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I r i s h B i g R a c e Tr e n d s

T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o S a tur da y M a r c h 1 0 th

THE IRISH PORTFOLIO

Counting down to the 2012 Cheltenham Festival

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:

Matt Bisogno Aiden Coleman Davy Russell Barry Geraghty A Quick Call To... Paul Nicholls

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More To Come From Long Run

Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen insists Long Run could be peaking at the right time ahead of his defence of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup next Friday. Although he has twice succumbed to Kauto Star this season, the amateur rider believes Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old gelding might be a different proposition at the Festival. He said: "I think there is more, and better, to come from Long Run. "To be mixing it with Kauto Star - I really hope he's over his fall and runs next Friday - already puts you on the doorstep of the greats." Despite having given Long Run a fine ride in last season's Gold Cup, Waley-Cohen accepts there could have still been room for improvement. He told the Telegraph: "I've probably watched that race and analysed it on video 100 times since, looking to see if there were things I could have done better - and there were. "The dream is not just to ride the winner of the Gold Cup but to ride a horse who made the Gold Cup his own race. "I honestly believe that like Kauto before him, Long Run could be a horse of a lifetime."

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Al Ferof Worries Power

Paddy Power could lose up to £4 million on the Racing Post Arkle Chase next Tuesday thanks to the interest generated in their offer to refund all losing bets if hot-favourite Sprinter Sacre wins the race. "We don't know the exact levels yet but business on the Arkle has been vastly increased so far this year. "If Sprinter Sacre is the next Arkle as some people think and wins, we expect to refund over £2 million. "But the worst case scenario is a victory for Al Ferof as anyone who fancies him must surely have backed him with us. If Al Ferof scores, we will lose about £4 million on the race. We expect to be absolutely filled in on Tuesday!"

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T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o

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T HE I RISH P ORTFOLIO

Counting down to the 2012 Cheltenham Festival

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL ISSUE

OUT NOW

I have to say I have had a terrific couple of days with some `real' racing people this week. Tuesday afternoon was spent welcoming guests for the evening preview night. First to arrive was the ever entertaining Tony Stafford, legendary journalist of the turf and the keeper of some wonderful racing stories. Lunch for Tony was a Steak And Guinness Pie, which a good twenty minutes later had fully stuffed my guest. Mr Stafford later stated that he had never seen so much meat in a pie! When the plate was collected the barmaid was advised to tell the chef to make another pie crust and slip it over the remaining uneaten morsels', ''I'm sure no one will notice.'' Next up was Matt Bisogno. Although knowing Matt through email and telephone for 3/4 years, we had never actually met, when we did, it was like I hadn't seen him for two weeks, if you follow. The preview night was excellent with lots of racing banter and the panel, including Brian Ellison and Kristian Strangeway, entertaining. The drinks after with the guys was something else. Wednesday, I was invited up to Catterick races by Tony Stafford, where it was lovely to meet up again with Wilf Storey, a man who made my dreams come true. Thursday night was another preview night at Sedgefield Racecourse. Tony McCormick

Irish Big Race Trends would like to thank... racingpost.com theirishfield.ie racinguk.com geegeez.com irishracing.com goracing.ie attheraces.com racingangles.co.uk sportinglife.com horse-racing.ie proformproffessional.com hri-racing.ie

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T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o fr o m Ir i s h B i g R a c e T r e nds Festival Notepad

BECAUSEICOULDNTSEE HEADS T O K I M M U I R AT F E S T I VA L

Noel Glynn has given Becauseicouldntsee the go ahead to contest the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham next Thursday. Second in the four-mile National Hunt Cup two years ago, he was well fancied for the Grand National last year but fell at the second fence. The nine-year-old was last seen chasing home Galileo's Choice over hurdles and lost nothing in defeat on that occasion. `'I'm very happy with him and hopefully we'll go for the Kim Muir," said County Clare-based Glynn. `'He was second in the four-miler two years ago, but he missed Cheltenham last year. I'm hoping Nina (Carberry) will ride him again, although she hasn't fully committed yet. `'She gets on well with him and I probably should have left her on him in the National. Thursday will tell us whether he has any right to go for the National again. `'It was a great run over two miles over hurdles last time. Galileo's Choice is favourite for the Supreme and Dermot (Weld) really likes him. `'He's really coming to himself now and it was good ground the last time he ran there so that should be fine. It's all systems go now!"

I didn´t want to run him (Cinders And Ashes) again on this ground at Haydock but I looked around and I couldn´t find anything more suitable. He was on a hiding to nothing but he has done it really well and he jumped great except for the last. He will go to Cheltenham now. He travelledlike the best horse in the bumper last year but he didn´t get home. He was only four then, he is more mature now and he is very exciting. I think the world of him. - Donald McCain, trainer.

Quevega On Course For No. 4

@BHA Press Office Just another reminder for anyone who missed us earlier - this is the new rebranded BHA account, formerly @BritishRacing @ger lyons Another Sat morn to quicken up my babies.Nearly time to switch to one sheet, it's that mild. Not long now b4 some bubbles burst or NOT! HGD

Quevega remains on course to bid for a fourth straight win in the OLBG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins' star features among 24 six-day entries for the Tuesday showpiece but could face a stern test against Unaccompanied who was second in last year's JCB Triumph Hurdle and who has won at Grade One level this season. Our Girl Salley, Swincombe Flame and Kentford Grey Lady are also towards the head of the betting.

IRISH TRAINERS

Trainer W P Mullins Noel Meade E J O'Grady Mrs John Harrington Gordon Elliot C A Murphy A J Martin D T Hughes John Joseph Hanlon Runners 376 218 182 280 296 108 218 309 217

S E A S O N A L S TAT S -- 2 0 1 1 - 2 0 1 2

Winners 114 58 22 27 31 16 30 26 23 % 30 27 12 10 10 15 14 8 11 Win prize 1,645,915 700,660 363,420 300,990 227,010 376,800 323,830 182,005 276,050 Total prize 2,064,008 893,120 531,676 508,242 468,702 445,270 435,135 401,405 344,683

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M ATT B ISOGNO

Matt is from geegeez.co.uk and horse-racing.ie this week Matt reports from his debut on the Preview panel in Bridlington.

I don't mind admitting, I was nervous. Bloody nervous, in fact. Tony Mac, the top man behind Irish Big Race Trends, had invited me up. It was my first appearance on a Cheltenham Preview Night panel, at the Revelstoke Hotel, Bridlington. Take a tough-to-impress East Yorkshire crowd, add in some top names ­ Graham Orange, Mr `Go Racing in Yorkshire'; Tony Stafford, former newspaper champion tipster and racing editor at the Daily Telegraph; Brian Ellison, tip top trainer; and, Kristian Strangeway, renowned punter and head of Koo's Racing Club... and chuck in little old me! Yikes! We started with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and there were many mutterings for Darlan from the respected and known names on the top table. Then it was my turn. The microphone felt like it weighed two stone and contained half a dozen of those vibrating love eggs (about which I've heard tell!), such was its difficulty to manage in my sweaty fretting hand. My quivering opening gambit of `there are easier races than this' was not the `here's a 20/1 winner' the audience had come for. I ventured that in a race as open as this (I surmised they might go 7/1 the field on the day, which was quickly countered by Luke from Star Sports, who felt they'd smash into the McManus beastie, Darlan), you might as well fire two bullets win only at 10/1 to 16/1, and see if your luck is in. Again, not what the crowd had sought from me and, as the only member of the panel they'd probably never heard of, the consensus at this point may have been `who is this nutter with the big nose and no opinions?'. Ha! Little did they know what was to come... We moved onto the Arkle, and there was unity around Sprinter Sacre... except from me. I tried to explain the notion of value and looking for a reason to get short-priced horses beaten, but the media portrayal of horses as bomb-proof goes deep into the psyche of the casual punter. That, in point of fact, is excellent news for those who do dig deeper, for on the occasions that the media get it wrong (which is plenty often enough), there is value galore elsewhere. So I mentioned SS's record off the bridle, and his Cheltenham record and the fact that he'd bullied inferior horses whereas Al Ferof had taken on proper Grade 1 seniors. I also mentioned there was a good chance that SS would win, but not for me at a shade of odds on. Kristian, a man who makes a tidy living from gambling, seemed to warm to me at this point, as he recognised a kindred spirit in terms of framing a race and finding value (if not in terms of lumping several grand on said horse!) Onwards we went. Champion Hurdle. All said Hurricane Fly. What a treat for the paying punters. Two quid in (oh yes!), and they'd been given the first three favourites. Well, I had to row in with Hurricane Fly, though not as a bet. I said I hoped he'd win, but that I was very happy with my 16/1 voucher, mentioned right here on November 21st 2011. Yes, I managed to call one right!

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Dangers for me were the Nicholls pair for the frame, Zarkandar and Rock On Ruby. And the rest don't count. Onwards we went, and into day two. First up the Neptune... "The what?!" I didn't realise we were doing this race and had nothing prepared specifically for it. Luckily, I was able to pull out a stat attack which was relevant here. 24 of the last 31 horses priced 3/1 or shorter in novice events have been beaten at the Festival, including Dunguib, Aran Concerto, Denman, Comply Or Die, War Of Attrition, Our Vic, Inglis Drever, and Pizarro. There are so many unexposed horses in the novice events that one frequently `improves over the top' of the existing levels of form to win. Caution was thus advised about Boston Bob and Simonsig at the head of the market. Stupidly, and because I didn't have a view on the race, I opted for Simonsig despite the evidence of the facts above. It was a poor choice in a race that I have yet to delve into. I will be lucky, not smart, if that one pulls through. Forwards we went, and back onto something akin to punting terra firma for yours truly, as we considered the RSA Chase. A majority verdict for Grands Crus, particularly Brian Ellison, who said `Grands Crus will win whatever he runs in. He's a machine'. Ellison was succinct and entertaining in equal measure, and he seems like a really nice bloke. And [insert expletive here] shrewd as well! Myself and Mr Strangeway were against the crowd. I rowed in with my stats again, as well as why I thought they were material. For instance, none of the 17 Feltham Chase winners who came to contest the RSA have won. But five beaten horses in the Feltham have won the RSA. The last 48 winners of the RSA Chase had run in the same calendar year. Not Grands Crus, whose last run was 79 days ago in said Feltham Chase. That stat did for 7/4 chance Time For Rupert last year, who'd previously run on 11 December 2010. The reasons? Kempton's Feltham Chase is a `class horse' race, designed for finessed stayers. The RSA Chase is a street fighter's race, designed for hard horses. Fitness is important for a tough old scrap like the RSA, and nearly three months off a fit horse does not make. Grands Crus is almost certainly the best horse in this race if he runs. But he's a massive lay for me. The one to beat him, if he can stand up all the way round, is Bobs Worth. His defeats in the Feltham and Reynoldstown at Ascot (similar classy types win that but get beaten here ­ sorry Invictus fans, as if his `doubtful runner' status wasn't enough) actually embellish his prospects rather than diminish them, to my eye. His record of three from three at the track gives confidence that the undulations won't trouble him, and nor will the trip. Of course, he's yet to clear a fence here, as the three wins were all over hurdles. This was my case, and I told any who were still listening that Bobs Worth was one of my bets of the meeting (and that I was happy with my 6/1 voucher to the same end). In the Queen Mother, there were whispers for Big Zeb and Finian's Rainbow from various quarters... ...but of course not from me. I can't have either of them, and reckon that if you're not already on the bombproof Sizing Europe, there is each way value further down the lists. The beauty here is that there aren't many entered, so there is value if you share my views about Big Zeb (regressive at 11 years old) and Finian's (weak finisher). The ones I put up as each ways at a price were Somersby if he runs here, Kauto Stone, and Blazing Tempo (with the mares' allowance). But then you knew that if you'd read my Queen Mum preview. Break time, and another) large gin helped to steady the nerves. I was actually starting to enjoy things now, and had a very interesting chat with Kristian ­ seated to my left on the table ­ about how he frames a race from a punting perspective. Rather than paraphrase that here, I'll try to persuade him to share a few pointers another day. He certainly knows his betting onions from his gambling tomatoes... Thursday next... and the Ryanair demonstrated its depth by being the first race to really split the panel's opinions. If the audience got anything from this, it was probably that it's a bloody hard race to decipher.

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M ATT B ISOGNO

Matt is from geegeez.co.uk and horse-racing.ie this week Matt reports from his debut on the Preview panel in Bridlington.

World Hurdle, with my heart I want BB to win, because he's such a star of National Hunt racing. But with my money, I'm looking for something to make the frame at a price. Despite the Irish being 0 from 44 since Dorans Pride last winning for them in 1995, I felt that Willie Mullins might hold the key to the places. Given that he's still got SEVEN entered, that was only half the conundrum solved, even if I was right in my initial assertion! I am against Thousand Stars, who simply doesn't have a race for him at Cheltenham. He wants two and a half miles, and he'll get that at Aintree, but not here. Oscar Whisky has to prove his stamina and quotes of 4/1 are rather presumptuous that he will. Which brings me to Zaidpour and So Young, both of whom I believe are better than Mourad, the third placed horse last term. It is interesting to subsequently note that So Young has been scratched from the Champion Hurdle but Zaidpour is still in there, which may be a clue as to what is running where... Both Mourad and Dynaste were beaten far enough last time behind Big Buck's to make it hard to fashion a case for them reversing form. And on we leapt to Friday, and the Triumph Hurdle. There were fancies for Grumeti, Pearl Swan, Sadler's Risk. At bigger prices, both Hisaabaat and Countrywide Flame were mentioned in despatches. For me, I liked Pearl Swan, Sadler's, and Hisaabaat of the Irish (in case they're better than the Brits this year). But it's wide open and most felt it was tough to call. The Gold Cup saw the panel united on one thing: that, as Tony Stafford so eloquently put it, "the Waley-Cohen boy is a tosser". My sentiments exactly, though I may have tempered my words marginally more. It was a consensus that Long Run was the one to beat ­ shock, horror ­ but that most wanted to get him beaten. Kauto Star with or without setback wasn't for most, which left the door open for each way plays. Midnight Chase was well spoken of, as was Burton Port. Brian Ellison told us that if Grands Crus runs here, he wins. "He's a cert, whichever race he runs in". Fair enough. For my part, I ventured that looking at the ratings, and track/trip form, Long Run is probably `bar a fall' material. But with the dodgy driver, I'm happier siding with something each way. Synchronised interests me as a plodder who's been under-rated, and in a race where plodders do make the frame regularly. But it's the `super plodder' Junior that I put up as a super speculative each way, at 66/1 NRNB. He has other entries of course, but if he shows up here, he jumps and stays well enough to roll through a lot of non-staying dead wood up the hill. Past Festival form of 6th in the Fred Winter 2007, 3rd in Coral Cup 2008, and hacked up in the Kim Muir over this

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track/trip last year says he's of interest wherever he runs, despite being primed for the Grand National. [And I'd normally be against horses prepping for the National, but there's an extra week between the two Festivals this year] And that was that... or very nearly. We were finally asked for our handicap picks and charity bets. Notable mentions in the handicaps were Cape Dutch (Tony Stafford), and Alasi (not actually in a handicap but in the Mares race). I put up Scotsirish in the Cross Country (which is a handicap), and also Zarrafakt, which I believe has a knocking each way chance for Emma Lavelle in the JLT Chase on Tuesday. Brian Ellison gave a good mention for his Red Inca, which is a horse Tony Stafford always liked at his previous yard (Brian Meehan's). Red Inca has a very strong Fred Winter profile, and I've backed it as a consequence of the evening. Charity bets of note: Kristian put up Bobs Worth, and I put up Salsify in the Foxhunters (took the 8/1 much to the horror of the Star Sports rep, who was 7s only. He's as low as 5/1 now, and I'm certain he'll go off shorter, and favourite). And that was that. A short round of applause from the East Yorkshire faithful and away to the bar we all retired. The ensuing chinwag with Messrs. McCormick, Strangeway, Stafford, and Luke from Star Sports was engaging enough. The following day, Wednesday, I ditched plans to return early on the rattler as I discovered a) Tony Stafford ­ racing manager for Raymond Tooth ­ was heading to Catterick where one of his purchases for his guv'nor was making her debut, and b) Tony Stafford lives half a mile down the road from me in Hackers! I've not been to Catterick before, and it looked a stamina-sapping track on a day like Wednesday, with heavy ground and a very strong headwind in the home straight. Tony Mac drove us via Malton and Thirsk racecourse ­ beautiful countryside in North Yorkshire. We had coffee with Wilf Storey before racing, and the older guard entertained us youngsters with tales of the old days and the old faces, both human and equine, which was (and always is) absorbing and enjoyable for a racing nut and all round softie like me. Then it was time for the young French madam, Ms Cordelia, to make her bow. She looked the part, and is well bred. In the race itself, she travelled beautifully until let down, and took a while to quicken on. Alas, the bird ­ Countess Comet, in this case ­ had flown and Ms Cordelia ran a decent enough second, with the third horse, Hidden Identity, beaten nineteen lengths. Chris Bealby, trainer of the winner, was gracious enough to invite us for a glass of champagne afterwards, in the absence of his own winning connections. He hadn't expected Countess to win he said, and she stuck on well. He's looking forward to a rummage through the programme book now to find her next race. Then came the long drive south, and the onset of the lurgy... We left around 3.45 from Catterick, and were home in Hackney by 9pm. I went straight to bed, and have been here since. Feeling a good bit better than Wednesday night, and hopefully on the mend ahead of a hectic week upcoming! In the meantime, stay healthy, and back winners! Matt Ms Cordelia in pre parade ring at Catterick

Aiden Coleman

Stable Jockey to Venetia Williams

I've ridden nine winners over the last fortnight, and there isn't a better time for the horses to be running well, as the season reaches its pinnacle. Venetia's horses are in cracking form and I'm picking up some good rides elsewhere too, so life's good at the moment. I'm slowly climbing up the jockey's championship and it would be nice to finish in the top 10 again, but it's going to be tough with so much top-class racing coming up. I should have a good number of rides at the Cheltenham Festival, and looks like I am on Mon Mome on Tuesday, who don't forget finished third in the Gold Cup a couple of years back, as well as Tempest River and recent winner Carrickboy. Tempest River pleased me when I schooled her this morning and she should be a nice ride in the mares' hurdle. I'll be doing a daily Festival blog so will enlarge on my hopes then. On to the weekend and I ride Art Professor in the big race, the (Paddy Power) Imperial Cup, at Sandown and it was a close call between him and Ciceron. I've opted for Art Professor simply because he's easier to ride than Ciceron, who needs to be dropped in, which won't be easy in a 24-runner field. Otherwise I couldn't split them. Their form is there for all to see and either could run into a place. I gave Kalani King a good shout in my column last week and he ran well to come third at 25-1. His trainer runs Taradrewe in the Listed mares' bumper and the same comments apply. Anthony (Honeyball) wouldn't be running her if he didn't think she had a chance, and she won comfortably at Warwick on her only start. Keep an eye on her. Gracchus is an interesting runner in the two-mile novices chase. He ran well the last time I rode him when second at Warwick and didn't fare too badly last time when seventh at Musselburgh, which I don't think suited him. I think Sandown will suit him better but if Sanctuaire is on song then we'll struggle to get by him. I put up Pepite Rose as my best chance last weekend and she duly obliged in very easy style. She runs at Warwick on Sunday and is still well-in with the weights so she should go in again with only two rivals. I also like the chance of Spirit d'Amor in the opening race. He was impressive at Huntingdon last time and is very straightforward. It would be great to take a couple of wins into Cheltenham week, so fingers crossed for another winning weekend.

The Racing Post's Pricewise -- Tom Segal

Irish Big Race Trends keeping a check on Tom's ante-post selections

The Gold Cup The Champion Hurdle The Queen Mother Champion Chase The World Hurdle The RSA Chase Jewson Novices Chase The Supreme Novices The Ryanair Chase Captain Chris Oscars Well Wishful Thinking Carlito Brigante Menorah First Lieutenant Silvianaco Conti Vulcanite Midnight Game Medermitt 2pt [email protected]/1(Ladbrokes) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 2pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 2pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1(Generally) 1pt [email protected]/1 (Generally)

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Cathryn Fry

Two For Sunday at Naas Flemenstar And Cottrelsbooley

WELD WORRIED

Dermot Weld has questioned whether his William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle challenger Galileo's Choice has the required experience to win the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser. A Group Three winner on the level, he has won two of his three starts over timber with his sole defeat coming at the hands of Sous Les Cieux in the Royal Bond. Only seen once since then, he had no trouble winning in a small field at Fairyhouse but despite him being as low as 6-1 with Ladbrokes for the Cheltenham opener, his trainer admits it could be a real eye-opener for him in the Cotswolds. `Inexperience would be the problem with him," Weld told At The Races. `'He's a Flat horse converted to jumping and the rest of his year will be built around the Flat and inexperience will be a problem, especially around Cheltenham."

Festival Notepad

Monksland will be much better suited by better ground and actually did well to win as he´s been held up with a bruise in his foot after he ran in the Nnorth. He is obviously a very clear-winded horse and could go further, but better ground is really the main thing with him. - Noel Meade, trainer.

Dave Nevison At Cheltenham Hurricane Fly Vendor The Package

The Mullins Super Six

Willie Mullins is responsible for six of the 17 six-day entries for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday. Big Buck's is bidding to win the race for the fourth successive season and will be an oddson favourite to do so but Ireland's champion trainer has left Mikael d'Haguenet, Mourad, So Young, Thousand Stars, Zaidpour and Quevega in the race. Carlito Brigante and Voler La Vedette complete a strong Irish team while Oscar Whisky remains on course to step up in trip for Nicky Henderson. Cross Kennon, Dynaste, Featherbed Lane, Five Dream, King Of The Night, Saphir River and Smad Place complete the field.

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`'Get the inside track on the Irish horses running at the Cheltenham Festival''

IRELAND

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GB

S TA L L I O N S TAT S -- 2 0 1 1 - 2 0 1 2

Winners 96 71 73 65 64 66 36 31 58 % 32 36 28 21 21 62 27 30 26 Win prize 811,798 820,044 670,968 647,873 526,013 557,233 511,745 513,501 449,550 Total prize 1,150,048 1,112,526 961,936 917,662 859,936 797,032 719,491 719,491 648,728

Runners 296 197 263 310 311 208 135 104 223

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T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o

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DAVY RUSSELL

Usually I look back on my week for this diary but when we're this close to Cheltenham, we might as well look ahead just this once. It's a very different routine to my usual one and I'm looking forward to it. I will travel over on Sunday night and stay in a house in Cheltenham with Robbie Power and Davy Condon. I usually stay with Andrew McNamara and he books it, but this year, he wasn't sure if he'd be riding so he'd nothing booked. That's why I'm in with the other two lads. The beauty of Cheltenham is that you're staying in a house the same as you would normally at home. It has everything you need. All the channels on television will be there, all the necessary facilities for eating and living normally. The only difference will be that we will be renting it off someone. I know that there will be three jockeys living there but there won't be any post-mortems after the racing. I'm not into that. Move on. There's another day tomorrow. We may be closing in on Tuesday now but even at this stage, a lot of my engagements still have to be decided as potential destinations for the various Gigginstown horses are being considered. It doesn't make any difference to me when the decision is made. Whatever happens in a race is all on the day anyway. Wherever they go, the novice horses would be my better chances and they all appear to be fit and well at this point in proceedings anyway. Hopefully they will remain that way. I will hopefully pick up a ride or two from my former boss, Ferdy Murphy as well and he usually pulls one out of the bag at Cheltenham. There is nothing like Cheltenham; that goes without saying. The atmosphere is great, with so many Irish travelling over. The thing about it is that you've got the best horses taking each other on. And there is a new star born every year. I think Sprinter Sacre has been hugely impressive. I've a fierce liking for him and I think he's going to be very hard to beat in the Arkle. I don't see him having any difficulties with the Cheltenham track. There were plenty of reasons for him being beaten last year. He's a year older and he's just a chaser, pure and simple. Before all that though, I ride Bog Warrior in the Grade 3 Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase on Sunday against another potential star in Peter Casey's Flemenstar which should make for a great race. Bog Warrior is in good order and he will get the juice in the ground that he wants at Naas. It might be unusual for two good horses like these to be racing in Ireland so close to Cheltenham but you don't go over there for the sport and if the horses aren't going to like it there, there's no point bringing them. Quito De La Roque didn't go last year and it worked out well. There are plenty of good pots here in Ireland and I'm sure you'll see Bog Warrior at Fairyhouse or Punchestown if the ground is suitable.

Cathryn Fry On Her Cheltenham Fancies

The Neptune: Selection: Monksland: Will improve further for the better ground. Lyreen Legend boosted the form further at Thurles on Thursday. The Jewson: Selection: Champion Court: has been on my mind for this race since his win in the Dipper over course & distance on New Year's Day. 4th in the Albert Bartlett last year. Pertemps: If these two make the cut... Alfie Sherrin: (Basically a massive plot!!) He just looks the type, 5 th in a Haydock qualifier last time out. Only has 10-1 to carry AllTheKingsHorses: Beat my Albert Bartlett fancy Rocky Creek by a neck at Exeter on his rules debut. Will love the trip. Won last time out. Grand Annual: Selection: Edgardo Sol: jumps off the page with just 10-2 to carry. Handicap Hurdle winner at Cheltenham in November. 2m Chase winner at Aintree in November. Albert Bartlett: Selection: Rocky Creek: Have basically been blown away with this fella ever since he won his only point in Ireland. A future superstar. Anything over hurdles is a bonus & he can take this!

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T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o fr o m Ir i s h B i g R a c e T r e nds

Barry geraghty

I can almost feel Cheltenham and it can't come soon enough for me because I've got a relatively low-key run in over the weekend. It's understandable because everything is in place for hopefully a good four days next week but I've got a couple of fair opportunities at Sandown and two with claims at Naas on Sunday. I've been steered by Nicky Henderson as to which one to ride of the three he has entered for the EBF Hurdle Final at Sandown and after we discussed the race on Thursday evening he put me down for SPEED MASTER (2.05) who is three from three ­ but I've not ridden him in any of them. I've had a good look at him and it seems certain that he'll stay on up the hill because he kept going to win at Towcester on Boxing Day over two miles and had won over half a mile further the time before. He wasn't raised for that win so he's stayed at home to keep what could be a decent mark of 126. But to be frank, I don't think there is a great deal between him and the other two, Thanks For Coming and King's Lodge. I'm on an interesting runner for Nicky in the Imperial Cup ­ CELTUS (3.15) ­ who's been off since late November when he disappointed on his novice chase debut at Newbury. He was lightly-raced last season having come from France with a decent reputation and he's dropped 2lb since. Time might show that 130 is a very fair mark and although this is a super-tough race with the likes of Ted Spread and Master Of Arts in the field, I got the distinct impression that the boss was quite sweet on him. I've got a brace at Naas on Sunday and both CAPELLANUS (3.15) and ROBERTO GOLDBACK (4.20) have solid claims. Capellanus won with me at Galway on summer heavy ground and he coped with that well and I don't see a concern about the soft ground on Sunday. When he was beaten the last twice they haven't gone fast enough for him but the pace should plenty strong enough on Sunday. He's good with a gallop and something to aim at. Roberto Goldback is an open book to the handicapper but the old horse ran well with me last time at Leopardstown in the early part of February when we were second to Quel Esprit off 152. He's been lumped with 4lb more so he'll be prone to an improver but I'm not sure there's one there in the 11 opponents. I know that he's in good health and is very well. SCHOOL REPORT I made an early start at John Ferguson's place just outside Newmarket on Thursday morning to put my leg across two that he's asked me to ride at Cheltenham, NEW YEAR'S EVE and ASAID. I had ridden Asaid for John in Ireland when he frightened himself early in the grade one Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and didn't operate over the first three. We made up a lot of ground to be sixth that day and he was well suited to the hill at Towcester when he won well last time out. He seemed much sharper and tuned in when I gave him three spins on John's all weather and I think he'll run better than his price would suggest. I had never sat on New Year's Eve before but I liked what he showed me in three trips on the all-weather. He's won both starts and has the sort of pedigree which suggests that if he could talk then he wouldn't be talking to the likes of me.He showed a real turn of pace when he won his second start at Market Rasen and faster ground won't be a concern for him. I was very impressed just how well John's team looked.

T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o

Pa g e 12

A QUICK CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL CALL TO... JIM CULLOTY

Occupation: Racehorse Trainer Website: www.jimculloty.net What do you do during the 4 days of the festival? `'Without runners, I thoroughly enjoy myself. With a runner, I'll be a nervous wreck.'' What is your earliest recollection of the Festival? `'Dawn Run and Jonjo O'Neill in The Gold Cup.' What is the name of your all time favourite Festival horse? `'Best Mate'' Which race are you looking forward to at this years Festival? `'The Gold Cup'' Which horse are you most looking forward to seeing running at the Festival? `'The duel between Long Run and Kauto Star'' What advice would you give to people backing at the Festival? `'I don't gamble, so I'm not in a position to offer advice.'' What would be your ante-post bet for the festival? `'If Barrel Of Laughs gets in the Kim Muir, he'll run a big race at a huge price'' Who will win The Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother, World Hurdle and Gold Cup? `'Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe, Big Bucks and Long Run.''

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Pa g e 13

T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o fr o m Ir i s h B i g R a c e T r e nds

Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls with his Betfair.com Column

Thanks For The Memories

Owner Graham Regan breaks the news that Niche Market has been retired following a tendon injury...

I am sad to report that we have retired Niche Market. For a one-horse owner, The Niche has been a dream even since we got him as a six-year-old. He won the Irish Grand National in 2009, a BGC Silver Cup at Ascot in 2008 as well as finishing second in an Aon Chase and third in a Hennessy Gold Cup, fifth in last year's Grand National and a whole host of other good runs. It all looked so promising when he finished second to Marufo at Newbury last weekend. Timeform made that run the equal of anything he had achieved before, and we would have gone to the National 6lb well in. We were very much looking forward to Aintree before the news came from Paul that he had injured a tendon. I have had better weeks, but, that said, I am certain that Paul has had better fortnights. The Niche has given us some brilliant days out and we feel it is our turn to look after him now. This is why we have reached the decision to retire him. We have found him a very good home, I have gifted The Niche to Harry Skelton, who was on board for his Fairyhouse win in 2009, and we know he will have a long and happy retirement at Nick Skelton's stables in Stratford. This is simply another illustration of the ups and downs of the sport we all love.

It's the calm before the storm this weekend and we only have a couple of runners at Chepstow to worry about. Touch wood, things have gone as smoothly as could be expected in the build up to Cheltenham and fingers crossed for a good week. After a tough week with Peddlers Cross, I a pleased to report that he has been showing his old sparkle. We have done some serious work in the last few days and the pleasing thing is that he has looked as good as any of the Cheltenham candidates. It's the strongest team we have ever assembled and although it's ultra competitive, we do know what is required now. I have done a couple of these preview evenings and it is interesting what you pick up - I have heard a few people giving Our Mick a big shout in the handicap on Tuesday and I am warming to him myself. It hasn't been a long-term plan with him and he might have a bit too much weight, but I have long thought he wanted 3m and if he improves for the trip, he could go very well. I have it in my mind that novices have done well here and he now looks another good string to the bow. I certainly can't grumble about the form of the stable going into the meeting - it's been another successful week and Red Rocco's win at Ayr on Friday took us to 125 for the season - long may it continue!

T he I r i s h P o r tf ol i o

Pa g e 14

THE IRISH PORTFOLIO

From IBRT

Are They Worth Following?

You see them every Saturday morning pontificating about our great game, but how do their `tips' stand up? The Morning Line will be on every morning of the festival, so who out of Nick Luck, Jim McGrath, John Francome and Tanya Stephenson should we follow throughout the 4 days? Since November 12th I have been monitoring their pearls of wisdom, here are their results.... Between the four of them they have tipped 93 horses, 20 of them winning selections with a healthy profit of £2,050.50 to their given stakes. So who out of the four is giving the winners and worth following, but who, more importantly, is to be avoided like the plague? Let's break it down..... Jim McGrath

Selections 11 Wins 3 (27%) Places 1 Winning prices 6/1, 3/1, 3/1 Best/Worst Balance +£450 Current Balance +£350

John Francome

Selection 21 Wins 5 (23.8%) Places 4 Winning Prices 10/1, 11/8, 3/1, 6/5, 7/1, (25/1 pl) Best/Worst Balance +901.50 Current Balance +801.50

Nick Luck

Selections 34 Wins 9(26.4%) Places 5 Winning Prices 8/1, 14/1, 5/2f, 3/1f, 9/2, 7/1, 8/1, 7/2, 6/1 Best/Worst Balance +£1,310 Current Balance +£1,210

Tanya Stephenson

Selections 27 Wins 4(14%) Places 4 Winning Prices 11/8f, 6/1, 11/4f, 9/2 Best/Worst Balance -£624.25 Current Balance -£261.75

There you have it, in black and white, Francome, Luck and McGrath all with a impressive s/r of over 23%. If you had followed the four, you would have laid out £4,230 with a profit of £2,099.75, but avoiding Tanya you would have profit of £2,361.50 from £3,100 stakes.

The Irish Portfolio ©Tony McCormick and www.irishbigracetrends.com

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