2.10 Cheltenham: Shloer Chase (Grade 2), 2m
Quite an intriguing contest that obviously evolves very much around the question: how good is Sprinter Sacre? His trainer is less than quietly confident, in fact he’s actually been bullish in his comments earlier this week.
Personally I’m not convinced. The problems this former superstar had are well known. Is he really 100% on his seasonal debut? I doubt it. The ground turning softer than you want it for him with all the issues around the breathing is a big question mark, so is the Cheltenham hill these days.
As much as I would love to see Sprinter Sacre back to something close of his best, so much I have to doubt he’ll ever be. In my book he is more like a 6/1 chance in this field than the 5/2 currently on offer. With the ground in mind he may well be taken out anyway.
Another of the old guard of former superstars is Somersby. Surely never been reached the heights of Sprinter Sacre, though the veteran is a multiple Champion Chase runner-up as well as 19 times placed in Graded company! That says he has won only a handful of those and can be best described as a depressing brides mate.
Not getting any younger, the eleven year old veteran would need to be close to his best to win today. Reportedly he’s in good order and I assume he’s geared up for a big run. Whether he has still the class, we’ll find out. He had it last season, certainly, when he finished second – yet again – in the Champion Chase at the Festival.
Having his poor strike rate in mind and the fact that Somersby has actually never won at Cheltenham, he’s probably easy enough to oppose. However in the context of this race, where he receives four pounds from rivals lower rated than him, as well as 10 pounds from Mr Mole, he’s has to have strong credentials, nonetheless.
Mr. Mole, albeit seemingly not really enjoining Cheltenham in the past, would be a huge runner today, if he wouldn’t have to give an awful lot of weight away to the rest of the field. His record as a fresh horse does offset this fact to an extend, but he would need to run to a new level to win this. As a seven year old he could do that, if you want to be positive about his chances.
Croco Bay and Savello are the outsiders in this field, and given their ratings of 151 and 154 you’d expect them to come up short. You can argue both have fitness on their side and – at least in the case of Savello – course and distance form on offer. So neither of them is completely out. Taken the quality of the rest of the field into account I struggle to see them going close, though.
Without the shadow of a doubt Simply Ned has the race at his mercy. The eight year old was runner-up in this contest last year, a race which turned out to be extremely strong form. He has a run under his belt as well, returning to the track in successful manner at Kelso last month.
He looks an improving sort, possible to be even better this year and that gives him a prime chance today. He didn’t land a blow in the Champion Chase last season, though, and has to give 4lb away to Somersby and Sprinter Sacre, despite the fact that these two are higher rated. So he will have to improve again, a bit at least, although those two lads may regress as well.
Summary: Crunch time! This should be exciting to watch. I believe Simply Ned has an excellent chance to take his form to another level. He’s a fair price to do that and clearly is the one to beat. But betting wise I feel the 5/1 on offer for Somersby is generous. Despite his underwhelming win record, the fact that he finished runner-up in the Champion Chase last season gives him the strongest possible credentials in this race.
He receives four pounds from what I believe is the main danger. He’s likely to be fully wound up for the race today and has no issues with the conditions whatsoever. This looks an ideal opportunity to win a race at the jump racing’s HQ at last.
Sommersby @ 5/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win