An ‘up and down’ week for the blog so far. A great run from Happy Diva nearly sealed the day on Thursday but with one winner and some big priced places it wasn’t so bad
The performance of Paisley Park was the shock of the day. If anyone managed to find 50/1 winner Lisnagar Oscar in that race I’ll happily raise my hat to them
There are a few in form stables appearing…and a few whose form isn’t quite what I’d want to see. I’ll touch on some of those below
Thoughts for the final day of this year’s Festival:
1.30 Triumph Hurdle
The championship hurdling race for 4yo ‘juveniles’ kicks off proceedings and this years renewal looks sure to be run at a strong gallop
Allmankind, Aspire Tower, Goshen and Solo have all won trial races from the front and there is every chance they might kill each other’s chances off here if racing too hard.
Allmankind shouldn’t be winning in the style he has done given he races so freely from the front but somehow he is finding extra reserves each time. There is something of a freak about this horse and we still can’t really tell how good he is. It’s hard to see any of the others being able to lead him here as his hurdling is very slick. He also has winning course form on his side.
Aspire Tower’s preparation took a dent when falling last time out at Leopardstown. He was being seriously challenged by Cerberus at the time (that one held by Allmankind on Chepstow form). Before then he had looked clearly best of the Irish challenge.
That fall should have given the race to Cerberus but he then seemed to stop himself when being in front too soon and A Wave Of the Sea was able to catch him on the run in. Whilst the latter may appreciate the strongly run race and uphill finish here it looked more of a case of Cerberus losing the race to me.
Cerberus might have an outside chance in that regard but we have to worry about him in a soft ground uphill finish now
Goshen is another who has looked very classy with some wide margin wins from the front. He has been taken on and doesn’t seem to mind that – so I can envisage him being happy to sit behind the pace. The big concern is that all his wins have been on right hand tracks and he has shown a tendency to jump to the right. We have already seen with Asterion Forlonges this week how such a tendency can be a huge detriment here. Goshen’s jumping isn’t quite as slick as some as the others but he undoubtedly has a big engine
Solo is narrow favourite after bursting onto the scene with an impressive Kempton win last month ( race that has often thrown up Triumph winners)
The handicapper seemed to think he was the next coming when giving him an astonishing mark of 157 after that. I have to question what he beat though with a clutch of low 120 rated horses in the field battling for third place. He could win but is certainly not one for me at current odds
There are some quirky but very talented types here and the impact of the huge crowd here is also worth considering.
I’m not envisaging this as a confident betting heat and am therefore reluctant to make a recommendation
If this were a a right handed track I am sure Goshen would be a clear favourite. On this track, I give a marginal edge to Allmankind but it’s worth remembering the Triumph is run over a furlong more than his course win here.
Recommendation in these circumstances in NO BET
2.10 County Hcap Hurdle
Another competitive handicap hurdle.
We can assume that Mohaayed has been trained for this race. He has raced in it for the past 3 seasons and won it in 2018 off a mark of 139. He tried again last year but was only seventh from a much higher 153 mark and carrying top weight. That was a decent enough performance but he now comes here having dropped back down to 142. We should note that he has also had wind surgery since his last run so whether he retains the same ability is questionable
The JP MacManus/Barry Geraghty combo have already had a great week and here they team up with the highly unexposed Saint Roi.
This one has been well backed today and is down to around 6/1. It’s impossible to know if his mark of 137 is fair or not on what we have seen. His comparative lack of experience for a race like this is a negative and the price drop could be more about the jockey
In the same colours, Ciel De Neige is a much more solid proposition. He was placed here last year and narrowly beaten in the valuable Tote Gold Trophy. The softer ground here will suit him more than Sir Valentine who finished just behind. Off only a 4lb higher mark he has to go to the top of my shortlist
Back in 8th at Newbury was Stolen Silver who had no chance turning in but picked up very strongly in the closing stages.
The softer ground and uphill finish will be massively in this ones favour – as long as there is a decent gallop in this race. We cant guarantee there will be a good pace here but I doubt many will be finishing as strongly as this one up the hill.
It should also be noted that connections purposely skipped the Supreme Novices earlier this week to run this horse in this event
Aramon is also high up in the betting for Team Mullins. He has strong form in graded company but having seen him in the flesh he doesnt appeal as the type to be carrying a huge weight so I’m passing him over here
Relying on what looks strong form last time (and two horse who have already proven themselves on this course)
CIEL DE NEIGE and STOLEN SILVER both Each Way (again look for best price with extra places)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (or to give it its affectionate name – the ‘Spud’ race)
A race that has thrown up a mixture of top class winners and some shock ones who have never reached the same heights again
Over 3 miles it can be a big test for a novice and sometimes class can be outweighed by the combination of experience/bottomless stamina
If the ground is very soft then the one who ideally fits the latter scenario is Ramses de Teillee. He was a good second in the Welsh National last year and has found great success back over the smaller obstacles this year.
He completely outstayed his rivals last time and if this race does turn into a war of attrition you would want him on your side
Monkfish looks the main contender from team Mullins and although he has yet to win over this trip look another whose forte will be stamina. The stable also field a similar type in Aione at bigger odds
Harry Senior in contrast looked to be winning over his correct trip here last time and I am a bit surprised to see him being upped to 3 miles – I am not sure he needs that at this stage of his carrer. Tizzard stable form this week is also a slight concern
The class angle for me comes from Thyme Hill and Latest Exhibition.
Thyme Hil was 3rd in the very hot Bumper at last years festival. He is unbeaten over hurdles this season and is the sort who will always do just enough to win his races. The trip is also new to him and whether it might stretch a bit too far is a concern – as is Philip Hobbs stable form this week. Both Defi du Seuil and Sporting John were way below expected levels so I have concerns in that regard.
This leaves Latest Exhibition as my main selection. He has mixed it with some very good types this season but has always looked like he needs a trip. His Leopardstown win last time (Cobblers Way held) is the best Irish form coming into this race. The race wasn’t run to suit him but it was stamina that got him home ultimately
This would be one of the most popular winners of the week for Ireland if Paul Nolan’s career were to get back into the spotlight with his stable star. I expect him to be well backed and to be favourite for this race come post time
The presence of quirky front runner The Cashel Man in this race should also insure there are no prisoners taken in this years renewal
3.30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
The centrepiece race of the meeting has Al Boum Photo returning to the scene of his triumph last year
As in the previous year, the presence of Native River in that race ensured a true gallop throughout and Al Boum Photo was able to pick them all off in a well run race
Al Boum Photo has had a quiet but smooth preparation again and he is going to take some beating. The recent record of winners defending their crown here is far from great though
There is no Native River this year and so the question of pace arises. With the possible exception of outsider Elegant Escape there would seem to be only one confirmed front runner in the race – Bristol de Mai.
What this horse does and what pace he sets will have plenty of bearing on the outcome
Bristol de Mai has run well enough here before but all of his best form has come on soft ground at Haydock. He had to give second best there earlier in the season to Lostintranslation – a performance which saw the latter verge on favourite for this race soon after.
That idea soon became less attractive after a poor effort in the King George Chase behind Clan Des Obeaux. He was beaten a long way out and his jumping wasn’t anywhere as impressive as normal
The Tizzard camp seem happy again with him now but they are another stable who don’t seem to be firing on all cylinders this week. With this and a less than perfect preparation I’ll have to pass on their main contender here.
Clan Des Obeaux was imperious in that King George – as he was the season before. If this race was run at Kempton he would be the favourite but for all the bullishness that has come from the Paul Nicholls camp I can’t pick him here. He may turn up her fresher than last year but he has never looked as if the uphill finish here is his cup of tea
Last years novice brigade bring two more strong contenders to the fray in Delta Work and Santini.
Delta Work undoubtedly has the strongest Irish graded chase form this season but he has some form to make up on Santini from last years RSA.
Nicky Henderson’s Santini was 2nd (Topof thegame the winner sadly out through injury this season) in that race nearly 2 lengths ahead. That came after his preparation had been badly affected by flu jabs and I’m inclined to mark his performance up – he also lost a shoe in the race!
Santini’s reappearance effort at Sandown was far from encouraging and anyone holding ante post tickets for this race might well have been inclined to tear them up
His win over this course in January when defeating Bristol de Mai erased all of those fears and it is that race that looks the best trial that I have seen this year.
There seem to be a lot of judges crabbing him as a slow horse still but he has long looked an ideal type for this race to me.
Question marks of him being able to lay up off a strong pace aren’t concerning to me since the one he should have to be following is the horse he beat last time
With so many others willing to question his ability I can see his price drifting but he is a clear pick for me to win chasing’s Blue Riband event
4.10 Foxhunters Chase
As in previous years this isn’t a race for me to comment on too much – I don’t follow the point to point scene well enough to have a firm opinion. Amateur rider angle would lead us towards Minella Rocco has has previous Festival winning form and the services of the excellent Derek O’Connor
This one once looked a future Gold Cup winner but went badly downhill and his jumping went to pot. He has suddenly found some form again but it’s only on his last run you can get excited about his chance when beating last years champion Hazel Hill
Last years second Shantou Flyer also returns and is the pick of several runners that could have run in this for his enigmatic owner David Maxwell
Mr Maxwell wouldn’t be the most stylish rider in the field by any stretch but with his horse having an ideal prep and good previous course form I make him an each way pick. I’m never going to be his biggest fan but its hard to crab the number of winners he does ride – and I have seen far worse successful in this race (…cue quick reminiscence of The Drunken Duck’s win in 1982)
Billaway is the real dark horse in the field for Team Mullins but its hard for me to get a handle on this ones form
SHANTOU FLYER each way for smaller stakes – look for any firms offering 4 places and hopefully 10/1 being available
4.50 Grand Annual Hcap
I’ve already covered my selection for this race in Tuesday’s blog when selecting the novice LISP.
He has been one of my main bets this week and the only reservation I have is the form of some of the King stable runners earlier this week.
He jumps exceptionally well for a novice and should be much better suited coming off a strong pace than by having to make the running as he did last time (where he still put in an excellent effort)
The only thing that worries me is the form of the Alan King stable this week. Edwardstone ran ok in Tuesday’s Supreme but a few others have underperformed.
He has been a confident selection for this race but maybe has dropped to 4 stars instead of 5 with that little niggling thought in the background now
5.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Hcap
The’ getting out’ handicap for many and if no luck by this time I fear this race will be not any easier in making the situation any better
It’s been won by many in the past who have crept in with nice marks and gone onto graded race successes.
Last years winning team is represented by Front View but at around 5/1 no chances are being taken by firms that he will win. His mark of 139 is fair though
Gordon Elliott always targets this race as its run in the name of his old boss. Column of Fire looks to be his main contender this year but I think his trainer would have liked to see him get in with a mark lower than 143
Gordon also managed to squeak the reserve Escaria Ten into the race today by making another of his a non runner. That’s almost a tip in itself but the price soon collapsed today when this became apparent
Pileon is a strong contender for the home team and has good course form. His recent wins indicate he is on an upward curve and a mark of 138 could underestimate him. He also has the services of one the best conditional riders in the race in Ben Jones.
Stable form is a concern here and the running of Thyme Hill earlier in the day would be an influence here for me
At bigger three other for my shortlist would be Umbrigado and the Kim Bailey pair Espoir De Romay and Happygolucky
David Pipe has obvious connections to this race and there has always been suggestions that Umbrigado has been rated better than this level. He lost a show when a disappointing favourite last time so could be excused that performance
The biggest clue for me that he is fancied for this is the booking of the excellent Jack Tudor for the ride
Espoir de Romay is definitely one to follow as a chaser but he had so much in hand last time that I think quotes of 25/1 are underestimating his chance here. He may still be a bit inexperienced for a race like this but that is built into the price
A similar comment applies to Happygolucky who isn’t badly trated for me off 137 on his earlier course form. He got bogged down in very soft ground last time and is likely to be ridden less aggressively here
A shortlist for this tricky race for me is
ESPOIR DE ROMAY
With Front View being a bit too short and the value probably gone on Escaria Ten, I think the value probably appears in the other three for each way betting/extra places
Thanks for reading the final post of the week. I hope it’s been profitable and informative and we can finish with a flourish
Blog will be back for its usual Grand National posting the day before the big race – as long as that race is on! With current Corona Virus situation that is beginning to look doubtful this year