It’s got to be Sprinter for me
My fingers are tightly crossed to a degree that the whites of the knuckles are beginning to show through. It is 386 days since we’ve last seen Sprinter Sacre competitively. If Nicky Henderson gives his consent for him to run a massive collective breath will be held as he gallops down to the start at Ascot ahead of the Sodexo Clarence House Chase.
The right noises are coming out of Seven Barrows, as they are talking about Cheltenham and the Queen Mother Champion Chase - that wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a belief he’d retained his ability.
It is well documented that his best is not needed to beat his rivals, but it’s his best we crave, we want that adrenalin rush, we want the showboating, we want to watch in awe.
Who are those valiant enough to be part of this historic race?
Noel Fehily teams up with him for the first time under race conditions. Somersby tried to make all in the Tingle Creek, where they missed out the Pond Fence and Dodging Bullets overhauled him approaching the last. This race is over a furlong further and suits Tingle Creek winners.
It may be an insignificant statistic but Dodging Bullets has never won in eight tries at the turn of the year, and never won in four tries beyond two miles.
Somersby has run in this on four previous occasions, winning in 2012 from Finian’s Rainbow. He stumbled on landing and unseated Dominic Elsworth at the fifth fence last year. He is a versatile, accomplished and reliable yardstick. Ruby Walsh was on Al Ferof when Somersby was second.
Twinlight has seemed to slip under the radar. He came to Britain last year on what can be best described as a scouting mission to Kempton over 2m 4f , which is too far, when a fair way behind Captain Chris. Since then he has matured even further and last time out won a Grade One.
Twinlight travels very strongly. In the Fortria Chase at Navan he showed his strength, yet next time out at Cork he ran inexplicably badly. Nearly three weeks later all was well again in the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown. He finished ahead of Days Hotel and Simply Ned, which in theory gives him the edge over Dodging Bullets.
Grey Gold has improved all year, but was left in a different realm behind Croco Bay at the course last time. He has been strategically placed to gain some valuable prize-money, which increases if the bigger names fail to complete.
I can’t wait to see what happens in the betting. During the week Sprinter Sacre drifted to 2-1 and bigger on the exchanges and now he sits on the cusp of more accustomed odds-on. Are you a backer, a layer or just going to watch and hope?
Chelmsford City gets the thumbs up:
Last Sunday saw me take a six-hour round trip to visit Chelmsford City racecourse, and I was pleased with what I saw except for the taxi charge to and from the station! Public transport wasn’t an ideal method of travel and negotiations with a bus or cab company need to begin. That is in hand along with many other little snags, which is to be expected when you are launching such a huge project.
As for the racing, those up with the pace to me, seemed to have an advantage with the day lending itself to exciting finishes with front-runners trying to hang on.
A grandstand in the centre of the course is never going to be ideal, but I am a person who prefers to be outside, whatever the weather, and the terracing was ideal along with all the facilities if I wanted to pop in for a coffee or check the results from other meetings.
There is a big screen, which gets a massive thumbs up. This whole investment is to be commended and those in charge are receptive to constructive criticism and ideas, which deserves heaps of praise.
It is another big weekend in other sports - both Green Bay Packers and New England got through to their NFL Conference Championships, but there is the angst of taking on my father’s selection Seattle with Green Bay. With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers quarterback, not 100% fit, I’ve prepared myself for a Seattle win and to be fair they are the reigning Superbowl champions.
The golf is still in Hawaii this week - it’s the Sony Open, and my faith is with Chris Kirk, Jason Day and Kevin Na. Just as with last week’s selections here’s hoping I have something to watch come the last two rounds!
Tanya Stevenson's Saturday tips:
12.55 Haydock: Close Touch at 10-11 with Paddy Power
Tanya Stevenson's Saturday pointers:
Five of the last six favourites have won.
All seven winners were no older than eight.
Of the six winners since 2008 to go on and run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase three completed the double – 2009 Master Minded, 2013 Sprinter Sacre, 2014 Sire De Grugy.
Six of the last seven winners of the won on their most recent run.
Five of the last seven winners had run at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Somersby is running in the race for the fifth year having finished second, won, third and unseated rider.
Somersby has run in 17 Grade Ones, where Sprinter Sacre has run in eight.
Noel Fehily has ridden ten times over fences for Paul Nicholls this season, winning on six occasions.
1.50 Ascot - OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle:
Harry Fry has had six winners from his last ten runners.
2.25 Ascot - Keltbray Holloway's Hurdle:
Only one of the last eight favourites have won.
David Pipe has had three wins, two thirds and a fourth.
3.35 Ascot - bet365 Handicap Chase:
All six favourites have been beaten.
The New One has been odds-on on ten occasions and has won eight times.
Only one of the last ten favourites have won, yet only two of the last ten winners have been a double-figure price.
Seven of the last ten winners had run at Haydock at least once (2014 Wychwoods Brook, 2010 Our Vic, 2003 Truckers Tavern were making their Haydock debut).
Six of the last seven years has been run on heavy ground.
Five of the last ten winners had run in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby – this year Corrin Wood, Cedre Bleu, Broadway Buffalo and Vintage Star.
Nine of the last ten winners had at least eight runs over fences prior to the race.