IT'S not too often that champion jockey Tony McCoy makes his way over to ride at my local track but when he does, there's usually a buzz about the place and he always gets a great reception from the crowd.
We all like to see the stars of the game in action and there's no greater master in the saddle than AP, so it's good to see him back at Baile na Lobhar -- 'the Town of the Lepers', to ride Kempes for Willie Mullins in the Hennessy Gold Cup tomorrow (3.45).
The eight-year-old gelding was last seen at this venue when unseating McCoy at the second last in the Lexus Chase at the Christmas festival. However, the punters haven't been put off and the 11/1 that was available this week has been given a haircut and now trades around 8/1.
By my reckoning, that price is still way too big, and if I was one of those hardy men that stand up on boxes, I'd attract no custom whatsoever as I'd have Kempes marked up around 6/1.
If you watch the replays of the Lexus, you will see that McCoy barely asks him a question, and he looked well in touch when unseating the Ulsterman, much to the frustration of his followers, who had backed him at 9/1.
Paul Nicholls has a good record with raiders in Ireland so Pride of Dulcote is going to be a huge danger. I can't really find anything bad to say about the gelding, only that his price is too short around 2/1 in such a competitive field.
Joncol and Cooldine are respected too, of course, but McCoy will be a man on a mission following the unseating in the Lexus as it always bugs him when he doesn't complete a race.
Indeed, simply backing McCoy when he's riding a horse that left him lying on the turf last time has produced a very healthy profit of 28pts since 2003, with 23 winners from 90 bets (26pc).
I'm not saying you should blindly follow such systems, but we all know how determined McCoy can be and he always tries to make amends for a mishap. Drier ground would help, but 8/1 represents cracking each-way value.
Over at Sandown, I'm looking forward to watching Binocular demolish the field in the Totesport 0800 221 221 Contenders Hurdle (1.55 Sandown) although at 1/12, it's not even worth putting him into your Yankee! Ruthenoise should set a decent gallop and the Champion Hurdle favourite should take this quite easily.
Oscar Whisky will also continue his Cheltenham preparation in the Welsh Champion Hurdle today (2.40 Ffos Las) but is un-backable at a long odds-on price.
He has the speed and class to win this comprehensively and the drop in trip to two miles shouldn't pose any problems.
We won't learn anything new from these races but they should be enjoyable to watch as Festival fever gains momentum.
THE Venetia Williams-trained Quartz de Thaix will have to carry the top weight burden of 11st 12lbs in the Totescoop6 Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.0 Sandown) but he looked in good form when coming sixth to James De Vassy in a decent handicap at Kempton last time and should be able to make the placings today at the least. I'm hoping for a bit more rain as he likes testing the ground but nonetheless, early quotes of 16/1 are still on the generous side.
1.40 Wetherby: Scriptwriter
3.0 Sandown: Quartz de Thaix e/w
3.50 Wetherby: Baby Run
3.45 Leopardstown (tomorrow): Kempes e/w