The weather gods continue to dictate matters and confound a few predictions this week. From some initially very soft ground it’s gradually starting to dry with the wind and much less rain. What happens before tomorrows meeting will dictate a few selections.
Thoughts for the final day of this year’s Festival:
1.30 Triumph Hurdle
There have been a few winning favourites here for Ireland this week but we might well have the banker here in Sir Erec.
A classy stayer on the flat he didn’t totally impress with his jumping on his NH debut. Those flaws had been eradicated in his next race when he raced from the front and ran away from decent opposition and jumped slickly
He’s very hard to oppose on that form and I would hope Mark Walsh makes similar use of him up front to give him clear view of his hurdles. As a stayer he should have no problem with the hill and I can envisage a wide margin win here.
This race was once a bit of a graveyard for favourites ( after almost 40 years I probably still havent quite come to terms with Broadsword getting nabbed!) but since conditions have changed class has usually prevailed
Gardens of Babylon was second in that Leopardstown race. He looked the pick of the paddock to me that day and one with plenty of scope to improve. He is wearing first time cheekpieces tomorrow and is my pick to follow the favourite home (and for betting without the fav markets). Tiger Tap Tap also ties in with that form and could also creep into a place with a bit of improvement expected
Quel Destin is an admirable sort who’s done little wrong this year but I think could be outclassed hre. It’s very hard to rate his stablemate Pic d’Orhy on only French form. I’m sure connections would have preferred to get a race inot him in the UK rather than pitch him in here first time
SIR EREC to win
GARDENS OF BABYLON betting without the fav
2.10 Country Hcap Hurdle
Ch’tibello is an old friend to this blog (see previous years Champion Hurdle posts). He seemed to suffer from an attritional test at Haydock last season but finally returned to form at Aintree before Christmas.
The Betfair Hurdle had to be missed because of the vaccination issues the industry faced that week but that could be a blessing in disguise now. He runs well fresh ( won Scottish Champion Hurdle after a similar break) and on both old form – and on his most recent run – is far from badly in on a mark of 146
Slick hurdling has always been one of his fortes and assuming this is a strongly run race that should be strongly in his favour here.
I do have a slight reservation that he might be better on a flatter track but he’ll still be the one I’m cheering on here
CH’TIBELLO (likely to see some firms offering much more than 4 places here for ew bets)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (or to give it its affectionate name – the ‘Spud’ race)
This 3 mile test is often suited to the more battle hardened contenders and has thrown up past surprises.
Birchdale follows that same route that Bobs Worth followed for Nicky Henderson but is a lot less experienced than that old stable star. He seems to be here rather than having to face stablemate Champ earlier in the week..
The Henderson/Mc Manus combination also field Dickie Diver here who is closely matched with Lisnagar Oscar on Chepstow form. The latter then stepped up when a very impressive winner at Haydock and is clearly going the right way. He’d improved considerable there since running behind Rockpoint at this track before Christmas (the latter has gone in the opposite direction since). Rebecca Curtis has won this race before (with At Fishers Cross) but I’m sure this one would be a shorter price still if someone else were training him. He’s my selection but any softening of the ground would be a negative – the more the wind dries the course out the better here.
Derrinross was well backed earlier in the week when the going looked likely to be very soft. He’s be the one most to profit from deep ground but at this stage that looks unlikely
LISNAGAR OSCAR ( chance decreases if ground gets softer)
3.30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
Native River comes back to defend his Gold Cup crown and if the ground continues to be on the soft side he looks the one to beat in Cheltenham’s showpiece event.
As per last year expect him to be in the van from the off and to try and out them all to the sword with his bold jumping. If the ground does dry it will make things harder though (the year before it wasn’t soft enough for him to shake them all off)
Presenting Percy is 2 out of 2 at the Festival and has had an unconventional preparation for this. Whether that is by design or not we’ll never though as his connections make an artform of keeping their plans to themselves. He could well win this but I’m not tempted by the price when I remember the only time he raced against horse of this class he came up short against the ill-fated Our Duke.
Clan Des Obeaux has the best form coming into this but the negative here is the course. He hasn’t performed to his best here before and has shone at flat courses far more. It could be that as he’s matured he may be able to cope better now but until he’s fully proven himself here I can’t back him at the price he is.
With Might Bite yet to seemingly recover from last season’s efforts and Bristol de Mai also not seeming to appreciate the course, it could be Thistlecrack who is best of the outsiders. The former Stayers Hurdle winner has had injury problems but showed that even at 11 years old he is no back number when second in the King George.
Kemboy and Bellshill can’t be totally ruled out but I think both might fall just below the class of some of the other principals
A few imponderables here make the big event a tricky call. The weather tomorrow will decide whether Native River is a bet or not here but if it is good to soft or softer I think he’ll be heard to keep out of the frame and therefore an each way bet
Thistlecrack appeals most of the bigger priced outsiders
4.10 Foxhunters Chase
I’m not an avid follower of the hunting scene so seldom put up a bet in this one. Experienced jockey-ship remains a huge positive. There is a huge gulf in that respect between riders like Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor versus the enthusiastic owner/rider David Maxwell. I’d need nearly 20/1 on anything the latter rides and so will be avoiding Shantou Flyer despite that ones previous good course form. (Having said all that the memories of Broderick Munro-Wilson winning this race on The Drunken Duck prove that anything can happen here!)
4.50 Grand Annual Hcap
Magic Saint has been well supported in the run up to this. On form he is plenty short enough and this is more to do with quotes from the stable and from Daryl Jacob suggesting he is a top level horse running in a handicap (compared to former star Master Minded by Jacob recently)
Anything Nicky Henderson runs in the race named after his father always merits respect here. Whatswrongwithyou is his only representative this year but again looks skinny with his lack of experience over fences. He has run in 3 novice chases that have had no more than 4 runners – this will be some baptism of fire! He’s also badly off at the weights with Brelan d’As here on earlier form.
The latter named has to be one for the shortlist but previous form at this course in a slight negative.
Le Prezien won this race last year when benefitting from late rain softening the ground. He’ll need the heavens to open again
Notanothermuddle is a lightly raced progressive type who looks best placed to take advantage if the favourite isn’t the horse connections are intimating he is
No recommendation here – I think it’s between Magic Saint and Notanothermuddle but both seem to have been found enough by the market already
5.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hcap
I’m not convinced Dallas des Pictons has done enough to merit prices of around 7/2 here. This a race that means a lot to his trainer Gordon Elliott (once a student of Martin Pipe) but consequently his runners are often priced low because of that.
Early Doors was third last year off a slightly lower mark and interesting that he comes here again. That was a decent performance for a 5yo (todays Pertemps winner Sire Du Berlais just behind) and there should be improvement to come from that now he is a year older. He’s been pitched at a much higher level so far this season but back in a far more suitable grade now
As previously mentioned I really rate his jockey and it’s significant he’s been booked for Joseph O’Brien here.
Of the outsiders, Mount Mews should be mentioned as he’s well in on his old hurdles form. His form this season and that of his stable is the question mark.
Garo de Juilley is the outsider who stands out most at big prices. He’ll appreciate any drying out of the ground but has already won one competitive handicap this season and 138 isn’t that harsh a mark based on that. He ran a great race when seemingly totally out of his depth at Ascot and his warm up race for this was encouraging. Another case of an unfashionable trainer making the price here but Sophie Leech has picked up good prizes at big prices many times before
Big Time Dancer was very impressive when tanking to the front at Kempton last time but the ground was right up his street that day when almost verging on fast. I think he’d need a heatwave to get conditions to his liking here so will have to pass this time
Back both EW
GARO DE JUILLEY
Thanks for reading the final post of the week. I hope it’s been profitable and informative.
Blog will be back for its usual Grand National posting the day before the big race