NEW YEAR BATTLE OF THE STARS? Willie Mullins sets up a potential January clash at Ascot between the two weekend stars, Jonbon and El Fabiolo, but neither looked world-beaters in the mud at Sandown and Cork, and Daqman thinks they may avoid each other until Cheltenham.

MONDAY ACTION: Daqman starts the week with a nap at Lingfield and looks at a race which is a virtual repeat of one staged 11 days ago.


He was not so Fabiolo. The two-mile championship remains wide open, all to play for, after a clinical display by Jonbon on Saturday and a hollow two-horse victory by El Fabiolo at Cork yesterday.

The Hilly Way can throw up stars but opposition to El Fabiolo was left to a Grade-3 winner, Fil Dor, after Maskada drifted alarmingly in the market and dropped out, under pressure, before the business end of the race to be beaten more than eight lengths.

When the BETDAQ offers about Maskada drifted all morning and were out to 17.0 a minute before the ‘off’ time, Fil Dor took over as second favourite by default, though he’d flopped 38 lengths behind El Fabiolo in February.

The three others in the field were out with the washing at lame-dog prices SP for just six runners: 25-1, 50-1, 125-1, all adding up to a non-event.

That didn’t stop bookmakers artfully pocketing from a 113% total SP (when BETDAQ offers opened faithfully yours at just over 100%).

El Fabiolo loped around looking even bigger and bonier than last year, once awkward on landing, once only just able to complete the carriage of his bulk over the Cork fences.

It was soft-heavy going, of course (that translates from Irish into English as ‘you’re soft if you complain because it’s heavy’!).

El Fabiolo’s trainer, Willie Mullins, said afterwards that his horse got the job done ‘without being flashy.’

He thought his next race would be the Clarence House at Ascot, same route as Energumene last year.

That sets up an early clash with Jonbon but makes it more likely that Nicky Henderson’s charge will go for the Game Spirit instead. The bookies generally go evens El Fabiolo, 5-4 Jonbon for the Cheltenham Champion Chase.

The time of the Hilly Way was good, compared to the stayer’s novice hurdle, which was almost a minute slow, and had a similar shock for punters.

Mahons Way, at 15-8 disputing favouritism with Search For Glory, suddenly caved in three out, weakening 25 lengths behind the 7-4 winner.

We have to question the form of Henry De Bromhead’s string (3-27). Both runners which blew up when pressure was applied, Maskada and Mahons Way, were Knockeen stablemates.


⭕ 1.05 Lingfield At morning odds we have to play just south of evens on Betdaq Betting Exchange but that’s not enough to put me off Jeune Belle who looks an exciting prospect judged on her bumper form.

Lucy Wadham’s runner won well under today’s pilot Bryony Frost at Huntingdon but bettered that form considerably when chasing home Baby Kate in a mares Listed contest for which she was sent off a 33/1 chance. It looked a competitive heat with plenty of previous winners and Jeune Belle should be able to make a winning start over hurdles in this more modest company.

Royal Athena and Madam Ryder are helping to keep the market sensible.

The three-year-old Royal Athena won what was only below average four runner race at Fakenham last time out and will need to improve considerably whilst Nicky Henderson’s runner Madam Ryder wasn’t particularly strong in the early market. By the stable’s high standards she doesn’t look in the top division judged by her bumper efforts at Southwell and Bangor and is now back after a 184 day break.


⭕ 3.35 Lingfield This is almost an action replay of the course and distance race 11 days ago when Felton Bellevue, Heaven Smart and Shot Boii were 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively to Guguss Collonges. Even the ground was similar – so can we expect the same order of finish?

Shot Boii looks like he will struggle even on slightly more favourable weights. He has 10 lengths to make up on the other pair and didn’t particularly seem to enjoy his chasing debut.

I fancy that Heaven Smart might be able to turn the 1/2 length table with Felton Bellevue on a pound better terms. He didn’t get the clearest of runs last time out and the current form of their respective trainers (Gary Moore 5 from 24) and Ben Case (0 from 5) add further strength to the argument for the form to be reversed.


⭕ 8.00 Chelmsford At face value not the most appetising of races to select for a bet on Monday but the more I looked at it the more I liked Wilde And Dandy who is on a recovery mission having disappointed at Wolverhampton last time out when he was trapped out wide and ran no sort of race.

He’s probably better judged on his previous start which was a course and distance win here which looks solid enough form in terms of tonight’s race. Kieran Shoemark takes over in the saddle for the first time.

The lightly raced Top Button was heading the market after his satisfactory handicap debut at Kempton and is now up in distance and down in the weights for this. I plan to back him as well for another win 10 on the race.


1.05 Lingfield (win 10, nap)
BET 11.1pts win JEUNE BELLE

3.35 Lingfield (win 10)

8.00 Chelmsford (both to win 10)
BET 2.8pts win TOP BUTTON

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