W ILLIE Mullins endured racing's peaks and troughs last week. Today, he can underline his status as Ireland's top jumps trainer with at least one winner in the form of Cadspeed.
The presence in the race of Prince Erik, whose handler Dermot Weld was in exceptional form to close 2010, will -- it is hoped -- ensure that Cadspeed is overpriced in the morning exchanges. For Mullins, this Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Steeplechase represents another shrewd piece of placing.
The French-bred Cadspeed was a very consistent hurdler, albeit one that left his backers feeling like they were following him over a cliff. Twice a winner in bumpers, he was predictably well-fancied in a string of maiden hurdles, sent off 13/8 or shorter on six occasions. He won a couple before having a summer break and re-emerging on his chase bow at Clonmel in December.
A replication of that performance just over a fortnight ago might well suffice today but the likelihood is that the eight-year-old will, moreover, build on it. He generally jumped in a naturally fluent manner before giving best to Torpichen after the penultimate flight. Torpichen is a smart horse, as illustrated by his Grade One-placed outing at Leopardstown.
Cadspeed gets six pounds from Prince Erik, which will likely labour over this trip. He hits flat spots over three miles and he was in trouble early on at the Galway festival over today's distance. In conclusion, he can be confidently opposed.
Uncle Tom Cobley may emerge as the chief threat to Cadspeed. He has produced two solid efforts in good-quality Navan contests, but the feeling is that he would need to improve around a stone to beat the Mullins runner this afternoon.
Dundrum would have a squeak but no more, whereas the other three runners appear to be making up the numbers. Anything like odds against about Cadspeed would appeal.
Cadspeed to win at Naas, 2pts win at best morning odds.
ANTE-POST League of Ireland betting can be a volatile affair. The usual story of clubs flirting with extinction and inevitably cutting back on players has prevailed since the end of last season.
Back Dundalk to win the Premier Division at 20/1. I confess that they will struggle as it stands to better Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers, but they appear to have bright prospects of making the frame. Jason Byrne and Mark Quigley have joined Ian Foster's side and that double-transfer could yet amount to a masterstroke on the part of the Liverpudlian.
Dundalk finished last season strongly, including an incredible 5-1 dismissal of Shamrock Rovers at a time when the Hoops were virtually unbeatable. They also have the added home advantage of an artificial pitch.
St Patrick's Athletic are solid but limited, Bohemians will likely offer a fraction of last season's quality and Sporting Fingal no longer have the backing of developer Gerry Gannon.
That leaves Dundalk well-placed to challenge at least for a top-three finish. Accordingly, other firms have cut them into 14/1 and shorter. Hills may be compelled to do something similar in the near future.
Dundalk to win League of Ireland, 0.5pt each-way at 20/1 (Hills)
THIS column was sceptical about how Internazionale would fare under Rafa Benitez. Rather prematurely, their relationship ended in somewhat bizarre circumstances.
Inter since appointed Leonardo, a flop when boss of Milan, as the Spaniard's successor. It must be debateable if this will catapult the club back towards the level they were at under Jose Mourinho and Inter are worth laying at 11/10 to qualify past Bayern Munich into the last eight of the Champions League in February.
Lay Internazionale to qualify into last eight of Champions League, 1pt at 2.1 (1.1pt liability, Betfair)
Sunday Indo Sport