Sunday, March 14, 2010

On the eve of the Festival...

... here's an eclectic mix of facts and figures in an attempt to whet your appetite.

Media talk is of the 'big four' - Kauto Star (Gold Cup), Big Buck's (World Hurdle), Master Minded (Champion Chase), Dunguib (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) - and they're all likely to start at evens or shorter. Several layers appear keen to win their money early, targetting Dunguib in the opening race on the first day. I'm a fan, having seen his exceptional win in last year's bumper, but I won't get involved here. Last time out Dunguib's jumping was far from fluent and here's another negative - over the past decade 23 seven-year-olds have contested the race but only one has won - Captain Cee Bee in 2008.

Tony McCoy put up Captain Cee Bee in the Arkle as his best chance this year but only two nine-year-olds have won the race since the war, the most recent being Danish Flight in 1988. The Arkle also happens to be a poor race for favourites with just one obliging in the last ten years.

Ruby Walsh has the pick from the powerful yards of Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls; he has committed early to Blackstairmountain (Supreme) and Quel Esprit (Neptune). I remember Mick Fitzgerald once describing Ruby as someone 'who plays his cards close to his chest'. He certainly made the right choices last year as he came away leading rider with seven winners.

Nine of the last ten Champion hurdlers have previously won at Cheltenham which may be something of a concern to fans of Solwhit. Five-year-olds don't have a good record in the Champion; the three entries from that age bracket this year are Starluck, Zaynar and Jumbo Rio. Of course Katchit was the exception when he claimed the spoils in 2008.

Trainer Enda Bolger and owner JP McManus have won four of the five runnings of the Cross Country Chase.

Dermot Weld trains Rite Of Passage, the current favourite for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, but the handler has just one winner at this meeting to his name and that occured twenty years ago.

Those who fancy Long Run should note that only two five-year-olds have taken the RSA Chase since 1950; having said that, the favourite has won the last three renewals.

Master Minded attempts to become only the second horse to win three consecutive Queen Mother Champion Chases - Badsworth Boy was the first to achieve the feat (1983-1985).

I was considering Pettifour for Wednesday's four mile National Hunt Chase. @jpfestival visited the Twiston-Davies yard last week and asked assistant trainer Carl Llewellyn about that one's chances. The word is he'll stay every yard of the trip but they have reservations about his jumping. This race has thrown up some big-priced winners in the last ten years - one at 40/1, two at 33/1 and one at 25/1.

It's no surprise Wednesday's Coral Cup is sponsored by a bookmaker as it usually has the look of a bookmakers' benefit. Five-year-olds have a poor record - the stats point to a six or seven-year-old carrying under eleven stones. Five of the last eight winners have run in Newbury's totesport Trophy.

Many think Big Buck's bombproof in Thursday's World Hurdle; favourites have won only three of the last ten runnings. Trainer Paul Nicholls is on record as saying he considers Tidal Bay the biggest threat to his horse.

The market has proved a reliable guide to the Ryanair Chase with all five winners coming from the top three in the betting.

It's Paul Nicholls' Kauto Star for me (and plenty of others) in the Gold Cup. According to the handler Imperial Commander is the horse that could take the trophy away from his yard.

That's it for now; I'll try to post selections on a daily basis throughout the Festival. In the meantime, good luck to one and all at the greatest jump meeting in the world.


Sandracer said...

I bet you can't wait old boy.

Cheltenham form, and the reading of it makes my head hurt to be honest.

GeeDee said...

Hi Sandracer - good to hear from you again.

I look at this way. Reading Cheltenham form - it's better than watching the junk the TV companies pump at us every night.

The only thing that stands between me and insanity is horse racing form and the reading thereof. The sad thing is I wish I were joking but if truth be told I just can't tell anymore...