Thursday’s biggest races are at Doncaster and Leopardstown. We preview the 3 top encounters and provide our top tips.
Sheffield Greyhound Stadium Mares’ Chase (Listed) (4yo+, 2m 4f 115y, Class 1, 9 runners)
Viky Du Reponet has only been raced on French soil and her progress has not been quite as smooth as connections would have hoped for, but the 5-length defeat she handed to Storm Of Saintly last time out is too good to ignore. The Voix Du Nord mare is now under the eye of Paul Nicholls and it’s interesting that she’s been thrown straight into Listed company.
Briery Belle already has a Listed win under her belt. She comfortably saw-off Desert Queen, in the Lady Godiva Mares’ Novices’ Chase, although that margin probably flattered her as Desert Queen made a dog’s dinner of the final fence.
Kalane’s 17-length win at Doncaster drew praise, but the jury is still out on the Kalanisi mare.
Betting Tip: Viky Du Reponet (1 point win)
Neville Hotels Novice Chase (Grade 1) (4yo+, 3m, Class 1, 10 runners)
Both Coney Island and Alpha Des Obeaux must be considered serious contenders, after they finished 1st and 3rd in the G1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse earlier this month.
Something unwelcome has dropped into the ointment of both horses’ prospects, however – the dire performance of Anibale Fly, in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The JP McManus-owned gelding was runner-up in the Drinmore, despite looking one-paced from two fences out.
Willie Mullins’ Briar Hill is the tentative pick. He finished best of all, when losing to Attribution in G3 company at Navan last time out – despite making a meal of 2 fences. This is a big step-up, but this renewal may be a touch weaker than those we have seen in recent years.
Betting Tip: Briar Hill (1 point win)
Ryanair Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+, 2m, Class 1, 5 runners)
Nichols Canyon (who will be ridden by Ruby Walsh) won this race last season and should have enough cylinders under the bonnet to do so again. The only horses to have beaten the 6-year-old since then are Faugheen, Arctic Fire, Annie Power and My Tent Or Yours. None of the 4 other runners in this encounter look to have their ability.
Ivanovich Gorbatov’s star quickly fell from the skies and Petit Mouchoir appears to carry the biggest threat, if Nichols Canyon doesn’t bring his A-game. The 5-year-old was leading in the G1 Fighting Fifth, before falling 3 from home. The French grey also finished runner-up, in the G1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, although Yorkhill was a huge disappointment in that race and the form looks questionable.
Betting Tip: Nichols Canyon (3 points win)