The betting for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold cup was turned up on its head following the abject run of Sizing John at Leopardstown on Thursday and connections might be reflecting on whether it was a wise decision to run the horse just 18 days after his seasonal reappearance in the John Durkan.

Jessica Harrington’s stable star is out to to retain his title – Ascot winner Coney Island rather than King George winner Might Bite was the horse who impressed me most with the Gold Cup in mind although I have yet to give up on Sizing John.


The ground looks sure to be extremely testing this afternoon and I can pass on a good word for Alan King’s French import Nayati (12.10) a winner of a Bumper in the French provinces when last seen in October. Those with hurdling experience don’t look anything special and King had a winner with a similar sort at Kempton earlier in the week.

In the Mandarin I hope to see Knockanrawley (2.25) go one better than when runner up at Ayr on his reappearance for Kim Bailey. The selection is an out-and-out stayer who finished second in the Eider Chase at Newcastle back in February and he must go close in what looks sure to be a war of attrition.

The Grade 1 Challow Hurdle is competitive but arguably a sub-standard renewal of this prestigious prize. Kilbricken Storm (3.00) was a winner over 3m on soft ground at Cheltenham a fortnight ago and his stamina will be an asset over this extended 2m 4f trip. Poetic Rhythm looks likely to benefit if the Colin Tizzard trained six-year-old is not over his recent exertions but he looked a class act last time and can reward 9/4 favouritism.

Only four to post in the finale and Solighoster (3.35) is given a chance to atone for his Market Rasen defeat when he jumped superbly but emptied alarmingly. The selection has won over 3m previously and is unlikely to be ridden as prominently this afternoon.

Duke Des Champs returns to the track on his chase debut after a 631-day lay-off but he should be noted if the market speaks in his favour.




Kilbricken Storm 



In the second last Wolf Sword (2.45) can follow up last month’s Wetherby success from a 4lbs higher mark for Sue Smith. This is a career high mark but he looks to still be improving and todays underfoot conditions should hold no terrors – he is 10/3 to land the spoils.


Wolf Sword 


I’m going to give Dan McGrue (12.50) one last chance dropping back to 2m 4f on soft ground for Paul Nicholls. The selection won a hat-trick of points last season but has flattered to deceive in two starts over timber so far this term.

I hope it’s a good day for local trainer Nicholls as Silent Steps (1.25) can go one better than when runner up over C&D from a 3lbs lower mark. The selection jumped well on that occasion – her chase debut – and she is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time this afternoon.

Maria’s Benefit (3.10) has been a revelation so far this season and she can make most in the feature listed Mares Novices Hurdle for Stuart Edmunds. Nicky Henderson’s Sunshade heads the market at 5/4 but I hope to see Ciaran Gethings make plenty of use of the selection who is 7/4.


Dan McGrue 

Silent Steps 

Maria’s Benefit 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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