Tag Archives: March

Saturday Selections: March, 14th 2020

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Cheltenham is over. It didn’t deliver the goods on the betting front as it did in the last years. At the very least it delivered some relieve in the sense some of my selections were successful. Many more ran really well. That’s a big positive after the worst start to any betting year I ever had.

There is a bit a question “would, could, should”. But those type of thoughts rarely lead to anything good.

I got the Gold Cup spot on, though: Al Boum Photo was the one to beat and he had everything you need to go back to back. He didn’t quite have the same dream run through as last year but he had a super sharp Paul Townend in the saddle who made the right decisions in the right moment to ensure ABP endured as little trouble as possible.

He beat Santini in a brilliant finish. In third, my selection, Lostintranslation, ran a massive race. The two possible improvers were good enough to beat the rest of the field, as was my expectation before the race. But they were not quite good enough (yet?) to beat the defending champion.

After the week didn’t start too well for Paul Townend, he finished it off with a week that’ll go down in history. Champion jockey and the man who steered a horse to defend the crown in the Gold Cup. He doesn’t always get it right. But who does? Ruby and AP didn’t. What matters is that Paul Townend got it as right as it gets at the grandest of stages. That makes him a top top class jockey.

I will review Cheltenham tomorrow afternoon on Dublin City FM. Tune in if you like. Beyond that, I gonna struggle on in an attempt to get by betting back on track. Thankfully the flat is around the corner.

………..

6.00 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 9.5f

The money is pouring in for Taurean Dancer who returns from a break with a first time visor fitted and Rossa Ryan in the saddle for what is his only ride on the card.

Whether this Taurean Dancer’s optimum trip is a question mark, given his career best topspeed rating came over further. However hes form over shorter as well, having been beaten only by a neck at Kempton over a mile of a much higher rating in the past.

I imagine he’ll be ridden forward in order to set a good pace and use his undoubtedly existing stamina. As he can be keen, this should suit him well in a race that is wide open.

Selection:
10pts win – Taurean Dancer @ 11/1 MB

Cheltenham 2020: Thursday Preview

Cheltenham Finish

The tide has turned! Two successful selections on Wednesday: Politologue landed the Champion Chase, albeit one has to put an asterisk behind the word “Champion”, given the field lost two of its main attractions due to injury, while Defi Du Seuil didn’t fire at all.

Politologue galloped the decimated field into the ground from the front – he finally had his big day here, after chasing Altior home in the past. Rule 4 deduction is painful, it remains a double figure price, though.

Easywork finished a gallant second behind superb Envoy Allen. For a moment the favourite looked in trouble but only for a moment, until Envoy Allen motored home in impressive style. Easywork was plenty keen throughout the race, so his performance can be upgraded. The place part of the 22/1 each/way price was certainly a fine start to the second day of the Festival.

………

1.30 Marsh Novices’ Chase, 2m 4f

Possibly I eat my words later on: I simply can’t fathom who made Samcro a favourite for this race… and who are those people backing him at the prices on offer? Insanity. It’s grand memories attached to the name of Samcro. Those memories have faded, though.

The Ballymore is two years old, and his best performance rating wise is a runner-up effort over hurdles. Sorry, but this lad isn’t a superstar and will struggle here, even though there is some danger attached to these words given a recent wind operation.

That may help him to find a bit more, but you can’t tell me he had all the years wind issues and only now these are notices and rectified?

Probably an even bigger surprise is to see 12-year-old Faugheen looming large behind Samcro in the betting. At least surprising in that sense as only a few months ago that sort of scenario would have been laughable.

Not so funny any more: Faugheen is the one they all have to beat. He has the best form in the book. And he is, around 5/1, actually a price to seriously consider. If he’d be two years younger I’d back him. I simply can’t however, bring myself to back a 12-year-old. Particularly after he had a very hard race at Leopardstown.

Sure, that was last month, plenty of time to recover. Yet I remember other veterans – Kauto Star or Hurricane Fly – who turned the clock back during the season before coming to Cheltenham in March when all that was left in the tank they gave in the races leading up to getting them there to the Festival in their grand age in first place.

In my opinion there isn’t all that much substance in this race. Itchy Feet is interesting, though what did he beat at Sandown? Improving Mister Fisher has an intriguing profile without having set the world alight.

That brings me to my selection: Melon. A quirky horse, a poor win record, still searching for a first success on the highest level. But clearly there is a lot to like as well. He was a top class hurdler nonetheless. if not for a neck, he could be a Champion Hurdler. He finished twice a runner-up in that race, plus a second place in the Supreme. Clearly he comes alive at Cheltenham.

Melon has taken well to fences in three starts. A second behind Fakir D’oudairies on his debut run – a good piece of form given Fakir D’oudairies has franked the form with a strong second in the Arkle on Tuesday.

Melon had to work hard but eventually prevailed with more than two lengths to spare subsequently at Leopardstown. That form doesn’t look too shabby either. What became apparent then and also the next time when disappointing in the Irish Arkle that Melon has lost a bit of speed and particularly over fences seem to cry out for a step up in trip.

He has to prove to truly stay the longer distance, but in theory it should slow things a little bit down, which may help his jumping, which can be a bit sketchy sometimes. But then, he can learn and improve as well. It’s noteworthy when Willie Mullins says:

“He’s shown us that he needs two and a half miles. He has good Festival form and if he has a clear round of jumping, I think he’ll go close.”

That sums it up for me. With the potential that the trip helps his jumping and a bit more improvement to come from experience over fences, together with his excellent Cheltenham record and whatever ground we have come race time unlikely to bother him, I feel Melon is overpriced in this wide open contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Melon @ 15/1 MB

………..

2.10 Pertemps Final, 3 miles

I am quite keen on Dingo Dollar here. 50/1 with six (even seven, if you’re lucky) places on offer looks foolish to leave on the table. He may well find a few too good or too speedy, particularly if the ground dries out further. At the same time he comes here potentially well handicapped.

The 8-year-old has established himself as a fine staying chaser, but has also two victories and two placed efforts from seven hurdle starts to his name. he can race of 4lb lower than his current rating over fences, and done okay in three starts this season, including when qualifying on his seasonal reappearance for the Pertemps.

Dino Dollar is a no-nonsense, simply horse to ride. Up with the pace, which will hopefully eliminate potential in-running trouble. He stays all day long but also has speed ratings that can match the ones of the more favoured individuals in this race.

Selection:
5pts e/w (6pl) – Dingo Dollar @ 50/1 BF

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3.30 Stayer’s Hurdle, 3m

Paisley Park will be the banker of the week for many. And rightly so. You can’t fault the defending champion. He appears to be the perfect horse for this race. In saying that, this is racing, things can go wrong and there is always a “new kid on the block” from time to time that will challenge the leader of the pack.

Summerville Boy came close in the Cleeve Hurdle. He had the champ off the bridle before turning for home and made him work hard for the eventual victory. I can see a scenario where Summerville Boy can turn this around; more so I can’t see many scenarios where he won’t be in the money at the very least.

Nonetheless it remains still only a slim hope that the former Supreme winner can turn the form with the almighty Paisley Park. The “new kid on the block” who offers a little bit more hope is City Island.

Last years excellent Ballymore winner, beating Champ, who we all remember now for his dramatic RSA victory.

City Island went chasing after his successful, albeit short, hurdling career. It never worked out. Connections done the wise thing and revert back to the smaller obstacles.

The 8-year-old has a lot to find with Paisley Park. By no means its a given he’ll do that. However, coming here off a recent wind OP, the ground on the new course not quite as soft and potentially further drying come race time, is a positive. That offers the potential, in combination with the new trip, of improvement. Not to forget, he’s four from five over hurdles.

Whether that’ll be enough to go close, and whether City Island has retained appetite for the game as well as being able to revert back to slick jumping over hurdles is another question. At given prices he’s certainly overpriced and can give the favourite a run for the money.

Selection:
10pts win – City Island @ 18/1 MB

……..

5.30 Kim Muir, 3m 2f

It’s a bit of a shame I left the analysis of this race so late because I missed nearly missed the boat. Meaning, the price for my selection is borderline now. Kilfilum Cross remains value, despite the big field.

The still relatively lightly raced 8-year-old finished an excellent runner-up in this twelve month ago. He jumped the last narrowly in the lead and only missed out to Any Second up the hill.

That is a superb piece of form and today Kilfilum Cross can run of one pound lower than last year! He comes here in excellent form after a fine runner-up performance at Kempton. The wind OP seem to work. He ran a career best RPR and TS that day.

The ground is fine today, the race, although competitive in field size, is not the strongest. Kilfilum Cross has a fine chance to go one better this afternoon.

Selection:
10pts win – Kilfilum Cross @ 9.2/1 MB

Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Wednesday Preview

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A winner?! A feeling I forget exist: enjoying one of my selections crossing the line in first.

I can’t quite remember the last time this happened – it’s been a while – even though it looked like coming when Abacadabras traveled like a dream through the Supreme, despite a slightly awkward start, and getting hampered by a faller, he looked like the winner turning for home…. only to be denied on the line. Of course!

Thankfully Honeysuckle ended my incredibly brutal losing run, beating Benie Des Dieux in a brilliant finish. It was a superb ride by Rachel Blackmore, who continues to prove female jockeys certainly can be at the very top of the game.

I could do a with a few more winners now. Have a lot of catching up to do in order to get 2020 back into the green. The second day of the Festival is a tasty one, although again a tricky puzzle to solve as usual. All selections are big prices which increased the chance for a blank day on the winners front.

………..

1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, 2m 5f

On paper Envoy Allen looks the banker of the day. He may well be. If he can continue to improve he’s hard to beat. Will he, though?

You can argue he didn’t have to be pushed to the limits in his last two starts. There is a good chance he can pull out more. At the same time, at least on the rating front, Envoy Allen is good but not overwhelmingly brilliant. RPR’s and TS ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt in jump racing, yet have some merit.

On that front, second favourite Sporting John is a highly intriguing rival. All the time improving, his Kempton performance was simply stunning and looks excellent on the rating front too. Unfortunately I am too late to the party: the juice is out of the price. Factoring in his general inexperience, having never raced on these terms, I have to leave him alone.

Brings to my selection: a rare each-way one: Easywork appears to be a massive price. I believe he’s harshly judged by his runner-up effort – albeit a long way beaten – behind Asterion Forlonge, who didn’t run too badly in a super competitive Supreme today btw..

Relativally decent ground over two miles was clearly against Easywork that day. Stepping up to 2m 4f with plenty of juice in the ground is much more to his liking. He showed his talent already this season winning three on the bounce, in pretty good style, all of these victories came on soft or heavy going.

Selection:
5pts e/w – Easywork @ 22/1 WH

………

2.10 RSA Chase, 3m½f

What a competitive renewal: the betting says it all with four horses heading the market with less than two points between them. I personally think there a few behind them that can’t be discounted either. Certainly form wise the first five, six in the market are rather closely matched anyway.

Certainy overpriced is Battleoverdoyen. He probably would right in the mix at the top of the market if not for an usually poor showing in Flogas at Leopardstown. He was effectively beaten before falling at the last.

That’s a big question mark obviously. He was apparently pretty sore and 50/50 running at the Festival, only a fortnight ago. That’s a reflection of his price tag.

Nonetheless, even taking that into account, he remains an exciting prospect. Battleoverdoyen was classy hurdler, although twelve month ago was disappointingly pulled up in the Ballymore.

The big, rangy gelding was always a chaser in the making. And he took well to fences, winning three on the trot, including a small-field Grade 1 over Christmas.

Three miles om soft ground won’t be a problem. The fact Battleoverdoyen usually travels strongly and is a good jumper will count for a lot in what could well turn out to be a war of attrition. That sort of race could easily put Copperhead at an advantage, who has been quite impressive as well, and would be my most likely winner.

At given odds, even with the risk of the recent fall attached, Battleoverdoyen is clearly one who’s much bigger than he should be.

Selection:
10pts win – Battleoverdoyen @ 14.5/1 MB

……..

2.50 Coral Cup, 2m 5f

In a tricky affair where in-running luck will play a role Protektorat stands out to me. His style of running, and the fact he can b a quirky sort, adds to the risk of needing things to fall right. On the other hand he ticks a lot of boxes which outweigh the risk given the price.

The five-year-old is an improving individual, having ran well here at Cheltenham already, will enjoy the ground and will stay the trip. He ran with plenty of credit finishing third under a penalty when last seen here, following from a Listed victory at this venue, if not for a demotion post race.

A mark of 144 gives him a really nice weight in this contest where few make appeal on that front. French bred with speed – and Protektorat has shown to have a bit of speed as well as staying ability – tend to do well in this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Protektorat @ 16.5/1 MB

………..

3.30 Champion Chase, 2m

With absence of Altior this race is wide open, despite two seemingly clear horses leading the market. There is little in the betting between Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi, even though personally the potential improvement that can still come from Willie Mullins’s charge would sway me to believe he is the one to beat today.

Nonetheless this race is wide open for the fact that both these star names have actually never ran to speed figures that are mind blowing. Not yet at least. That is in contrast to Altior or other top class Champion Chasers of the past. Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi may still be the best of the rest today and for that reason land a Champion Chase, but I firmly believe they are not as much clear of the other four runners.

The two I think have a chance to get much closer than there odds suggest are the runner-up and third of the 2019 Champion Chase.

Look back at the reply of what as hugely exciting race, that produced strong ratings and see how both Politologue and Sceau Royal had the almighty Altior off the bridle and hard working two from home. In fact Sceau Royal traveled much the best!

This was a career best performance for both horses. However, they have proven in the past – at leas on ratings – to be on par with the two market principles. Both are proven in Championship races.

Sceau Royal was beaten by DDS this season, however that was on his seasonal reappearance. In his next two starts he has shown himself in good nick, including a fine second behind Altior in the Game Spirit Chase. He’s likely to run his race today, and if he does run to form then he’s a much better chance than 25/1.

Politologue has already been beaten twice by DDS this season. He was a close enough runner-up on his comeback run but bitterly disappointing in the Tingle Creek. That wasn’t his true showing.

He will need to bounce back and there is risk attached to a 9-year-old with so much racing under his belt already.If he can bounce back he’s in it with a fair shout, having run well at Cheltenham in the past.

Selection:
5pts win – Politologue @ 19/1 MB
5pts win – Sceau Royal @ 26/1 MB

……….

5.30 Champion Bumper, 2m½f

Willie Mullins could have another winner in this one with Appreciate It who is a rock solid favourite in my book. Nonetheless he is a short enough price to look what’s further down the market in what appears otherwise an open race.

Ask A Honey Bee is one that catches the eye with his three bumper wins, particularly as he defied a double-penalty when last seen! I also appreciate the fact the six-year-old has plenty of experience, as beside those 3 NHF races, he also has ample point-to-point experience.

Further to this Ask A Honey Bee clocked a solid topspeed figure on his penultimate run, which can’t be said for many in this field. He is a fine each/way shout.

Selection:
5pts e/w – Ask A Honey Bee @ 44/1 WH

Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Tuesday Preview

The Festival

Here we are: Cheltenham 2020! The festival has been good to me over the last number of years. More of that this week please – I could do with a few positive results after a start to the year that can only be described in one word: catastrophic!

Day one looks pretty tricky, at the same time offers plenty of value in the market. Rain has soften the ground significantly and adds extra spice to open contests.

Unlike in previous years there are few red hot favourites, heading the betting at short odds. I can see some big prices making the frame – one of those winning for me would a unimaginable relieve as at this point I simply wonder if I ever will back a winner again?!

From a pure racing perspective the championship races are highly intriguing, more so by the lack of odds-on favourites. Although not a vintage year, the Champion Hurdle makes for a compelling puzzle to solve, whereas Supreme and Arkle shaping like unmissable contests with future starts in their respective divisions unleashed.

…………..

1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 2m½f

Highly competitive. Plenty of exciting novice hurdlers in the field. Usually a fast start to the Festival and the year: plenty of pace, crowd noise, nervousness among the jockeys.

I feel experience will count for a lot. Hence I like Abacadabras. Fourth in the Champion Bumper last year, he made a seamless transition to hurdles, having four already under his belt, winning a first Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas and only been beaten by sublime Envoi Allen at Fairyhouse.

He tends to travel well, has been here before, has proven to run fast, can jump straight and is tactically versatile, giving Davy Russell plenty of options.

Selection:
10pts win – Abacadabras @ 11/2 MB

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2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, 2m

The one completely forgotten here, particularly in the soft ground conditions, is Global Citizen. He’s been classy hurdler over two miles, which tends to be a good indicator for this race, and since switching to fences has left a poor start to his chasing career behind when winning impressively at Kempton last time.

That Grade 2 at Kempton looks useful form, but it’s more the way Global Citizen went over his business that is noteworthy. He was pretty keen, set a fast clip, jumped pretty well – much improved to his debut – and held off the advances of his rivals in fine style in the end, finding plenty when needed.

He’s got to bring this to Cheltenham and is unlikely to get an easy lead, however it’s his now proven ability to jump at speed that can be key in the Arkle.

Selection:
10pts win – Global Citizen @ 22.5/1 MB

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2.40 Ultima Handicap Chase, 3m 1f

Stamina is key in this race, so my eventual choice is a risk, but beside the favourite Vindication, who is, on the other hand a rather short price for a race like this, I struggle to identify many who are ahead of their respective handicap marks.

Who Dares Wins could be on his handicap debut, though. Whether he well and truly stays the distance, particularly on soft ground all the way up the hill remains to be seen. Fact he has been here before, ran well at two Festivals before, particularly in the Pertemps two years ago.

That day he lead the field to the final hurdle but faltered into finishing fifth eventually. That’s an obvious negative. On the other hand, Who Dares Wins potentially saw daylight a little bit too early, certainly compared to the winner and runner-up who were asked all questions a little bit later.

With that in mind, this performance also gives hope as Who Dares Wins is a little bit older now and has proven his ability to on the flat to stay marathon trips. He also could be rather well handicapped on his chasing debut after having landed a Grade 2 in Novice company at Kempton when last seen, with an opening mark of 147, which is 4lb lower than his hurdling mark.

Selection:
10pts win – Who Dares Wins @ 15/1 MB

……….

3.30 Champion Hurdle, 2m½f

A rather ordinary renewal with plenty of question marks hanging over the market principles. The mare Epatante looks a fair favourite, if nothing else. With plenty of pace this race is unlikely to turn into a pure speed test and I’m not sure whether that truly suits her.

This should suite, however, quite clearly Supasundae. It’s probably fair to argue two miles isn’t quite is optimum trip, on the other hand there is plenty of evidence he is – or least used to be – highly effective over the minimum distance as much as over further:

A winner and runner-up in the Irish Champion Hurdle, a Punchestown Champion Hurdle winner and a decent 4th on his seasonal reappearance in the 2020 Irish Champion Hurdle back in February; Supasundae doesn’t seem to slow down too much, even though turning ten now.

He is still a class act in this field and I feel the likely setup of the race will be an advantage to him. Hi experience, having been around Cheltenham numerous times is another bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Supasundae @ 11.5/1 MB

………..

4.10 Mares’ Hurdle, 2m 4f

A fascinating clash between two top mares, albeit the market has Benie Des Dieux a clear favourite, which seems fair, given the should be a hat-trick seeking Festival winner if not for a fall at the last twelve months ago.

The question is, though: is the 9-year-old that far ahead of the young challenger Honeysuckle? We’ll find out today. As it stands now I come to the conclusion to answer this question with a “No”.

BDD has stellar form in the book and look as imperious as ever at Gowran Park in what was her sole outing this season. She has the experience, is fresh and clearly in top form.

Honeysuckle in contrast had quite a few more races this season already, advancing through the ranks, landing the Irish Champion Hurdle when last seen, and connections seriously pondered whether a bid for THE Champion Hurdle should be the race to go for.

It was a widely shared opinion in the aftermath of Leoprdstown that Honeysuckle didn’t quite jumped that well and wasn’t as brilliant as expected. That is to some extend a fair comment.

On the other hand, the Irish Champion Hurdle was still an excellent contest, she beat some really good horses, would be at the very least joint favourite for the Champion Hurdle if running there, and in my view, showed a lot of valuable traits in February, mainly the ability to dig deep and go through the wall when challenged heavily.

I also believe that stepping up to 2 miles & 4 furlongs, on soft ground can lead to further improvement for a mare that has only raced seven times and has won all of them. On the ratings front she ties in closely with BDD: their career best RPR’s and TS rating are only two and one pound off respectively.

With that in mind: Honeysuckle has to improve. But not by much. Given that, she is quite clearly overpriced.

Selection: 
10pts win – Honeysuckle @ 10/3 WH

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Edit: 10:45am – added Mares’ Hurdle

Friday Selections: March, 6th 2020

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6.00 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

It looks this could be the day Street Poet is finally let loose. I have been eyeing this day for a while, ever since the gelding caught the eye very much at Wolverhampton in early January.

Always travelling wide, a bit keen, yet going quite well for an awful long time, he only tiered once turning for home without ever being asked any question whatsoever – he also ran clearly over a trip way too far.

he gradually stepped down in distance ever since. Two more jobs later, here we are back over his preferred 7 furlong trip, with the mark fallen dramatically since he won back to back over this CD last summer.

This race looks wide open and is clearly for the taking. The draw isn’t totally ideal, given Street Poet wants to be rather up with the pace. That’s the risk that if he breaking cleanly he will be in trouble.

First time tongue-tie is an interesting addition as it strengthens the case that today connections mean business.

Selection:
10pts win – Street Poet @ 7/1 MB

Friday Selection: March, 29th 2019

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3.35 Lingfield: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Emenem hasn’t won in a while, however he’s dropping to a tasty mark, now 11lb lower than hist last success, which came over course and distance in December 2017 in higher class.

The 5-year-old has two runs under his belt since returning from a break – particularly his comeback run looks a strong piece of form, even if it doesn’t appear to be one on the surface.

He was found out subsequently in much higher grade over 12 furlongs. A return to 10f in class 4 off 79 should see Emenem to good effect in a pretty winnable race.

His CD record is excellent, and given he ran to a TS rating of 82 only back in August should hopefully mean that if Emenem can find back to some sort of that form, he’ll be hard to beat today. A fine draw is a bonus to his chances.

Selection:
10pts win – Emenem @ 4.8/1 MB

Friday Selections: March, 22nd 2019

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2.40 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 6 furlongs

Andrea Atzeni has only one ride today, and that is in this low-grade handicap at Lingfield. He’s riding Tavener again, whom he already steered to three victories in the past, most recently last Tuesday.

The seven-year-old gelding is on a roll, having his fifth start this months. He’s finished with plenty of credit most of the times, coming agonisingly close on his penultimate run and finally got the head in front when last seen.

Tavener did that nicely from the front running good fractions and earning a fine TS rating as well. He’s turned out under a penalty today, but given past form and ratings he ran to, it seems reasonable to assume he still is potentially well handicapped.

A good draw will certainly help today, even though he may face a little bit of competition for the pace, he should be in an ideal position swinging for home and have enough in the tank to win another low-grade race over a CD he thoroughly enjoys.

Selection:
10pts win – Tavener @ 7/2 PP

Review: Cheltenham 2019 – a Boum Week

A magic week of racing is over – an excellent week from a personal perspective on the betting front: 145pts profit for a 72.50% ROI; but more importantly Cheltenham provided – as is usually does – the stage for incredible stories, memorable moments, tears of joy and sadness – four days full of drama are well and truly behind us!

Gold Cup Joy

Willie Mullins won the Gold Cup – finally! “I’d sort of resigned myself to not winning a Gold Cup” – the Irishman could be forgiven for his negative thinking because with more than a circuit to go it looked like another year of misery  as three of his four horses in the race were already gone!

Thankfully not Al Boum Photo, who was the “last man standing” for the Mullins camp – and my 22/1 selection for the Gold Cup (alongside Shattered Love who faded away in the closing stages) – was always travelling strongly in the hands of Paul Townend.

Sitting at the back of the field initially, Al Boum Photo made smooth progress, jumping well, Townend sitting confidently, letting his mount find a rhythm; turning for home he couldn’t hold him back for much longer as Al Boum Photo was tanking along, still hard on the bridle.

Despite a mistake at the second last, now asked for full effort, Al Boum Photo returned every call to win the Gold Cup a shade cosily!

The seven-year-old proved that his Tremore run on New Years Day wasn’t a fluke and that the glimpses of brilliance he showed last season in fact were real. It was also a hugely rewarding success for Paul Townend after what happened last year at Punchestown when Al Boum Photo looked all but to secure a Grade 1 success, only for Townend to take the horse out before jumping the last.

Can Al Boum Photo defend his crown? We have been here before. It’s such a difficult task as defending champion Native River had to find out.

Many believed he could do it, but there were early signs of concern as Richard Johnson had to encourage his mount from an early stage. In fairness, the brave Native River responded and battled to the line, ultimately finishing in a creditable yet well beaten 4th place.

Colin Tizzard lamented afterward not having used blinkers. Personally I don’t think it would have made a huge deal of a difference, to be honest. Native River didn’t have the legs to go with the three horses in front of him in the end. Neither had Clan Des Obeaux. His bubble burst.

Mitigating factors can be put forward for Presenting Percy’s flat performance. Not so much the preparation, which wasn’t ideal as had been discussed for weeks and weeks, but more so because he was found to be lame after the Gold Cup.

Female Jockeys Rule Over Cheltenham

Rachael Blackmore, Lizzy Kelly, Bryony Frost – three top class female riders who won races at this years Festival. Blackmore scored twice, though it was Bryony Frost who got the girls off the mark in terms of a first Grade 1 Festival winner over hurdles or fences.

Still challenging for the Irish jockey championship, Blackmore with close to 20 rides over the course of the four days, set a new record for female jockeys – the fact female riders achieved a higher strike rate vs. their male counterparts (4-46; 8.7% vs. 5.3%; 24-452) is an interesting side note.

I don’t want to be patronising. Nonetheless, this is a story that goes beyond racing, particularly in these times where equality is such a strong topic.

It shows that if given the opportunity, female riders can be as successful as male jockeys. It shows not everything is about riding the strongest finish but also about riding a smart race: knowing your mount, judging the pace right and finding an advantageous position to challenge when it matters most.

What I loved most about Bryony Frost in particular when she won the Ryanair Chase on Thursday were the words the found after the race speaking to a huge TV audience: emotional, yet smart. The way she spoke about the horse, about adversity, putting her own emotions into words which felt warm and relatable at the same time – a message not all jockeys are equally gifted in transporting to the general public.

One Era Ends Another Begins

Age catches up with anyone. It has caught up with Un De Sceaux and Faugheen. Both eleven-years-old now; the fall has been gradually, nonetheless it’s clear their younger rivals have fresher and faster legs these days.

I fancied Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase, actually. But truth is you knew his time was up when Paul Townend buried the 2017 winner of this very race at the back of the field. What eventual winner Frodon did you would have expected Un De Sceaux to do if at his brilliant best.

Faugheen fared a little bit better. He was there until the last in with a chance. Still, as soon as Paisley Park shifted into 6th gear the former Champion Hurdler was a beaten horse. He finished a creditable third, and he may well be able to go to Punchestown and win another race.

But as far as the Festival is concerned Faugheen won’t have many more stories to write, neither does Un De Sceaux. They don’t have to. Both horses have bee brilliant throughout their respective careers. They owe us nothing.

In saying that, the mentioned Paisley Park looks a staying hurdler for the ages. How he went from appearing briefly in trouble to looking absolutely irresistible within a matter of seconds was one of those “WOW” moments this week.

It can be the start of the new era. Comparisons with Big Bucks have been made. They aren’t far off the truth I reckon.

Thumps Up ITV

Good news on the TV front: average viewing figure rose 18.5% from last year to 993,000, while peak daily viewing numbers and overall share also saw positive rises.

As record crowds flooded trough the gates, record numbers were glued to the telly as well: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this year’s festival saw  the highest average viewing numbers since records began in 2003.

Having the luxury of choosing between RTV and ITV at home, I chose to stick with ITV after day one. I thoroughly enjoyed their coverage. From the morning show to the coverage of the actual races – it was excellent, with good people before and behind the camera.

Yes, they speak a simpler language on ITV than they do on RTV. Francesa was asking some seemingly ‘dumb’ questions. One shouldn’t forget, though, the audience on ITV is a different one than on RTV. So overall, thumb up for team ITV – my biggest compliment for them: their genuine love for the sport comes across in every shot and every discussion.

0 British-Bred Winners

I only noticed this fact when reading the opening comment in the Irish Field yesterday morning – even though the numbers were low in years before, not a single British-bred winner at this years festival must be a concern.

Contrary, France closed the gap to Ireland. It’s 14-14 for French-vs. Irish-bred winners this time.

The likes of Klassical Dream, Duc De Genievres, Frodon or Al Boum Photo are all French-bred and were some of the most impressive winners of the entire week. Good news for the French breeding industry!

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There is so much more to say. I could go on for hours. So many memorable performances. So many stories to tell. Also a few sad ones – they are unavoidable in our sport.

It’s been a wonderful week of horse racing over all. The sport is as popular as ever, if not even gaining in popularity again! Long may this trend continue.

Back to bred and butter now: class 6 Handicaps on a Wednesday night at Kempton, Wolverhampton or at Southwell, not that Britain’s only fibresand track owns a bunch of floodlights! Butnot for long.

Even though the sky over county Kildare Is rain filled at the moment (and has been for the entire last week pretty much!) spring is around the corner and with that comes the flat season – the Doncaster Lincoln, the Dubai World Cup and also the opening of the new Curragh. It’s gonna be exciting!

Saturday Selection: March, 16th 2019

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7.45 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 6f

Favourite Tour de Paris looks set for another big run after a breakout performance over course and distance when last seen here. The 4-year-old stepped up to this longer trip for the first time and produced a fine turn of foot to land the spoils.

He was keen enough in the early stages of the race, thankfully dropped the bit for Tom Marquand soon enough to travell strongly in midfield, getting closer to the pace in the second half of the race and once pulled out into the open swinging for home he put the race rather easily to bed.

That performance awarded him a time speed rating of 64 – the hike in the handicap mark sees him now race off 63, so potentially he could be still well handicapped, particularly if more improvement is there to be unleashed on what is only his 5th handicap run and second time over this trip.

Tour de Paris  got an okay draw in order to find a good position somewhere in midfield, and as long as he gets a clear run he’ll be very hard to beat.

Selection:
10pts win – Tour de Paris @ 10/3 PP

Friday Selections: March, 15th 2019

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  • Cheltenham Festival Selections Here
  • Cheltenham Gold Cup Preview Here 

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7.30 Chelmsford: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

The favourite Pheidippides could well follow up on his recent success. The hike in the weights only matches the TS rating he achieved that day. On the other hand his overall record is patchy, so at a much bigger price I take a punt on Brittanic.

The 4-year-old has class form in his book. He still managed to run a tremendous race finishing second returning from a break here over course and distance in December – a form that looks pretty strong judged through the winner and third placed horse.

Unfortunately Brittanic lost his way subsequently, hence he slipped down to a 10lb mark than back then. Obviously he’d be well handicapped now if he could regain anything of his past form.

He’s got a habit for starting slowly. This is an obvious concern. He’ll need everything going right today. At least he has a good draw and David Simcock’s Chelmsford record gives hope.

Selection:
10pts win – Brittanic @ 16/1 PP