Friday, December 14, 2012

Cheltenham before Christmas

Christmas just around the corner but we've witnessed a distinct lack of Christmas spirit between trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith in what The Times dubbed the 'Kauto Star wars' earlier this week. Smith's decision to pursue a career in dressage with Kauto has clearly upset those at Ditcheat. Thursday's Daily Mail painted a graphic picture of the extent to which this relationship had broken down when Smith took Nicholls to task over his pronunciation of the horse's name; after all those glory days, it really is sad to see the partnership end this way but, as in most sports, money talks and we should never forget it's an owner's prerogative to do as he (or she) wishes as the owner is the one who pays the bills.

Tomorrow's feature at Prestbury Park, the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup, will be run on testing ground. At the time of writing several layers have Walkon and Unioniste 9/2 joint favourites with Cristal Bonus a 6/1 chance; in the past decade just one favourite has obliged while all winners have been aged between six and eight years old in the same timeframe, sats which don't bode well for Unioniste. Walkon has an obvious chance on his three lengths second to Al Ferof in the Paddy Power Gold Cup run at this track over a similar distance and on similar ground four weeks ago (Nadiya De La Vega third, Quantitativeasing and Micheal Flips both pulled up). Alan King's charge looks the percentage call but in the past I've never found the grey easy to catch right and have had my fingers burnt on a couple of occasions. I'll give Walkon another chance.

The conditions of the International Hurdle (3.05) favour Zarkander and Paul Nicholls' five-year-old has the benefit of a run under his belt; he's priced up favourite. The last reigning champion to take this was Comedy Of Errors in 1973 but I'm tempted to chance Rock On Ruby who has won after the summer break in the past two seasons. Harry Fry was not a name known to many when the gelding took the crown last March - at that time Mr Fry was in charge of Nicholls' satellite yard and my guess is both the trainer and jockey Noel Fehily will be pretty keen to show that was no fluke. This evening Labrokes, Paddy Power and Stan James all offer 9/4 - sponsor Stan James also offers a free £10 bet if you bet £10 on this race. Rock On Ruby is the selection.

Our Father went into many notebooks last time and is declared for the novice chase at 12.45. Court In Motion, his main opponent, has the 1.45 at Lingfield as the preferred engagement; the ground for that Lingfield race is described as heavy. Court In Motion has never won over three miles whereas the trip and ground should suit Houblon Des Obeaux and Venetia Williams had a double today with Tenor Nivernais (7/1 Bangor 12.00) and Plein Pouvoir (12/1 Cheltenham 12.45).

If I remember correctly the Relkeel (3.40) has struggled for entries in the past and just three for tomorrow's renewal does not look good.              

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

Christmas may be just around the corner but there were no Christmas presents hidden in these selections...

Burnt fingers once again with Walkon (7/2f) although, to be fair, the horse ran his race. However, coming to the last, the grey had no answer to the joker in the pack which proved to be the four-year-old Unioniste (15/2). This was an exceptional performance by one so young; Paul Nicholls' charge bounded up the hill to beat the selection 11 lengths. After the race the winning trainer indicsted his charge would be given a month off and probably revert to novice chasing - he is likely to be given an entry in the RSA Chase for which Paddy Power and Stan James quote 20/1.

Rock On Ruby (5/2) was weak enough in the market before the International and the market called it right as 6/5 favourite Zarkander held Grandouet (5/2) a length at the line with the well-beaten selection a further six behind in third. Today Harry Fry has suggested his charge will come on for the run and is likely to have one more race before defending his crown next March.

At Cheltenham Our Father couldn't get near Emma Lavelle's Highland Lodge who may develop into a Welsh National type in the future.

Lavelle had a red letter Saturday with four winnners at three different courses including Lingfield where Court In Motion (even money) was ridden from the front as though stamina was no issue and so it proved as Houblon Des Obeaux (7/4) could never land a blow, eventually going down one and a quarter lengths.