Tag Archives: Stayers’ Hurdle

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.

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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

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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

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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 2018: Day Three Fancies

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What an unpleasant day. Raining cats and dogs – at least here in Ireland; Ruby Walsh most likely broke his leg (the same!) again and Douvan took a bad fall…. oh, and I shall mention that none of my selection got close to smelling success. I won’t dwell on it, though….. onwards and upwards.

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13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices Chase:

Graham Wylie says he’s his best chance at the Festival this year, so you have to take Invitation Only very seriously in the JLT. Even more so as his one lengths third behind Monalee has been franked in a fine way in the RSA Chase on Wednesday.

This piece of Grade 1 form is certainly the best on offer in this field, I feel, and there is no reason why the seven year old can’t improve again, for what is only his fifth start over fences.

He’s a rock solid favourite and a bigger price than I would have expected.

Selection:
10pts win – Invitation Only @ 3.5/1 Matchbook

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14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Final:

Davy Russell won this last year on board of Presenting Percy, he can do the same this time on Delta Work. This five year old Gigginstown inmate looks open to further improvement after a season full of promising performances – without winning, that says.

Key piece of form is his 4th behind Total Recall at Leopardstown last month. Turning for home his progress was stopped for a brief but decisive moment thanks to a shifting rival, he still finished well.

Ground and trip is fine. The emphasis on stamina will suit. Top rider on board and a handicap mark that offers opportunity.

Selection:
10pts win – Delta Work @ 12/1 VC

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14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase:

Un De Sceaux deserves to be the favourite – what a superstar he’s been over the years. He proved twelve months ago that the Ryanair trip is certainly within his range.

Yet, I feel he is a skinny price in a race that looks potentially stronger than last year. Also ground conditions are totally different and will put much more emphasis on stamina. In my book Un De Sceaux is vulnerable here and I’m happily to look elsewhere.

You don’t need to look far: Cue Card will be a massive threat. His recent Ascot run puts him right there, the drop to the Ryanair trip is rather a positive than a negative and given he still looks nearly as good as ever with all the spark retained, he’s got to go very close.

Still, he’s not my selection. Indeed, I am sweet on the perfect bridesmaid: Cloudy Dream. Second in hist last four starts, eight times filling the runner-up spot over fences so far, while winning three of them.

In fact, Cloudy Dream was never outside the first three in any of his 18 career starts, and even more impressive: never outside the the first two in his eleven chase starts.

Yes, he doesn’t win many of these. However, he ran with plenty of credit in hot races behind classy opposition, so he did in last years Arkle when second behind Altior.

He tried to stretch out to three miles this season, finishing second – although a good deal beaten – behind Native River and Definitely Red. Nonetheless, pretty solid efforts, given these two are leading lights for the Gold Cup on Friday.

Cloudy Dream didn’t stay three miles, however. Certainly not at Cheltenham and certainly not on soft ground. Nonetheless, his record with considerable cut in the ground is quite excellent, so I don’t worry about that part, at least.

In truth, I love the fact he drops in trip, to what could easily turn out to be his optimum. Given, for long enough he travelled incredibly strongly in both his last races over further, may suggest that 2.5 miles on soft ground is an ideal scenario.

As a seven year old he can still improve. Particularly over this trip. He is not yet the finished article, whereas the two market principles very much are what they are.

Selection:
10pts win – Cloudy Dream @ 14/1 Matchbook

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15:30 Cheltenham – Stayers Hurdle:

Two fancies in the race: the major one is Yanworth. Here’s hoping he can make up for his disappointing performance in last years Champion Hurdle.

That says he clearly can stretch out to 3 miles. He beat Superdandae in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree last year what was hist first and only try over this sort of trip. So there is potential improvement yet to come. He’s had a good preparation, He won the Dipper on New Years Day in heavy ground here.

So ground, course and trip aren’t holding any fears to Yanworth. of course 3 miles on rain softened ground around Cheltenham is an unknown, in fairness. At given odds, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The other one I like at a massive price is Let’s Dance. She hasn’t sparked this year as Willie Mullins said, though has shown some signs of finding back to her form. She won a Grade 3 at Loeopardstown over Christmas but dropped away tamely in the Gowran Park race mentioned before.

It was her first try over three miles and she was most likely nowhere near her best that day anyway. It’s highly speculative if she ever will again and if she can get home over this trip on this type ground. At a massive price I feel she has, pretty much like Augusta Kate, a better chance to go close than the market suggests.

Selections:
10pts win – Yanworth @ 8/1 Matchbook
1pt win – Let’s Dance @ 99/1 Matchbook
2pts Place – Let’s Dance @ 20/1 Matchbook

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16:10 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory Handicap Chase:

Whether the ground is too soft remains to be seen, however his record suggests Oldgrangewood can act on it. This second season chaser has progressed nicely through the ranks, was a fine Novice and has also been in the winnres circtle this season.

After his Newbury success at the beginning of December he was put away with this race in mind as the goal for his campaign. Only 2lb higher in his handicap mark, he should be competitive off 147.

This is obviously a highly competitive race in nature and a bit of in-running luck is needed too. I see it as a vote of confidence, nonetheless, that Dan Skelton has given Oldgrangewood positive mentions leading up to the Festival as one of his main hopes.

Selection:
10pts win – Oldgrangewood @ 26/1 Matchbook