World Hurdle day, and boy did we see an impressive winner in Thistlecrack! The hype was real – this horse is THAT good. Sure, it wasn’t a vintage renewal of the race, but honestly, is there ever one? Three milers aren’t the most exciting horses in the world, but this lad clearly is one with a bright future. Gold Cup 2017 I hear ya calling?!
I was worried when Vautour was on the drift earlier today. You could back him at staggering 11/10 for the Ryanair. A fools price, one would think, but only if the horse is fit and fine, which we couldn’t be sure of after connections performed a dramatic u-turn.
In the end nobody, including myself, who was big time on Vautour, had to worry. The ultra talented chaser jumped well mostly throughout the race and put the race to bed turning for home as quickly as Ruby gave him a bit of reign.
Relief…. it’s been by far my biggest bet in the last 24 month – Vautour evens with the NRNB insurance of course. So while Cheltenham in general is more like a betting disaster, it doesn’t really matter in the end if this lad goes in. Thankfully he did.
It’s all about the Gold Cup and my stance on the race is clear: I’m on the Don Poli bandwagon and can’t wait to see him flying up the hill past anyone, putting all the doubters to shame, who are nicknaming him “Slow Poli”. I’m delighted about the fact that Davy Russell is riding. Nobody’s better equipped to steer home a lazy but classy horse as Don Poli is.
The other ante-post bet is Velvert Maker @ 16/1 in the Grand Annual. This horse will run a huge race, I’ve no doubts. If all goes to plan this lad should have way too much on his plate for lot he’s facing in this handicap.
County Handicap Hurdle: I really like Starchitect who has the right profile to land this.But he’s short enough in the market and I also like two much bigger prices. Devilment at 40/1 looks overpriced for a horse that goes well around Cheltenham and who’s ran two nice races this year but most importantly will love the fast ground.
It’s a bit more difficult to make a case for Ivan Grozny who can’t be trusted at all. But he shaped not all that badly in his two races this year after a long absence. He’s was a decent flat horse and showed plenty of promise over hurdles before getting injured. If he comes right fitness wise now he’s got a chance to go close. Again ground can be key. I’m pretty sure he’s a different animal on better ground.
Foxhunter Chase: You can be sure On The Fringe is primed and therefore I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that he tired badly when last seen at Leopardstown. More concerning is his age, he’s not getting any younger, and there is at least a small doubt whether he’ll come back from the tough campaign he had last season.
There were plenty of good words about the Jim Culloty horse It Came To Pass in the build-up of the festival. And it’s easy to see why. Lightly raced, unexposed, progressive. Successful in point to point company, he won a maiden hunter chase on his first under rules. He went on to finish an encouraging second at Leopardstown in February, when he had too much to do.
This six year old is likely to have more left in the locker. That says the Foxhunter is a tough test for such a young and inexperienced horse. There’s also a question mark whether he can handle good ground. All in all It Came To Pass remains a very playable price at 12/1.
Martin Pipe CJH Hurdle: I don’t understand how Nabucco can be a 33/1 chance. If you draw a line through his last performance, where he was clearly not himself, you have a progressive animal who’s coming fresh into this race of a very fair mark.
There is a question mark over his stamina, particularly around Cheltenham, but the better ground will surely play to his strengths. Nabucco was a classy flat performer, who too kwell to hurdles, winning three on the bounce last year, including a Listed Handicap off only 4lb lower than his current mark.
If he can ran to that sort of form he’s got to be in the mix, if he finds a bit of improvement for what is only his sixth start over timber, with conditions likely to suit, he’s got to be a big runner.