At Fishers Cross can land the Bartlett

Rebecca Curtis to score for Wales

Nearly quarter of a century after Norton 's Coin sprang the ultimate Cheltenham Gold Cup shock, Rebecca Curtis can strike a Grade One blow for Wales in the Albert Bartlett with At Fishers Cross.

The ex-Charlie Swan-trained horse has cemented the link between the Newport-based trainer and Irish owner JP McManus this season with a four-from-four campaign that includes the most outstanding single piece of form in today’s three-miler.

That came at Cheltenham a month ago when At Fishers Cross proved a neck too good for Wednesday’s Neptune winner The New One.

It would be dangerous to take the form absolutely literally. The New One didn’t relish the very testing conditions and his jockey felt he didn’t ride a particularly clever race. But neither can it be ignored that At Fishers Cross had to rally to win, and did so with a vengeance.


Proven on the track, the Welsh-based horse should relish the step-up in trip and although his best form is on very soft ground, he has also won this season on good to soft.

It's unlikely to be better than that today and one certainty is that there will be no 100 to 1 for McManus to tuck into like there was in 1990 when Sirrel Griffiths famously supplied the Gold Cup winner.

Curtis also runs O'Faolains Boy here but Willie Mullins will also be doubly-represented by Inish Island and Ballycasey whose position in the betting market is more to do with home reputation than the bare evidence of a couple of wins at Clonmel and Thurles.

At Fishers Cross in contrast has top form on the track, a proven attitude and an outstanding performance to build on: sometimes it can be delusional to look beyond the obvious.

Far West brings a similarly convincing set of credentials to the Triumph Hurdle. Unbeaten since joining Paul Nicholls, he has won twice around Cheltenham and last time out showed a surprising turn of foot off a slow pace at Ascot.

River Maigue didn't advertise the bare form in the Supreme and Irish hopes of Triumph success were boosted by Flaxen Flare's Fred Winter success on Wednesday.

Our Conor has been the outstanding Irish four-year-old so far and represents a serious chance, although whether or not Diakali deserves to be three times Our Conor’s price is another matter.

Ruby Walsh, though, hasn't hesitated and has plumped for Far West. That's no bad recommendation.

Anyone looking for encouragement about Salsify's chance in the Foxhunters only has to watch a re-run of last year's race when the top Irish hunter and Colman Sweeney put in a performance that was as close to faultless as makes no difference.

The partnership could easily record back-to-back victories but Salsify is plenty short enough in the betting when you consider the route Sweeney is likely to have to navigate again in a 24-runner field. Maybe Earth Dream represents a value each-way alternative.

Things didn't go quite so perfectly for Toner D'Oudairies in last year's renewal of the Martin Pipe conditional hurdle, the Gigginstown runner looking to hit the front plenty soon enough and winding up nutted by a neck on the line.

Gordon Elliott brings him back for another crack at the race named after his former boss and the move looks significant since Toner D'Oudairies has been running over fences this season.

Whatever the fate of Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup, it could be a good day for the Gigginstown team since in addition to Toner D'Oudairies, they may also make a mark on the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle with Il Fenomeno.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column