Irish set to sink Flagship

Greg Wood believes Sound Man can bring the Viking era to an early close

With the determination that befits his name, Viking Flagship will once again start favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon, having been available at 10-1 earlier in the season. He has ridden out the criticism and the whispers that his powers were on the wane, and the principal worry for his backers this afternoon may be that, in comparison to last year's mishap-strewn preparation, this time around he may have peaked too soon.

The champion arrives with two impressive victories to his credit already this year, and his latest quote of 11-8 will find plenty of takers. Unless you were lucky enough to take the big odds a few months ago, though, there are three good reasons to oppose David Nicholson's runner this afternoon, and they all have an Irish accent.

Viking Flagship has certainly been impressive when winning at Kempton and Newbury this year, but his achievements to date do not stand comparison with those of Sound Man, who with Strong Platinum and Klairon Davis forms the most concerted opposition Viking Flagship has ever faced at Cheltenham.

If, as seems likely, last year's five-length defeat of Deep Sensation represents the peak of Viking Flagship's form, this time around even his best may not be good enough. The clear leader of an average generation, the defending champion must now contend with the new young breed, and despite the minor setback he suffered a fortnight ago, SOUND MAN (nap 2.50) is an excellent bet to depose him.

Any 2-1 still available about Eddie O'Grady's runner should be taken this morning, before on-course punters realise that his three wins this year represent the form of a maturing and outstanding performer. On a strict point of form, Klairon Davis, who narrowly beat Sound Man in last year's Arkle Trophy, could be a value bet at around 8-1, but Sound Man has improved considerably this year and his learning curve has not peaked yet.

Hopes of an Irish success will be strong before the Coral Cup Handicap too, not least because of Aidan O'Brien's unfortunate decision to declare Hotel Minella, who was ninth in yesterday's Champion Hurdle. Though most unlikely to run, Hotel Minella has compressed the weights, giving those in the handicap proper an advantage which few, including ante-post punters, expected them to have.

The most obvious beneficiary is Time For A Run, winner of the race two years ago when he landed a typically huge gamble for J P McManus, his owner. After an unsuccessful attempt at chasing, Time For A Run is now, according to Timeform, "difficult to assess", an uncertainty which may persuade McManus's bookmakers that this morning is not a good one to answer the phone.

This is not a race in which to back a short-priced favourite, however, and while the declaration of Hotel Minella has done nothing to benefit his chance, Allez Wijins (next best 3.30), a French import who won his first British hurdle race last time out, may still have enough improvement left to spring a surprise. At around 20-1, it is worth chancing.

In the card's two staying events for novices, the juvenile Sparkling Yasmin (2.15) is over-priced at 16-1 over the timber, but there is no getting away from the brilliant young chaser Mr Mulligan (4.05) in the Sun Alliance Novice Chase. In the fascinating Anglo-Irish dispute between Andanito and Wither Or Which (5.50) in the Bumper, the visitor is the one to back. The Irish know a good bumper horse when they see one, and their confidence about this one is overwhelming.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam