Tomorrow's Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham is a race that often throws up a smart winner, and this year's renewal doesn't look set to be any different.
Solix and Invictus are likely to contest favouritism, both coming here with flawless records over fences. Of those two, Solix is reckoned to be the classier individual.
The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding concluded his hurdling career with respectable efforts in the Totesport Trophy and Coral Cup, and has done nothing wrong since switching to fences.
He accounted for the subsequent runaway winner Duke Of Lucca -- a leading fancy in tomorrow's feature -- when sluicing up at Ascot first time, and was similarly impressive under a penalty at Cheltenham earlier this month.
Solix will take plenty of stopping under Barry Geraghty once again, but Sonofvic is an interesting opponent.
A point-to-point winner in England before obliging on both of his starts over flights last season for Paul Nicholls, this son of Old Vic defied his relative inexperience to get within two lengths of Grands Crus at Newbury last month.
While Sonofvic ultimately came up short that day, he was the only one of the three other runners to lay it down to Grands Crus up the straight. If he can build on that fine effort now, he will surely be thereabouts for Ruby Walsh.
In the opening novice hurdle, Henderson introduces the October Loughrea point-to-point winner Master Of The Game. While the Bob's Return gelding is obviously highly regarded, slight preference in this wide-open heat is for One Term.
A dual bumper scorer at Cheltenham and Chepstow in the autumn, Rebecca Curtis' charge came up just short when denied by Ballyrock in what looked a fair maiden hurdle at Hereford earlier in the month.
Partnered then by AP McCoy, One Term didn't seem especially happy going right-handed, so the return to an anti-clockwise venue should be to his advantage now.
Outsider to note
Could be a shade overpriced at 8/1 for tomorrow's Victor Chandler Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Once a classy novice, Henrietta Knight's nine-year-old has not won since December 2009, and is admittedly a frustrating sort.
Nonetheless, he is honest, while many of his best runs have come at Cheltenham, including two of his three career wins.
In the December Gold Cup last time, he was an eye-catching fifth behind Quantitativeeasing, one and a half lengths in front of Ghizao, yet it is Ghizao that is vying for favouritism here. If Ghizao won't be far away, then neither will Calgary Bay.
Cheltenham 12.30 - One Term
Cheltenham 1.05 - Sonofvic
Cheltenham 2.10 - Calgary Bay
Fairyhouse 2.35 - Lastoftheleaders
2,375,883 Kauto Star's career earnings in pounds sterling.
174 AP McCoy's running tally for the season prior to suffering fractures to his ribs yesterday. The Antrim man, 75 clear of his closest pursuer Richard Johnson, is expected to be out of action for two weeks.
3 The number of Grade One winners that Willie Mullins has lost of late. Lovethehigherlaw and Kempes were joined by Golden Silver on Tuesday.
Quote of the week
"It just shows what a great horse he is and how good he is for racing. This is why people keep coming back and why jump racing is so popular. Six times he has been here and five times he has won. I will never have another like him -- a chaser like that is astounding." - Paul Nicholls after Kauto Star left the watching world in raptures with that jaw-dropping fifth King George VI Chase triumph on Monday.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Our best staying chasers remain some way shy of the standards set by Kauto Star and Long Run. Monday's Kempton thriller was another reminder of just how good this generation of Gold Cup horses is, so the outcome of Wednesday's Lexus Chase was disappointing, given that Synchronised is not a real contender. Of the beaten horses, six-year-old Rubi Light came away with the most credit. Only two weeks after his facile John Durkan success, he fared far better than either of the other two that ran in that, Joncol and Cooldine. On his first try at three miles, he kept on well for second and it's worth remembering that our last Gold Cup winner, War Of Attrition, ran similarly in defeat in the Lexus at the same age en route to his moment of glory. Rubi Light may not win the Gold Cup in March, but he is still a cracking prospect.
2 Hurricane Fly is taking his time about coming right. Willie Mullins is anxious that his kingpin will be fit for Champion Hurdle day above all others, but the longer Hurricane Fly is absent the more some connections of that cluttered two-mile novice chase division will wonder should they revert back to the smaller obstacles. Take the favourite out, and the Champion Hurdle is fair game.
3 Betfair shot itself in the foot with that £23m 'technical glitch' on Wednesday. In the week that the betting exchange began its RTE sponsorship, questions remain about how and why it handled the Voler La Vedette incident the way it did. Its share price has since tumbled, yet all the damage could have been prevented had the plug been pulled on the market. Right now, it looks as though someone fell asleep at the wheel.
Monday: Cork, Ayr, Folkestone, Plumpton, Southwell (AW)
Tuesday: Ayr, Southwell (AW)
Wednesday: Huntingdon, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Southwell
Thursday: Lingfield, Ludlow, Sedgefield, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Bangor, Chepstow, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Thurles, Lingfield (AW), Newcastle, Sandown, Wincanton
Sunday: Naas, Hereford, Southwell (AW)