Townshend has jumping prowess to make Cheltenham mark

As the festival draws closer, clues in the on-track action are getting thinner on the ground, but one horse which went straight into the notebook following Saturday’s meeting at Fairyhouse was Townshend.

The evidence from the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle suggests the Willie-Mullins-trained gelding should have no trouble making his mark in handicap company before, possibly, moving on to better things.

A horse with one flat victory and one over hurdles prior to last weekend’s debut for the stable, the Lord Of England gelding was most notable for the manner with which he jumped.

Barring the second-last, after which he appeared to stumble slightly, he was exemplary. It’s an asset which should stand him in good stead should he head to Cheltenham for one of the big-field handicaps.

He travelled strongly, ought to be better for the run, and looks well-in off his current mark of 131.

He holds entries in the Supreme, Neptune and Albert Bartlett, but they’ll surely come too soon.

Class-wise, he’s not at that level now, but has the potential to develop into a graded performer, and how he fares on his next outing will reveal plenty about his potential.

An entry in the County Hurdle would be very interesting.

How do we read the news that Mullins is reconsidering running Augusta Kate for the Champion Bumper?

Is it a positive sign the mare is developing rapidly and is a potential winner, or a negative for her stable companions, who have long been intended runners.

It’s fair to say the winter bumper team hasn’t been as prolific this term as in previous seasons, but there have been plenty of smart performers, including Village Mystic, Battleford, and Bacardys.

Assuming the first-named won’t travel to the Cotswolds, Battleford could be assumed the best of the winter brigade, but the fact Augusta Kate, who has an alternative option at Sandown, and Castello Sforza (20/1 - 12/1), unraced since winning on debut at Fairyhouse in April, have been the subject of support would appear to tell a story, albeit a very unclear one. As most years, the bumper is probably a race for punters to swerve.

Time ran out for Salsify to earn a crack at a third Foxhunter Chase success at the Cheltenham Festival. Winner in 2012 and 2013 for the Sweeney family, Castlelyons, he missed all of 2014 and most of last season, having sustained an injury.

However, there were distinct signs of a return to form in recent weeks, which prompted his odds to shorten as low as 8-1 for a third victory in the race.

Saturday’s success at Fairyhouse was further reward for connections’ efforts, but a point-to-point win or to finish first or second in another hunter chase would have been be needed for the 11-year-old to qualify.

Recently, I had an interesting on-track conversation with a punter who likes to dabble in the ante-post markets. Multiple bets are his area of interest, bidding to gain big reward for small investment.

However, he flagged an issue which most people will not think about in relations to non-runners.

Most will understand that if an ante-post selection is a non-runner, the bet is a loser.

That applies to all singles across the boards, though there may be extenuating circumstances in which a firm may choose, of their own volition, to refund losing bets. That’s their prerogative.

However, firms differ in regard to multiples on ante-post slips. Technically, if one is a non-runner, it is a loser and thus all doubles and trebles with which it forms a link could be deemed likewise.

This is not necessarily the case with your bookmaker, so I suggest, before it becomes an issue, all ante-post punters contact the bookmaker with which your bet has been placed.

Of course, non-runner no-bet on all Cheltenham races is just around the corner, and the rules become standard under that concession.

Cheltenham preview nights are in full swing now, and Community Radio Youghal presenter, Jordan McCarthy, has organised a first for his native East Cork town.

The night will be held in the Walter Raleigh Hotel on Friday, March 11, and the panel includes Grade-1-winning jockey Jonathan Burke, three-time Foxhunters Chase winning rider Colman Sweeney, Grand-National-winning trainer Jimmy Mangan, renowned bookmaker and punter Johnny Dineen, and yours truly.

Tickets cost €10 and all proceeds will go to the not-for-profit radio station.

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