THE ’WINNERS’ THAT GOT AWAY: It just wasn’t Daqman’s Saturday at Cheltenham, as first his jackpot bet Rileyev (2nd 10-1) was headed on the line, then Sea Of Thunder (13-2 from 10-1) led six lengths with victory in sight, only to overjump at the last.

LONG QUEUE OF BIG-ODDS PLACES: It adds to a long recent list of near misses, notably First In The Queue (2nd 14-1, beaten a head) on Friday, following places at 20-1 (twice), 11-1, 17-2 and 8-1.

IT’S A CHAMPION LAY: Despite the run of bad luck, Daqman had four winning days in a row up to yesterday, and he clawed back half of Saturday’s losses with a lay on Champion Court (3rd 5-2).

I could get Arkle ‘beat’, the way my luck’s running. So I’m dissecting the John Durkan today like a pathologist in one of the many detective dramas on TV; you know, the one who says: ‘He was hit on the head; I’ll tell you the rest later’.

Well, I’ve had a few knocks in the last week or so, and I just hope you’ve been on each way. I’m not much of an each-way man myself; rather spend the place bit backing something else to win.

One trick to the John Durkan on today’s surface seems to be to delete good-ground results (that includes soft when the races are run in Ireland!) and concentrate on soft-heavy.

Chase form over 20 furlongs with these provisos is, down the card: for Cooldine 0; for Joncol 1111; Kempes 21P; Roi Du Mee 102; Rubi Light 1021; Trafford Lad 100; Tranquil Sea 100111.

Joncol won this in 2009 but last year’s win by Tranquil Sea came when the race was switched to Fairyhouse, and Punchestown chase form is revealing: Cooldine 43, Joncol 131; Kempes 1P; Roi Du Mee 11; Rubi Light 1; Trafford Lad 11; Tranquil Sea 20U.

Checking out collateral form, Tranquil Sea has beaten the good yardstick Roberto Goldback a length and a half; Rubi Light beat ‘Roberto’ eight lengths (10 lengths less 2lb allowance); Joncol beat him 20-and-a-half lengths; Trafford Lad was behind him; Kempes beat Joncol and Trafford Lad nine lengths and 31 lengths at Leopardstown.

As for the race ratings, officially Rubi Light wins (164) from Kempes (162) and Joncol (161) with Tranquil Sea (160) only fourth.

The positions of Cooldine (no wins at the trip, none at Punchestown and not highly rated); Trafford Lad (at least twice beaten by the best of these and no wins at Punchestown) and Tranquil Sea (beaten twice at the trip, does not measure up through Roberto Goldback and poor Punchestown form) become untenable.

Roi Du Mee has to find 12lb or more with the three top-rated and I’m opposing Joncol on these grounds: his only Group-1 win in two years has been a neck defeat of Cooldine, who simply doesn’t measure up to this (rating 151; trainer says he’ll be happy if he reaches the frame).

That leaves me with Kempes and the improving six-year-old Rubi Light, who could follow Kicking King, In Compliance and Joncol, who all won it at that age.

But, if this is indeed a two-horse race, and I can get 9.8 about one of them (Kempes), I have no option, value wise. Whatever your deductions, Kempes’ defeat of Joncol at Leopardstown has clearly been overlooked.

His two shockers afterwards (pulled up in each case) were both on a sound surface, which doesn’t bring out the best in him (unless he’s at Punchestown!), and, though he didn’t sparkle, his run back over hurdles at Cork should have him spot on for this. Willie Mullins reckons he’ll be ’thereabouts.’

Novice, maiden, conditional, seller; no wonder some racegoers will be having a long liquid lunch before the ‘real’ opening race at Hereford, the chase at 2.15.

Victor Dartnall, who got Roudoudouville within about a length of big-race victory yesterday under Andrew Glassonbury, sends out Racing Post top-rated Dancing Mist here after a long absence. Yet he also saddles front-runner Moleskin off top weight.

The implication is that Dancing Mist lacks nothing in fitness and I shall grab a bit of 9.2 about the grey, though nervous of Epee Celeste (6.6): has his ground and a trip for the first time over fences.

With Kateal (2.45) a glass horse, Cross The Flags should take the next for McManus-O’Neill-McCoy, though I’m not so sure about the same team’s Tip Of My Tongue (3.45), a four-year-old in a big-field 26-furlong slog.

You suspect that Alpha Way (3.15) might bounce after his runaway win first time back, now raised three furlongs in trip and 17lb in weight.

With Bertenbar a ‘nonner’, that leaves me with Sawpit Supreme, steadily coming to hand, as with all Venetia Wiliams’s.

WIN-30 JACKPOT: 3.4pts win KEMPES and 1.5pts (stakes saver) RUBI LIGHT (2.05 Punchestown)
BET 3.5pts win EPEE CELESTE and 2.4pts win DANCING MIST (2.15 Hereford)
BET 6.5pts win (nap) CROSS THE FLAGS (2.45 Hereford)
BET 4pts win SAWPIT SUPREME (3.15 Hereford)

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