A measure of the lack of participants at Kempton is that even Haydock has almost as many runners, and that course is actively investigating why many trainers seem to treat it like a plague zone. One obvious answer, though, is that Haydock encourages quality rather than quantity, and the field for the Peter Marsh Chase emphasises the point. Five runners go to post, but they include Jodami, first and second in the last two Gold Cups, Monsieur Le Cure, last year's top staying novice, and Raymylette, wh o has improved into a championship contender this season. And the remaining pair, Chatam and Earth Summit, have won the Hennessy and Scottish National respectively.
The first three in the weights are most definitely on trial for the Gold Cup but, strangely, it is perhaps Jodami, the former champion, who has the most to prove. He has parted company with Mark Dwyer on both his starts this season (he was remounted to finish second at Wetherby last time), and Haydock's difficult drop fences will search out any uncertainty which has crept into his jumping. This doubt, and the 16lb and more which he must give to his rivals, make him an unattractive bet even at around 4-1.
Take a chance instead with Raymylette (2.00), whose fencing, not to mention his cruising speed and never-say-die attitude, are beyond reproach. Monsieur Le Cure, the favourite, tends to find his best form as spring approaches, but there is no reason to think that Raymylette has stopped improving either.
The Champion Hurdle Trial also presents a fascinating match of proven performers with upstarts as Relkeel, 6-1 second-favourite for the Champion itself, challenges Flakey Dove, winner of both today's race and the one which really matters last season. Relkeel's prominence in the Festival betting is due almost entirely to his performance in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Sandown where, with just 10st 2lb on his back, he trotted away from some rivals who, while useful, fall short of championship classby some way. Flakey Dove (1.30), by contrast, is a 16-1 chance for Cheltenham, despite her success 10 months ago and her well-known preference for the spring. Today's race may mark her return to winning form, as it did 12 months ago.
For all Flakey Dove's resilience, though, there are many punters (particuarly those who wear shamrock on St Patrick's Day) who claim that she won last year's Champion Hurdle only because Fortune And Fame, the ante-post favourite, was withdrawn on the dayof the race.
This year, Dermot Weld's gelding is one of hurdling's forgotten contenders, but he beat Danoli so convincingly in last year's Irish Champion Hurdle that he will accelerate towards the head of the Festival market if he can repeat that success in tomorrow's renewal at Leopardstown. His principal rival on the book is a former Champion Hurdle favourite of even greater vintage, Montelado, who has not seen a course since his brilliant success in the 1993 Supreme Novice Hurdle. It should pay, however, to trustWeld to have his best hurdler close to his best.Reuse content