Friday, January 29, 2010

Festival Trials Day

With forecasters predicting temperatures in the region of minus three tonight, tomorrow's meetings at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Uttoxeter are all subject to 8.00 am inspections; Cheltenham has the frost covers in place so looks to have the best chance of staging racing, the highlight being the Argento Chase at 2.35 with the Cleeve Hurdle (3.40) providing good support.

Only seven go to post for the trappy-looking Argento Chase which is run over a trip just short of three and a quarter miles; the bookmakers think it's between three - Carruthers, Madison Du Berlais and Inchidaly Rock. On official ratings Madison Du Berlais (50s for the Gold Cup) is the one to beat but he appears to give his best performances on flat tracks; having said that, the stable is on fire with six winners from fourteen runners in the past two days. With Denman heading for the Aon Chase at Newbury (rather than running here), Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Inchidaly Rock (5/1 favourite for the National Hunt Novices' Chase at the Festival) of the two Nicholls runners - this one has won over course and distance but has a bit to find with a couple of his opponents. Carruthers (33/1 for the Gold Cup) is a trail-blazer who does it all from the front and is at his best dominating in small fields - at the back of my mind though I can't help recalling his fourth in last year's RSA Chase where, over this course and distance, he made a serious blunder four out that effectively put paid to his chance. I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss last year's winner Joe Lively either from Colin Tizzard's in-form yard - for those prepared to take the chance he could prove very good value. Connections of Carruthers have indicated they'll consider the Gold Cup if things work out here and he looks the percentage call so gets the vote - his lack of chasing experience in comparison to the rest of the field is the concern. It's worth noting the favourite has failed to win this in the last ten years.

Thirteen go in a most competitive renewal of the Cleeve Hurdle. That tough little course and distance winner Lie Forrit (20/1 for the World Hurdle) makes the journey down from Hawick and is likely to start favourite. Katchit is the top-rated animal in the field but there has to be a concern about him seeing out the trip, a comment that also applies to David Pipe's Mr Thriller. Both Tatenen and Tidal Bay revert to hurdles after experiencing trouble jumping fences while Kennel Hill should be given a wide berth following his display of petulance with a race at his mercy two weeks ago. Course and distance winner Fair Along is respected and looks overpriced at 10/1 with Ladbrokes this evening but Time For Rupert (33/1 for the World Hurdle) is one that I like. I tipped him each way for the Ascot Hurdle but he finished out with the washing - the next time I missed him and he won at 16/1. He's well-regarded by connections - I'll back him each-way provided the odds are big enough.

The market tells us the 3.10 is between Nicky Henderson's General Miller (20/1 for the Neptune at the Festival) and Paul Nicholls' Royal Charm (12/1 for the Neptune) - the word is that General Miller is one of the stable's best novices. You pay your money and takes your choice. If you held a gun to my head, I'd go with Royal Charm but, in search of some value, I'll consider Restless Harry whose second in the Challow at Newbury on heavy going indicates this trip shouldn't be a problem. Stratford-on-Avon trainer Robin Dickin has told the Weekender he has his charge in 'better shape' for this test than for the Challow.

Pistolet Noir (10/1 second favourite for the Triumph at the Festival) looks the one to beat in the opener but he's likely to start odds-on.

Whatever happens, one thing is for certain - several more Cheltenham clues are likely to be uncovered with the Festival little more than six weeks away.

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

A 766 day absence proved no handicap to Paul Nicholls' apparent second string Taranis (16/1) who won the Argento Chase going away from Carruthers (7/4f) and Joe Lively (9/1). Carruthers didn't jump that well early on, making a noticeable error at the fourth; he was still in with a shout coming to the second last but Taranis, given a fine waiting ride by Nick Scholfield, powered away up the hill. Trainer Mark Bradstock was pleased with Carruthers' effort, implying after the race that the gluey ground had gone against his charge. Personally I'm not convinced this course really suits Carruthers - given his style of racing and the fact he's not the biggest, there's always a possibility something will come and 'do' him, as happened today. I suppose that sounds just a bit harsh on an honest horse... The winner is 33/1 for the Gold Cup with William Hill while Carruthers is out to 50/1 with Ladbrokes. Joe Lively (9/1) ran a game race in third giving ten pounds and six pounds to the first and second respectively, although his jumping was patchy on occasions. He looks certain to progress for that run - trainer Colin Tizzard has indicated the Grand National is the target.
Will Kennedy gave Time For Rupert (11/2) a fine ride, being up with the pace and hugging the inside rail all the way round. The horse appeared the winner coming to the home turn as several of his opponents were under pressure but Tidal Bay (14/1) came from out of the pack to lead approaching the final flight and he went on to win in convincing fashion. Time For Rupert seemed to have been passed by Katchit (8/1) as they ran up the hill but the selection battled back to take second on the line - the first three pulled a long way clear of the rest. This evening's World Hurdle prices: Tidal Bay 12/1 (most layers), Time For Rupert 33/1 (totesport), Katchit 33/1 (Coral).
An impressive performance from selection Restless Harry (backed in from 6/1 to 7/2 on course) - jockey Henry Oliver rode a canny race up front to make sure his mount's stamina came into play. Heading for home the two big guns loomed ominously but the leader wasn't for stopping - he went on to beat General Miller (3/1) eight lengths with the well-backed favourite Royal Charm (5/4f) finishing tired the same distance again back in third. In a quick interview after the race trainer Robin Dickin said the likely Festival target for the winner was the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle which is run over three miles on the Friday. This evening William Hill go 8/1 Restles Harry for that race - he handled the underfoot conditions well here but wouldn't necessarily appreciate the quicker surface we're more likely to see in March.
On a day when all the favourites were overturned, the 8/15 jolly in the opener Pistolet Noir ran very green indeed and was beaten into second by 100/1 chance Baccalaureate. Rather than offering significant clues, these trials seem to have muddied the waters somewhat...