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.
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.
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?