Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheltenham Festival - Friday

The Gold Cup, the feature race of the whole meeting, is due off at 3.20. He'll be no price but I cannot desert Kauto Star. The media has played its part in building this into a Kauto v. Denman battle but McCoy's mount fluffed his lines the last time at Newbury - significant rainfall would improve Denman's chance but that seems unlikely. Trainer Paul Nicholls is on record saying that Imperial Commander represents the biggest threat to the main protagonists; 8/1 with most layers, the each-way appeal has disappeared and at the back of my mind I can still see his howler at the second in the King George, a jump that effectively put him out of the race. Cooldine is similarly priced so if you're looking for an each-way alternative to the favourite Tricky Trickster is the suggestion - he runs in this on the way to next month's Grand National for which he's currently 10/1 joint favourite.

The opener, the Triumph Hurdle, is invariably a rough race and not one I particularly like. Early season Barizan was quite highly-rated and Evan Williams looks to have freshened him up for a stab at this. Carlito Brigante is my idea of the winner but at odds of around 9/2 I won't get involved.

The Albert Bartlett looks fascinating with many of the leading contenders having shown their best form with cut underfoot - how they handle tomorrow's conditions is anybody's guess. Silver Kate is a tough likeable mare who tends to race from the front which is likely to leave her vulnerable here. Favourite Tell Massini won in impressive fashion the last time while Restless Harry did this blog a favour over a shorter trip at this course seven weeks ago. Kennel Hill is one to be wary of while both Possol and Cappa Bleu have been trying their luck over fences. I'm going to take a chance with Tell Massini.

The Pipe yard will be keen to take the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and my guess is that's why Ashkazar is priced up 9/2 favourite. There's been a hint of a plot brewing with his last couple of runs but I won't be tempted.

Similarly Nicky Henderson fields three in an attempt to take the finale, named after his father. French Opera, with David Bass claiming seven, has a clear chance while stable jockey Barry Geraghty rides You're The Top and A P McCoy Pepsyrock. I'll watch with interest from the sidelines.

And that will be that... We'll come back next year and do it all over again!

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