LAST week was a strange one for the 'Betting Ring' column. While the main bet of the day, Kempes, won the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at 5/1, the mood at Leopardstown was a bit subdued when the news filtered through about the bizarre deaths of two horses at Newbury, namely Marching Song and Fenix Two.
As expected, a post mortem revealed that they had been electrocuted by a live cable which was running down through the paddock into the parade ring.
As a horse owner myself, my heart goes out to connections who had to watch their animals die in front of their eyes.
Horses, it seems, are much more sensitive to electricity and the metal in the shoes and parts of the tack obviously didn't help.
People often say that dogs are man's best friend, but anyone involved with horses may disagree; horses have huge personalities and it was heartbreaking to watch those animals in distress live on TV.
As mentioned, Kempes lifted my mood a little bit later when winning under a perfectly timed ride from David Casey, the eight-year-old proving that heavy ground is not a big problem.
The bookies have cut his price down to 12/1 for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but I can't make up my mind whether that price is a bit short when you consider the fact that he's likely to line up against the heavyweights.
Imperial Commander, Denman, Kauto Star, Diamond Harry and Long Run are all in the mix, so I'd reckon that the best Kempes can hope for is to land some place money. Kempes is definitely a live outsider and I wouldn't put anyone off backing him each-way, but I think I'll wait until the day before placing my bets on this one.
With the Festival only a month away, it's time to start building up the betting pot and Riverside Theatre is my banker for the day in the Betfair Ascot Chase (3.0), priced around 13/8.
The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding loved the step up to three miles when finding only Long Run too good in the King George at Kempton and I'm a little concerned about the drop back in trip, but his form is so good lately that I'm willing to take a chance.
He was a decent sort over timber in his day but he's a much better chaser and, if the handicappers have called this correctly, he should have around 5lbs in hand to play with today. He hasn't taken on the stiff fences of Ascot before, but if Barry Geraghty gives him a prominent ride, it should play to his strengths.
Tartak has won his latest two starts, including the Peterborough Chase, and may be the main threat to the selection, but he's not the most consistent sort in the world and Ascot's fences may prove tricky.
Paul Nicholls' Pride of Dulcote is another one to consider, but he's definitely one for the longer distances and may find this race a little too speedy for his liking.
Last week's each-way bet, Magic Sky (10/1), was backed down from big odds but never gave us a run for our money as he fell at the second fence.
Today's selection is not a massive price, but the 13/2 about Carruthers in the totesport.com Grand National Trial (3.20 Haydock) is well worth taking each-way. At first glance, his form figures don't excite, but his sixth place in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury back in November was impressive considering Denman and Diamond Harry both finished ahead of him.
He's been dropped 8lbs since then and this mud-lover won't have a problem with the poor ground.
3.0 Ascot: Riverside Theatre
3.20 Haydock: Carruthers (e/w)
4.05 Ascot: Sprinter Sacre