Some more thoughts on a couple of races – anything else will be posted throughout the week. Then I’ll be concentrating mainly on the handicaps on with a new rating system, which may or may not prove profitable. We shall see. Btw. if you can’t get enough of reading other people’s Festival previews, well, then you may wanna check out my Cheltenham Thoughts Part 1 and not to forget the Gold Cup Preview either!
Tuesday: Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1)
All about Douvan here of course. It should be a procession of pure class if all goes to plan. And that’s fine with me cause I only need my selection from the w/o Douvan merket to finish runner-up. Easy!
No seriously, I find it slightly odd that Gordon Elliott’s The Game Changer doesn’t get any love at in the betting. It seems his chances are are almost entirely dismissed by the general public, what seems to favour Vainteux and Sizing John to play second and third fiddle behind the almighty Douvan. Which is fair enough. Both are certainly progressive Novice Chasers in their very own right, and sure, their form is a bit more sexy I guess. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better prospects than The Game Changer. Right?
The Game Changer hasn’t run since Punchestown in October, when completing a hat-trick of wins. He’s had a wind op since then, which is a bit of a concern. But we also didn’t see him because connections didn’t want to waste him on bottomless ground which prevailed oh so often over the winter here in Ireland this season .
Thankfully the sun is out, the ground is drying at Cheltenham, a fact that will very much suit this lad who loves a sound surface. In fact those conditions may even bring out some further improvement particularly in combination with the wind op, given he already was already a progressive individual before his break.
More to like: The Game Changer’s. It’s accurate. Plain and simple. Also he travelles strongly through his races more and than not and posesses a nice turn of foot if he gets his ground. He’s comfortable travelling off the pace and I can see a scenario where he’s ridden with restraint, having place in mind, where he’s held together for as long as possible, but staying up the hill to finish 2nd, outstaying those who tried to match Douvan earlier.
In the w/o Douvan market he looks a tasty price at 4/1 and no worse a chance than the other two ahead of him in the market. In fact The Game Changer is battle hardened from races outside Novices company, has got his breathing sorted and is sure to love the ground. A big run is clearly on the card.
Selection: The Game Changer (w/o Douvan)
Tuesday: National Hunt Chase
I probably missed all the good prices but in this type of races I rather prefer to wait and see what line-up we’ve got field and what’s the ground like. It’s out of the hat now, so is there still any sort of value to find? Yes I do believe so.
Two horses in particular I like: Vicente for Paul Nicholls is probably an obvious one here: acts well at this course, looks a stayer through and trough, has still scope for further improvement and will absolutely love the good ground. He should go well as a fresh horse with conditions sure to suit.
Not much more original is to side with Ballychorus, and admittedly value has almost dried up. But I still like the mare from the bottom off the weights with her sex allowance. She can mix it up with the boys as proven in the past. I loved her Leopardstown run over Christmas bar the fall at the last, so it was good to see her back to best subsequently at Thurles. She acts well on good ground, is likely to get the trip and is still open to a fair bit of improvement on what is only her seventh start over fences.
Both horses have good amateu riders in the saddle who should give their moments a fair chance to run to their best. 16/1 and 12/1 respectively is still good enough for me price-wise too.
Selections: Ballychorus & Vicente
Wednesday: Champion Bumper (Grade 1)
I’m not telling a secret in saying this is a wide open race… take your pick! I pick one of the Mullins armada, which is probably brave enough as those guys are difficult to distinguish.
Nonetheless, Very Much So intrigues me most. I loved the way he won a bumper at Punchestown two years ago. Green like a ripe lime, he overcame his cluelessness and stayed on very strongly, without seeing too much off the whip at all. He just found another gear, which was mightily impressive.
I like even more that the form came on good ground, so very similar to the conditions most likely on Wednesday at Cheltenham. And there is this little fact that this form has worked out tremendously well with plenty of subsequent winners coming out of that race.
There’s a big negative about his chance though: We haven’t seen him since his debut run… which dates back roughly two years now! He’s reported to be in good nick though and there is every chance he’s going to outrun a 16/1 price tag.
Selection: Very Much So