For my first ante-post selection I’m keeping it extremely simple, with a horse who will be laid out for this one target all year.
Trained by a master of his craft in both Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot-winning trainer Gavin Cromwell, this selection may be as short as 5-1, but I’m confident he’ll be a lot shorter in the betting come March next year.
The horse I’m talking about is of course Flooring Porter for the Stayers Hurdle.
After his standard pipe opener in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last week, I was surprised to see his price drift out slightly with the likes of BoyleSports to land a third Stayers’ title in March.
He tipped over in the race last season and he was carrying a lot of weight first time out over a more than inadequate trip on this year’s seasonal debut.
I would be shocked not to see him, once again, take the tried and tested route to Leopardstown over Christmas and then leave enough to work on ready for March, on a track we know he performs exceptionally well at.
But above all this, I think my main reason for confidence is looking at his potential challengers who could prevent the gelding from running away with the feature on day three.
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Let’s take a look at the current market, with Flooring Porter marginal favourite to Charles Byrnes’ stable star Blazing Khal.
He’s been the subject of substantial market support over the last few weeks, with firms cutting him from 16-1 all the way into a general 6-1, with not much reason for this move.
Byrnes recently confirmed Blazing Khal has had another setback and will not return to action until after Christmas, nominating the Dublin Racing Festival as a possible starting point in January.
I can’t say this would fill me with confidence with only one run before entering Grade 1 open company at the Cheltenham Festival, and his fragile nature would be even more of a turn off for those taking such short odds for a horse who hasn’t shown anywhere near the level of form as my selection.
Next in the betting you have State Man, who most definitely won’t be going over three miles.
Klassical Dream who we know can’t live with Flooring Porter at Cheltenham, also might be heading chasing, and then Buzz who will be lucky just to make it to the racecourse again after fracturing his pelvis last year.
Diving even deeper down the market we have Bob Olinger, who did finish in front of Flooring Porter at the weekend but still doesn’t look the same horse who won the Ballymore Novice Hurdle a couple of years ago.
Moving further down the list we have the reigning champ of the Mares division Maries Rock, who could well rock up to defend her title once again in March.
I could go on and on looking at the priced up horses who, in my opinion, are extremely unlikely to take their chance on St Patrick’s Day.
Gavin Cromwell has in recent days come out to say he was pleased with Flooring Porter’s reappearance and expects him to improve significantly going onto Leopardstown at Christmas.
He also confirmed he will stick with the same route as previous years.
Realistically I think the only potential challenger is the unknown quality of Blazing Khal, but he’s plenty short enough at this stage so I’d like to take the 5-1 for Flooring Porter to make it three in a row come March, and spark hopefully more jubilant scenes from his syndicate owners.
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