Tag Archives: Faugheen

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day 2 Fancies

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Off to a flyer! The opening race of the week – and bang, there is first the winner (9.5/1) to ease the pressure right from the start!

In truth, I fancied Summerville Boy ever since his Sandown win, yet think it was the right thing to wait – and let the big prices go – to decide as close as possible to the race in order to know ground conditions as well what is going to turn up.

Stamina clearly won him the race today. While he clearly enjoyed the pace, his jumping was poor, particularly in the closing stages, where he missed a couple, including the final jump! Yet, he outstayed Kalshnikov in a dramatic finish.

Hot favourite Getabird faded away quickly went it mattered most. The first hype horse of the week well and truly beaten.

My other two selections didn’t fare quite as well as Summerville Boy. At leasr Pylonthepressure gave a run for the money. In fact, if he would be able to jump a fence, he may have gone really close. Only 5th in the end, after a torrid round of jumping that saw Katie Walsh performing acrobatic acts on several occasions.

Same can’t be said about Yorkhill. His enigmatic character can make life difficult for himself and his jockey. Today, it seemed, there was nothing of his usual spark at all. Only a lifeless performance.

Stablemate Faugheen also looked so far off his best that the word “retirement” made the rounds on social media. Mullins has none of it: Punchestown and the Stayers Hurdle is for the former machine the target.

Buveur D’Air landed back-to-back Champion Hurdles in a thrilling finish up the hill against Melon. He’s the best around at the moment, though, it was far from a vintage renewal.

Performance of the day, no doubt, was delivered in the Arkle by sensational Footpad. One scary jump midway, that’s all you had to fear if backing the odds-on favourite (I didn’t). He made it look easy in the end. WOW!

Well, that was day one – on to Champion Chase Wednesday.

…..

13:30 Cheltenham – Ballymore Novices Hurdle:

Not much you can say against either Samcro or Next Destination. Both have proven their class this year, both won Grade 1’s, as well as over the trip and are unlikely to mind the ground.

Though, it’s the Gigginstown inmate who could turn out to be a special one. Hence all the hype is, as far as I am concerned, justified. I saw Samcro in flesh at Leopardstown – he really looks the part!

In terms of prices, I’m not drawn to them, though. For the simple fact that there is a horse that ran well in defeat behind these two makes plenty of appeal: Duc Des Genievres.

This lightly raced grey had only three starts to date; two of of those this year since moving over from France to the Mullins yard. He travelled strongly on debut when third behind Next Destination in the Lawlor’s of Naas Hurdle, and made quite eye-catching headway at Leopardstown weeks later when beaten only by Samcro.

On both occasions, the slowly ran race may not have been to his liking. The prospect of a decent pace, with a step pup in trip and ground to suit on what will only be his fourth ever career run is reason to believe that there is a fair case to be made for Duc Des Genievres to finish closer to the two market principles.

Selection:
10pts win – Duc Des Genievres @ 15/1 Matchbook

……..

14:10 Cheltenham – RSA Chase:

The Irish lead the way, not surprisingly. Presenting Percy with possibly the strongest piece of form overall. Followed by Dublin Racing Festival winner Monalee. Both will relish the step up in trip and the ground.

At a much bigger price and probably open to considerable amount of improvement that should see him being at least in the shake-up, though, is British raider Ballyoptic.

He’s been beaten earlier this season a couple of times by Black Corton, the number one challenge of the British. That says, Black Corton was then and still is a vastly more experienced individual.

Ballyoptic, in contrast, only has his fifth start over fences here, while having won two already, including a Grade 2 at Newbury when last seen in tough going, doing so in pretty fine style.

He had ample time to recover and be ready to go for Cheltenham since then. More time then the market principles had. He is open to improvement over fences, given he was a fine staying hurdler and with a good pace assured and ground conditions to suit, I can see him running a huge race.

Selection:
10pts win – Ballyoptic @ 16/1 Matchbook

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14:50 Cheltenham – Coral Cup:

Keep it simple: Max Dynamite is the answer. Not particularly original in a field of 27, however, the 2017 Melbourne Cup third has proven to have retained all is class. Given he is also quite a decent hurdler on a fair mark, he should be a big chance.

Max Dynamite finished 4th in the County Hurdle in 2015, when quite clearly not having the run of the race, and was an excellent runner-up in the Galway Hurdle the same year, staying on strongly, suggesting the step up in trip could well suit.

Ground is not an issue. He has form on softish going. With Ruby Walsh in the saddle Max Dynamite will have every chance to be in the right position when it matters most this time.

Selection:
10pts win – Max Dynamite @ 9/1 Matchbook

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15:30 Cheltenham – Champion Chase:

The less than ideal preparation for Altior is well documented. He may well turn out to be the superstar he promised to be in the making. However, I can’t have him at the ridiculous short odds that seem to crown him to be a superstar without proving it, yet.

If Douvan, after a year-long break, does not return at his old brilliant, the laughing third can be Min. He is rock solid over this trip, track and ground. Yes, beaten by Altior at the Festival before, but he had a much better preparation, hence seems to be a good bet….

….nonetheless, I side with Douvan. Simply because 4/1 is way too big for this horse that is, in my eyes, a confirmed superstar. He bombed 12 months ago in the very same race, but was found to have sustained a pelvic injury during the race. Recovery took a while and we haven’t seen him on a racetrack ever since.

It would be a massive training performance by Willie Mullins to bring Douvan back to form good enough to win a Champion Chase. However, if one can, he is the man. Also Douvan is still only an eight year and was only beaten twice in his career: on his French debut and here last season.

Vibes from the Mullins camp are positive. Ruby Walsh has opted for Douvan. I see that as a vote of confidence. Douvan is a two times Festival winner with a superb record on soft ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Douvan @ 4/1 Matchbook

…….

16:10 Cheltenham – Cross Country Chase:

A four-timer for Cause Of Causes? The much talked about Tiger Roll on the money again at the Festival? Probably not. Class will prevail. And the class act in this field is The Last Samuri. On his way to the National he can pick up this race.

I really fancy his chances. He’s still a generally young horse in the context of this field. He is worth his high rating as proven this season. On weights he is favoured to win this if it would be a normal race. Of course it isn’t. It’s the Cross-Country, a unique test.

Connections report The Last Samuri schooled well over these type of fences. Generally he is a fine jumper. He is a pretty decent hurdler, a pretty good chaser and also acts over the National fences.

With that in mind, ground, trip and track not too much of a worry, I believe he will go very close.

Selection:
10pts win – The Last Samuri @ 6.6/1 Matchbook

…….

17:30 Cheltenham – Champion Bumper: 

A graveyard race for me personally over the years and this edition looks a competitive, wide open affair once again. That says I was immensely taken by the two performances Blackbow put up this season.

He was gutsy on debut staying on strongly, and even more so impressive was his turn of foot in the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival when beating a smart horse in Rhinestone.

These two renew their feud today; plenty are of the opinion Rhinestone was a bit unlucky the other day and can reverse the form. I don’t have that. He wasn’t miles off Blackbow, in fact he was right on his ass for most parts of the race and simply didn’t have the pace when Blackbow turned up the heat over two furlongs out.

True, Rhinestone stayed on, however Blackbow idled in front and eventually held his rival with ease, or so I felt. That doesn’t mean the Joseph O’Brien trained Rhinestone can’t improve to a level that see him go past Blackbow. On the other hand Willie Mullins’ charge has a wonderful scopey frame, who looks well able to progress himself.

I love the fact that Blackbow not only has put up the best piece of form in the bumper sphere this season, but also that he is an uncomplicated individual, who should sit close enough to the pace to not get into in-running trouble, which can be the case in this race if you sit too far back.

In terms of running style, I can see how his turn of foot combined with his ability to pull out when it matters works well in combination with how the bumper is run at Cheltenham.

Selection:
10pts win – Blackbow @ 5.5/1 Matchbook

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Preview – Aintree Hurdle

Jezki

I wasn’t sure about this race but seeing how prices develop I find it impossible to not have a small interest in Rock On Ruby. Now available at 4/1, I believe he is too big. This race looks very competitive, and evolves mainly around the first three in the market. It’s hard to distinguish them but I feel that Rock On Ruby is the one who has conditions 100% to suit.

Arctic Fire obviously is very attractive. He shapes as a horse that needs this trip, as he usually runs on strongly over two miles. His runner-up effort in the Champion Hurdle behind Faugheen was visually impressive. However he had a couple of hard races already, and the fact that he usually finds one or two too good, makes is somewhat worrying for – a 7/4 shot at least!

The 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki has been a disappointment this season so far. He has to show much more and I’m not sure if he can suddenly step up big time. He’s a spring horse as we know, and has won a Grade 1 over this trip in the past. That’s the clear positives on the other hand. I rather don’t want to find out with my money if he can find back to his best, though.

Rock On Ruby in contrast, skipped Cheltenham and should be fresh and spot on for this race. He finished a gallant runner-up last year and 2m 4f appears to be his optimum trip these days. Ground conditions are sure to suit and he showed himself in good light this season. A bold bid is very much on the cards today and he looks the value against the other two.

3.25 Aintree: Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)
Rock On Ruby @ 4/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

Cheltenham Festival 2015 – As It Happend…

It is over! Yes, Cheltenham is over, indeed. We have to wait another (loooong) twelve month until it is alive again. But see it this way: If Cheltenham would be on every week, it wouldn’t be as special as it is. And boy, was this last week special, wasn’t it?! It had it all: Memorable triumphs, dramatic finishes, outstanding horses, magical rides and real Championship races. Relieve the action again – as it happened…..

Day 1 – Tuesday: All about the roar of the crowd – it’s the opening day of the Festival! Four Grade 1’s on the card, probably the finest day of racing the whole year. The big story of course was the potential Willie Mullins four-timer which would have resulted in a major loss for bookmakers. This wasn’t a long-shot. In fact it looked very likely to happen when Annie Power approached the last obstacle in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Punters and bookies alike were holding their breath. Annie was clear and just needed a decent jump to win. But as we know now, she crashed! She got seemingly confused by the shadows and jumped them instead the real obstacle. A fall literally at the last hurdle, saved the bookies millions, and cost punters dearly.

Earlier that day, Douvan opened the Festival with an authoritative triumph in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Un De Sceaux followed with an impressive success in the Arkle. Faugheen landed Tuesdays feature, the Champion Hurdle – living up to all the hype surrounding him. It was a clean sweep for the Irish and Willie Mullins, as not only did he train the winner, but also the runner-up Arctic Fire and of course world-record breaking Hurricane Fly, who finished a gallant third! The New One in contrast wasn’t quick enough. Jezki not good enough.

Day 2 – Wednesday: The readily improving Windsor Park provided renowned flat trainer Dermot Weld with a Cheltenham win in the Neptune Novice’s Hurdle. Davy Russell with a brilliant front-running ride. Don Poli, thought to be one of the bankers of the meeting, obliged duly in the RSA Chase and was rapidly installed as favourite for next years Gold Cup.

The Champion Chase was all about Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre – even or maybe because both didn’t run to their formerly best and were beaten a long way. Sprinter Sacre in particular looked a finished horse and retirement is looming. Sire De Grugy’s legs weren’t quite quick enough and the form horse Dodging Bullets landed the odds.

Day 3 – Thursday: What can you say…. Vautour on a different planet! He demolished classy opposition in the JLT and proved all doubters wrong. His jumping was spot on, maybe the best round of jumping around the testing Cheltenham course we’ve seen in a long time. Gold Cup next year for him.

A winner for AP McCoy is a winner for racing. A perfectly judged front-running ride on long-shot Uxizandre meant McCoy wouldn’t end his Festival career without a winner. It was emotional for anyone involved and just what was needed. A long-shot also got up in the World Hurdle. Cole Harden made all from the front too. Clearly improved since a wind operation, he fend off the challenge from favourite Saphir Du Rheu.

Day 4 – Friday: Gold Cup Day, and it’s all about the big race, indeed! Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti was the favourite – he had the form in the book thanks to his impressive King George triumph. But his failures at recent Festivals made him look vulnerable. Willie Mullins saddled progressive stayer Djakadam; former Galway Plate and Lexus Chase winner Road To Riches was another Irish runner with fine chances. Hennessy winner Many Clouds and novice Coneygree were well fancied UK rivals.

The race itself turned into a procession of jumping and determination. They said novices can’t win the Gold Cup. Well, they can! Connections of Coneygree were bold in making the decision to let him take his chance in the biggest race of the Festival – and that proved to be the right one. The rapidly improving novice made all from the front. He out-jumped his more experienced rivals and he galloped relentlessly, having more than half of the field on the stretch a long way before the finish. Jumping the last with his ears pricked, this Coneygree was jumping for fun and out-battled the few rivals which were still with him on the legendary Cheltenham hill toward the finish line.

A simply sensational performance. But credit to Road To Riches as well, who was never to far off Coneygree and stuck well to the task. He finished a very creditable 3rd while Djakadam stayed on in second. Silviniaco Conti was beaten when the leading pack turned for home, five runners had to be pulled up, including last years winner Lord Windermere. That shows how ferocious the pace was, set by Coneygree.

Number of the week: 13 – A draw between England and Ireland. Thirteen winners apiece. Though Willie Mullins was responsible for the majority of the Irish winners. He could celebrate a record eight times in the winners circle.

Ride Of the week: Davy Russell on Rivage D’or in the Cross Country Chase – A super confident ride and perfectly judged by the former Irish Champion jockey on the 16-1 outsider. Russell sat quietly on his mount, making up ground gradually, patiently waiting to ask Rivage D’or for everything when it really mattered. Not many can ride Cheltenham better than Russell.

Betting: If you would have followed all bets on this blog throughout the Festival week, you would be a whopping 132pts in the green! To give this figure some context: If one point of your betting bank would be €10, you’d have made €1320.00 this week with my selections. Not too shabby for a week’s work in the office! Highlights were of course Martello Tower on Friday, who got up at 14/1 SP in a dramatic finish. As well as Rivage D’or in the Cross Country, which was tipped at 20/1.

Future Outlook: What a massive Gold Cup we could have on our hands next year. Vautour and Don Poli looked both very special and are heading the ante-post market already, with Coneygree expected to try and defend his crown. Throw in Djakadam and Road To Riches who could both still improve a bit, and we have a race for the ages!

Willie Mullins was the utterly dominating force during the week and quotes of 20/1 are out for him to take all four major races at the Festvial next year – that’s the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, World Hurdle and the Gold Cup. I’ve seen worse long-shots to be honest!

Cheltenham Festival Preview – DAY 1

The Festival

Finally it’s here – the Cheltenham Festival! It feels like the build-up to it would never end, with all the talk (and hype to an extend) about the biggest four days in jump racing effectively starting as soon as each new jumps season gets under way. But let’s jump right into it now and concentrate on what this is all about: The great sport we all love so much!

I’ll be previewing each day in advance over the course of the week. But no worries, I’ll keep it short and snappy. I’m sure you have heard and read so much the same horses and races over and over again, be it on TV, on other blogs, Twitter or on one of the countless preview nights!

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Two standout horses here: Willie Mullins “supposed to be banker” Douvan and Nicky Henderson’s L’ami Serge. Both haven’t done much wrong in their young careers. Douvan been mightily impressive in two starts since moving to Ireland from France. He’s beaten some smart horses with ease and Cheltenham will tell us more about how much he has left once off the bridle. L’ami Serge has been equally impressive thanks to a couple of wide margin wins. He has an awful lot of potential.

From the bigger prices, Qewy is interesting and looks talented. He may be better suited to Aintree but could still run into a place here. I feel Douvan is a rock solid selection, though, and should prove very hard to beat. His form looks stronger to my eyes and he looks such a huge, imposing individual, with plenty of scope – I just can’t look past him, particularly not at 2/1.

Douvan @ 2/1 William Hill – 10 pts win

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Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1)

Un De Sceaux will win this. Full stop. He looks a superstar in the making, and while I was still a bit unsure before his last run at Leopardstown, I’m now pretty sure he is the real deal, after slaughtering two smart rivals in breathtaking fashion. If he jumps well tomorrow, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t, then he must rate “banker material”.

Main danger should be progressive Vibrato Valtat. He always seems to travel well and nowadays also seem to finds something off the bridle. Not sure if he really would stick his neck out in a tough battle up the hill though. Clarcam finished a long beaten runner-up to UDS recently, but if ridden with more restraint, he may finish in the money. Looking elsewhere for a bit of value, I particularly like the 40/1 for God’s Own. He comes here as a fresh horse which seemed to work best for him in the past. The last two runs were poor but he didn’t have the ground he needs to be seen to best effect. That should be different tomorrow and he should show a much improved effort.

God’s Own @ 40/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

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Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

This looks a straightforward race to my eyes. Faugheen is better than anything else in this race. It’s that simple. There are no worries about match fitness due to his lack of run since December. Connections did the same last year, when he won so impressively at the Festival. He may miss the odd jump here and there, but he is learning and certainly has a touch of class about him. Some say he didn’t beat much this season, and yes that is true to an extend. But Blue Heron, who was 17 lengths behind Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, was subsequently a runaway winner in Grade 2 company.

What about the rest? The New One won’t be quick enough. Too much has been made of the trouble he meat in-running last year in the Champion Hurdle. Jezki got a super ride last year but even with his Cheltenham form and liking for decent ground, it’s hard to see him good enough this year. I’d love to see The Fly doing it for a third time, but he isn’t getting any quicker and for me it’s proven that he is not quite the same horse at Cheltenham, despite two Champion Hurdles. The ground is certainly against him.

Kitten Rock is one I like from the bigger price. He has a lot to find on form and ratings, but is an improving sort and may be better than the price suggests. Nonetheless, it’s Faugheen all the way!

Faugheen @ 6/5 Coral – 10pts win

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Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Another race with a red hot favourite trained by Willie Mullins. Make no mistake, he has four “bankers” on the opening day of the Festival, but none is a bigger one than Annie Power. She is the highest rated horse in the race and has a proven her class last season. She is simply a league or two above the rest in this field. The vibes from the yard are good, Annie is in fine form and while it is slightly disappointing to see such a high class animal in the  below Grade 1 level Mares Hurdle (despite the status as one), it makes sense to give Annie a potentially easier race than in a tough World Hurdle. If nothing unforeseen happens, she’ll win.

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Toby Balding National Hunt Chase (Listed Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)

This looks a wide open renewal. Noel Meade has the very promising favourite Very Wood in the race and this former Festival winner must have a big chance as he’s getting his ground here. Sego Success looks to have the right tools to run a big race too. Nonetheless this looks an open enough contest and I feel the mare Theatre Queen is a big price and worth an each-way nibble. She can be a tricky customer but has Cheltenham form, looks a stayer through and through and goes on decent ground with a nice weight here.

Theatre Queen @ 33/1 PP – 2.5pts E/W

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There are two more Handicap Chases on the card. Plenty of runners there, hard to distinguish form in those races for me. I don’t want to pretend t be able to solve the puzzle in those races and leave that up to the National Hunt experts. My advice would be: Sit back and enjoy these races. They’ll be competitive and probably pretty exciting to watch.

I like to make a call for one double bet: Annie Power and Un De Sceaux look unbeatable for me. And while there is no such thing as certainty in jump racing, combining these two short prices gives us odds of about @ 2.79. Do I think there is a better than 36% chance that both win their races? Yes, absolutely.

AP + UDS @ 2.79 Betfred – 10pts win