Racing: Carberry to pounce with Power Elite

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The Independent Online

The Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle offers a treacherous path out of trouble for anyone unfortunate enough still to need a winner after 23 of the 24 races at the Festival. But two of the 30 runners have outstanding credentials to round off a famous week for the Irish. A saver is recommended on Studmaster, who could well return here next year for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle itself, but twice the odds are available against Power Elite (next best 5.20).

He looked an ideal type for this race when finishing well from off a slow pace in the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury last year, but met with a setback after that and was very disappointing in his only subsequent hurdle race, back in November. But he had shown high-class form on the Flat in the meantime and his superb record when fresh, under both codes, suggests that he has been kept aside for this since. Paul Carberry has chosen him ahead of the stable's two other runners, and can be relied upon to produce him late off the usual frantic gallop.

Studmaster's trainer, Jessica Harrington, has an interesting candidate for the JCB Triumph Hurdle in Breathing Fire (2.0). He remains a maiden over hurdles but shaped well against Mister Hight at Leopardstown last month. The winner jumped casually there and his stable has been very quiet this week, whereas Breathing Fire is expected to improve in terms of fitness and also appreciate this better ground.

Black Jack Ketchum is the shortest favourite of the week in the Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle but Powerstation (2.35) might well have run him close ridden closer to a steady pace when they met here in November. He looked in need of this extra distance there, and again when rallying to beat Travino at Navan, and has been freshened up since disappointing next time.

The home team can stem the Irish flow in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, where Andreas is strongly fancied by his stable. He is considered very well handicapped, having rediscovered his form after a breathing operation, but was not the quickest learner over fences and this hectic race may put pressure on his jumping.

Better value rests in Sharp Rigging (4.40), who produced an improved performance at Huntingdon last time and looked poised to spring a shock when falling in the Coral Cup last year. He is clearly at home here and runs off a mark just 2lb higher today.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Lord Of Illusion (Cheltenham 3.15)

NB: Power Elite

(Cheltenham 5.20)

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Cheltenham

2.00 With the Nicky Henderson yard in brilliant form, Afsoun must be reckoned with - though this contender was reported to be out of sorts last weekend. Except for a possible preference for soft ground, Mister Hight had no apparent dents in his armour before arriving here. Now, however, the dismal form shown by Willie Mullins on the first three days suddenly makes this unbeaten horse look vulnerable. At the morning odds, TURKO looks the best bet. Paul Nicholls has long been adamant that this one's talents would really come to the fore on good going. So there can be no excuses today.

2.35 A repeat of Black Jack Ketchum's displays this season would be sufficient to floor this opposition. But a lurking doubt arises from the fact that a winter bug at Jonjo O'Neill's stable has made the form of most of his charges thoroughly unpredictable. Tony McCoy's mount has certainly shown no ill-effects during his impressive unbeaten run, but an each-way alternative could be wise. TRAVINO, ridden by Barry Geraghty, has form that ties in closely with Tuesday's comfortable victor, Nicanor.

3.15 Barry Geraghty, the rider of last year's winner, Kicking King, has been extremely fortunate to find an admirable substitute in FORGET THE PAST. This eight-year-old's star has ascended as quickly as the reputations of more established candidates has suffered after poor performances.

4.00 The Brake bar in the seaside village of Blackrock, Co Louth, will be flying tonight if locally owned Harbour Pilot takes this - which he is certainly entitled to on past Gold Cup form. But the Irish have only a moderate record in this race and some up-and-coming types could prove more fleet-footed. The Cornwall-trained RAREGEM, a cosy winner last week, fits that profile best.

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