By Johnny Ward
The rain on Monday was something else and thankfully Tuesday and Wednesday were more like what we could expect in March in the Cotswolds. However, those who run on Thursday and Friday who are reliant on nice ground are probably goosed.
It is simply one of those years, unfortunate for the likes of Supasundae, but such is life. Tactics will be really important on Thursday, as patience will be key, though at least we now have fresh ground.
The Ryanair is a pretty moderate renewal but the Stayers’ Hurdle is competitive. Laurina cannot be beaten, can she?
A mare has never won this race yet but there is a first time for everything and Shattered Love’s chance has improved massively because of the weather.
The daughter of Yeats is extremely powerful for a mare, and is so strong that one wonders does she even merit a mares’ allowance!
Likely the RSA Chase would have been more suitable but this is not a strong JLT, and there is not much between the Irish horses. Finian’s Oscar is clearly dangerous if the headgear and wind op sparks a revival – yet there are too many doubts at the prices.
Shattered Love has been forgotten a bit because when she won at Christmas, when neither Monalee or Rathvinden completed. She might have won anyway.
Un De Sceaux may not get the credit he deserves because he has never won a Champion Chase. He won the Arkle three years ago and, now ten, seems as hungry as ever.
That said, heavy conditions over this trip at a demanding track casts doubts and the race might have to go perfectly for him to win.
He loves the ground, but what about the trip?
Perhaps his main rival would have been Waiting Patiently, but stablemate Cloudy Dream can prove an able deputy.
Cloudy Dream finished second in the Arkle last term and is 0-4 this season but this looks his trip, he will plough through the mud and he is a smashing jumper.
I’ve backed Supasundae at 20-1 ante-post, basically because it seemed nearly certain he would run in the race all going well.
The logic was fair enough but now the ground is all wrong and I wouldn’t back him at 20-1 today. It is frustrating, but you have to react to the change of the weather, and Thursday will likely be heavy or close to that.
Unowhatimeanharry was odds-on favourite 12 months ago and 10-1 now, which looks worth a wager.
However, I expect Sam Spinner can provide a heart-warming winner for Jedd O'Keeffe and Joe Colliver.
Only a six-year-old, he has had just two goes at staying distances, pretty much bolting up each time. The ground looks ideal and, while it may not be easy to make all the running, this is a really likeable sort.
Assuming he does not go too fast, too soon, he can keep pulling out more and win again.
Laurina is a horse that Willie Mullins has not been afraid to hype up. Speaking in her yard at her yard’s media day, he said of the ex-French-trained horse: “She looks special. If ever there is a Cheltenham mares’ chase it’ll be for her. She looks really good. She is top-class.”
My only concern about Laurina was how she seemed to relish the bad ground at Fairyhouse, winning by 11 lengths.
That is no longer a worry, as it will be deep here too. She crushed her foes late in the race, and there must be a chance that the same connections’ Cut The Mustard – who made the running last time – will cause problems for the admirable Maria's Benefit, who also goes from the front.
I'd be pretty amazed if Laurina loses.
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