Katie Walsh: Stattler has Gold Cup credentials
The Betway ambassador previews a busy weekend of racing across New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Cheltenham on Sunday
The Dipper (13:20) is usually a good contest that throws up plenty of good winners. Paul Nicholls hasn’t won this race for a long time, but I think Monmiral will change that. He did a good job of chasing home Jonbon at Warwick on his debut over fences and there is nothing of that type in here. It’s a good race to win and they’ve always thought a hell of a lot of him.
Connections might not be waiting too long for their next winner either (13:55). I thought Il Ridoto ran a massive race for a five-year-old at the track in November and looks well treated off a mark of 139. Paul Nicholls is a master of placing his horses in the right races, and this could be a good opportunity for Il Ridoto to pick up some good prize money.
Don’t rule out Ben Pauling’s Shakem Up’Arry , though. He was really impressive at Exeter on his comeback run, he won with a bit up his sleeve and he’s running off the same mark as Il Ridoto. I don’t suppose they’ll be running off that mark next time.
Tramore on Sunday
There has been plenty of talk about a horse of Willie's called Quais De Paris , who makes his debut in the opener (11:55). We’ve seen over the festive period how good Willie’s horses are performing and it’s by design that this horse is making his debut now. He’ll have been given plenty of time and this is a race the yard has won for the last three years on the spin.
The big race of the day at Tramore is the New Year’s Day Chase (14:15), which we’ve known Al Boum Photo to farm for the past four years. He’s retired now, so he won’t be winning a fifth in a row, but the yard might. Their main hope is Stattler , who has not been seen since winning the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. That race has churned out plenty of Gold Cup winners in the past decade and although he’s got to improve plenty, he travels, jumps and stays, so you could see him develop into one.
Previous Gold Cup winner Minella Indo also runs, but he’ll be trained for Cheltenham, and you’d expect him to come on massively for his first run of the season.
Newbury on Saturday
We saw what Facile Vega did earlier this week and now it’s the turn of Jet Powered , albeit in a much lesser race (12:40). I thought he was very good on his debut for Nicky Henderson at Newbury last month, but he’s second favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and that’s largely down to his reputation. There isn’t a great deal coming out behind them at the moment, but he’ll need to be winning this and winning this well to be on the coat-tails of Facile Vega.
I thought the Dan Skelton-trained Pikar would win the Gerry Fielden at Newbury last month but he was made a non-runner on the day. This race (13:50) looks very competitive with a couple of talented mares to beat, including the unbeaten Lady Adare and Nina The Terrier, who ran well in the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November, but something about Pikar makes me think he’s very good. He’s not had the rub of the green and has run behind some good horses in his short career to date, but the way he sluiced up at Chepstow last time made me think he has plenty more to give.
The Challow Hurdle (15:00) often serves up as a good race but I can’t remember a renewal in recent memory that has as many runners as this years. Obviously, the winning Cheltenham form of Hermes Allen is the best we’ve seen in the race. I thought he was very good that day, and although it didn’t look the strongest of races, you can only beat what’s in front of you.
It’s great that Paul Nolan is sending over Joyeux Machin for experience, too. I think it’s a test that could suit this horse and he could run a good race. He’s got some top bumper form in the bag. Add plenty of winning novice hurdlers who are all unexposed and improving, plus Moka De Vassy, who could be a huge price on the back of his run at Cheltenham last January, and this looks like a really good race.
Punchestown on Saturday
I thought Mahler Mission ran very well in the Albert Bartlett last season and would end up making a good staying chaser in time.
I'm looking forward to watching Shantreusse run, too. They were both beaten on their debuts over fences, but I’d think they’ll both put that experience to good use here (12:15).
Any Second Now runs in the 2m3f Hurdle (13:57). He’s in grand form at home, but this is his first run since his second in the Aintree Grand National in April. It looks a good race, too. His season has to start somewhere and I’d like to assume he’ll be heading towards Aintree in the spring.
The Grade B handicap (14:32) is another competitive race at Punchestown, but that’s as you expect it to be at this time of year. I thought Gordon’s winner of the Pertemps earlier this week, Maxxum, was very, very good and I wonder if Riaan , who has a similar profile, will be just as impressive. He looks like he’s improving quickly. He won so easily at Cork last time and is the chosen mount of Jack Kennedy, too.
Gordon’s other horse, Off Your Rocco , has some good form from last year.
Hele Markham’s Bread And Butter is a strong traveller, too, who will be doing his best work late on.
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