As the curtain came down on a heady four days at Cheltenham, Ireland’s good week continued, while Fulham’s great season spectacularly imploded at Old Trafford. I discuss the weekend’s biggest talking points.
1. Moment of madness
And it was all going so well… Fulham were on track for a historic FA Cup victory until forty seconds of madness saw them suffer three dismissals in under a minute. Debates will rage amongst the Cottagers as to whether or not Chris Kavanagh made the right decisions, but the fact is, after Marco Silva followed Mitrovic down the tunnel at Old Trafford, Fulham experienced the bitter sense of an ending. Unfortunately, despite a season of sustained excellence, they only have themselves to blame.
Man Utd appear to have banished the memory of recent wobbles and will now fancy themselves to pair their Carabao Cup success with an FA Cup win. They face a tricky assignment facing a free-scoring Brighton at Wembley for a shot at Cup glory.
Man Utd to win the FA Cup @ 9-4
2. Corach a worthy favourite
Corach Rambler was all heart and class to earn back to back Ultima victories on Cheltenham’s opening day. Over the weekend Peter Scudamore confirmed he will be heading to Aintree for next month’s Grand National.
It was a bruising contest with just 31 days between the Ultima and Aintree. However, Corach Rambler has proven his ability to win off a mark of 146, and with Derek Fox set to do the steering once more after a peach of a ride round Cheltenham Lucinda Russell’s stable-star is now as short as 7-1 to win this season’s chasing showpiece, and represents a worthy favourite.
Corach Rambler to win the Grand National @ 7-1
3. Going going gone
Antonio Conte has cut a disgruntled figure all season. Despite early shouts of a Tottenham title charge the optimism of the campaign’s early months quickly faded and he has never appeared totally satisfied with results on and off the pitch since. It seems, with his family in Italy, and having failed to truly settle in his second spell in the capital, that the fiery Italian will be packing his bags and heading home come the end of the season.
However, his extraordinary outburst following James Ward Prowse’s late equaliser from the spot could hasten his return journey. Although the manner in which Spurs let the result slip was surprising, Conte’s remarks after the final whistle were even more so. He questioned the attitude of his players labelling them “selfish” and “lacking fire in the eyes”. With Tottenham fans already singing the name of Mauricio Pochettino, the clock is certainly ticking on Conte’s reign, but could it come to an end sooner rather than later?
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4. World Cup marker
All in all it’s been a decent week to be Irish. It wasn’t quite the green wash of years gone by, but once again at Cheltenham the Prestbury Cup was emphatically claimed by the Irish raiders. Celebrations for St. Patrick’s day were also sure to boost the national spirit, but the biggest show of Irish strength came on the rugby field in the Six Nations.
Having won both the senior Grand Slam as well as replicating that feat at U20 level, the Irish have laid a marker down to the rest of the international rugby scene. They are at the top of the tree right now and clearly have the talent coming up through the ranks to sustain that dominance for years to come.
The rugby World Cup kicks off in just under six months and Ireland find themselves third favourites to win the tournament in France.
Ireland to win the rugby World Cup @ 4-1
5. Under the radar
It is not often that such a fine second-placed performance sweeps quite so dramatically under the radar. But Love Envoi, beaten by the great Honeysuckle, was hardly mentioned in the moments following the latter’s dramatic swansong success. However, it was a smart performance from the seven-year-old who was only beaten by the finest of margins and has tasted defeat on just two occasions in her ten-start career thus far.
Her trainer Harry Fry confirmed over the weekend that she will be heading to Punchestown next month for the Grade 1 Mares Champion Hurdle on April 29th. She was narrowly beaten at Fairyhouse at the back end of last season, but Fry believes her relative freshness could stand her in good stead for a sucessful end to this campagin.
He told the Racing Post: “Fairyhouse last year was her sixth run of the season, but this will only be her fourth run, so she’ll be much fresher now and hopefully we can play the leading role this time.”