Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cheltenham Open meeting 2012 - Sunday

The going at Cheltenham today, originally described as soft, good to soft in places, was changed to soft, heavy in places after the Paddy Power Gold Cup in which only six of the 18 starters completed. Two big name horses from the Henderson yard, Sprinter Sacre and Darlan, have already been taken out of their intended engagements on Sunday on account of the ground while Ruby Walsh goes to Punchestown to ride Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle.

The feature is the Racing Post Hurdle (2.50), formerly known as the Greatwood. Underfoot conditions will make this something of a lottery - I don't intend to play but for those who do last year's second, Olofi, would be worth a second look (12/1 Sky Bet) and Bothy, second in 2010, would have been if the yard were in better form. In the past decade five-year-olds have won five runnings but it takes a very good four-year-old to pull off the trick - Detroit City (2005) and Brampour (2011) are the two to have managed it since 2002.

At the time of writing connections intend to let Captain Conan take his chance in the opener and the market suggests he's the one to beat; the favourite has obliged on six occasions in the past ten years. The horse has the look of a chaser in the making but I wouldn't be tempted on this his first try over the larger obstacles - all his opponents have previous chase experience. In fact the four-year-old His Excellency finished down the field in the Galway Plate in August; this one beat Third Intention over course and distance last time but has shown temperament on occasions - some may take the view that quirk is factored into the price of 11/1 on offer with BetVictor.

The novice hurdle (3.25) should prove useful for future reference, as should the concluding bumper. I leave the last word on the last race to Mick Channon; I quote from The Times (Friday 16 November):

'Sgt Reckless would have won the bumper at Cheltenham on Sunday but he pulled a muscle in the week. I do think he's very good.'

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