Sunday, February 07, 2010

Thinking about the Festival...

Earlier today at Leopardstown Joncol pipped Cooldine in a thrilling finish to the Irish Hennessy; the winner is now a 7/1 shot with totepsort for the Ryanair Chase. The runner-up delighted Willie Mullins with his effort. Last year's RSA Chase winner has been out of sorts so far this term but the handler thinks his charge will come on for the run - Cooldine is quoted at 14/1 for the Gold Cup with most layers, behind Kauto Star (5/4) and Denman (9/4).

Saturday's Racing Post confirmed that Tony McCoy will ride Denman in the Aon Chase at Newbury on Saturday and in the Gold Cup itself. Over the coming weeks we can expect plenty of hype as the media build the race into a Kauto Star / Ruby Walsh versus Denman / Tony McCoy stand-off.

The Festival is just over five weeks away. For the past ten years I've attended Champion Chase Day on the Wednesday but this year I haven't purchased my ticket... The thought of the crowds and having nowhere to sit for eight hours show I must be getting old - these days I'm just as happy with a low-key jump meeting at a gaff track. I'm sure I'll come round... There's still a long way to go but, for those interested, here's my current thinking on a selection of the races.

Supreme Novices: I saw Dunguib's exceptional win last year and have been a big fan ever since. Unsurprisingly, I'm not alone. For those looking to oppose, the ante-post favourite's hurdling was far from fluent at Leopardstown this afternoon.

Arkle Chase: A race I try to avoid. Hen Knight's Somersby would be of interest.

Champion Hurdle: As open as I can remember. Still have plenty of respect for Punjabi (overpriced at 14/1) but will wait to see if Barry Geraghty deserts the champion in favour of Zaynar. Medermit (14/1) was unlucky to be beaten a neck by Go Native (6/1) in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle and looks better value than that winner in the market. The form of Alan King's yard has been patchy this year.

RSA Chase: Punchestowns oozes class and deserves his prominent position in the market. I was more perturbed than many by Long Run's jumping at Kempton; a stat that will need to be checked - when was the last time a five-year-old won this race? Diamond Harry has limited chasing experience but Weird Al jumped well at Wetherby yesterday, collecting his third chase win on the bounce.

Champion Chase: Will watch Master Minded's return in the Game Spirit at Newbury with interest. Following Taranis' victory at Cheltenham on Janaury 30th trainer Paul Nicholls indicated that Master Minded had only recently started work again. One of the sayings often repeated around this time of year is you want an animal that has had an uninterrupted preparation for the Festival races. Might be harder to come by this time with the weather playing its part but Master Minded can hardly be said to have had an uninterrupted prep. I think the occasion will get to Twist Magic but like Ferdy Murphy's Kalahari King.

Champion Bumper: A couple of weeks ago Nick Mordin, writing in the Weekender, highlighted that the RP top-rated horse has won the bumper on four occasions in the last five years. Recently Dermot Weld's Elegant Concorde has shot to the top of a market that can be fairly volatile. This time last year Willie Mullins' Sicilian Secret was widely touted but on the day drifted out to 9/1, finishing sixteenth of the twenty four runners.

World Hurdle: Despite the odd quirk, Big Buck's looks bomb-proof. Nearer the time I'll consider Karabak, Tidal Bay and Time For Rupert.

Triumph Hurdle: Often a very rough race and not one I'm particularly keen on. Will check out Carlito Brigante.

Gold Cup: Kauto Star for me - with bookies going 14/1 bar two I'll be looking for some fancy prices about an each-way longshot.

One tip for the Festival that is certain to give value for money - make sure you purchase Raceform Update's Festival Preview usually published at the beginning of March.

Finally, I couldn't sign off without a comment on the first weekend's rugby internationals. The England v. Wales game was littered with mistakes, mostly on the Welsh side, but I thought some of the BBC's camera work in that game verged on the atrocious - in particular the spider-cam coverage did nothing but detract from the action on the field.


Anonymous said...


The last 5 year old to win the RSA was Star De Mohasion in 2006. Not long ago I know but you are correct with your query as he was the 1st 5yo since 1950 to win the race! Not sure how many have attempted it. I would not be surprised to see Long Run go down the Arkle route.
(ps. His Dosage figures would not look out of place in the Arkle)

Nice write up, bud :-)

GeeDee said...

Great work with the form book, Ben! I saw Star De Mohaison win but didn't recall he was a five-year-old. Like you, I suspect not that many horses have tried.

Quote from Nicky Henderson re: Long Run yesterday...

"It might sound crazy to have him in over two miles at one place [Warwick] and three at another [Newbury], but I do want to go two miles I must admit - for a little bit of fascination if nothing else. He's got an extraordinary amount of pace this horse and the idea of trying to do it is to preserve the horse a little bit. I just think he might get easier races over two miles."

Sporting Life article: