Follow Don Poli On Grand National Trail

After another emotional weekend at Cheltenham, the dust has begun to settle. Nicky Henderson’s stable star Sprinter Sacre was retired after a glistening caterer before Simonsig’a resurgence was tragically cut short after a fall on Sunday. It shows the lows of the game and my thoughts are with all at Seven Barrows.

Looking to the future, Nicky will have a number of big runners to try and have some small silver lining, with My Tent Or Yours and Vyta Du Roc looking to hold major claims shortly.

However today I’m looking slightly further ahead, bypassing even the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand National is a race for the nation, that the purists aren’t too keen on overly investing it.

With 30 fences and four and a half miles to travel, there is plenty that can go wrong but with recent moderation, fallers are rarer than ever.

So, it may be worth taking a small punt on a horse that looks tailor made for the race, given his class and scope to enjoy a stamina sapping trip.

That horse, is last years Cheltenham Gold Cup third, Don Poli. Having won twice at the Cheltenham Festival precious to that, including a staying-on effort in the RSA Chase, he’s proven he has tons of ability, though it’s always been fairly obvious that he’s not a horse blessed with raw speed.

Often referred to a ‘boat’, Don Poli stays on gamely in nearly all of his races, shown to full effect in last years Gold Cup, when he was woefully outpaced before rattling up the hill to take third.

A true test looks ideal for him and connections gave him a spin at Aintree last year, where he looked a sitting duck for the strong travelling Many Clouds (that years Grand National winner), before out battling him despite saddle problems.

It may have been a run to test out suitability for the track with a future Grand National run in mind and given Gigginstown often have a strong hand in the race (won it last year with Rule The World), it looks likely that Don Poli will have his season plotted around Aintree in April.

He has moved to Gordon Elliot’s yard after Michae O’Leary moved his horses from Willie Mullins and this may not be a bad thing with Aintree in mind.

Elliot sprung on to the scene as an exuberant young trainer as Silver Birch won the Grand National back in 2007, in a campaign that showed he could get one ready for its big day.

Mullins had struggled with Iuck and finding the ‘right horse’ at Aintree, so a move to Elliot could be a blessing for his National chances.

His last run is a slight concern, given he failed to show any remnants of last seasons quality but he was hampered and he is sure to strip fitter for that effort.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him revert to hurdles for a spell and maybe try his hand in a couple of big chases, which could see his mark slip for a crack at the big one in April.

Don Poli is currently available at 25/1, which seems fair at this point in time and bet365 are already offering five places.

Selection: Grand National – Don Poli @ 25/1 (Various)

Cheltenham Festival – Day Four Preview

For the second time this week, we return with two good priced places out of three, but still no winner.

Friday looks a good day to end the festival in style, and there is plenty of value flying around.

The Triumph Hurdle looks a typically competitive curtain raiser, and the vote in this goes to the highly rated Calipto. Paul Nicholls hasn’t been in the greatest form, but has talked very highly of his four-year-old who remains unbeaten in Britain, winning twice since coming over from Ireland.

He oozed class when winning at Newbury both times, beating the highly-rated Activial (subsequent Adonis winner), in the process. He looks a likely improver, and should take all the beating according to trainer Paul Nicholls, who seemed rather bullish when describing his geldings chances in the opener.

A nifty hurdler who travels like a dream, should appreciate the stiff finish, and the ground should hold no worries. It is a very open race, but his current price strikes value, especially when there are firms offering money back for second and third placed finishers.

Daryl Jacob was extremely emotive when finishing a nose second behind Fingal Bay on Thursday, and this looks the ideal opportunity to land a big prize to ease the pain of missed chances so far. He will have his fair share of supporters, and the current 9/2 shouldn’t last too long.

Elsewhere on the card, Fingal Bay’s team of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson team up with the interesting Cheltenian who landed the Champion Bumper back in 2011.

He is lightly races over hurdles, having only had four runs, but he showed he still possesses plenty of ability when finishing a close fourth in the Betfair Hurdle last time out. The form of the race has worked out well with Dell’ Arca and Smashing finishing right in the mix in the Coral Cup.

The eight-year-old is running off a very generous mark of 137 and should go extremely well on his preferred better ground. The 10/1 looks a cracking each-way bet taking all things to account, and he will more than likely go off a single figure price.

Another interesting runner in the Martin Pipe is Don Poli. Willie Mullins five-year-old has improved with each run, which culminated in a smashing victory in a Grade Three at Clonmel.

The trip looks a tad on the sharp side on Friday, but his ability to maintain a solid gallop may be deadly if Fogarty decides to take him from the front.  He looks a likely improver, will be staying on best of all and the vibes from the stable have all been positive, with a big run expected.

He is currently 12/1, which looks a solid each-way bet given the form Mullins has been in so far this week.

The final selection of the day, and meeting looks to be the best of the bunch. Ned Buntline has been a talking horse from the Noel Meade stable from day one.

The six-year-old has solid form in the bag, including finishing a very close runner-up in his maiden behind none other than the Champion Hurdle hero, Jezki.

He has never finished outside of the first three, and has a bold jumping style which looks suited to the obstacles at Cheltenham. He is ridden by his perfect match in the ultra-calm Paul Carberry who has a sixth sense when it comes to producing his mounts at the perfect time.

JP McManus has had a fantastic week so far, and Ned Buntline could round it off in the perfect manner. He is on an extremely generous mark, and if he can replicate his best form, he should go extremely close. The 10/1 with Boylesports will not last long, and he is sure to be one of the biggest gambles of the day, especially if JP’s go well earlier in the day.

Selections:

Triumph Hurdle: Calipto @ 9/2 (Boylesports or 4/1 with Paddy Power, money back if second or third)

Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle: Cheltenian @ 10/1(Bet365)

Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle: Don Poli @ 14/1 (32Red)

Grand Annual: Ned Buntline @ 10/1 (Boylesports)