Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

Denman exit opens lucrative door for Carruthers

Chris McGrath

Denman having withdrawn his application, there is a lucrative vacancy at Cheltenham today. But with the winning post sadistically sited at the top of a dirty great hill, and conditions testing underfoot, it is safe to say that candidates must be 'reliable' and 'hard-working.'

It must have come as a profound relief to Newbury when Denman's owners, Paul Barber and Harry Findlay, convinced Paul Nicholls to persevere with the original plan and reserve his final Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup audition for the Aon Chase, a fortnight today.

Nicholls is still able to give Findlay and Barber a crack at the day's biggest prize in the Argento Chase with Inchidaly Rock, remarkably contesting only his third chase. In fairness, he also won three point-to-points in his youth, but he did make one howler here last time.

It is not difficult to picture him slogging his way victory and identifying himself as favourite for the National Hunt Chase. He is the one runner in the field still capable of huge progress.

After all, Madison Du Berlais, which staggered into second a distance behind Kauto Star on St Stephen's Day, has seldom shown his best form over these undulations. But so long as his jockey can resist a reckless duel for the lead with Ollie Magern and Joe Lively, this is surely a big chance for Carruthers (2.35).

Mark Bradstock's stable star was given rather a wild ride in the RSA Chase here last year, but has resumed his progress since, however, impressing at Newbury after Christmas.

In the Betfair Cleeve Hurdle Lie Forrit (3.40) retains most scope for progress having idled in front when posting another career best last time.

Nicholls has sound prospects in both novice hurdles. Royal Charm (3.10) may find greater improvement at a new trip than General Miller, while Pistolet Noir (12.55) looked worth a small fortune when he won here in November.

Tony McCoy can, meanwhile, win both handicap chases for JP McManus. Doctor Pat (1.30) makes it awkward for the handicapper to know quite how much he has in reserve, while Perce Rock (2.05) remains unexposed over fences. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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