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Mourad has World at his feet

MOURAD is very interesting at 5/1 to win the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.

A word of caution: trainer Willie Mullins has three other entries among the 22 in total, so plans for Mourad may be coloured by how he places, in particular, Cousin Vinny and Quevega. However, this seems easily the most logical race for the son of Sinndar.

The big imponderable relates to Quevega: will she run in this, or against stablemate Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle? Regardless, she will have plenty on her plate to beat the progressive Mourad, which is now rated 156 but can progress again over three miles.

Third in the Triumph Hurdle last season, the five-year-old had gone seven races without a win by the end of last year. On four of those occasions, he had been sent off favourite, so naturally punters were getting suspicious about his resolution.

However, Mourad relished patient handling when trouncing Rubi Light in January. He was then sent off 11/10 at Navan, but lost by an unlucky head to War Of Attrition. At Fairyhouse earlier this month, he laughed at the 161-rated Donnas Palm in very deep ground over two and a half miles. That form flatters him a little but it was impressive nonetheless and he is still unexposed as a jumper.

On pedigree, Mourad should have no problem staying three miles on good ground. He has the same rating as Quevega, which is probably less likely to stay, and a higher mark than all of the other Irish-trained foes.

Alan King's Karabak is held by Powerstation on Cheltenham form and the latter is interesting at 10/1, but wins very rarely. Both Stan James and the sponsors have priced up Mourad at 7/2 and he could well go off even shorter.


Mourad to win the Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle, 1pt win at 5/1 (Paddy Power)

TYRONE have drifted out to 6/4 to win the Ulster Senior Football Championship. Mickey Harte's side looked a team in decline to some extent last summer, a suspicion that has, if anything, heightened during this year's league campaign.

It is nothing new for the Red Hand to improve dramatically on their league form, yet worrying that they could not even start winning when they needed to in order to avoid relegation from Division 1.

Down and Armagh, in contrast, had encouraging league campaigns and will fight out the Division 2 final. Paddy Power have cut the Mournemen into 13/2 to win their provincial title, yet Blue Square are taking them on at 12/1 and that looks too big.

Down have been excellent in the league so far and, while confidence about them conquering Ulster is tempered by their draw, they are clearly making serious progress. They start off against an unreliable Donegal side, victory in which would set them up nicely for a probable semi-final clash with Tyrone.


Down to win the Ulster SFC, 0.5pt at 12/1 (Blue Square)

TOULOUSE have been matched at 11/8 to win the Heineken Cup on Betfair but are still arguably worth taking on at around 7/5. Four bookmakers, who incorporate margins for error into their prices, are happy to take on the French outfit at 6/4.

Toulouse's impressive quarter-final dismissal of compatriots Stade Francais is the main reason they are so short in the betting.

However, they must beat the champions Leinster in a home semi-final, the reward for which will likely be a final encounter against Munster. Is 7/5 a good bet about them taking the scalp of both the Irish sides?

Guy Novès' men deserve to be favourites for outright glory -- of that there is no doubt -- but they should probably be a bit longer in the betting. Leinster have every chance of beating them in France.


Lay Toulouse to win the Heineken Cup, 2pts at 2.44 (2.88pt liability, Betfair)


Profit/Loss to €10 stake: €138.13

Still running: €260


Sunday Independent