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Cheltenham 2016 – Day 4

Cheltenham 2016 Day 4

Day 3 review

Vautour put to bed any rumours about his well-being with an authoritative win in the Ryanair. Thistlecrack then continued his domination of the 3 mile division with one of the most impressive wins you’ll see in the World Hurdle. As an 8yo you wonder if he’s already too old to embark on a chasing career.If he stays hurdling he should dominate this division for some time. The second, Alpha Des Obeaux, only 6 already looks a huge prospect as an RSA horse next year.

For the blog selections it was place returns from Our Kaempfer (5th) and Al Ferof (3rd in without favourite market)

Smart Talk was very disappointing – didnt look to cope with the downhill well to me.

Top Wood was still bang there and travelling very well when coming down at the top of the hill. He looked like he would have been involved in the finish at the time but the way Cause of Causes came home up the hill, it was probably unlikely he would have won

Out of 10 pts staked on Thursday there was therefore a return of 6.8 pts (3.2 pt loss)

Ultimately a day for the punters though with Limini delivering the final twist of the knife to bookies in the Mares Novice Hurdle. The three short priced favs of the day all winning

Onto Friday….

As per usual the final day kicks off with the Triumph Hurdle at 1.30 – the 2 mile championship for 4yo hurdlers.
I already covered this in my weekend preview and stick with Who Dares Wins who I think will get the ground and strong pace that will see him at best effect.
I rate both him and Clan Des Obeaux much better than the bare form of their last race as they both started to joust far too early then on some very deep ground. Clan des Obeaux would have been a really big danger for me if the ground were a bit softer.
Zubayr is feared also. The Adonis Hurdle he won at Kempton has long been a good trial for this and his preparation is identical to Nicholls’s previous winner Zarkandar.
Ivanovich Gorbatov may well be a lot better on this decent ground than he was when behind Footpad at Leopardstown but is awful value at current odds. I don’t think that race is the strongest line of form here. It was also run on very bad ground and into a strong headwind – the form of that race could easily be turned around here
Recommendation
1pt ew WHO DARES WINS @12/1

whodareswins


2.10
Another fiercely competitive hcap hurdle with any number of potential plots.
Great Field and Blue Hell are two Irish raiders who fit that bill but are already plenty short enough at single figure odds.
My two against the field at bigger odds have both been waiting for the better ground they will get here.
John Constable had to be taken out of the Betfair Hurdle in February because of the ground and Evan Williams has been happy to bide his time until the weather improved. He got the closest to an enterprisingly ridden Sternrubin before Christmas but in so doing looked to be a horse to follow from his mark.
Some Plan has also been waiting for the good ground since an eyecatching run at Ascot (also behind Sternrubin). I have heard this has been the aim for some time. A little bit concerned he may want a less testing track but I’m very happy to see Harry Cobden on board to take off a valuable 5lbs (already seen to great effect on Old Guard earlier this season)
Recommendations

0.75 pts ew  JOHN CONSTABLE 16/1 (Betfair Sportsbook paying 1/4 odds 12345)
0.5 pts ew SOME PLAN 28/1 (Corals – not paying 5th place but win odds make up for that)


 

2.50
Barters Hill is unbeaten and thoroughly likeable as he doesn’t let anything pass him. His last win was a bit unconvincing but it subsequently transpired he had lost a show during the race so it was excusable.
It’s more worrying that news emanated from the stable today that the horse had seemed a little stiff after working at home.
It will be very hard to win a race like this with his front running style but he sets the standard on form.
I think we can expect his price to drift however based on the latest rumours.
Shantou Village was no match for Yanworth last time but won’t have anything like that to deal with here. He shapes like this trip will suit and the better ground should also be in his favour.
Up For Review was sharing Ante Post favouritism for this race earlier this year before he was soundly beaten by Barters Hill at Doncaster. Mullins’s horses all ran badly that day (Shaneshill on same card bounced back yesterday to run a great 2nd in the RSA). He was described as a nervous type subsequently so I would be a little concerned if he’ll cope with this occasion
Of all the Mullins runners available to him, Ruby Walsh has picked Long Dog and he is at the top of my shortlist for this race. He is unproven over this trip but gives the impression he will stay. He got some favourable mentions at previews when it looked like the Neptune was more likely for him. Davy Russell even suggested he would be 5/2 fav if he ran in this. He’s been shown to be a little out on that assumption but I don’t think he should be 8/1 now that Ruby is on board.
Ruby wouldn’t have had the choice of Gigginstown runner, Gangster, who was supposedly the horse who beat Vautour in a gallop recently. If thats true we should see his price shorten. How much we read into that I’m not sure if today’s Ryanair winner was under par at the time. Strictly on form he still has something to find.
Bleu Et Rouge will be facing totally different conditions than his battling win over 2 miles at Leopardstown
Recommendation
1pt ew LONG DOG 8/1 (generally available but make sure of firms paying 1/4 odds a place rather than 1/5th)

longdog


 

3.30
The Gold Cup – the centrepiece of the meeting.
I’m assuming that Road to Riches won’t run after his exertions in the Ryanair on Thursday.
A run down of the runners (numbers in brackets are previous form on the course which I think is relevant here – the last number being the most recent effort)
Don Cossack B. J. Cooper (F3)
Brilliant winner at Aintree last season and possibly unlucky when falling at Kempton where he ran a bit in snatches. Some have expressed concerns that Cooper doesn’t get on with him as well as other jockeys but I’m more worried about his previous form on this course which suggests he doesn’t act on it as well as a flat track. The good ground will suit him.

Djakadam R. Walsh (F2F)
Last year’s Gold Cup 2nd but that is the only time he has completed here in 3 attempts. May want softer ground and would be worried that he still has the memory of his last run here where he needed several stitches afterwards

djakadam

Cue Card Paddy Brennan ( 1241U21)
A regular here since winning the Festival bumper in 2010 (also successful in Ryanair in 2013). Revitalised this season since a breathing operation and now looks much more a stayer. Used to run more freely and stamina was a question mark. His dam was a good stayer and gives very encouragement now that he will last over this trip.

cuecard

Don Poli Davy Russell ( 11)
Unbeaten at Cheltenham in two attempts gives him the best course record in the field. His form doesn’t quite match up to some of the others but he’s a lazy type who just does enough. If he’s close up as they come round the home turn the rest should be frightened on the uphill finish – but will he have the speed to lie up with them on this quicker ground (softer may have been preferred). Davy Russell gets the leg up on Bryan Cooper’s cast off – but it’s Russell who is riding the better so far this week.

donpoli
Smad Place Wayne Hutchinson ( 0332201)
Another horse who has seen his career flourish since a wind operation. Didn’t have his own way up front when well beaten in King George. With Vautour and probably Road to Riches out he now may get an uncontested lead which increases his chance. Still something to find on form but not out of it

smadplace

Road To Riches (3)
Last year’s third is a very doubtful runner

Carlingford Lough Barry Geraghty (00)
Saves his best for Leopardstown. Has twice come here fancied and disappointed on the course

Ofaolains Boy Noel Fehily (41P0)
Previous RSA winner (beating Smad Place). Had his problems since and would seem to need soft ground nowadays which he wont get here

On His Own Mr P. W. Mullins ( 04P20U ) (U cross country)
Previous runner-up but form someway off that level now

Irish Cavalier P. Townend (310P)
Has won at the course but is outclassed here on all previous for

As mentioned in the weekend preview blog I’m strongly with Cue Card here as I think he’ll be better still on this course than at Kempton. He may or may not have won that day if Don Cossack had stood up but he is far more proven on this course than that one.
Smad Place is feared if he is left alone up front as he may now get an easy lead. Don Poli would be the one I wouldn’t want to be seeing close by coming down the hill but think the ground may have gone against him and he’s too short a price on his bare form
Recommendation:
2.5 pts ew CUE CARD 4/1 (1/4 123 – generally available)


There’s a bit of a feeling of a wind down after the Gold Cup normally but the Foxhunters at 4.10 will get plenty of media attention now with Victoria Pendleton on board Pacha Du Polder. The horse is well worth its place in this race but ‘Pendo’ is a long way behind ability wise compared to some of the top amateur riders she faces here. She’s been riding against similar inexperienced riders in her build up to this but is at a huge disadvantage here. I just hope she gets round safely more than anything but give her very little chance of reaching the frame.
On The Fringe won this easily this year and was given a very easy introduction last time in heavy conditions at Leopardstown. Expect to see far better here but I can’t say I was bowled over by the horse the first time I saw him in the paddock there
He’s the one to beat but I won’t be betting on him this year
I don’t have an opinion in the 4.50 currently but there’s an interesting outsider in the last.
Barters Hill’s trainer Ben Pauling fields an interesting outsider here in Ravens Tower, who has outdone himself before at this meeting as a 4yo hurdler. He won well last time on ground that shouldn’t really suit. It’s clear to me he’s a horse who will always be seen to best advantage on good ground, in a competitive race with a strong gallop. All these things he will get here. He is a novice, and as we saw with Out Sam earlier in the week, this sort of race can be too much for them early on in their careers. Novices do have a decent record in this race though and Ravens Tower appears a sound jumper on what I’ve seen thus far
He’s worth a small interest in what could be his optimum conditions
Recommendation
0.5 pts ew RAVENS TOWER 25/1 (Bet 365 paying 1/4 odds 12345 – others may enhance later on this)


 

EXTRA SELECTIONS (added 1900 GMT  Thurs evening)

Further review of the last 2 races and I have two extra selections.

Lucinda Russell is in tremendous form currently after quite a barren spell early in 2016. She sends one runner down from Scotland this week and such is her strike rate now I have to make Sky Khan a bet at huge odds of 66/1 in the 4.50. Squoauteur looks an obvious plot in this race to give Gordon Elliott another hcap win but he is already very short in odds

RECOMMENDATION

0.5 pts ew Sky Khan 66/1 (Bet 365 paying 1/4 odds 5 places)

In the final race I’m also adding Dan Skelton’s Workbench at a big price. Dan’s runners have been performing well this week without winning and this one will be happy to be back on a sound surface. He ran well at the track before Christmas before disappointing on softer ground and is another I feel is overpriced

RECOMMENDATION

0.5 pts ew Workbench 33/1 (365 again offering the best place terms with 5 places)


 

It’ll be hard to come close to the reaction of Sprinter Sacre’s win on Wednesday, but if Cue Card were to prevail and secure a £1 million bonus it would put the icing on the cake this week
Good luck for the final day with whatever you back
Thanks for reading

Paul


 

Friday’s selections:

(Prices may have changed since selections were posted on Thursday – Ravens Tower was a selection of Pricewise last night for instance)

1pt ew WHO DARES WINS 12/1

0.75 pts ew JOHN CONSTABLE 16/1 (with 5 places)

0.5pts ew SOME PLAN 28/1

1pt ew LONG DOG 8/1

2.5 pts ew CUE CARD 4/1

0.5 pts ew SKY KHAN 66/1 (with 5 places)

0.5 pts ew RAVENS TOWER 25/1 (with 5 places)

0.5 pts ew WORKBENCH 33/1 (with 5 places)

Total stakes for day 14.5 pts

 

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Cheltenham Festival Preview 2016

The blog has had to take a lengthy holiday due to work commitments but is back for the big week of the year – the Cheltenham Festival – where it’s had most success over the past couple of years.
I’ll put up some quick previews for each day the night before – starting on Monday.
Here are my early thoughts on some of the selections I am already with over the 4 day period.
I won’t put up a staking plan on these today – merely selections. In many cases, I think there may be more value to be had on the day when prices and place terms are often more enhanced. Generally speaking if a horse is 4/1 or more and ¼ odds 123 or more are available I will probably be playing each way – less than 4/1 and it’ll be win only (there will always be a few exceptions but I will detail those if we come to them)
The ones listed below are the ones I’d be more inclined to be using for angles in multiple bets (doubles, trebles,etc).over the week ahead. A staking plan will be added to the daily blog to analyse profit/loss over the 4 days.
Do always check the place terms if betting now – ¼ odds a place should be widely available next week on most races. Some bookies have already reduced the riskier each way races to 1/5th odds. This makes mathematical sense but it would be no surprise to see them revert next week to be more competitive and lure in more bets.


Onto the week ahead and the early selections….
Ground will hold sway on some of these. At the moment the course is reported as soft but with drying conditions likely over the next few days I’m largely assuming the ground will be good to soft on Tuesday with prospect of it getting better still as the week progresses.

TUESDAY (48 hour declarations due out later today which may cause market movements)

1.30 Supreme Novices
A lot of ups and downs in the market here recently with doubt concerning the participation of Yorkhill. Right now it looks like he will be running in Wednesday’s Neptune instead.
Willie Mullins/Rich Ricci have won this with favourites Vautour and Douvan for the past two years and Min is a shorter price currently than both of those two. That doesn’t mean he is as good and on what he has achieved he is too short. He is a free going sort who has won his races easily so far this season but beaten nothing of the calibre he meets here. The preliminaries are a concern to connections.
I’m much more taken by second fav Altior, who has also displayed keenness in his racing earlier this season but still found plenty of reserves to win his first couple of races. He has winning form on the course – it wasn’t impressive in beating Maputo but that was a very tactical and slow run race. He was much better of a better pace at Kempton over Christmas. I feel he will thrive here off a strong gallop and with the uphill finish and he should be favourite. He probably wouldn’t want to ground too soft but as long as it dries out as expected I’ll be cheering him on

altior
Stablemate Buveur D’Air hasn’t faced any strong opposition this season. He has closely matched form with Altior in bumpers last season but that’s hard to take at face value now. He appeared then as a strong travelling type who didn’t finish of his races quite as well as others and I wonder whether the hill might find him out here. He may prefer the ground to stay soft also
Supasundae has been well talked up at preview nights as an each way bet. Henry de Bromhead doesn’t waste his runners here but this one has to improve his jumping and didn’t get home up the hill in the Bumper here last season after running freely early on.
At a Dublin preview on Thursday, Gordon Elliott was asked if punters should back his Tombstone each way for this race. He replied ‘no’ which doesn’t augur well for that one’s chances!
Selection : ALTIOR ew at 4/1 or better with ¼ odds 123


 

2.50 Ultima Hcap
This seems to be the desired race for Warren Greatrex’s Out Sam who has somehow got into the Festival with a mark of 139. The form of his last comfortable win at Newbury makes that mark stand out as being highly lenient and if 8/1 is available still it’s hard not to have some interest.
This race will be completely different – a big field racing against seasoned handicappers rather than novices. However this race often favours both novices and light weights (he should be carrying 10st 2lbs if weights don’t rise)
Southfield Theatre would be of interest at a bigger price given his previous Festival record. He hasn’t shown much this season but needs decent ground to show his best. The vibes from Ditcheat are that he is coming back to form but I’m not sure if the ground will have dried up for him sufficiently by Tuesday.
Selection; OUT SAM ew at 8/1


 

3.30 CHAMPION HURDLE
A wide open race since the defection of Faugheen and Arctic Fire.
Annie Power is too short a price for me considering her original aim was the Mares Hurdle and she has come in as a late replacement for Faugheen’s owner Rich Ricci.
She looked a possible runner two years ago but was diverted to the World Hurdle instead. When it looked likely she would run in the Champion she was no shorter than The New One and My Tent or Yours. There’s no evidence she has progressed since so the disparity in odds against those two is a little strange to me.
My Tent or Yours probably has the most talent but hasn’t run for a long time and that’s a major concern for a horse who has had a problem settling. Twice he has finished second at the Festival after his early exertions have left him vulnerable to a stronger stayer up the hill.
The New One appeals most at current prices. He wasn’t suited by a tactical pace last year and had an interrupted preparation. The year before he was an unlucky loser after being badly hampered early in the race. He is effective on the course though – the way he accelerated up the hill to win the Neptune in 2013 shouldn’t be forgotten. Jumping has always been a bit of an issue with this horse but he can really come up this hill well and this is the easiest opportunity to win a Champion Hurdle he will ever get. (Nice pointer for the form of the stable with Flying Angel winning the Imperial Cup yesterday)
Nichols Canyon probably has the best form this year and he could get an easy lead up front (Camping Ground the only other possible front runner by my reckoning). I’m not convinced he acted on the course here last year though and wonder if he needs a flatter track as his form at Aintree afterwards looked much better.
At bigger odds, I much prefer Old Guard who has improved a lot this year and has plenty of winning course form. The better the ground is the more I give him a chance. I wouldn’t take his Kempton form literally – wrong track and ground too soft. He holds Sempre Medici and Hargam on earlier Cheltenham form. An issue developed here at the Sandown Park preview last night when trainer Paul Nicholls said his latest piece of work had been ‘dire’. I was going to add him as a second selection but best to wait for further news emanating on his well-being for now
Sempre Medici has been put up as an each way bet by several judges at preview meetings. It seems he may be ridden quietly out the back and aiming for a place more than a win. Similar types have been placed before so it wouldn’t be the biggest shock for him to hit the frame
Selection:
THE NEW ONE ew at 6/1 or better

thenewone

***Sunday evening update – Old Guard withdrawn from race due to muscle problem***


 

4.10 Mares Hurdle
Team Mullins has had a stranglehold on this race for several years.
Vroum Vroum Mag is their short priced favourite this time. She’s won a lot of mares races very easily but for me has yet to do anything to suggest that she is a 160 type of horse as her price suggests – her actual rating is 154 and not that far ahead of anything else in the race ( no course form for her either)
I much prefer another Henderson second fav, Polly Peachum, who looks a really solid each way at around 6/1
The more the ground dries out the better for her and she was narrowly beaten in this race last year when rated 155 (now dropped to 149). The ground was far too soft for her when she still managed to beat The Govaness at Sandown (latter an obvious non stayer behind Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot so wouldn’t be taking that as a collateral form line). She is capable of a higher level than that and is proven over the course
There wouldn’t be much to choose between Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle on last year’s form but the latter (if she runs) comes here from a couple of disappointing chasing efforts and apparently has had breathing problems.
The selection goes off to the paddocks after this race so am very hopeful she can end her jumping career on a high.
Selection: POLLY PEACHUM ew at 6/1 with ¼ odds 123


WEDNESDAY

1.30 Neptune Novices Hurdle
I haven’t seen a better novice hurdler than Yanworth this season. He’s not a great price now but will be shocked if he is beaten such has been his superiority against decent opposition in his last two victories. Earlier in the season his jumping technique was in need of polishing up but the work on that seems to have paid off and I can’t find any negatives. One of the weeks bankers
Selection; YANWORTH win

yanners


4.50 Fred Winter Hurdle
There seem to be a lot of potential plots here in this competitive handicap for 4yo hurdlers. The handicapper might have scuppered the chances of Campeador who was an early talking horse.
I attended a preview in Dublin on Thursday where there were subtle hints that Missy Tata was well fancied before Gordon Elliott put her up as his charity bet.
The one I most want to be with though is Paul Nicholls’ Diego du Charmil who there has been a strong whisper for over the last couple of weeks and is now fav.
This race used to have a strong stat favouring highly rated flat horses but things have changed a little in the last couple of years with Nicholls having success with unexposed French breds like this one.
He has supposedly been doing very well on the gallops with much higher rated types and has been saved for this. He could be very well in here – it’s hard to judge him on his French form but his second in this race linked below looks to show a horse that had plenty more to offer….


There are a couple of others at much bigger odds I also have my eye on but will wait until the day for those.
For now the selection is DIEGO DU CHARMIL ew 7/1 or better


 

THURSDAY

Not looking the strongest of the four days for me and will largely leave this until the night before
THISTLECRACK has very little negatives in the World Hurdle at 3.30 except a very small concern if the ground has become good by that time. He should be odds on and would be if he were trained by someone like Mullins.
In the new Mares Novice Hurdle at 4.50, SMART TALK appears a solid ew proposition. She’s improving with every race and would have won with a lot more in hand last time but for a blunder in the home straight.
She could be up against a very classy recruit in short priced favourite Limini but that one does have some questions to answer with her jumping. Her flat race class could carry her through but I’d be surprised if Smart Talk was out of the frame so an each way bet appears far better value

***Sunday evening update. 3rd fav Myska withdrawn from Mares Novice Hurdle. 6/1 really shouldn’t be lasting on Smart Talk now if 1/4 odds 123 are available, An each way bet becomes even better value if you can get those odds and place terms***


FRIDAY

1.30 Triumph Hurdle
I believe the strongest trial for this may have been run over this course in January event though it probably didn’t throw up the right result at the time.
Who Dares Wins and Clan Des Obeaux finished 4th and 2nd respectively (behind Protek Des Flos) but these two started racing each other a very long way out on some very sticky ground. They paid for those efforts up the hill but in so doing kept themselves at attractive odds.
If the ground were soft on Friday I’d be inclined to be with Clan Des Obeaux who has the look of a future high class chaser.
However, with conditions likely to be quicker, I have to be with Alan King’s Who Dares Wins. He was too keen early on in that Cheltenham race and had to make the running. He still came out as marginally the best horse in the race as was giving away weight all round. On better ground and with a faster pace to come off, this decent ex-Flat racer should be a much better proposition.

whodareswins

It seems possible that Richard Johnson will ride given comments at Sandown last night. Alan King knows how to win this race and I think he will be the stable’s number one here on better ground over Sceau Royal.
Zubayr has to be feared after his win at Kempton recently – the same route taken by recent winners Zarkandar and Soldatino. He appeals more than Ivanovich Gorbatov who didn’t jump well enough last time at Leopardstown and is an awful price on that form
Selection; WHO DARES WINS ew 12/1 or better


3.30 Gold Cup
The highlight of the Festival and I think Kempton’s King George result is by far the strongest piece of form to go on here.
It’s debatable whether Don Cossack would have won that day if he had stayed up at the second last but I do question his effectiveness over this course given his previous record here (3rd and fell)
That leaves Vautour and Cue Card. Vautour was outstayed that day but is expected to be fitter this time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win but reports of a lack lustre gallop recently aren’t encouraging. The stamina question over further and with an uphill finish to contend with remain. On the plus side it’s hard to forget how he came right at the Festival last year with a spectacular win in the JLT.
I’m firmly in the Cue Card camp for this race to pick up a fairytale win and secure a £1 million bonus fund in the process.
Given his breeding (dam Wicked Crack as a very good stayer) it was always a surprise to see him display so much speed when he burst onto the Festival scene winning the Bumper in 2010.
He was one of the stars to develop from a stellar year of novice hurdlers in 2011 and got another Festival success in the 2013 Ryanair. He is a proven Festival performer.

cuecard
Cue Card lost his way last year but after a breathing operation has come back a completely revitalised horse. He no longer runs freely out at front and can be settled comfortably off the pace – he now looks the stayer his breeding promised him to be. In Paddy Brennan he has found a new partner and they look to be a match made in heaven. His Kempton win proved he was back at the top of his game but I believe he can be better than that. His jumping there wasn’t as good as it can be and all of his best form has been on left handed courses like Cheltenham
I’m taking him to beat off a strong Irish challenger.
Don Poli is some way behind these on form but is a bit deceiving as he is the sort who keeps on winning by doing just enough. That is an admirable trait but I think he may lack some pace against others here on what is likely to be decent ground on Friday. In much softer conditions, he would be one to fear more

Selection; CUE CARD ew 5/1 or better


 

The blog will be back during the week with updates and quick race-by-race synopsis
Thanks for reading and good luck to all over the week ahead with whatever you back

Paul

(comments always appreciated)


 

Some useful links

To compare odds with all firms I use (though check individual websites as changes don’t always come instantaneously) http://www.oddschecker.com

For further write ups on many of the Cheltenham preview nights that have occurred over the past couple of weeks: http://www.fatjockey.com/forum/showthread.php?5915-2016-Cheltenham-Festival-Preview-Nights

A really interesting read (as always)from Timeform’s Simon Rowlands on sectional times for many of next week’s leading contenders  https://www.timeform.com/racing/articles/the-timeform-timing-preview-of-the-2016-cheltenham-festival-732016

 
 

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