On-fire Sire can land prize with little fuss
Hidden Cyclone bids to atone for his narrow defeat to Benefficient at Leopardstown over Christmas when he tackles this season's crack two-miler Sire De Grugy in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
John 'Shark' Hanlon subsequently contested the stewards' decision not to award Hidden Cyclone the race at the Foxrock venue.
The impression on the day was that the minimal interference Benefficient caused him didn't affect the outcome in any material way, so it was no surprise that Hanlon's appeal was thrown out.
Hidden Cyclone will absolutely relish the forecast heavy ground this afternoon. In his youth, Andrew McNamara's partner looked destined to win Grade Ones and it may be that this will prove a fine chance for him to finally do so.
However, the suspicion is that the Leopardstown contest might have been as good an opportunity as he will get. He emerged with his head held high, but splitting Benefficient and Arvika Ligeonniere, two that are arguably at their best over two-and-a-half miles, doesn't appeal as a recommendation in the context of today's race.
Days Hotel will also love the ground. Henry de Bromhead's nine-year-old is rated 4lb superior to Hidden Cyclone, but is nearly three times his price at 12/1.
Well beaten in third behind Twinlight at Cork last time after making a desperate blunder five-out, his previous form is quite impressive.
If you discount one run over further when he didn't stay, he has won four chases (three graded), been second to Foildubh, third to Sprinter Sacre and Sizing Europe and second to Flemenstar.
That form is not to be sniffed at, so Days Hotel is an each-way option at the prices under Richard Johnson, despite there being just seven runners.
If Sire De Grugy were to misfire for some reason, he could go very close, but this is a race that Gary Moore's eight-year-old really should win without too much fuss.
He has been the outstanding two-miler this term, is straightforward, jumps cleanly and goes on soft ground. When Sprinter Sacre capitulated at Kempton, he won with plenty of authority, having previously seen off Somersby in the Tingle Creek.
Somersby stayed on late in the day, but Sire De Grugy had long put the race to bed by then and is possibly twice as superior to him as a 5lb rating differential suggests.
While Somersby will doubtless be popular as a previous winner and dual runner-up, it's hard to see where he can find the improvement that is needed. Sire De Grugy is the best horse in the race by any measure, so the fact that he is widely available at 5/4 is slightly surprising. Trust him to deliver with a bit of style.
Noel Fehily has a decent book of rides at the Berkshire venue, with Irish Saint -- one of two that he partners for Paul Nicholls -- possibly one of the more interesting in the two-mile-three-furlong handicap hurdle.
A decent novice that won three times last term, the French-bred's one-paced third in the Grade One juvenile at Aintree in the spring was a fine turn, with Flaxen Flare and Rolling Star among those behind.
He fell when tiring on his return in November and then finished mid-division in what was a good Ladbroke Hurdle here last month, with City Slicker and Alaivan -- a respective winner and runner-up since -- behind.
Irish Saint should come on for that completed start, and, with the step-up in trip also likely to suit, odds of 12/1 look far too big now that the handicapper has given him a little respite.
At Haydock, if you forgive Melodic Rendezvous one bad run, he is value at 9/4 in the Champion Hurdle trial.
Meanwhile, Vintage Star appeals in the Peter Marsh Chase. Sue Smith's charge didn't quite get home in the Welsh National after leading early in the straight, but he ran sweetly for a really long way so the drop to three miles is key here.
Best Bet: Sire De Grugy