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Sunday 2 February 2020

One for the Notebook

Yesterday at Leopardstown we could have seen the most likely winner of the "Arkle" to be run at Cheltenham on 10th March. Notebook was ridden with a lot of confidence behind a forceful ride on the eventual runner-up Cash Back.  To me, it looked a tough race as this pair slugged it out over the final half-mile, and so it may not have been a surprise to see the 25/1 Gallant John Joe staying-on after the final fence to finish just over 7-lengths behind the winner.
Notebook is now a best-priced 3/1 for the Arkle, but to be fair you have to ask if Cash Back is capable of reversing that form at Cheltenham and, given that this was the first serious test for Cash Back, it's is likely that he can only improve on that. So, will Cash Back go for the Arkle or the "Marsh" Novices Chase over 2m4f (won last season by Defi Du Seuil)?
It was disappointing not to see Fakir D'oudairies not line-up yesterday, but I'm not sure that he would be able to reverse the placings with Notebook after being beaten by him when they last met. I get the feeling that connections may try a step-up to 2m4f with him at Cheltenham and go for the "Marsh" instead (for which he is a best-priced 9/1).
Nothing other than this pair (Notebook and Cash Back) looks capable of winning the Arkle at the moment, and I'm having a punt at 7/1 on CASH BACK to be the main challenge from Willie Mullins for this.
Mullins also had a helluva result in the earlier race Dublin Chase over the same C&D, which he dominated with Min and Chancun Pour Soi.  This race looked top-class, especially as the time was 3.60sec faster than the novice chase won by Notebook (carrying the same weight).  The winning margin of nearly 4-lengths was decisive, and Min in 2nd is no slouch, so in my opinion this was the best "two-mile" chase we've seen this season. On the back of this CHANCUN POUR SOI should be the fav for the QMCC, which is a bit galling for me as I thought we had already seen the most likely winner in Defi Du Seuil.
Prior to winning on Saturday, Chancun Pour Soi had run 2nd to A PLUS TARD again over this C&D and now we have to regard this winning performance in a better light.  Combine that form with the emphatic 16-length win (as the 5/1 fav) in the Novices' handicap chase over 2m4f on the opening day of last years Cheltenham Festival, and we are looking at a serious candidate for the Ryanair Chase. Now I realise that he is already 5/1 for the Ryanair, but trainer de Bromhead knows what he's doing, and to be honest I do not think that Min (the 4/1 fav for the Ryanair) is as good over 2m4f as he is over a shorter trip. Without a doubt, Frodon (who won the race last year) showed he was as good as ever when winning at Kempton last month over 2m4f, and he will undoubtedly start as the fav on the day given the crowd will absolutely love him. One horse who I think is flying under the radar in this is KALASHNIKOV who ran a cracker to be 2nd behind Oldgrangewood at Newbury (and that horse went up 7lb and won again at Cheltenham NTO), and a repeat of that performance in the Ryanair will put him in the frame for this, as the form of the "Supreme" novices' hurdle in which he was 2nd in 2018 is now looking to be right up to the usual standard.  Kalashnikov is 16/1 and I'm sure he will line-up in the race in March and (should he do that) he will be trading at under 8/1.

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