Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - Wednesday

At 5/2 Sire De Grugy heads the market for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at 3.20.

That's a short enough price about a horse that has been beaten on his two previous runs at the track (by Captain Conan in November 2012 and Kid Cassidy a year later), would prefer more cut underfoot and is probably better racing right-handed. Had Sprinter Sacre been in the line-up, Sire De Grugy wouldn't be running but that comment applies to a few in the field.

Captain Conan probably needed the outing when third to Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December but he hasn't been seen since; it's a worry he comes to this without a recent run. Kid Cassidy was receiving ten pounds when beating Sire De Grugy three and a quarter lengths in the Schloer Chase; the favourite looks weighted to reverse that form.

Just three favourites have obliged in the past decade and only one horse older than nine has won in the same timeframe, the great Moscow Flyer in 2005.

Somersby seems to have been around forever but is just ten years old and has been in decent form this term, winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter before finishing four lengths behind Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek. He unseated Dominic Elsworth in this race last year, a trick he repeated the last day at Ascot. Hardly an ideal preparation but you might say that is factored into a quote of 16/1...

I'll chance that Nicky Henderson has Captain Conan back to his best; both Coral and William Hill offer 5/1 this evening.

The RSA (2.05) has a decidedly open look to it with many of the fancied runners bringing relatively little chasing experience to the table - two or three runs in smallish fields is a comment that applies to  Ballycasey, Corrin Wood, Morning Assembly, Smad Place, Sam Winner and Le Bec.

You certainly cannot say the same about Carlingford Lough who won the Galway Plate last July and came home second in the Kerry National at Listowel in the autumn; he looked unfortunate to unseat last time in a race won by Ballycasey. The bigger prices have disappeared now though and only one eight year old has come home first in the past decade - Rule Supreme in 2004.

With the ground drying out, I'll take an each-way interest in Sam Winner (14/1 Coral).

In the past couple of weeks TheTimes' Andy Stephens has attended a few Festival Preview Nights in the company of Patrick Mullins, son of trainer Willie. Patrick is quoted in today's paper as saying: 'Faugheen is much better than Rathvinden...'

Faugheen is the top-rated animal in the Neptune at 1.30 but has been the subject of a couple of negative vibes here and there in the build-up while Red Sherlock beat Rathvinden two and half lengths in receipt of three pounds the last day. I was impressed with Red Sherlock then and will stay loyal to David Pipe's charge. A much-improved performance from Charlie Longsdon's Killala Quay is expected while Nicky Henderson's Royal Boy has been paid a compliment by stablemate Josses Hill (previously beaten 22 lengths by Faugheen in a bumper) who came home second in the Supreme earlier today.

Course and distance winner Red Sherlock (9/2 Paddy Power) gets the nod.

Finally, you know you're getting old when you see the Coral Cup entries headed by Dunguib at the ripe old age of eleven. It seems only yesterday he won the bumper by an astonishing ten lengths but all that happened way back in 2009...

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