Somersby; a horse that has more knockers than a good Carry On film, finally landed his much promised Grade One on Saturday in the Victor Chandler Chase. In doing so he beat joint favourite Finian’s Rainbow by just over a length. Surely Somersby is one of the most talked about horses in training. He has run at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals and until Saturday had been placed in six Grade Ones without victory. Maybe the first time cheek pieces worked the oracle and it seems likely that he will sport them again when he lines up for what is looking like the hottest renewal of the Ryanair so far. In his story is a mantra for us all; never give up because you will get there.
So what of the performance of Finian’s Rainbow? On this showing you would have to say that neither Sizing Europe or Big Zeb are quaking in their boots. However he was far from disgraced and reading Barry Geraghty’s post race comments it could be that we see what was the UK’s leading hope for the Queen Mother diverted to the Ryanair. He would certainly add spice to that already tasty menu. The eye catcher of the race was Al Ferof in third place and it is no surprise that Timeform have rated that run as the best by a novice chaser this season. I am glad that he will now line up in the Arkle and not the Queen Mother. All in good time, as the expression goes.
Across the sea, it was heart warming to see Mikael D’haguenet put in a stylish performance to win the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas. It’s great to see him so full of confidence. Full credit to Willie Mullins for the way he has campaigned the horse this season. In my opinion Mikael and his stablemate Thousand Stars are the biggest dangers (if there is such a thing) to Big Bucks in the World Hurdle. With respect I think Oscar Whisky will find things tough past the 2m5f point. There is no doubting his tenacity or his ability but I am amazed that he is fancied by the bookies to serve it up to Big Bucks more than the Mullins duo.
Next weekend will set the Cheltenham Festival betting markets on fire as Cheltenham hosts Festival Trials Day and Leopardstown hold a fantastic two day meeting culminating in the Irish Champion Hurdle. I will be previewing the Leopardstown action for @narrowthefield on www.narrowing-the-field.co.uk, then reviewing what will surely be an enthralling weekend of racing right here on JPFestival.com.