Stone looks rock-solid

I think I’ll win the Betfair Chase at Ascot this afternoon on Kauto Stone.

He is a French import, a half-brother to Kauto Star, is progressive and one I particularly like.

Kauto has had two runs since arriving from his native country, at Down Royal and Sandown.

He won nicely at Down Royal and then stepped well up in class when taking on Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

The bare result reveals that Sizing Europe was eight lengths too good for us, but I thought it was a cracking effort on the part of my horse.

Sizing Europe is simply the best two-miler around and didn’t half emphasise that fact when trouncing Big Zeb at Punchestown next time.

I tried everything to get Sizing off the bridle, but couldn’t manage it. The ground was on the good side and, of course, that was ideal for Henry de Bromhead’s gelding.

Essentially, we were flat to the boards all of the way and realistically, looking back at the race, Kauto Stone was never going to be able to match strides with Sizing over two miles.

But now we have another five and a half furlongs and that is made to measure. I’m just sweet on this horse and recommend as well you have a bit on him for the Ryanair. If he does what I expect here then his Cheltenham odds will quickly collapse.

A watching brief is the best policy with regard to Saint Roque in the first, a novice hurdle. He won a point-to-point at Dromahane, but then disappointed on his first outing for Paul Nicholls at Hereford.

The Reynoldstown Chase has all the appearances of a match between my horse, Silviniaco Conti, and Bobs Worth and Barry Geraghty.

We were second and third respectively behind Grands Crus at Kempton and, when we pulled up, Barry said he felt Bobs Worth would be better suited by a stiffer track.

Bobs Worth has since had his palate cauterised, which is a minor wind operation. He would have missed a few days work, but was due to have a break anyway, so that’s not going make any difference.

Basically, there is little or nothing between these two. I was delighted with the way Silviniaco jumped at Kempton and hope that might sway it in our favour now.

The Minack has it all to do under top weight in a handicap chase. He’s in good form and has won his last two, here and at Wincanton. He won nicely at Ascot last time, but the worry is that the form has since been let down.

Likewise, Crack Away Jack has a tough task in a handicap hurdle. He cut a hind leg badly at the top of the hill at Cheltenham in November, when moving sweetly.

He’s done well to come back so quickly, but you’d imagine will be all the better for the run and a handicap at Cheltenham will probably be on his agenda.

I ride a newcomer for Paul, Atlantic Roller, in the bumper, but am no help because I know nothing about the horse.

The plan at Navan tomorrow will be to win the first, a maiden hurdle, on Tennis Cap for Willie Mullins. He has been a little disappointing since coming from France, but this does appear to be a suitable opportunity.

I rode him at Leopardstown last time when he pulled very hard and refused to settle. He is working well and I will have to try and get the horse to relax and give himself a real chance of delivering.

I’ve gone with Mikael D’Haguenet, in preference to Mourad, in the Grade 2 hurdle, on the basis Mikael is rapidly getting back to the horse he was.

I think he has turned the corner, he’s won his last three, is improving all of the time and his homework is now quite impressive.

There are two Grade 2 novice chases on the card and I’m on Nearest The Pin in the first one for Tony Martin. This is not the strongest Graded contest ever run, Tony’s horses are flying and the more the surface dries the better his prospects.

I rode a winner for Gigginstown, Edeymi, at Clonmel on Thursday and they have called on me again for Start Me Up in the second.

I was just behind him in the National Trial at Punchestown when he was turned sideways and then stumbled to the ground.

He has a bit to do at the weights, Gigginstown have three in the race and I don’t know if Start Me Up is regarded as their second or third choice. Anyway, we’re not without hope and will give it a shot.

I fancy two of Willie’s at Gowran Park today, the talented Zaidpour and the ex-French horse Shamar, who has plenty of speed and, like Nearest The Pin, would be favoured by drying ground.

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