Alan King is set to saddle a rare runner at Leopardstown on Saturday with his UXIZANDRE amongst the favourites for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase over two miles (due off 1.20pm).
The six-year-old currently heads the sponsors' market at 5/2, with his nearest rival Ballycasey a 3/1 shot. Ladbrokes can't split them and go 5/2 the pair, but I would take the King horse over Willie Mullins' runner all day as he has by far the stronger form coming into this. The winner of a Grade 1 novices' chase at Aintree in April, he showed the benefit of his Old Roan Chase fourth when beating the reopposing Simply Ned in the Shloer Chase over this trip last time. The form of that race was given a significant boost when the third, Dodging Bullets, landed the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and that horse is now a strong fancy for the Champion Chase in March.
That Grade 1 is also likely to be Uxizandre's target and as a sound-jumping front-runner who stays further than two miles, he would have an excellent chance, especially if Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy don't make it back from injury. But first things first, this is a valuable prize in its own right and I'm going to put him up as the bet as you can pick holes in his Irish-trained rivals.
Ballycasey for one is worth opposing as he's a specialist two-and-a-half miler running over the minimum, while his jumping is also a cause for concern. He got away with a few errors when winning a weak Grade 1 on his reappearance at Gowran Park (2m4f) but his fencing will be put up even more pressure in this race, which is always run at a fast pace. That's not a worry with Uxizandre as he loves bowling along in front, and his jumping is all the better for it.
Moscow Mannon is another prone to the odd error, although he would have a chance on the pick of his form, which includes a defeat of Felix Younger on his return this season, and he probably didn't stay behind Ballycasey last time. If he puts his best for forward, he could hit the frame and reward each-way backers at bet365's 14/1. He is much preferred to Hidden Cyclone who has something to prove now, having fallen on his last two starts.
Uxizandre @ 5/2 Paddy Power