Altior looks just Champion

The hype that surrounds Presenting Percy should ensure Monalee goes off a tasty price in today’s RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase and Henry De Bromhead’s charge is fancied to do the business in a race that historically separates the men from the boys.

Altior looks just Champion

Presenting Percy carries a huge reputation but on the two previous occasions he has stepped up to Grade One level he has been found wanting.

It was a similar story in Grade Two Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park last month when he was outbattled by Our Duke, to whom he was getting 7lbs, despite Jessica Harrington’s Gold Cup hopeful clouting the fourth last.

Presenting Percy has looked a useful sort at times, notably when winning the Pertemps off a big weight at last year’s Festival, but whether he is a genuine Grade One horse remains open to debate.

No such doubts apply to Monalee and the way he bounced back from a horrendous fall at Christmas to land a high-class Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival was deeply impressive.

Last year’s Albert Bartlett runner-up is entitled to improve from that run and if he does he will take the world of beating today.

It’s a statement of the obvious to say the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle revolves around Samcro and it’ll rate as a seismic surprise if Gordon Elliott’s charge is turned over.

However, his price reflects that reality and the wise play here might be to support Black Op each way at odds of 9-1.

Last time out, Tom George’s charge posted a cracking performance when second, having blundered at the last obstacle, to the highly-regarded Santini on heavy ground at Cheltenham in January.

Less than a length separated the first two at the line but the third was beaten by just shy of 30 lengths. That looks strong form and similarly testing conditions today should allow Black Op come home best of the rest behind Samcro.

Today’s feature, the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, looked pretty straightforward until Altior’s 11th hour injury scare.

However, while the Altior drama is obviously far from ideal, Douvan comes into this race under a bigger cloud having not been sighted since last year’s Festival.

With Altior reportedly none the worse for his late scare, he gets the vote in what shapes as a fascinating renewal.

It could be a day to savour for Gordon Elliott as Cheltenham specialist Cause Of Causes is fancied to claim a fourth successive Cheltenham Festival triumph by winning the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase, chiefly at the expense of stablemate Tiger Roll.

Given the staggering success he has already enjoyed in his fledgling career, it’ll be something of a surprise if Joseph O’Brien fails to saddle a winner this week and his Rhinestone looks his best chance in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

He does have to turn around form with favourite Blackbow but only a length and a half separated them at the line at Leopardstown last month with the remainder of the field in a different parish.

Blackbow looks pretty smart but Rhinestone is nearly double the price of the favourite and represents value at 8-1.

Darren Norris’ best bets

1:30 Black Op (Each-way)

2:10 Monalee (NAP)

3:30 Altior (NB)

4:10 Cause of Causes

5:30 Rhinestone

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