Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cheltenham Festival - Friday

The highlight of the whole week is tomorrow's Cheltenham Gold Cup due off at 3.20. Sixteen go to post in the showpiece with ante-post favourite Kauto Star attempting to become the first horse in history to reclaim the prize; Kauto's trouble-free preparation could be worth its weight in gold. By contrast stable companion Denman's troubles have been well documented. More positive noises have been coming from connections over the past week or so but, talking with companions yesterday at Cheltenham, I couldn't find anyone who wanted to bet Denman. Second favourite Neptune Collonges, third in this last year, looks fairly priced but fell whilst in the lead in the Lexus; opinion is somewhat divided as to whether he would have beaten Exotic Dancer that day had he stood up. There doesn't look an awful lot between the two and at current odds Exotic Dancer makes more appeal. A case can be made for David Pipe's Madison Du Berlais following his emphatic defeat of Denman at Kempton; the cheekpieces appear to have helped this horse enormously. His record at this track isn't good and at the back of my mind I still can't help but feel things just fell right for him last time. Of the other runners prepare for a Royal onslaught in the media if the Queen's Barbers Shop puts in a decent show; I think this horse will be better next year. Air Force One has had something of an interrupted preparation following an injury sustained in the King George but Albertas Run could be given a squeak on drying ground - he won the RSA Chase over the Old Course here last year. I take Kauto Star to defy the history books; I bet the horse at 3/1 before Denman's return - if I decide to hedge I'll go with another horse that has had a clean bill of health all season - Exotic Dancer.

The opening Triumph Hurdle for four year olds is traditionally a rough race. I've liked Starluck all season - he's done this blog the odd favour - and prefer him marginally to the top-rated animal Walkon and likely favourite Zaynar. Walkon's stablemate Trenchant is worth a mention after his defeat of Ainama in the Dovecote at Kempton. That victory surprised connections and more or less forced them to go for this - Ainama finished eighth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Tuesday. Trenchant is worth an each-way interest at 20/1.
Dave's Dream hacked up in the supposedly competitive Sandown Imperial Cup on Saturday and goes for the £75,000 bonus by attempting to win the County Hurdle at 2.05. Nicky Henderson has thought long and hard about whether to save the horse for another day but the lure of the money has proved too tempting. Dave's Dream may well win but none of the runners will be carrying my money.
On official ratings the Albert Bartlett looks between Pride Of Dulcote, Cape Tribulation and Alpha Ridge. Cape Tribulation was seriously impressive when winning at Doncaster last time; I'm tempted to take a chance on his handling the track as my mind goes back to Pride Of Dulcote falling here in a listed handicap hurdle last November that resulted in Ruby having his spleen removed. Carl Llewellyn runs Den Of Iniquity - this one was once highly regarded but has clearly had plenty of problems.
For those who like a bet in the Foxhunters Eugene O'Sullivan's Juveignuer is top on official ratings and has previously won at Cheltenham. Nicky Henderson used to train this one, didn't he?
I won't be participating in the final two events that bring this year's Festival to a close. If you must get involved, here's a simple observation - you can be certain that the Pipe stable will be trying for all their worth to win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle while Nicky Henderson has long held an ambition to win the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase Challenge Cup.
And then we'll do it all over again next year...

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

Kauto Star (7/4f) won a thrilling Gold Cup in sensational fashion, jumping beautifully and leaving his field behind him after the home turn. At times like this you just have to let the jockey have the last word; here's Ruby Walsh: "He's the greatest horse I've ever ridden."
After his well-documented problems Denman (7/1) put in a stupendous effort to finish second, thirteen lengths behind. It's asking a lot, I know, but let's hope both horses stay injury-free next year and meet head-to-head in the 2010 Gold Cup. Exotic Dancer (8/1) stayed on to take third.
In the Triumph Starluck (5/1) came to challenge on the bit and looked all over the winner two out but he didn't get up the hill and finished fourth. Zaynar (11/2), helped by first time cheekpieces, stayed on gamely to beat Walkon (4/1f) by three quarters of a length. A sterling effort from Trenchant (28/1) too who didn't make a place but finished fifth, three lengths behind Starluck.
Cape Tribulation (4/1) ran a sound race, coming to challenge for the lead at the last but weakening on the flat; he finished fifth behind Weapon's Amnesty (8/1) with Pride of Dulcote (3/1f) second.