Matt Tombs / Wednesday 23rd January 2013 / 13:15
1pt Lambro to win the Ryanair @ 66/1
It’s rare to look at a Festival market and see a real rick but when I looked at the 39 Ryanair entries and the odds, what immediately leapt out was that Lambro was an enormous price at 66/1. During Flemenstar’s 5 novice chase wins last season Lambro was the only horse to give him a race, when beaten 3½l at levels at Naas in January, (2m, soft to heavy). Neither ground nor trip would have suited Lambro so it was a smart effort as Flemenstar had to be driven right out.
Afterwards he was a decent 3¼l 3rd to Last Instalment in a 2m5f Grade 1 at Leopardstown (good to soft) before disappointing in the RSA, and rounding off the season by winning a small race at Fairyhouse (2m2f, soft). I wonder if the run against Flemenstar took a lot out of him and he didn’t show his form for the remainder of the season. That might also explain why he was slow coming to hand in the autumn, hence him not having run yet.
Normally that absence would be a huge concern but the one trainer who consistently wins big races at the Festival with horses who only make the track after the turn of the year is Willie Mullins. Ebaziyan didn’t run until late January before winning the Supreme at 40/1, and Fiveforthree didn’t make the racecourse until mid February, before winning the Neptune. He produces Quevega to win every year without a run.
I had Lambro down as a 150 horse on last season’s form, so he has to improve 16-20lb in his 2nd season over fences. Imperial Commander and Taranis both won as 2nd season chasers. Imperial Commander won the Paddy Power off 139 and was beaten 72l in the King George before taking this. Taranis ran off 149 in the Paddy Power and the December equivalent at Cheltenham (fell and 3rd respectively) before winning this (a Grade 2 then and he wouldn’t have beaten Our Vic if he hadn’t been getting 5lb.) Lambro showed better form as a novice than either and it’s very realistic to see him finding the improvement needed. On his chase form he looks better short of 3m and my guess is trip and likely good ground will suit ideally, (helpfully he’s not entered for the Gold Cup or Champion Chase).
As usual, many of those at the top of the market have alternative engagements so we need to assess Lambro’s likely opposition. Flemenstar (11/2) would have a great chance if lining up but I think there’s a good chance he’ll win the Irish Hennessy if allowed to bowl along, and so run in the Gold Cup. Coral are offering 4/1 he runs in this, which is a much better bet.
Cue Card (6/1) looked good when bolting up by 26l in the Haldon off 157 (extended 2m1f, good to soft.) He didn’t stay 3m in the mud in the King George and its likely 2m5f on good ground is ideal. However, I can see connections having another crack at Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase so I can’t back him now at 6/1.
Finian’s Rainbow (9/1) may run here to keep him away from stablemate Sprinter Sacre. He followed up his narrow Champion Chase defeat of Sizing Europe by hacking up in the Melling over 2m4f at Aintree. He settles better now but you need a strong stayer at 2m5f to win this and so there’s still some doubt about the trip. He bombed in the mud at Ascot on his only run this season and may defend his 2m crown so can’t be backed now.
Champion Court (10/1) has run two fair races on heavy ground, to be 2nd to William’s Wishes (who received 20lb) over 2m1f and 17l 4th in the King George. He should improve for better ground but he looks a consistent type who falls short of Grade 1 level and it’s hard to see him actually winning.
Sizing Europe (10/1) has been a wonderful servant having been in the first 3 in all 20 chase starts and has still looked a quality performer this season. He’s 11 now though and it’s rare for any horse of that age to win a Grade 1 at Cheltenham, (Moscow Flyer is the only recent one I can think of.) He could run in the Champion Chase or Gold Cup so he’s another who can’t be backed now.
Menorah (12/1) has really looked to relish a step up to around 2½m, beating Cristal Bonus by 7l in the Grade 1 novice at Aintree and Hunt Ball (who received 2lb) by 3½l in the Peterborough. He was thrashed by Cue Card in the Haldon but he looked really rusty over his first few fences so perhaps he should be forgiven that. The likely good ground and trip will suit ideally so if his jumping holds up he looks to have every chance, (not entered in the Gold Cup or Champion Chase).
I’m surprised that connections want to run First Lieutenant (12/1) in the Gold Cup. All the evidence indicates he doesn’t stay and they have Sir Des Champs (and potentially Bog Warrior) for the race, so why not run him in the race the owner sponsors over an ideal trip? If they have a change of heart he’d have a great chance.
Similar comments apply to Grands Crus (12/1) in that a fast run 2m5f at Cheltenham looks ideal at this stage. However, he has the World Hurdle as well as the Gold Cup as an option. When combined with his breathing problems, he can’t be backed now.
Riverside Theatre (14/1) won this under an inspired Barry Geraghty last year despite again not looking to like the track. I can forgive him bombing at Aintree after such a hard race winning this, but he disappointed again in the King George. He might not have coped with the ground but has a bit to prove now.
For Non Stop (20/1) was an impressive 23l winner of the Old Roan off 151, (2m4f, good), which looked like October form where a horse that goes well fresh had a huge advantage. He then came out the best horse at the weights when failing by 3¾l to concede 6lb to Captain Chris at Ascot (2m3f, heavy,) before trailing in a disappointing last behind Menorah at Kempton. He likes really good ground, is being aimed at the race and, if freshened up in the interim, looks overpriced.
I backed Rubi Light (20/1) last year, (a fair 7½l 5th on ground quicker than he likes.) The ground was probably better than advertised when he got within 2½l of Sizing Europe in the 2m1f Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas, (soft) so that was a good performance. I don’t see him winning on the prevailing sound surface but if it came up genuinely soft, he’d have a real chance.
Others I like at bigger prices include Bog Warrior (25/1) who’s in the portfolio non runner, no bet for the Gold Cup. He could easily run in this (entered for a 2m5f handicap at Cheltenham on Saturday) but he’s not really an ante-post proposition for it as he’s so fragile and has other potential targets. If he runs on soft ground, he’ll be a leading player.
Hidden Cyclone (33/1) posted a couple of fair efforts to beat Foildubh (who gave 4lb) 1½l at Naas, (2m, soft) and Call The Police (who received 4lb) 4¼l at Gowran (2m4f, heavy). He got buzzed up, didn’t jump that well and looked a non-stayer in the Lexus. I backed him ante-post for the RSA last year after Shark Hanlon said that was his target only for him to be re-routed, so it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy.
I managed to get a decent bet down at around 66/1 on the exchanges on Albertas Run about 7 weeks before he won the 2010 renewal. After that I may be susceptible to trying to find a long shot that isn’t there, and whilst For Non Stop is interesting, I really do like Lambro’s chances. With Sir Des Champs going for the Gold Cup, Mullins only other realistic contender is Quel Esprit who also hasn’t run yet. Paul Nicholls doesn’t have an obvious contender either so if Lambro does run he could have the invaluable support of Ruby Walsh.
Lambro is 4/1 favourite for the €75,000 2m5f handicap chase (off 142) at Leopardstown on Saturday which suggests he’s well forward at home. Like any 66/1 shot, a lot of things need to fall into place for him to win but with so many question marks over those at the front of the market, he’s worth backing now and we can look at the race again when running plans are clearer.