Sunday, January 24, 2010

Festival clues...

The Festival clues season has started in earnest. At Haydock yesterday reigning champion hurdler Punjabi was beaten fair and square by Medermit on ground that was probably soft enough - Alan King's charge, in receipt of four pounds, has now finished in front of Punjabi in his last two races. Beaten a neck by Go Native in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle (after being hampered at the last), Medermit goes straight to the Champion and looks to have a live chance - certainly his price this evening (16/1) makes more appeal than 6/1 Go Native. I wouldn't rush to write off Punjabi either who is also a 16/1 chance (with Skybet) for the showpiece.

Solwhit's victory earlier today in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown has seen both Paddy Power and Boylesports install him as their new 3/1 favourite for the Cheltenham equivalent in March. It may be worth noting this quote from trainer Charles Byrnes, "But that's him today - take it or leave it, there's no improvement to come."

Henry de Bromhead's An Cathaoir Mor won the Arkle Chase but isn't certain to make it to Cheltenham. Books have reacted by shortening Captain Cee Bee (beat this winner at Naas)
and Sizing Europe (stablemate of this winner).

Diamond Harry's chase debut at Haydock yesterday went as smooth as you like - Nick Williams' charge is now 5/1 second favourite for the RSA Chase behind Nicky Henderson's Punchestowns.

Nick Mordin's column in this week's Weekender highlights the fact that in the past five years the animal with the highest Racing Post rating has won the Festival bumper on four occasions. So far this season the mare Araucaria has the highest RP rating obtained in a bumper (132) - Nick helpfully points out that at 16/1 she represents decent value. That led me to wonder when was the last time a filly / mare won the race. I was at the track to see Hairy Molly win the 2006 renewal but on checking the formbook was somewhat disconcerted to discover that Hairy Molly was actually a bay gelding... I didn't have to go back too much further - in 2004 two mares fought out the finish with Total Enjoyment beating the Jonjo O'Neill trained Refinement two and a half lengths. The second that day returned a year later to finish fourth in the same race, ridden on that occasion by one K. Fallon.

In an article in Saturday's Guardian, Michael Owen describes racing as his 'main passion outside of football' so he may make it to this year's Festival but he says he'll 'never want to train'. Look out for more Festival clues next Saturday at the Festival Trials Day...

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