What an unpleasant day. Raining cats and dogs – at least here in Ireland; Ruby Walsh most likely broke his leg (the same!) again and Douvan took a bad fall…. oh, and I shall mention that none of my selection got close to smelling success. I won’t dwell on it, though….. onwards and upwards.
13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices Chase:
Graham Wylie says he’s his best chance at the Festival this year, so you have to take Invitation Only very seriously in the JLT. Even more so as his one lengths third behind Monalee has been franked in a fine way in the RSA Chase on Wednesday.
This piece of Grade 1 form is certainly the best on offer in this field, I feel, and there is no reason why the seven year old can’t improve again, for what is only his fifth start over fences.
He’s a rock solid favourite and a bigger price than I would have expected.
10pts win – Invitation Only @ 3.5/1 Matchbook
14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Final:
Davy Russell won this last year on board of Presenting Percy, he can do the same this time on Delta Work. This five year old Gigginstown inmate looks open to further improvement after a season full of promising performances – without winning, that says.
Key piece of form is his 4th behind Total Recall at Leopardstown last month. Turning for home his progress was stopped for a brief but decisive moment thanks to a shifting rival, he still finished well.
Ground and trip is fine. The emphasis on stamina will suit. Top rider on board and a handicap mark that offers opportunity.
10pts win – Delta Work @ 12/1 VC
14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase:
Un De Sceaux deserves to be the favourite – what a superstar he’s been over the years. He proved twelve months ago that the Ryanair trip is certainly within his range.
Yet, I feel he is a skinny price in a race that looks potentially stronger than last year. Also ground conditions are totally different and will put much more emphasis on stamina. In my book Un De Sceaux is vulnerable here and I’m happily to look elsewhere.
You don’t need to look far: Cue Card will be a massive threat. His recent Ascot run puts him right there, the drop to the Ryanair trip is rather a positive than a negative and given he still looks nearly as good as ever with all the spark retained, he’s got to go very close.
Still, he’s not my selection. Indeed, I am sweet on the perfect bridesmaid: Cloudy Dream. Second in hist last four starts, eight times filling the runner-up spot over fences so far, while winning three of them.
In fact, Cloudy Dream was never outside the first three in any of his 18 career starts, and even more impressive: never outside the the first two in his eleven chase starts.
Yes, he doesn’t win many of these. However, he ran with plenty of credit in hot races behind classy opposition, so he did in last years Arkle when second behind Altior.
He tried to stretch out to three miles this season, finishing second – although a good deal beaten – behind Native River and Definitely Red. Nonetheless, pretty solid efforts, given these two are leading lights for the Gold Cup on Friday.
Cloudy Dream didn’t stay three miles, however. Certainly not at Cheltenham and certainly not on soft ground. Nonetheless, his record with considerable cut in the ground is quite excellent, so I don’t worry about that part, at least.
In truth, I love the fact he drops in trip, to what could easily turn out to be his optimum. Given, for long enough he travelled incredibly strongly in both his last races over further, may suggest that 2.5 miles on soft ground is an ideal scenario.
As a seven year old he can still improve. Particularly over this trip. He is not yet the finished article, whereas the two market principles very much are what they are.
10pts win – Cloudy Dream @ 14/1 Matchbook
15:30 Cheltenham – Stayers Hurdle:
Two fancies in the race: the major one is Yanworth. Here’s hoping he can make up for his disappointing performance in last years Champion Hurdle.
That says he clearly can stretch out to 3 miles. He beat Superdandae in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree last year what was hist first and only try over this sort of trip. So there is potential improvement yet to come. He’s had a good preparation, He won the Dipper on New Years Day in heavy ground here.
So ground, course and trip aren’t holding any fears to Yanworth. of course 3 miles on rain softened ground around Cheltenham is an unknown, in fairness. At given odds, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The other one I like at a massive price is Let’s Dance. She hasn’t sparked this year as Willie Mullins said, though has shown some signs of finding back to her form. She won a Grade 3 at Loeopardstown over Christmas but dropped away tamely in the Gowran Park race mentioned before.
It was her first try over three miles and she was most likely nowhere near her best that day anyway. It’s highly speculative if she ever will again and if she can get home over this trip on this type ground. At a massive price I feel she has, pretty much like Augusta Kate, a better chance to go close than the market suggests.
10pts win – Yanworth @ 8/1 Matchbook
1pt win – Let’s Dance @ 99/1 Matchbook
2pts Place – Let’s Dance @ 20/1 Matchbook
16:10 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory Handicap Chase:
Whether the ground is too soft remains to be seen, however his record suggests Oldgrangewood can act on it. This second season chaser has progressed nicely through the ranks, was a fine Novice and has also been in the winnres circtle this season.
After his Newbury success at the beginning of December he was put away with this race in mind as the goal for his campaign. Only 2lb higher in his handicap mark, he should be competitive off 147.
This is obviously a highly competitive race in nature and a bit of in-running luck is needed too. I see it as a vote of confidence, nonetheless, that Dan Skelton has given Oldgrangewood positive mentions leading up to the Festival as one of his main hopes.
10pts win – Oldgrangewood @ 26/1 Matchbook