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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 6 December, 2019

Weekend tips: finding the value in pre-Cheltenham 'black hole'

Thom Malone runs the rule over the weekend’s runners and riders.

Racegoers celebrate a win.
Racegoers celebrate a win.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE CHELTENHAM EFFECT on the rest of the racing calendar around February and early March can be akin to a black hole, sucking all the quality in one direction.

A cursory glance at this weekend’s racing led a sage wit to refer to this weekend’s action as “the doldrums before the storm”.

Paul Nicholls has been the Saturday king in recent weeks whilst some other bigger yards appear to have been sucked into the pre-Cheltenham vortex.

In the Listed Mares Novices Hurdle at 3.00 at Doncaster, he trains the likely favourite Danse Idol, and her form looks very strong in the context of this race given she has finished in front of Papagana twice already. Danse Idol has finished second to Queenofhearts on her last two starts, and faces nothing of that calibre here. She should have Paul Nicholls doing the Pasa Doble after this.

Kelso isn’t a regular destination for Paul Nicholls, in fairness it is a 365-mile drive from his training base. He has only run 29 horse there, ever. For comparison Nicholls has run 1581 horses at Cheltenham. Ten of those Kelso runners have won, and Getaway Trump, could be one of potential three more for him on the Saturday Kelso card.

Getaway Trump has Cheltenham Festival entries and is as short as 14/1 for the County Hurdle. This horse is up against significantly lesser opposition in the 3.15 at Kelso on Saturday. You can roar him home sounding like an American Democrat voter.

Dingo Dollar disappointed at Doncaster in late January when his jumping let him down. This is surely an aberration as normally this guy is would give Blanka Vlasic a run for her money at the Olympics, such is the usual competence of his leaps. Alan King’s runner drops in grade on Saturday, and a return to his usual front running tactics should tease a better performance than when disappointing at the track when last seen. A repeat of his run in the Ladbroke Trophy, where he finished third, before Christmas can see him take gold in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at 3.35 in Doncaster on Saturday.

Getting excited about the Spring Cup Stakes at Lingfield, is undoubtedly a thinly veiled cry for help but it also means the summer is imminent. An extraordinarily dry winter into early spring means flat horses should be developing nicely. A contrast with last year could not be more stark given the blanket of snow on March first 2018 versus the sunny 16 degrees of March first 2019. Yes the imminent destruction of the planet is nigh, but at least the horses are nice and forward.

Fanaar make his seasonal reappearance in the 3.15 at Lingfield. He is no longer in possession of his crown jewels following a gelding operation. This will help, even if he probably doesn’t agree. Some of this horse’s juvenile form ties in nicely with many pattern performers and was unlucky not to win two runs ago.

It was notable that Jim Crowley, retained rider to the owner, chose to ride him in a Group 3 on his final start of last year as opposed to the eventual winner, who he would have had the option of riding. Jim will be sun-kissed from his working winter in Dubai, Fanaar is his first ride in the UK of 2019 and his only mount on the card. Trainer William Haggas has won this race for the last two seasons with horses making their seasonal debut. From a pace angle Deep Intrigue should ensure a proper speed, allowing the stars to align for Fanaar.

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey to discuss the backlash to World Rugby’s league proposal, captaincy styles, sports psychology and more in The42 Rugby Weekly.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Thom Malone

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