date. Since he heads to Cheltenham after just one more run, his inexperience renders him vulnerable.

And I can't believe that his stablemate, Long Run, will line up against him, even though he's the quoted second-favourite at 6/1.

At this stage doubts continue to surround the participation of Diamond Harry, which has yet to race over fences. Likewise Mikael d'Haguenet, surely the only horse ever to be quoted for the RSA Chase and Champion Hurdle in the same year.

However, one who ticks many of the right boxes is Weapons Amnesty. After a slow start to his chasing career, Charles Byrnes' horse took a giant step forward when just touched off by Pandorama at Leopardstown two weeks ago.

That was encouraging enough without his jockey, Davy Russell subsequently pointing out that the seven-year-old will be even better on decent ground in the spring.

At 16/1 with William Hill, Weapons Amnesty makes tremendous each-way appeal in a race where stamina is the minimum requirement.

He is already proven on that score, having won the three-mile Alfred Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at last year's Festival.

Irish Independent

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