The third day of Cheltenham dispelled any ideas that the Wille Mullins stable were under a cloud with a 4-timer for the Closutton trainer. Un De Sceaux dominated from the front in the Ryanair while Nichols Canyon returned right back to form in the Stayers ( a result I really couldn’t see coming)
It would have been interesting to see the result if Top Notch had met the second last fence better giving Yorkhill the impetus. He was pulling the deficit back on the run-in but the favourite could have been idling a little as well.
Barney Dwan ran a great race in the Pertemps and for a time looked the likely winner when kicking clear on the home turn. Unfortunately for him, Presenting Percy must have been a grade race winner masquerading as a handicapper and cut him back on the run to the last.
Thomas Crapper also came up against an Irish winner who was well ahead of his mark but still claimed place money.
There was much sadness to follow though when Toe the Line fell on the flat and broke a leg. She had to be put down. Thoughts must go the connections.
Early thoughts for the final day of the meeting below
(Friday lunchtime updates added where applicable at foot of each race)
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle 2miles (and nearly 1fur)
Odds can be found here: http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2017-03-17-cheltenham/13:30/winner
The championship race for 4yo hurdlers. Quite a few in this race have displayed their best form on softer going and will be hoping that the course is watered again this evening. It still may not be ideal conditions for them. This would include the favourite Defi Du Seuil and the main Irish hope Mega Fortune for me.
Master Blueeyes won’t mind the ground and the form of his easy Kempton win has already been franked by Flying Tiger’s win the Fred Winter (Evening Hush 2nd reopposes). He was visually very impressive but clock watchers weren’t quite so bowled over by the win
Charli Parcs was hot favourite for that race but looked to be up against it when falling. I’m slightly surprised to see him at the Festival after that mishap but the jungle drums from the Henderson stable continue to beat on this one’s ability and he has been well backed again in recent days.
It’s worth noting that him and Defi Du Seuil were due to meet earlier this year at Cheltenham. Charli Parcs was made a non runner that day and Defi Du Seuil won it. In the morning they bet around 4/5 Charli Parcs and 2/1 Defi Du Seuil for that race before the withdrawal
I really wouldn’t be surprised to see him bounce but cannot bring myself to back a horse at such a low price after a fall. Jumping fluently in this race is a real necessity for me.
Mega Fortune, Bapaume and Landofhopeandglory are closely matched on form earlier this season. I think we may see improvement from the last named on this ground and he could represent some value at double figure odds
Ex Patriot was just outstayed by Dinaria Des Obeaux last time on soft ground. He’s held by others on Leopardstown form but I think is one of the bigger priced ones who we could see step up on better going. His partner Rachael Blackmore can’t claim her normal 3lb allowance here unfortunately but she is riding on the crest of a wave right now
Unfortunately my ante post selection , Forth Bridge, was not in the final declarations. I’m not sure why as he already had Brian Hughes booked to ride. I hope the horse is ok as he’s one to watch for the future.
No recommendation for this race as yet. In the past, firms did offer ¼ odds 1234 for this race. If that happens again this evening I may add something then.
A few firms have chalked up 40/1 with 1/4 odds Ex Patriot as I look again this evening (it doesnt appear that any are offering 4 places as yet) He’s a horse I could quite see running into the frame on the better ground here so will have a small play:
0.25pts ew Ex Patriot 40/1 (Stan James, Betway offering 1/4 odds 123
Not much discernible move at the top of the market. Mega Fortune did look the best of the Irish challengers in the run-up to the race but is drifting no doubt due to not getting his favoured soft ground. Ex Patriot still available at 40s in a place but is slightly less on the Exchange now
NOTE Stan James now offering 1/4 odds 1234 – back to the good old days in the 20th century when that was fairly standard for this race. It was a much bigger field in those days though and often had shock results. Ex Patriot at 33s appealing with them…also Evening Hush at 50s is worth noting as she could have an easy time up front if connections revert to the tactics that seemed to suit her well earlier this season
2.10 Randox Health County Hcap Hurdle 2ml 179yds
Ivanovich Gorbatov won the Triumph Hurdle on this card last year when he got the good ground he needed. He might well have support again with similar conditions but I couldnt see any physical progress in him since last year when seeing him at Leopardstown recently. I think he may have peaked last year
North Hill Harvey represents the Skelton team who won this with Superb Story last year. Like that one he’s been put away since his Greatwood Hurdle run at the end of November.
Wait For Me ran very well in this race last year and comes here off a lower mark. The good ground should also be in his favour and he’s very much at the top of my shortlist. He went very close in the Champion Bumper a couple of years ago surrounded by the likes of Moon Racer, Modus and Yanworth. He’s been a little disappointing since in relation to those and has taken time to master his hurdling and has pulled a bit too hard. Interesting that he sports a tongue tie tomorrow. I’m not too sure about the form of the Hobbs stable this week so will be watching the run of Defi Du Seuil with him in mind
L’Ami Serge is also one I like at big price. He is high in the weights but has long looked like he has a big race in him. It’s a long time since he has run in a handicap but there’s a chance a fast paced event like this could suit him. Don’t expect to see him until late on the scene.
Court Minstrel is another to note back on his favoured good ground. He’s slipped down to a decent mark after disappointing efforts on soft going. It could be that he prefers a flatter track than this though (have a feeling Aintree might be more for him)
0.5 pts ew Wait For Me 18/1 (Bet 365 paying 1/4 odds 12345) – Lost (-1pt)
0.5 pts ew L’Ami Serge 33/1 (Betfair Sportsbook paying 1/4 odds 12345) – 2nd (+3.62 pts)
Wait For Me is certainly the best backed horse here since last night with 11/1 the best available right now. Vosne Romance backed at bigger prices but was a highlighted Pricewise selection. One of last nights favourites, Mick Jazz, is now a non-runner so there may be a small Rule 4 deduction to come off earlier prices taken
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle 3ml
Gordon Elliott has already had a great Festival and Death Duty has long been considered his best hope and banker for the meeting.
I would expect him to be very well backed tomorrow.
This race can be a real test for a novice though and it isn’t always a case of the best horse winning it…it’s the one who can slog it out best who often prevails.
Monalee has been a victim of Death Duty already this season but is a lovely big chasing type with a future ahead of him. All of his form has been on much softer ground – something we would expect from a son of Milan. The undulating course is also something that would concern me for him so much as I like this individual there is too much against him here for me.
Wholestone has been my long-term fancy for this event. He won here in a good time over an inadequate trip and has lots of track experience. He’s the grinder in the pack for me who may be best suited by this test.
The only downside to his chance came up at a preview evening where Carl Llewellyn (connected with stable) intimated he may have had a setback since that last run. The stable’s runners haven’t really been shining this week yet
He holds Ami Desbois on earlier form. The Worlds End and Constantine Bay appear to be similar gutsy types but their form so far is just a little below – plus both are unproven on the track.
Penhill was quite a talented handicapper on the flat for Luca Cumani but often ran too free for his own good. He also had some stamina limitations in that sphere which would concern me at the business end of this race (it’s usually strongly run and should be again)
No recommendation at this stage…it would have been Wholestone each way but for a few niggling points in my head about his well-being. I hope I am wrong about them as I think he’ll take some beating here if he brings his A game to the table
No surprise to see that Death Duty has shortened given all of the strong vibes from his trainer in the last few weeks. Every chance he will be shorter still on the off. Consequently most others are drifting. Monalee was the Pricewise selection and he has stayed fairly steady in the market
3.30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup 3ml 2fur
The centrepiece event of the meeting so a runner-by-runner analysis here
BRISTOL DE MAI
Looks brilliant at times but that mostly seems to be when the ground is very soft and on less undulating courses. Reportedly not right when well behind Native River but for me he needs this race to be run at his favourite stomping ground Haydock to have a chance
Formerly trained by Philip Hobbs where his talent was sometimes blighted by indifferent jumping. Now with Henry de Bromhead in Ireland he was very impressive in easily winning atop handicap last time. Has the class to be competitive but I think may be found wanting when he has to dig deep on the final hill
One of the great stars of the National Hunt scene in recent years. I fancied him strongly for this race last year. He fell then when yet to be asked a question. A year on and to me he doesn’t look quite the same horse this time round.
Soft ground may be necessary to him now. Looked impressive at Ascot last time but that is slightly dampened when seeing that Tenor Nivernais recorded quicker sectionals in a handicap on the same card (and over a longer trip)
He will raise the roof here if he wins
Placed in the last two years (last year after an interrupted preparation) but has also fallen twice here in different races. A little disappointing on the face of it when beaten by Outlander at Leopardstown over Christmas. He has been the best backed horse in the run up to this year’s renewal but is another whose best form comes on softer going
EMPIRE OF DIRT
Beaten in today’s Ryanair Chase and almost certain to be declared a non runner
Previous winner of the Novices Hcap Chase here and had Cue Card behind when winning at Wetherby on his seasonal debut. Decent performer at his best but well behind in 5th last year and needs a leap of faith to fancy him here
Winner of the 4ml National Hunt Chase last year when beating Native River. Jumping has always been an issue with this horse despite undoubted ability. That can’t be a weakness at this top level
MORE OF THAT
Possibly boasts the best single piece of form here over his career when he resoundingly beat Annie Power in the Stayers Hurdle. The world looked at his feet then but he’s had a lot of problems since. At one point he was even entered for the Cross Country Chase at this meeting. In the process of running very well until unseating close home last time. If his mercurial trainer has got him back to his best he would be a very serious contender
This young chaser has done nothing but improve since winning at Aintree last season (where he first seemed to click with Richard Johnson aboard). His Hennessy win wouldn’t be Gold Cup winning form on the face of it but a tremendous weight carrying performance in the Welsh National certainly is.
Stamina is his greatest asset so expect him to put his rivals to the sword from some way out with some aggressive jumping. Softer ground would have been an asset so watering tonight would be to his advantage
His Leopardstown form is exemplary and would have to put him into the mix but away from there it seems to be a slightly lower level. Stamina unproven quite this far and fell here in the JLT last year (still going well at the time)
SAPHIR DU RHEU
Jumping doesn’t always seem fluid enough for this former Stayers hurdle runner-up. He’s up against it on all recent form. Trainer thinks he could get into top 5 or 6 but place terms on offer don’t really go that far!
Spent most of his early career having to watch Douvan’s backside over shorter trips. Finally got his day in the sun when winning the Irish Gold Cup last time out. The good ground should be in his favour more than many and he’s still relatively unexposed at 3 miles. He will be stepping into unknown territory from the home turn where his stamina will be tested
Previous Hennessy winner who failed at this level last year when at the peak of his powers. Form this year doesn’t give encouragement for anything better
TEA FOR TWO
Just behind Cue Card in the King George at Kempton (might have been closer but for trying to race with Thistlecrack too early). All of his best efforts come at that track. His only try at Chleltenham was a disappointment but he was found to be not right that day. Still evidence points to him being best on a right-handed track so something to prove here. Partnered as usual by Lizzie Kelly, the sole female rider in the race
The ground could well be the overriding factor here. Native River would be my clear choice as the one to beat if it were a bit softer..but he has enough form on the sort of ground he should encounter here to give encouragement that it won’t be too much of a handicap. His style of running would be very close to that of recent winners, Coneygree and Denman. He’s still going to be difficult to keep out of the frame for me but he could just be vulnerable to something with a turn of foot in quicker conditions. Sizing John could be such a horse but I’m not 100% convinced on his stamina yet. More of That is prehaps most interesting of the outsiders. He’s had his problems but has the class and the stamina to win if the signs of a renaissance last time are true
1.5 pts ew Native River 4/1 (use firms offering 1/4 odds 123 – Bet 365, Corals, Ladbrokes cuurently)
(NOTE a few firms pushing out price slightly since I put this up earlier today and 9/2 can be found – taking 1/4 odds is important though)
0.75 pts win More of That 14/1 (Stan James, Ladbrokes, Coral)
As expected, Empire of Dirt is out. The horse for money is Djakadam no doubt encouraged by Mullins’s 4-timer yesterday. Consequently the Tizzard pair, Cue Card and Native River have drifted out slightly with 5/1 now available on both.
Skybet’s 5/1 with 1/5 odds 1234 would now be particularly attractive on Native River for me so adding to the recommendation here with
******1pt ew Native River 5/1 (1/5th odds 1234 Skybet)*****
4.10 St James Place Foxhunters 3ml 2fur
I don’t follow the point to point scene enough to know all of the form here.
On The Fringe has dominated this race in the last 2 years. His ‘trial’ race at Leopardstown this year was far more encouraging than his effort in the same race last year. He still managed to win here last year but it augurs well that he looked in much better terms with himself this time. He is 12 now so isn’t getting any younger but the talent is still there
The ground will be far more favourable to him this year as well but that also applies to Wonderful Charm who mixed it with the best in previous seasons under normal rules. I don’t think there should be a lot between these two in odds but the latter is much the better value right now
Katy Walsh has been drafted in to ride this talented horse who was one of the easiest winners you will ever see at Musselburgh earlier this year (Will Biddick rode him the last twice but is under contract to ride Ask the Weatherman here)
Ask the Weatherman is an up and coming horse in the Hunter chase world but would seem to prefer softer ground.
Salsify (previous winner but also now 12) and Paint the Clouds have both performed well in this before and will appreciate the soft ground. They would be each way possibilities at bigger prices (would especially look in ‘betting without the favourite’ markets here)
1.5pt win Wonderful Charm 11/2 (Bet Victor, Bet 365, Skybet)
Salsify is a previous winner of this and this is the first time in a few years he has his desired good ground again. A few firms paying 4 places here so an each way play is added at a big price
0.25pts ew Salsify 40/1 (Paddy Power/Betfair Sportsbook paying 1/5 odds 1234)
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hcap Hurdle 2ml 4fur
Another highly competitive handicap where more scrutiny is required.
Gordon Elliott would love to win this one as his formative years were spent with Martin Pipe. The Storyteller looked an obvious plot but he had to be withdrawn last weekend. Runfordave has been transferred from the Coral Cup to this race purposefully to try and secure that victory. He would be at the top of my shortlist right now
Check back later this evening for more on this race
A bit more on this race now. Whilst Runfordave remains high on the shortlist there are two I prefer more.
Battleford was a close 2nd in the Festival Bumper last year and could have a lenient mark off 135. He has been largely disappointing over hurdles but is slowly getting there.
Top of my list though is Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be who just failed over a shorter trip last time (keep an eye out for Coeur de Lion in the Triumph earlier who narrowly beat him). He also ran in the Bumper back in 9th but looks to have made the transition to hurdling much better. I think this longer trip will suit him well and his mark of 136 looks attractive.
His stablemate Thomas Campbell looks a hard ride and not ideal for this sort of race.
No Comment is current favourite and his last win has been boosted by the second winning at Sandown last weekend. That form was on softer ground and with a slight question mark on stable form I wouldn’t want to be a backer at single figure odds
0.5pts ew Rather Be 14/1 (Bet 365, Betfred paying 1/4 odds 12345)
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Hcap 2ml
Another competitive handicap to finish off the meeting.
For obvious reasons Nicky Henderson usually has a few runners in this but this year only has Theinval. That could be a tip in itself as the horse is on a good mark compared to his hurdling rating. His best form has come over a longer trip though.
I think last year’s race could be the key here.
Dandridge finished 2nd that day with well backed Rock the World just behind him in 3rd. Rock the World is 5lb better off for this. (Solar Impulse the winner is also back but has changed stables since and appears to have lost his form)
The latter has had a wind operation since his last run. He hasn’t raced since October but it was the same story last year.
The Harringtons who train him are very close friends of the Hendersons and I think this race will mean a lot to them also.
I think he’s been trained specifically for this and gets the ground he needs
Le Prezien has avoided other races this week to run here. He is a novice and his jumping this year would give me concerns now he is mixing it in this more competitive grade
1 pt ew Rock the World 14/1 (Betfair Sportsbook 1/4 odds 1234)
Thanks for reading both today and through the week.
Best of luck with whatever you back
Summary of recommendations so far:
1pt ew Singlefarmpayment 15/2 (1/4 odds 12345) – 2nd (+0.88 pts)
2pts ew Apples Jade 9/2 (1/4 odds 123) – won (+11.25 pts)
2pts win Edwulf 11/2 – lost (-2pts)
1pt win Champers on Ice 8/1 – lost (-1pt)
1pt ew Shattered Love 25/1(1/5 odds 123) – lost (-2pts)
1.5 pts win Whisper 7/1 – lost (-1.5 pts)
0.75 pts win Our Kaempfer 16/1 (lost -0.75 pts)
1.5 pts ew Peregrine Run 10/1 (1/4 odds 12345) (lost -3pts)
0.5pts ew Simply Ned 66/1 (1/5 odds 123) (lost -1pt)
0.5pts ew Simply Ned 66/1 (1/4 odds 123) (lost -1pt)
0.3 pts ew Percy Street 33/1 (1/4 odds 1234) (lost -0.6pts)
2pts ew Top Notch 4/1 (1/4 odds 123) 2nd (level)
0.75 pts ew Barney Dwan 20/1 (1/4 odds 12345) 2nd (+3pts)
0.5 pts ew Zarkandar 28/1 (1/4 odds 123) lost (-1pt)
1.5 pts ew Thomas Crapper 12/1 (1/4 odds 1234) 4th (+3pts)
0.5 pts ew Toe The Line 33/1 (1/4 odds 123) lost (-1pt)
0.75 pts ew Whats Happening 14/1 (1/4 odds 1234) lost (-1.5 pts)
0.5pts ew Forth Bridge 33/1 (1/4 odds 123) NR (loser with ante post rules -1pt)
0.25pts ew Ex Patriot 40/1 (1/4 odds 123) lost (-0.5pts) – anyone getting 4 places would have had a return
0.5pts ew Wait For Me 18/1 (1/4 odds 12345) lost (-1pt)
0.5pts ew L’Ami Serge 33/1 (1/4 odds 12345) 2nd (+3.62 pts)
1.5 pts ew Native River 4/1 (1/4 odds 123) 3rd (level)
1pt ew Native River 5/1 (1/5 odds 1234) 3rd (level)
0.75 pts win More of That 14/1 lost (-0.75 pts)
1.5 pts win Wonderful Charm 11/2 lost (-1.5 pts)
0.25 pts ew Salsify 40/1 (1/5 odds 1234) lost (-0.5pts)
0.5pts ew Rather Be 14/1 (1/4 odds 12345) lost (-1pt)
1pt ew Rock The World 14/1 (1/4 1234) won (+17.5 pts)