2007 Winner: Inglis Drever; Trainer: Howard Johnson; Age: 8; SP: 5/1
The last 20 winners had all run respectably on their most recent outing, at least making the first four, so only look to form horses. With Inglis Drever a short-priced favourite this year, some punters may be tempted to look for a big priced outsider to make the frame - but think again. The first four in the betting have filled the first three places in all the last four renewals.
Surprisingly, given the dominance of their hurdlers, the Irish haven’t won this prize since Doran’s Pride 12 years ago. The eleven year-old Hardy Eustace looks their best chance this year, but he has a mountain to climb as no winner has been aged older than eight since Galmoy 20 years ago. That has to be a worry for backers of nine-year-old Inglis Drever.
The contenders (best current price):
Inglis Drever (5/4 Stan James), many people’s idea of a banker at the Festival, will be hard to beat. Howard Johnson’s hurdler has looked as good as ever in winning both his starts this season, including the Cleve Hurdle over course and distance last time out. Last year’s third Blazing Bailey (15/2 Skybet) may not have been at his best when finishing runner-up in the Cleeve Hurdle but, on everything he’s done, it’s hard to see him beating Inglis barring accidents. Kasbah Bliss (8/1 Ladbrokes) beat Lough Derg (20/1 William Hill) last time out at Haydock, but the French raider needs the rain to stay away. My Way De Solzen (10/1 Paddy Power) has been disappointing this season, but his recent effort at Fontwell was a lot better. Aitmatov (25/1 bet365) and The Market Man (20/1 Boylesports) are relatively unexposed as regards a stamina test, and could improve for it.
Can Inglis Drever put himself in the record books by winning this race for the third time as a nine-year-old? The stats say no; but consider this. How many of those that have tried have won the race twice previously and arrive at the track unbeaten in the current season? Exactly. I’m not one for taking short prices, especially at Cheltenham, but I think the race is his to lose and he could even go off odds-on. There’s no point banging on about the others apart from to say that they aren’t good enough.
BACK - Inglis Drever 5pt @ 5/4 Stan James
LAY (Betfair) - Kasbah Bliss (place only) - needs rain to stay away; besides, he could be best on a flatter track.