Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sam the clear pick for bullish Nicholls

BETFAIR'S preview night for its higher rollers last Thursday in Notting Hill was approaching its conclusion when Paul Nicholls, the box-office panellist, interjected. "I've just this moment received a text from Ruby Walsh -- straight up -- and it reads: 'The more I read about it the more I think Kauto Star can win the Gold Cup'. That's made my night I tell you."

While Walsh's faith in one of jumps racing's legendary exponents might be bordering on romantic, his confidence in Sam Winner to win Friday's Triumph Hurdle has more pragmatism as its root. Indeed, early on during said preview gathering, Nicholls dangled a surprising possibility.

"I'm half-thinking of running Sam Winner in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, given the allowance four-year-olds get in the race," he revealed, though the notion seemed to have cooled somewhat as the evening went on.

Sam Winner is 10/1 for the Triumph and that is too big. Form gurus Timeform rate him the clear pick in the race and his odds are double-figures simply on account of his last run, a laboured bid on deep ground at Chepstow in January. Nicholls says conditions were all wrong for the horse that day and he is better judged on previous efforts.

Such as when he beat Grandouet -- now favourite for the Triumph -- by 15 lengths in November, with Fred Winter jolly Plan A in third; that he has recorded much of his best form at Cheltenham augurs in favour of a repeat effort on Thursday. And this is anything but a vintage four-year-old championship race.

Indeed, Dermot Weld seems rather negative when discussing Unaccompanied's prospects, a reflection of her limited Irish jumps form (she has beaten little) and a marked preference for dig in the ground. Smad Place, shorter in the market than Sam Winner, simply looks too slow to win the race.

Sam Winner's trainer -- who also has Zarkander -- is bullish about Sam Winner's well-being and knows how to win the Triumph Hurdle. Take the 10s before it is gone.


Sam Winner to win the Triumph Hurdle, 1pt at 10/1 non-runner no bet (general)

GALWAY'S Allianz National Hurling League aspirations are somewhat dependent on them beating Kilkenny today but John McIntyre's injury list will make that difficult.

Bet on three goals or more to be scored at 10/11. The price is with Ladbrokes, but otherwise the same outcome is no better than 1/2 with the two other firms who are offering odds on the match. It is true that neither side has been banging in goals so far in the league but a fair price today about at least three goals is probably around 4/6.

Ladbrokes are also a little long on Wicklow to win Division 4 of the NFL (4/1), given that the Garden County lead the table and have three home matches left. Their only away game is in Kilkenny.


Three goals or more in Galway v Kilkenny, 3pts at 10/11 (Ladbrokes)

CUE CARD has been put forward by many as the banker of the week at Cheltenham -- further indication that the term 'banker' is very much a misnomer when it comes to the Festival. At around 9/4 on Betfair, the Colin Tizzard-trained gelding is no better than what virtually all the bookmakers are offering.

Cue Card was left for dead by Menorah when last seen and many are judging him on his Champion Bumper success 12 months ago. No horse in over two decades has won the Supreme Novices Hurdle having landed the bumper -- not even Dunguib could manage it.

Whereas we know Cue Card is beatable, the Nicky Henderson-trained duo of Sprinter Sacre and Spirit Son fall into the "could be anything" category. The Tizzard horse looks in need of further too.


Lay Cue Card to win Supreme Novices' Hurdle, 1pt at 3.3 (2.3pt liability, Betfair)


Profit/loss to €10 stake: -€66.69

Still running: €155


Diamond Harry to win the Gold Cup, 1pt at 16/1

All four Cheltenham champion race winners to retain crown, 0.5 at 150/1

Bensalem to win Festival Handicap Chase, 1pt at 10/1

Fiveforthree in World Hurdle without Big Buck's, 1pt e/w at 8/1


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