I had to do a double take when clocking that Sunday’s three domestic meetings were all National Hunt cards, and my surprise turned to downright disappointment upon seeing the field sizes.
The only races which have attracted eight runners or more are the hunter chase and the bumper at Kelso – two types of races that I bet in once-in-a-blue-moon - a 14-runner 0-100 handicap hurdle at Fontwell, and a couple of dead-eight contests at Uttoxeter where the spectre of a non-runner may well loom large.
I was looking forward to tucking into them as much as I would Harry’s burned crumpets.
The lack of runners suggested there were not going to be any 100-1 live chances in the jumps races, either.
So, to be honest, I didn’t even look and decided to concentrate solely on the Classic card at the Curragh.
Here is what I came up with.Good luck.
Flag Of Honour finished second behind Magical last time out
It will take a good newcomer to get the better of Arizona in the opener after his hugely promising debut here earlier in the month, but his price will reflect that, and going in short when there are seven well-bred debutants ranged him is not my idea of betting heaven, so I am going to concentrate my punts on the Group One contests.
You wouldn’t get many bigger fans of Magical than me. She did me a very good turn when winning her Group One at Ascot, and she obviously progressed again when she was just touched off by Enable at the Breeders’ Cup.
She was again hugely impressive on her return at Naas, but she didn’t look anywhere near her best when winning over course-and-distance last time.
Of course, even a reproduction of her defeat of Flag Of Honour may suffice here – she beat the same rival by three times that distance at Naas – but I just got the impression that she could be vulnerable here, especially on this quicker ground (though there is a bit of rain forecast), and no way would I get involved with her at around 1-4, and shorter in places.
Flag Of Honour is 6-1 and I cannot resist an each-way bet on him in this five-strong contest. If there is a non-runner, and we end up win-only, then so be it. I half fancy an upset, anyway.
The selection is clearly racing over a trip short of his best here – he beat Latrobe in the Irish St Leger, after all – but he showed he could be effective over this trip when second to his stablemate last time, and he has won on fast ground around here.
In fact, I thought Seamie Heffernan could have wound it up even more from the front last time on a horse that stays so much further – he looked set for fourth a furlong out but stuck on well again close home to hang on for second, suggesting he could have pressed on a touch more – and Magical didn’t have a lot left in the tank at line, to my eye.
I imagine Ballydoyle would be delighted if they got a Group One win into this colt over 1m2f, and this reminds me of last year’s race, to a degree.
Lancaster Bomber was backed off the boards when making all to beat his shorter-priced stablemate Cliffs Of Moher, who was ridden by Ryan Moore, and we never saw the mighty Bomber again after that. I am hoping lightning can strike twice here.
I am chucking a few quid at him anyway, as he looks sure to lead and then it is up to Donnacha to deliver the perfect ride from the front.
And, don’t forget, this is a very good colt in his own right. He saw off the Irish Derby winner Latrobe comprehensively here in September, and his course form figures read 1112.
Five re-oppose from the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and I wouldn’t be massively surprised if any of that quintet came out best here.
So, I am going to concentrate my main bet in the race from another form-line and that is an each-way punt at 15-2 on East.
A Group Three winner on good ground over 7f in France on just her second start, she clearly did exceptionally well from the widest draw when second at the Breeders’ Cup, and she again got a stinker when housed in ten of ten in the French 1000 Guineas at Longchamp last time.
Jamie Spencer was never happy with her position at any stage, so he certainly thinks you can mark up her close third there, and this is a filly with more to give.
She clearly has to improve to reach the level of the Newmarket runners but, with a better run through and more cover, then her turn of foot - as seen in that Group win at Saint-Cloud - could be a potent weapon late on.
Ruler Of The World filly Iridessa comes across as more of a stayer-in-waiting and she was a bitter disappointment when only eighth at Newmarket after such a promising reappearance effort.
I am inclined to believe that wasn’t her true running and I think a stiffer mile on quicker ground could see last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner (where she beat Hermosa and Pretty Pollyanna decisively on good to firm ground) show her true colours.
It could well be that Wayne Lordan, on board Hermosa at Newmarket, sends her forward from stall three to make more use of her undoubted stamina.