Friday Selections: 17th March 2023

Two winners from three selections on Thursday – and the third beaten by a head! It could have been the sweetest of hat-tricks.

No complaints. Saisons D’Or went off a lot shorter than the price I got…. the money was on and he clearly is in peak form the way he fought back for a seriously game victory at Southwell.

Get Stuck In got the pretty easy run from the front, as hoped, and had too much in hand. It’s also fair to say Leabaland had a few pounds in hand but Seamie Heffernan went pretty hard early on, and that perhaps was the reason getting beaten in the dying strides.

Who am I to complain, though? Am not. Any day with two winners is a brilliant day in my book. It gets March firmly back into the green, as it has been 5 winners to date for the month, and we’re only halfway through it.

By my own calculation, one more solid priced winner will solidify a healthy profit. I wouldn’t mind it this one comes today, in the big race…

………

3.30 Cheltenham: Grade 1 Gold Cup, 3m2½f

The blue ribband of jump racing has been kind to me, betting wise. This year, though, shapes like a hot, and tricky edition.

It stems from the fact that half the field appear on more or less the same good level of form. While a few select have clear standout form, but serious questions to answer.

The one on many lips, is Galopin Des Champs. The favourite, and a short price for a horse with stamina to prove.

No doubt, an incredibly talented individual; unbeaten in seven of his last eight starts; and that one blip, was desperately unlucky in the Turners when he seemed to have the race won, if not for falling at the last.

This season he’s a much better settled horse, jumps really well and won the John Durkan as well as the Irish Gold Cup by a combined 21 lengths!

But at the current price I have to take him. There are valid concerns over his stamina, especially on deep ground. The Irish Gold Cup proved little. He sprinted away from Stattler in a test of speed more than anything. He has won on proper soft ground but is it his preferred going? I doubt it.

Stable mate Stattler is an intriguing contender. Available at 20/1+ on the exchanges; he’s a serious contender to run late into the placings, I believe. He’s not shown quite enough on ratings, to suggest he’s truly a Gold Cup winner. But the deep ground will help to make it stamina test, which could suit.

Minella Indo ran a huge race in second place last year. He hit the front too soon, and had nothing more to give once A Plus Tard sprinted past him. But it was a strong performance, good enough in other years to win a Gold Cup, I believe.

He looked good on his return at Tramore in early January. We haven’t seen him since, though. The vibes from the yard are bullish, but I see it as a negative that he didn’t go Leopardstown as he did the last two years when he won- and finished runner-up in the Gold Cup.

Grand National hero Noble Yeats is rightly in the mix. The emphasis on stamina will be to his advantage. I’m not sure whether he’s truly good enough to win a Gold Cup, though.

Protektorat and Royal Pagaille have shouts to run into the placings on their best form. Ahoy Senor with a clear round of jumping could be dangerous. But there is no question the gap to the the top three in the betting market is real.

I mentioned Galopin Des Champs before and the fact I’m happy to take him on. I’d be certain he wouldn’t be A Plus Tard, if the impressive 2022 Gold Cup winner would return to the same level as twelve month ago.

Clearly his prospects have improved since DeBromehead yard looks in good health this week. You would hope whatever problems materialised at Haydock about half a year ago now, and the issues at Leopardstown, are well and truly fixed.

It’s shame we haven’t seen him since. No matter what, this can’t have been an ideal preparation for the biggest race of the year. He’s a year older, too; having been at the Festival numerous times before, how much more is left in the tank?

I can take the leap of faith required to back A Plus Tard; even though I do so last year and those memories are still vivid.

But there is no question in mind the only horse I can back at this stage is Bravemansgame. If I would have come to this conclusion earlier than this week I could have gotten bigger prices. But I still think he’s overpriced.

Ever since that impressive King George victory was I contemplating for and against Bravemansgame’s prospects to stay up the Hill to win a Gold Cup.

The positives outweigh the negatives ultimately, though.

Bravemansgame won that day at Kempton in the most impressive style. He powered home, staying on strongly, found more and more for pressure, when everyone else fell away.

He gave ground away all the time – perhaps by design. Jumped fluently, travelled powerfully for a long time, and was brave and gutsy; a bit flat footed around the final bend, he kept going, came back on the bridle and outbattled his rivals.

Yes, perhaps, one could argue, the winning margin was flattered by L’Homme Presse who unseated his rider at the last. But he had the race won by then, I firmly believe, in any case.

That performance is by far the strongest this season, on all sorts of ratings. Whether Bravemansgame can run to the same level of form over this extreme test of stamina on deep ground is the key question.

His best form comes on flatter, galloping tracks. His sole visit to Cheltenham ended in heavy defeat. Paul Nicholls is adamant that Bravemansgame is a different, stronger, more mature horse these days, though.

Therefore, he deserves his chance to go for a Gold Cup. He seems to posesses the right tools to cope with the demands of the race. But there is only one way to find out whether he truly has got it to win the Gold Cup. At given prices my money is riding on him.

10pts win – Bravemansgame @ 13/2

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