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.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
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

Junior DBA (SQL Server, T-SQL, SSIS, SSAS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior DBA (SQ...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Senior Project Manager

£60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment