The Duke Weekend Preview

For those of you keeping up with the racing headlines this week, you will have read about Hayley Turner being banned for three months after placing bets while still technically a licensed professional jockey.

I think all parties have actually come out of the situation quite well. Hayley made a mistake by placing small bets after she had announced her retirement, but then subsequently she returned to the saddle.

She has done the right thing by making a full apology and admitting her fault. The bets she placed were also very minimal (mostly five quid here and ten quid there).

The BHA have done the right thing by giving her a ban, but also in reducing the severity of the minimum sentence (usually 18 months) to just three months.

Racing’s organisational body had to be seen to give a punishment, but they have rightly taken in to account the fact Turner classed herself as retired when making such bets. I don’t often agree with the BHA but I think in this instance, they’ve got it spot on.

Turning to the racing this weekend, The International Hurdle is one of the key races at Cheltenham.

The New One ran well enough in the Greatwood Hurdle off top weight to suggest he should be a player in this. Old Guard was actually a place ahead of him in third in that race, but was receiving a lot of weight and is far worse off on these terms.

Melon will take part for Willie Mullins, and I’d have to say he has a very good chance if continuing his upward curve of improvement. He finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March, but he has to give weight to My Tent Or Yours. Nicky Henderson’s hurdler isn’t getting any younger, but he has been a very consistent horse as demonstrated by three runner-up spots in the Champion Hurdle over the past few years. The problem is, he hasn’t won since February 2014. I do like My Tent Or Yours, but I’d be tempted to take a chance that Melon may have more to come.

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup takes place earlier on the card at 1.55pm. It’s got a wide-open look about it. Splash Of Ginge denied my pick Starchitect by a neck in the Betvictor Gold Cup.

Few people were expecting it but I tell you this, there were some sore heads in the morning from the gang who are involved with the horse. I’m not sure he will follow up here, but it would be some party again if he did. Paul Nicholls has three good chances and while most prefer Clan Des Obeaux, I think Le Prezien has run well in his last couple of races and could again be in the mix. I think there’s more to come over fences from Ballyalton. He’s made a steady return to racing after a long absence but there are signs he retains a lot of ability. If that’s the case, a mark of 143 could seriously underestimate him. I’ll have an each-way with him, plus I can’t resist another play on Starchitect, who came so close last time and should be right there again.

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