Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Wednesday

Traditionally Wednesday's highlight is the Queen Mother Champion Chase; this year's renewal looks a race to enjoy rather than bet on as Sprinter Sacre looks set for an exhibition round.

Nicky Henderson's star has frightened off most of the opposition - with just seven in the field my cunning plan to chance Mail De Bievre each-way has been thwarted. Tom George's inmate has been supplemented at a cost of £17,500 and boasts decent French form over two and a half miles; he raced freely while jumping with exuberance on his debut for the yard before appearing to run out of petrol over the three mile trip at Newbury.

Feedback from a couple of Festival Preview evenings makes me loathe to oppose Willie Mullins' Pont Alexandre in the Neptune; for future reference Sizing Gold is reported to be held in high regard by connections.

With Dynaste heading for the Jewson on Thursday and Back In Focus going in the first race on this card, the RSA market has an open look to it. Houblon Des Obeaux has appeared awkward over the fences on occasions while Hadrian's Approach is a robust sort who tends to throw in a poor leap every now and again. This is a big ask for Goulanes on only his second try over the larger obstacles while Lord Windermere has never raced beyond two miles five before. Of the Willie Mullins pair Terminal is rated four pounds higher than Boston Bob yet the former is 25/1 while the latter is priced up favourite. By opting to ride Unioniste, Ruby Walsh has chosen to ignore their chances and, as Walsh has already shown exemplary powers of decision-making (Champagne Fever and Hurricane Fly), Unioniste gets the nod.

The Coral and the Fred Winter look extremely difficult; one that caught my eye in the 4.40 was Kim Bailey's Milord. This one brings decent Flat form to the table and ran well behind Chatterbox (goes in the Neptune at 2.05) last time out. For those who must, he's an each-way chance at around 20/1.

Over the years I've usually gone to the track on the Wednesday - unfortunately I won't be there this year - and the concluding bumper is a race I always like; this year's field contains several interesting runners. Back in November Mick Channon had to withdraw Sgt Reckless from the bumper at the Open Meeting on account of a small setback. The Times' racing correspondent Alan Lee reported Channon as saying the horse would have won, a nugget that I duly reported on the blog. I can now report that in the intervening four months Sgt Reckless is the name of the horse that has generated the most Google hits on the blog - make of that what you will. In early January Sgt Reckless traded at 33/1 but he's now 7s and Flat jockey Richard Hughes has obtained a special licence to ride in tomorrow's race.

The four-year-old Le Vent D'Antan heads a strong Irish challenge while Willie Mullins saddles three with Walsh riding Briar Hill and Mr P. Mullins Union Dues.

40/1 looks a big a price about Pure Science. After the withdrawal of three runners last week (including Imperial Commander from the Gold Cup) the form of the yard is a worry but The New One's running in the Neptune should provide a yardstick.

I'm Fraam Govan is owned by Sir Alex Ferguson while most of the four-year-olds catch the eye. Joseph O'Brien, another Flat jockey, rides Shield for his father Aidan and I've heard a word for Vieux Lion Rouge and Johnny Og - both will be worth monitoring in the future.

This year I've come across more tips for this race than I can shake a stick at but the selection has to be... Sgt Reckless!

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