Poquelin looks poised to pounce

FOUR impossible-to-solve handicaps, on a six-race programme, make Cheltenham this afternoon a less than enticing prospect.

Poquelin is a hopeful nap choice in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. The ground has come right for Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old and he is the one to beat.

He has clearly been trained with this one race in mind and has been rested since landing a competitive handicap at the track back in December.

That was a smart performance, the selection conceding Razor Royale 11lbs and handing him a beating of seven lengths.

Prior to that, Poquelin proved no match for Tranquil Sea in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham, going under by four and a half lengths.

There is a turnover of just 2lbs in the weights, so strictly on the book it is hard to envisage a reversal in the placings.

The ground, however, was very soft that afternoon and will be a lot different on this occasion.

That said, Tranquil Sea is entitled to the utmost consideration. He has been in good form in the meantime and the surface will not pose a problem.

Ruby Walsh partners Poquelin and most pundits will be of the opinion that he and Nicholls will also provide the answer to the other Grade 1 on the card, the Ladbrokes' World Hurdle with Big Buck's.

There is no doubt that, on all known form, he is the best stayer in the business right now and is going to be a particularly hard nut to crack.

But I detest odds-on shots at this meeting and propose taking a chance each-way with Alan King's Karabak.

He has three and a half lengths to find with Big Buck's on Newbury running and, on such evidence, obviously faces an uphill struggle.

But Karabak has been brought along quietly this season and was runner-up to Mikael d'Haguenet here a year ago.

Big Buck's does have a tendency to hit a flat spot in his races and, should that happen again, then Karabak is surely best positioned to take advantage.

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