Tag Archives: Cheltenham

Cheltenham: The Future Starts Here

The Festival it was – a crazy week flew by in a blink of an eye. A proper review of all the Cheltenham action is due, though at another time. Nonetheless a big shout out to Sizing John and everyone connected with the new king of jump racing!

What a gutsy performance, he stayed every inch of the Gold Cup trip. A sensational, patient, cool ride by Robbie Power. A horse that was campaigned over two miles where he couldn’t get past the almighty Douvan, but upped in trip and his class could finally shine to its full extend!


Horse racing is the game that keeps giving. It never stops. Only one week then it’s Dubai World Cup day, one week after the flat season starts…. it comes thick and fast. Cheltenham is over and one might think the world ends. But no – the future starts here! Isn’t that beautiful?

So let’s keep the momentum rolling and have a look what racing has to offer on this Saturday. Two races in particular are of interest to me.

……

2.40 Kempton: Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle

An ultra competitive race with nearly half of the 2o runners in with a fair shout. However I do like quite a lot Dan Skelton’s Bandsman off a lowly mark on his handicap debut.

The six year old took his time to get off the mark, but was massively impressive once he did it. He followed up with another success at Market Rasen, when he fought gamely to be on top when it mattered most.

This form looks strong through the runner-up who since then went on to win a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle. An opening mark of 129 may well underestimate Bandsman’s true class, particularly with ground sure to suit and potential improvement to come for the step up in trip.

He’s not a slick jumper yet, so has certainly to do be better in that department against classier opposition here. But if he learned and if he stays the trip then he’s a good chance to be in the shake-up I feel.

Selection:
5pts win – Bandsman @ 9/1 Bet365

……

3.20 Limerick: Handicap Hurdle (80-109)

Top weight Hareth looked worth for more than his narrow success in a Handicap Hurdle here at Limerick under a stylish Carberry ride back in April. Off the track for nearly three years subsequently, he made a pleasing comeback at Naas last month when a fair third.

Back at Limerick, he’s probably a good deal better than his current rating and can make that count against very beatable opposition. Slight concern over the soft ground and the 2m trip, given he won on fast ground over further in the past, but class can see him through.

Selection:
10pts win – Hareth @ 7/2 Matchbook

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017 – FRIDAY PREVIEW

There you go: the finale, the last day – it’s nearly over, gone, history. Time’s flying and these four days of Festival craziness fly by in a blink of an eye. This is Friday, the day were the champ of champs is crowned. Who’ll make history, who will it be, the new king?

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1.30: Triumph Hurdle

The home team has a strong hand in the race with the unbeaten Defi Du Seul and progressive Master Blueyes and French recruit Charli Parcs but I feel it’s the Irish that will take home the price.

If Bapaume would line up I’d be certainly interested in him but the market trend suggests he’s not going to be declared. So it’s left to the horse who has beaten him in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle last month: Mega Fortune.

I really do like the progression this good looking Soldier of Fortune son has made this season.He got closer and closer to the big guns in Graded races until eventually getting his head in front.

In the Leopardstown feature he jumped well but was most impressive once he put the foot on the gas pedal. He jumpedthe second last and wooosh off he went, in the end running strongly to the line.

I’ve got slight worries about the fast ground as he seemed to relish the juice in the ground the last time, but at given prices he’s a bit over here with only a handful of runners having a realistic chance to go close. Further progression must see him go close.

Selection:
10pts Win – Mega Fortune @ 7/1 PP

……

2.10 County Hurdle

Gordon Elliott has a massive week so far and it might get even better because with Mick Jazz he has an exciting runner in the race. He won well on his first start for Elliott in October and was a fine runner-up behind Labaik, which looks brilliant form in hindsight.

He then went on to Fairyhouse Handicap where he travelled strongly behind a wall of horses but in the home straight then getting hampered twice, also making a mess of things at the second last, yet staying on strongly. Impressive!

After a break he produced another strong staying performance beating an odds-on Mullins horse at Punchestown. He looks the type ready made for Cheltenham. Even the ground is no worry. He could easily be better than his handicap mark.

Another one I really like to run big is Twiston Davise’s Crievehill. He’s probably getting in off a light weight. He’s progressive, his 3rd place behind Neon Wolf when last seen looks strong form and he might be still able to progress. The ground is a big worry as he never encountered anything less than soft, but at a big price he’s worth a punt.

Selection:
10pts win – Mick Jazz @ 10/1 Bet365
5pts win – Crievehill @ 40/1 Betfair SB

……

2.50: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Death Duty may look like a good thing to many – but not to me. He could easily be too good, though at shortish odds I’m against him given he’s unproven on this ground and trip.

Two bigger prices are certainly of interest and seemingly underappreciated: there is the lightly raced Constantine Bay, who stepped up to 3m at Doncaster and produced a strong travelling yet incredibly game and tough performance in a ding dong finish, staying on very strongly. Traits you want to see in an Albert Bartlett contender.

Ami Desbois is the other one: Already  a seven year old, bit more experienced, he’s been improving this year, was only a lengths behind Wholestone over course and distance in December but the price difference in the betting would imply there is a whole world between the two.

I really like Wholestone, but if I do so, then I have to like Ami Desbois even more, given his progressive profile and much bigger price.

Selection:
5pts win – Ami Desbois @ 33/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Constantine Bay @ 16/1 Bet365

…..

3.30: Gold Cup Chase

Who’s the new champ? Native River most likely. Hard to be against him? He put in some big performances, is clearly on the up, has Cheltenham form and is only seven. Even if there is no rain arriving, the ground may not necessarily be too big an issue.

But at the given price I can’t have him. Plain and simple he’s got to prove it all now for the first time in Grade 1. He hasn’t done that before. This is the toughest test to date which he may pass with flying colours. But I have to see it to believe it.

The standard is set by Djakadam. Twice a runner-up in this race; seemingly enjoying a better preparation this time and the Mullins yard is bullish. Fact is he’s been here before and ran extremely well, but fact is also his win record is only average. He had a lot of hard races for a horse of his age, so I’m not convinced he is even able to run to his form of the last two years.

He may well, but again, price dictates that he’s not for me. Even at double the odds he’d not be my choice, I have to admit. And that might be unfair to the poor horse and he could easily prove me wrong. If he does: great for Willie Mullins and well deserved.

Looking elsewhere I cant have Cue Card either. The old boy seems to be nearly as good as ever. But does he truly stay the Gold Cup trip? I still have a few doubts. Another one who’d be a well deserved winner, don’t get me wrong. But there are good reasons to oppose him, at least at a shortish enough looking price.

Sizing John is an interesting case. He won’t see the backside of Douvan here, but will he actually have the stamina to get home? Big question mark in my book.

Lexus Chase winner Outlander is a serious horse, though one you never can be sure whether he’s on a good or a bad day. It concerns me that he has not been seen since Christmas. Maybe to keep him fresh. This quirky character is not for me.

Neither is More Of That, even if Jonjo is blullish. Maybe unlucky the last time when he fell in the Irish Gold Cup, but overall his form over fences is below the standard required to land a Gold Cup.

Brings me to the two I fancy – though as it is with each and everyone in this field, you can blow big holes into their form.

After landing the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock, Bristol De Mai was odds-on to land the Denman chase, where he was then a long way beaten by Native River. That form is not his true class and I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s clearly better than that.

Still only a six years old he could easily improve and develop into a top chaser. He may not, of course, that is also possible. At given prices I’m rather backing him to close the gap to the favourite.

Speaking of form that ties in with Native River: he was second at last years Festival behind Minella Rocco in the National Hunt Chase!  For Minella Rocco things did not go well since then. A decent comeback run followed by a fall and unseating his rider in his next two other starts this season.

Hard to know what to make of that. Confidence might be an issue. But if he can get his act together, which is more likely to happen at a place over a trip he has proven to be successful at, then he could be in the shake-up.

Selection:
5pts win – Minella Rocco @ 25/1 WH
5pts win – Bristol De Mai @ 25/1 WH

……

The Foxhunter is a race I find impossible to solve. Yes, On The Fringe is the most likely winner, but he is also a very short price. I would love to find an alternative but I rather focus on the last two races of Festival.

…….

.4.50: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap

There is no doubt that Battleford ticks every box for me. Granted he gets in to the race, which looks rather likely (otherwise it’s money back anyway), he’ll be a big market mover come Friday I believe.

He had the perfect preparation in my mind, showed excellent form this year – his runner-up effort behind Monalee rates highly in my book. Most importantly he was here last year, finishing an agonisingly close second in the Champion Bumper.

Off a really nice mark he’s got a tremendous chance to win this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Battleford @ 8/1 Bet365

……

5.30: Grand Annual

Having fancied Le Prezien to have a chance to have a place chance in the Arkle and subsequently in the Brown Advisory, I have to fancy him for this, right?

The French recruit has had a good – albeit – light season so far, including a Grade 2 success here at Cheltenham. Hi seasonal reappearance when second behind Charbel looks increasingly strong form after his excellent performance in the Arkle on Tuesday.

Ground is a slight worry, but he looks potentially well in on handicap debut, so it’s the risk I take.

However there is another horse I even more fancy: that is Velvet Maker. I was incredibly keen on this lad last year in the very same race, where he bombed out. But he scoped badly- and had his issues in the aftermath, which meant he only made a reappearance last month.

That was an encouraging spin over hurdles where he travelled well and finished a nice third without getting a hard time. He should come on allot for the run – hopefully – with a 2lb lower mark than last year, fit and healthy this time around, I sense he’s a massive chance to lead from start to finish.

Selection:
5pts win – Le Prezien @ 10/1 Bet365
10pts win – Velvet Maker @ 14/1 Bet365

Cheltenham Festival 2017 – Thursday Preview

It’s day three of the Festival – it’s nearly over again…. how time’s flying! So let’s enjoy it as long as it lasts, with Yorkhill the class act of the day to shine…. or not? Some say he’s the best horse in training. He might well be. We soon find out.

The Stayers Hurdle (formerly World Hurdle) is the feature of the day. A red hot favourite who is probably backed into odds-on on Thursday itself – can he been beaten or may he kick-start a dominance over the stayers division as Big Buck’s did not all too long ago?

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1.30: JLT Novices’ Chase

A race that’ll evolve around the jumping of Yorkhill. With a clear round he’s very hard to beat. But I’m not sure if he will get this clear round. His first start over fences was a Mickey Mouse contest where he didn’t learn much, his second and most recent start was one that didn’t impress many and clearly left me wondering too.

Jumping is the game, the saying goes – particularly at Cheltenham. That brings Disko very much into the equation. Noel Meade’s inmate was impressive at Leopardstown when last seen, he’s still improving and has the distance and ground in him.

Officially rated only one pound below Yorkhill you have to take him serious. Whether the big performance at Leopardstown in February has taken too much out him is a question mark. But he is a super jumper who may put the pressure on Yorkhill’s potentially weak point.

Selection:
5pts win – Disko @ 5/1 Paddy Power

…….

2.10: Pertemps Finale

A big field handicap but one that can be easily broken down to a good handful of serious contenders. Favourite Tobefair looks a big chance. So does El Bandit and Impulsive Star together with Jury Duty from the other side of the Irish Sea.

In the end I’m nailing my colours to Impulsive Star and Jury Duty. Neil Mulholland’s lightly raced seven year old has been progressive throughout the season resulting in three wins out of four runs, while the one time he was beaten he encountered some excellent opposition.

He won’t mind the decent ground and stays really well. One who should relish the test of a big field where he can battle up the hill. A career highest mark he has to overcome, but this serious talent could easily be better than his current mark.

Ireland’s Jury Duty is equally lightly raced, though his win record isn’t as good. He’s encountered some strong opposition, though, and was slightly unlucky here and there in the past.

He picked up a niggle in his preparation and had to be rushed in order to qualify, which he did at Chepstow eventually.

The quick ground is a slight concern but this lad may have still some serious improvement left in him. It’s probably fair to say we didn’t see the best yet and that gives me hope for a big run here.

Selection:
5pts win – Impulsive Star @ 10/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Jury Duty @ 10/1 Betfair SB

…..

2.50: Ryanair Chase

A bit a surprise to see Empire of Dirt declared given I thought he’d be the ideal candidate for the Gold Cup, even more so after Don Poli’s absence. He’s here though and rates a major chance.

A festival winner last year, runner-up in the Irish Gold Cup this year – he’s got stamina in abundance as well as class. Ground and trip are not necessarily a worry but I do wonder if the big race from last month left a mark? He also produced some of his finest performances as a fresh horse.

That’s like complaining on a high level, of course, yet I feel he’s not the ideal candidate that I want to lump on in this race.

Speedier Un De Sceaux is favoured in the betting. The former Arkle winner and Champion Chase runner-up has had a perfect preparation with two wins from two starts this season. He can be a bit edgy jumping wise, might not quite appreciate the quick ground and the trip is one that may stretch him with others surely making this a test of stamina.

He’s the most likely winner but nothing more than a fair price. The one I do like is Empire Of Dirt stablemate Sub Lieutenant.

Far from a sexy selection, but a value price in my book. He’s proven on good ground and still only an eight year old. He’s had an ideal preparation and put a string of fine performances together this season, including a success over subsequent Lexus Chase winner Outlander.

With that in mind and more than double the price of UDC and EOD I feel he can give those two something to think about on Thursday.

Selection:
10pts Win – Sub Lieutenant @ 8/1 Bet365

…….

3.30: World Hurdle

On all evidence Unowhatimeanharry is very hard to beat here. He’s a machine who’s proven class over course and distance. But he’s also a very short price. Too short for me.

Looking for alternatives I can see previous World Hurdle winner Cole Harden going close, but the one intriguing me most is quite clearly Ballyoptic.

He finished a couple of times behind the favourite this season and probably the same fate awaits here. But fact is he’s a Grade 1 winning novice himself who’s still a relatively young horse on the upward who was only 6l behind in second Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury in November.

After a disappointing performance over course and distance in the Cleeve Hurdle he got a bit of a break and his wind done – he’ll try a tongue tie for the first time here too – that in combination might bring out further improvement.

If it does and if he can get back to his early season form then he’ll be able to outrun his price tag and should be in the shake-up which is enough for a healthy place part of an each-way bet to pay.

Selection:
5pts E/W – Ballyoptic @ 16/1 Bet365

…….

4.10: Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap 

Update: my original selection Le Prezien is out and instead runs in the Grand Annual tomorrow – so I re-evaluated the race and come to the conclusion at given prices, now that he made it into the race, Katachenko of a feather weight must have a decent chance to be in the shake-up.

He had a light enough campaign to date after finishing last season on a high thanks to Graded success over two miles at Aintree. His most recent run over a little more than 3 miles at Catterick, which is quite an undulating track, was a fine prep.

Stamina questions were answered that say in my mind. He finished a fine runner-up in soft conditions, but has proven himself on better ground in the past. Given he has form over much shorter too, he should be fine with conditions today.

At 40s with six places to pay with Skybet, I give him a chance.

Selection:
5pts E/W – Katachenko @ 40/1 Skybet

……

I strongly fancied Let’s Dance for the Supreme and I believe she’s going to be very tough to beat now in the Mares’ Novices’, but she is not a price for me, so I let her run and hopefully win without the burden of my money.

…….

5.30: Kim Mur Amateur Riders’ Chase

Plain and simple Potters Legend is the one I want. While I also quite like Southfield Royale, I find it hard to trust him at a shortish price. Potters Legend, a lightly raced novice, will find this a tough assignment against seasoned handicappers but he could be one who has the talent to relish the challenge,

He produced fair performances this season and the last two times in Handicaps off his current mark. The step up in trip is intriguing and may or may not suit. But if he has to have a chance then because of improvement coming for the stamina test.

The good ground should definitely help to stay the distance. At a price he’s a decent bet in this race I feel.

Selection:
5pts win – Potters Legend @ 16/1 William Hill

Cheltenham Festival 2017 – Wednesday Preview

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival features the Champion Chase, the race that brought tears to so many grown man (and women) twelve month ago when the magnificent Sprinter Sacre turned back the clock to produce a stunning display that will live long in our memories.

Who’ll be his predecessor? That’s probably the most straightforward question to ask on a day where big fields with cloudy deceleration lists pose a nightmare for punters. Nonetheless I’ll try my best to solve the puzzle once more.


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1.30: Neptune Novices’ Hurdle 

Neon Wolf could be the real deal. There weren’t many more impressive novices this season. However he’s by no means a banker. Given his relative inexperience and rawness I’m happy to let him run without my money.

Plenty others are interesting – though most of them are unlikely to run. That makes this race hard to evaluate.

If she runs, then Let’s Dance is my pick. With a handy weight allowance, strong form and experience, she ticks plenty of the right boxes for me. I love her improvement this season and particularly her last Grade 2 success at Leopardstown.

She is versatile, ground independent and has already won over 2m 4f – the right traits for a big performance.  With NRNB I select her – if she does not run I watch the race in the hope of a big performance by Neon Wolf.

Selection:
10pts Win – Let’s Dance @ 7/1 VC (NRNB)

……..

2.10: RSA Novices’ Chase

With plenty of talented horses likely to pull out before Wednesday, the RSA could be left with a slightly lukewarm lineup. That doesn’t mean it won’t be an intriguing contest, but it certainly does not shape as one of the stronger renewals.

Favourite Might Bight has been on the drift for a while and there is the question whether Cheltenham is his track. We’ll find out soon. His Kempton performance (until the fall) was huge, so one should not underestimate him and his price goes in a direction where it becomes tempting.

Alpha Des Obeaux’s bleeding issues when last seen put me off, whereas I feel Royal Vacation is a very decent each-way shout here. But the one I’m most excited about is recent 32 lengths Navan winner Acapella Bourgeois.

Yes, you can argue he got it easy in front that day, the other jockeys were caught napping and the heavy ground had a role to play too. But the way he jumped, the way he pricked ears while jumping the final fence clear by a mile, still only in second gear – you got to be impressed with this still generally lightly raced seven year old.

The faster ground is a question mark, though he was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles on yielding ground. I feel he’s the right type for this race, one who’ll be suited to Cheltenham and its demands, one who won’t go away when it starts to hurt and one who’ll be able to pull out more when the others stop.

Selection:
10pts Win – Acapella Bourgeois @ 7/1 Skybet

……..

2.50: Coral Cup

Another of those races where you can’t be certain at all who’s going to line up on Wednesday afternoon. Though fairly certain is the start of Peregrine Run.

A really nice progressive sort who was denied a five-timer back in January at Warwick probably by unsuited soft ground. With decent ground looming and course and distance form in the book, this race should suit down to the grounds with a fair handicap mark to leverage.

Dan Skelton’s Mister Miyagi is another one i do like quite a bit. Finished sixth behind Altior in last years Supreme, not far behind Tombstone, who incidentally is favourite for the Coral.

Things did not go right for MM afterwards, he needed a wind op suffering from the same issues Cue Card did before his legendary revival. Skelton feels he’s a big runner and he’s probably right: if the wind op helped to solve the underlying issue then he’s got a huge chance to to be in the shake-up in this compressed handicap.

Highly speculative my third selection: Bleu Et Rouge goes back hurdling. He never seemed happy over fences, his jumping letting him down badly, though his debut run was quite promising, actually.

The smaller obstacles (either here or in the county hurdle) will be a big help nonetheless, he was a Grade 1 winning novice who could easily be well handicapped if the spark is back. With NRNB insurance, it’s worth a risk at a value price in case he lines up in the Coral.

Selection:
5pts win – Peregrine Run @ 10/1 Bet365
5pts win – Bleu Et Rouge @ 16/1 Bet365
5pts win – Mister Miyagi @ 20/1 Skybet

……..

3.30: Queen Mother Champion Chase

An empty netter from five yards out for Douvan this is, he won’t be beaten. So I focus more on what’s finishing behind him in second and third. Fox Norton, God’s Own and Special Tiara is the trio most likely to fill places left on the podium – all three rated within a pound, in and around with the same sort of chance.

Though the betting does not reflect this. That says I get why the not fully exposed seven year old Fox Norton is slightly better fancied, nonetheless I think 16/1 for Special Tiara with 1/4 of the odds looks big in comparison.

The win part of the bet hinges on luck or misfortune of Douvan, but the place part looks to have a better chance than the odds suggest in my mind. He mightn’t be quite as good as he used to be, but fact remains that he finished 3rd in the Champion Chase last year and won this season the one time he encountered the ground he needs.

with decent ground likely here on Wednesday, Special Tiara should prove hard to pass for most rivals in this race, bar the near unbeatable favourite.

Selection: 
5pts E/W – Special Tiara @ 16/1 Bet365

……

4.10: Cross-Country Chase

Any Currency won this race last year but lost it in the courtroom afterwards. Nonetheless he is a Cheltenham specialist and even more specialist for this specific race. He seems to find his form again and should be ripped in order to put up a huge performance once more.

Now 14 years of age, there will come a point where younger legs do get the better of him him but the Cross Country is a race for specialists. A specialist Any Currency is and therefore it looks near impossible to keep this guy out of the money.

Selection:
5pts E/W – Any Currency @ 14/1 PP

…….

4.50: Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

A big field and one where you wouldn’t like to be on a short price but the word is out that Divin Bere is the one to beat and well fancied by the stable. He could have gone down the Triumph route but he’s here in a handicap off a reasonable mark.

In fact it’s probably closer to the truth that the Henderson inmate is well handicapped taken his sole run in Britain into account.

He is a French recruit who made a big impression on his UK debut at Huntingdon with form that works out incredibly well through the runner-up. Connections didn’t leave a stone untouched it seems as Divin Bere also got a wind op since then.

Selection: 
10pts win – Divin Bere @ 6/1 Skybet

……

5.30: Champion Bumper

Exciting favourite Carter Mckay might be too good but at bigger prices I fancy two other Irish horses to outrun their price tag: that is Robbie McNamara’s Quick Grabim. A visually super impressive winner of a bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas festival, he was disappointing the next time at Exter but probably had excuses that day.

Better ground should suit and it’s telling that Noel Fehily was extremely keen to get the leg up on this boy.

Davy Russell will ride Joseph O’Brien’s interesting West Coast Time. Impressive on debut, he was hampered in the mud when runner-up – yet convincingly beaten  – behind Carter Kckay. Drop back to two miles on decent ground could easily bring out further improvement though.

Selection: 
5pts win – Quick Grabim @ 25/1 WH
5pts win – West Coast Time @ 16/1 Skybet

Cheltenham Festival 2017 – Tuesday Preview

Here it is – Cheltenham is upon us! Well, nearly. Two more sleeps (or even less ,depending when you read this) then it’s the legendary roar that’ll send the horses on their way round Prestbury Park .

This four day bonanza: craziness, beauty, drama and excitement showcasing the best horse racing has to offer. It’ll be a roller coaster week, a draining week, a hopefully rewarding week. Great sport, great races, great horses…. and hopefully great money to be won.

Let the games begin & let us find some winners!

……

1.30: Supreme Novices Hurdle

It all kicks off with the Supreme – a surprisingly wide open affair this year. No outstanding star in the line up to get us off to a flyer. Though Willie Mullins saddles the favourite yet again.

However I’m  not yet convinced by Melon – though he might well be the real deal – his lack of experience is a big concern, particularly at a short enough price in a race with plenty of substance and alternatives.

Experience and a bit of stamina usually counts for allot in the Supreme and with that in mind two bigger prices come on to my radar:

There is Nicky Henderson’s progressive River Wylde on one hand. An impressive Grade 2 winner at Kempton in February, he’s shaping like an ideal candidate with the likely decent ground sure to suit.

A point to point recruit, he’s been improving all the time since moving to the Henderson yard, resulting in three wins on the bounce, culminating in a slick performance in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.

He beat Elgin that day, mainly because he jumped better. Nonetheless the runner-up is the other one I like here. Not as slick,  bit more workmanlike, but a fine second behind classy Neon Wolf earlier this year, he’s also not stopping to improve with each run and the Alan King yard is quite upbeat about a big run.

Both should be able to outran their price if they are able to keep up with the frantic pace that’s sure to bet set early on.

Selection: 
5pts win – River Wylde @ 10/1 Paddy Power
5pts win – Elgin @ 25/1 Bet365

……..

2.10: Arkle Tropy

Altior will win this barring something dramatic to happen. He’s way too good for the rest of the field. That makes the betting market without the favourite interesting.

Couple of horses I do like: that’s the Mullins runner Royal Caviar, who’s an excellent jumper, despite the fall at Leopardstown when last seen. Top Notch is another talented individual, though whether this test is what he really wants remains to be seen.

The one I feel who could outrun his price tag is Paul Nicholls’s Le Prezien. The French recruit has had a good  – albeit – light season so far, including a Grade 2 success here at Cheltenham. His Novice hurdle form is excellent too, so it’s fair to assume he might still have a bit more to give than what his current rating suggests.

He seems to be a soft ground horse but I hope he is one who could be staying on up the hill when it matters to pick up the pieces behind Altior.

Selection:
5pts win (w/o Altior) – Le Prezien @ 10/1 Bet365
Edit: 13/03/17, 8.30pm: non-runner (see update below)

……..

The Ultima appears to be a minefield in my eyes – the two I would be interested in case they do run, are Heron Heights and Champers on Ice, but both are unlikely to line up here, so I leave this race alone.

………

3.30: Champion Hurdle

No superstar of the previous years in the race this time around, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. In fact this incredibly open renewal of the Champion Hurdle has added intrigue given the entry of Buveur D’air who quickly established himself as a leading chance in recent weeks.

Favouite Yanworth has done little wrong and it’s fair to assume there is more to come. The likely frantic pace will suit him and he is a fair favourite, the one they all have to beat. Yet I’m far from excited and am not sure if he is really that much better than some others in this field.

I want to see that he’s a Champion Hurdle horse, given connections also had a good look at the Stayers Hurdle because Yanworth surely is not the most explosive hurdler the world has seen.

The chances of Buveur D’air may hinge on the weather. Rain, to be precise, is needed. If it would arrive he may even go off as favourite, I imagine.Whether that is warranted remains to be seen, but it’s fair to say he’s more home over hurdles than fences and connections did well to change the plan.

Nonetheless, the seemingly underappreciated horse is Petit Mouchoir. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the Gigginstown inmate and the critics are right in saying we don’t know what his form is worth. He seems a solid, but not spectacular individual, one who hasn’t beaten anything of note, yet.

On the positive side: Petit Mouchoir seems a better horse this season. He stepped up his game, has two Grade 1’s to his name and in the end he can’t do much more than beating what#s put in front of him. And let’s not forget he was only narrowly beaten by Buveur D’air at Aintree last season. Both horses may have improved since then, but given all we know, there is likely to be very little between the two.

That means 7/1 seems overpriced. The same could be argued for progressive Brian Power to some extend, while Moon Racer is the dark horse. All in all an intriguing contest, but at given prices and form it’s hard to argue that Petit Mouchoir is not worth a punt in my mind.

Selection: 
10pts win – Petit Mouchoir @ 7/1 Skybet

…….

4.10: Mares’ Hurdle

Surprise, surprise! Both Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag locking horns in the Mares’ – who’d thought that?! The latter one sets the standard as the convincing winner of this race last year, but she was clearly not right when last seen at Doncaster and whether she is quite 100% after the virus infection is up for debate.

Fair to say that on all evidence plus factoring in potential improvement Limini is the correct favourite. She could have run in the Champion Hurdle and would have not looked out of place there. So she has a serious chance in this race. But I wonder: should she be three or four times the price of Apples Jade? I argue: absolutely not.

The two met last month and Limini won well, but one could argue Apples Jade was back from a small break and will come on for run – probably more so than Limini will. Gorden Elliott’s mare remains to be lightly raced with further progress far from impossible

It’s also been noted by Wullie Mullins that Limini is quite hard on herself, meaning each race takes its toll on her. I wonder whether a big performance as the one she produced only three weeks ago might haven take more out of her than ideal?

All in all at the given prices I do prefer Gordon Elliott’s progressive five year old.

Selection: 
5pts win – Apples Jade @ 5/1 PP

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4.50: National Hunt Novices’ Chase

Every man and his dog seems to be on A Genie In Abottle and that makes perfect sense. But there is no juice left in the price, so looking elsewhere is worthwhile.

Highly speculative and risky, still I like to put forward the case of Tiger Roll. A shaky character, who clearly didn’t quite life up to the promise of his early career. But on his day he can be a classy individual and least we forget he used to be a Triumph Hurdle winner back in the day. Now lining up in a 4 miler seems odd and he may well be found out for stamina, if not for class.

His rating entitles him to have a decent shout, though, and he put a string of decent performances together over the last six races, including a success in the Munster National.

This is a different kettle of fish, but he goes well on decent ground and performed admirably off a break in the past, so it would not surprise me if he outruns his price tag.

Selection:
5pts win – Tiger Roll @ 20/1 Bet365

……..

5.30: lose Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase

Big field and you can easily make a case for at least a handful of these. But two stand out in terms of potentially being well handicapped: Itsafreebee is an obvious one. Third in the Neptune behind Yorkhill last year, he’s been not reaching those heights over fences yet but a handy drop in the weights and potentially decent ground should ensure he has a huge chance.

From Ireland I like the chance of Tully East. I feel he he hasn’t been seen to his best in his last two starts, probably with this race and his handicap mark in mind. He won over fences back in December and ran really well in the Martin Pipe last year.

Selection:
5pts win – Itsafreebee @ 12/1 Paddy Power
5pts win – Tully East @ 20/1 Bet365

……

Update: Arkle Trophy

With Le Prezien out, my interest is now firmly around Willie Mullins’s Royal Caviar. As mentioned in my initial preview of the race, he strikes me as an excellent jumper and most likely would have won the Irish Arkle if – ironically – not for a fall at the last.

His overall win record is dismal, but he’s rarely been out of the money and I would expect him to run a fine race, with a good chance of finishing second or third behind Altior.

Selection:
10pts Place – Royal Caviar @ 6/4 Skybet

Tuesday’s Racing Talk

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OFF to a flyer for the week. Simcock’s maidens delivered once again. I needed it after some pretty shocking days.

Mystic Dawn provided win number 10 of 33 runners in maidens for the Simcock yard this year – but even more impressive how he gets his juveniles ready: a 50% strike rate with 2 year olds first time out is nothing short of remarkable!

Controversial Racingpost Cover

It must be a real slow-burning morning if  the racing world’s discussing passionately today’s Racingpost front cover. It talks about some type of ‘celebrities’ and second tier football players being banned from racing after misbehaving at the Cheltenham Festival, which – if you might wonder – lies more than five month behind us!

I honestly haven’t heard of these guys before, though remember there were some ugly incidents at the Festival. It seems to spark some sort public debate, so it’s probably fair to be reported on.

Whether it has to grace the front cover of the “racing bible” is debatable, but then it could be argued the Racingpost didn’t exactly stood out for quality reading content in the last number of years anyway.

Can’t remember when I picked up a ‘Post the last time. It’s just not worth it. Very few interesting articles, mostly banal betting previews plus race cards. Where’s the value for money? I don’t see it.

Every half decent newspaper offers racecards and some articles on the sport on any given day. If I want to pick up a fine racing related publication then it has to be the Irish Field, which is a weekly paper, and provides plenty of compelling content.

Legislate the Stallion

The 2014 Durban July winner Legislate seems to settle in nicely in his new job. After four highly successful seasons on the race tracks of South Africa, here’s hoping his offspring can emulate his brilliant daddy once they hit the track.

He’s been one of those horses that found a place in my heart.Quick, flashy, good looking, lovely turn of foot, durable, tough, classy.

A 4 times winner in Grade 1 competition, who was able to stay the demanding July trip, but also was quick enough to be crowned champion miler.Just a pity we never saw him outside of South Africa, which was very much down to the harsh quarantine restrictions placed on the country.

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Tuesday Selections:

Only one for today. Wonderfully well bred Aflame was an excellent winner over course and distance the last time and looked to have plenty in hand, albeit she idled a bit once in front. A 5lb rise in the mark is unlikely to stop her.

4.30 Yarmouth: Aflame @ 6/4 Skybet

Third Time Lucky Annie!

Cheltenham is well and truly alive! But beware, blink with an eye and it’s all over! Not quite yet though… thankfully. Now, the opening Tuesday has been a remarkable day. For many different reasons. Some good, some not so good. First of all let me confess: I had a shite day punting wise.

By hopes rested firmly on the back of Identity Thief – boy oh boy, he bombed out! All the hype, I wanted to believe it. Forget it. He looked beaten halfway through the race. Silver Concorde? Never seen closer than last.

On a side-note: William Hill was gracious enough to allow me a €2.38 stake on a longshot in one of the big Handicaps. Not 30 quid, not ten, not five, and no – certainly not €2.40. The risk was too high of me robbing them of their annual profits, it seems!

Anyway, let’s quickly recap what happened; writing this while watching the replay package on Racing UK.

Bin those Mullins Accas

Altior, what can you say. That was f***ing impressive! Got a peach of a ride and the way he flew up the hill… imagine he’d be trained by Willie M! Bookies would beat each other over “who makes the silliest ante-post quote for Cheltenham 2017”.

Says, there actually where some questionable quotes flying around soon after Altior crossed the line….

Min jumped like a 15 year old chaser. Sometimes big and round, sometimes clumsy, but certainly not as sharp as expected. Maybe he didn’t like the track. The hype around him has certainly stalled. But I wouldn’t give up on him. He remains a nice prospect. The prospects for all those wild accumulators including Willie Mullins’ horses are bleak after this, though. Call that off to a bad start….

Douvan, Douvan, oooohhh you lovely Douvan

What a superstar. Watching him jump his fences is a thing of beauty. So athletic, so accurate – it’s beautiful. Simple as that. He’s made all and won comfortably. As expected.

To be fair he didn’t really have a race on his hand once jumping the second last, mainly because Vainteux fell, who was trying to challenge hard, but even more so because the wobbling Vainteux hampered the eye-catchingly strong travelling The Game Changer big time!

The Game Changer looked for a split second like he’d be able to transform his name into reality. Turning for home, approaching the second last, he clearly came with a huge run…. for second.

Annie Jumps the Last

She did it, but I’m sure thousands of punters collectivity held their breath when Annie Power approached the last hurdle clear of the rest. She didn’t fall this time, so she won – and she won well.

She was the class act, received 7lb from her male rivals and as called out in my preview of the race she made full use of her tactical advantage – to run the finishing kick out of her male rivals. How could they let her go off at 5/2?! Sounds all so easy in the aftermath. Of course I didn’t back her. But I’m delighted for the mare. She deserved this.

My Tent or Yours ran a tremendous race finishing second. Almost two years off the track, all those niggling problems , yet travelling so well here. Excellent training performance Nicky! The New One wasn’t good enough though. Can connections except that? They seemed to find it hard conceding defeat in the past, that’s for sure. But let me say this: TNO is a good two miler, however not a brilliant one.

Vroum Vroum all class in crappy Mares’ Hurdle

Class prevailed. Never in danger, never in doubt, Ruby gave Vroum Vroum Mag an ultra confident ride. She had way too much on her plate for the rest of the field. It wasn’t exactly competitive racing, and while that can happen if one horse stand head and shoulders above the rest, the Mares’ Hurdle is a crap race.

VVM is a really nice mare, to make her run a race against inferiour opposition, a race where most are clearly not up to the highest level – it’s an insult to the mare, it undermines her class. She deserves to be tested in a real championship race, where she can show off her true talent. Personally I’d scrap the Mares’ Hurdle right away.

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Wednesday Outlook:

An intriguing Champion Chase is awaiting us tomorrow as well. UDS wins with a clear round of jumping, right? I made that point in my Champion Chase Preview as well as waving the flag for a big run of Sizing Granite. Though I’d really love to see Sprinter Sacre running one more big race. How awesome would that be?!

I also mentioned before I do fancy Very Much So in the bumper. He’s currently on the drift. Probably not a good sign, admittedly. Other than that I haven’t have a strong opinion on any of the other races yet, except for the Cross Country Chase!

 

4:10 Cross Country Chase

I’m a big fan of this race and that makes me probably a loner in the world of horse racing. Most people slate cross-country races, in fact hate them with passion – which is fine – though I love the purity of it, the diversity of the course and fences, the enormous test it provides for horse and rider. It’s a race for the eyes as well, it brings out the beauty of jump racing.

Last years winner Rivage D’Or – one of my brighter moments writing this blog, I tipped him for a huge price last year – is going to post to defend his crown. However there is very little evidence that he’s in any sort of form to go even close. I pass him over this time.

I find it hard to make sense of the field, with a rather short-priced favourite, who ticks plenty of the right boxes, but it simply a very short price for a race where plenty of different scenarios can play out.

We saw it last year, where Quantitativeeasing travelled really well but was bumped out at one of the last jumps towards the end of the race. He may have won the race that day and therefore must be a good thing this time around again. I just don’t feel confident about it, maybe because he had his chances here in the past and didn’t take them. As an 11 year old there is very little chance for more improvement too.

I want to find something unexposed with the potential to take to this type of race and bit of improvement potentially left. So the older horses aren’t doing it for me. But I got stuxk with nine year old Dolatulo.

Not necessarily an unexposed type, but one who’s progressed into a fair stayer last season, who took well to the National fences and who acts on better ground. He’s rated to be in with a fair shout if he acts on the cross-country course. He’s schooled over it in the past, so I guess connections have a good feeling of throwing him into this. So have I. This test could be tailor made for Dolatulo. He’s 28/1 with Paddy Power, which looks a tremendous price.

Selection: Dolatulo

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The Vautour Saga

One last thing: There was a bit of hysteria in the twitter world  when it was made public this morning that Vautour is not heading for the Gold Cup, instead goes for the shorter Ryanair Chase! It’s easy to see where most critics are coming from, nonetheless I feel there is a fair bit of hypocrisy in the outcry too.

Since when do people take words from owners and trainer literally? And whatever, if you punt ante-post you know the rules. It’s that simple. Horses are no machines, can get knocks any given second. If that happens, plans can suddenly  change. Yes it’s true, Richi Rich told the world Vautour would go for Gold or nothing, but at the very same time one didn’t have to look very hard to find rumours stating the opposite. So there was something surely not as 100% clear within the yard as it seemed through the Ricci word.

But was Ricci simply forced to be bullish? All those questions, any given day, the speculations, anyone with an opinion, particularly on the Preview Nights Circus, which is more like an industry these days. All the hype, starting month and month in advance. Why not let the people involved with the horses do their job? Why do we need clear-cut answers weeks in advance? Can’t we not wait until the Festival is finally upon us? I understand, people love an ante-post bet. But hey, if you do so, you know the risks involved.

This is not nesascarily an excuse for what happened. What happened is clearly quite unfortunate. It’s just some thoughts that came to my mind when I read all of it this morning. There are always two sides to the coin and the truth generally lies somewhere in the middle.

That says I would have loved to see Vautour trying the Gold Cup trip. It added to the intrigue of the big race. However for some weeks now I also have a big wager on him in the Ryanair with the NRNB insurance. I’m pretty happy right now cause this was a win-win

If Vautour would runsin the Gold Cup he gets outstayed by Don Poli (yes, that’s the winner of the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup=. But having him in the market helped to get a bigger price on the Gigginstown horse. The only concern for my Rynair bet now: Vautour’s apparently only 90% and doesn’t show the same sparkle as last year. I’m not so worried about the fitness as more about the spark. Did the King George took too much out of him?