Whether there is a ‘dashing’ Denman in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy (3pm) field at Newbury remains to be seen, but Carlow conjuror Willie Mullins can conduct a successful international smash and grab raid on the first major race of the Jumps season with Cabaret Queen.
The selection jumped for fun last time when winning the Munster National at Limerick last month, when she had the race won from a long way out, and Mullins won that same contest with Total Recall before following up in this prestigious heat two years’ ago.
Indeed Mullins seems to love a National to prepare one for this event as his other ‘winner’ Be My Royal, first past the post in 2002 but subsequently disqualified, landed the Cork version before lining up in Berkshire.
Now the ‘Queen’ has to carry an extra 20lb as a result of that facile victory, but no one can really argue about the scale of that penalty as despite being eased down in the closing stages, she still came home 13 lengths in front.
That win wasn’t coming out of turn either as before that she found only The Big Lense too powerful in a big handicap chase at Listowel in September and that winner went on to score on his next outing at Navan.
Cabaret Queen (7/1) relished the extra half mile that she covered at Limerick compared to 2m 4f at Listowel and another two furlongs here should be right up her alley which isn’t that surprising as she won her point-to-point over three miles as a four-year-old.
Soft ground won’t be a problem either as it was heavy at Limerick and she’s had a lovely 48-day break to recover from her exertions that day.
Small fields in last Saturday’s Betfair Chase and Christy 1965 Chase produced cracking betting heats as there were fancied runners in both races, but sadly Saturday’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2.05pm) at Newcastle, which must endure an 8am inspection due to frost, looks much less competitive.
The contest features dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air ( 2/7 ) who is rated almost a stone higher than the other four protagonists and it’s hard to see the long odds-on poke, who has won on his seasonal debut for the last five seasons, getting turned over.
Nicky Henderson’s charge looked as good as ever when comfortably justifying joint favouritism in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May, when he gained some compensation for a third obstacle tumble when attempting the Champion Hurdle hat-trick two months’ earlier.
Unless you’re a fearless punter who doesn’t mind backing ‘shorties’, perhaps the only options are a straight forecast with the Evan Williams-trained Silver Streak ( 4/1 ), who looks better than the other three, or including ‘Buveur’ in a multiple.
He’s already 4/1 favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle and unless he wins half the track, there’s no guarantees he’ll shorten for the Blue Riband by beating this opposition.
Colin Tizzard’s Reserve Tank ( 1/2 ) will be short but should win the John Francome Novices’ Chase (12.40pm) back at Newbury.