Friday, March 25, 2016

Cheltenham aftermath

Cheltenham's 2016 Festival has certainly left its mark on the layers.

David Williams of Ladbrokes is on record saying 'It's been the most expensive week here we can remember' while in Thursday's edition of The Times William Hill chief executive James Henderson bemoaned the fact that '55% of races had been won by favourites or second-favourites' going on to add: 'I've never known four losing days at Cheltenham in my 30-year career in bookmaking.'

In this week's Weekender Alistair Whitehouse-Jones has penned a paean to D N Russell, diplomat and jockey. Davy's TV interview minutes after being unseated from Zabana at the start of the JLT Novices' Chase stands as testimony to his diplomatic skills whilst his ride on Diamond King to collect the Coral Cup speaks for itself.

That article reminded me of a comment from Radio 5 Live's coverage during the week; to paraphrase - if you want to make money at the Festival, back Davy Russell. This year from a total of 13 rides D N Russell won on Diamond King (12/1) and Mall Dini (14/1), showing a profit of 15 points. I'll try to keep that in mind for next year.

Undecided on the highlight of the week? Watching the replays may help...

Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle
Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase
Don Cossack in the Gold Cup

The official handicapper seems suitably impressed with Thistlecrack's performance in winning the World Hurdle; allocated a rating of 174, Colin Tizzard's stable star is on an equal footing with the legendary Big Buck's.

Killer Crow, widely touted on the Festival preview circuit, failed to make the cut for his race. Last time out he finished second in a Grade A Handicap Chase at Leopardstown, two and a quarter lengths behind Empire Of Dirt who won the snappily-named Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate on Thursday. At the time of writing Gordon Elliott's charge holds an entry in Monday's Irish Grand National for which he is quoted at 16/1 by both Coral and bet365.  

Footballers behaving badly was a story reported in several media outlets on the Wednesday morning; obviously no one condones such behaviour. That said, even I, with a mere smattering of knowledge, know the history of the turf to be littered with examples of profligacy and dissipation.

Nicholas Clee in his book Eclipse tells the tale of a meat salesman who owns the horse and 'an adventurer who made his money through roguery and gambling. He is also the companion of the madam of one of London's most notorious brothels' while Nicholas Foulkes' Gentlemen And Blackguards depicts early Victorian society at a time of 'frenzied speculation, high stakes and low morals'.

In a letter to The Times published Wednesday 22.03.16 reader Richard Warnock picks up the theme, quoting the rector of Cheltenham from 1827:

"If you wish your child to plunge into the world's vain pleasures, to acquire a taste for dissipation, send him to Cheltenham races. Every species of profligacy - adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, envying, drunkenness, revellings and such like are promoted by a race week."

Good Lord! I don't recall the racecourse mentioning any of this in the promotional literature sent out back in October...

From Cheltenham to Newton Abbot - tomorrow's two mile Class 2 Handicap Chase at 3.15 has caught my attention; in last year's renewal Another Flutter comfortably beat Starkie and Ulck Du Lin.

From three five-day entries, Paul Nicholls lets Ulck Du Lin take his chance once again, this time off a mark eight pounds higher - the gelding has done most of his racing (and winning) on right-handed tracks.

Ut Majeur Aulmes beat Starkie a neck and four lengths last time out; taking into account David Pritchard's claim, they look closely matched here.

The two course and distance winners, Miss Tenacious and Easily Pleased, return following lengthy lay-offs which leads me to Keel Haul. Back in November this one beat Minella Present at Cheltenham but appears to have lost his way a little since. He was an intended runner in the 4.15 at Ludlow yesterday but was withdrawn and I don't know why. The declaration here suggests it wasn't too serious - Minella Present held five day entries for this and the Ludlow race but connections have taken up neither option.

On the back of that Cheltenham run in November and now sporting a visor for the first time, I'll chance Keel Haul at around 13/2.


TW said...

According to the Racing Post:

"KEEL HAUL was taken out of a similar contest at Ludlow on Thursday on account of the ground but he is proven on good and soft going and is given the chance to return to form in a first-time visor."

The ground at Ludlow was on reported to be on the faster side of good so presumably; with overnight rain forecast the going by post time may well be good to soft, soft in places so should be O.K for him. My concern would the the yard's current form, appear to be struggling a bit of late. If the rain did not come Easily Pleased could run a nice race but this looks unlikely so no bet for me.

Good luck.

GeeDee said...

Not much Easter joy with Keel Haul (11/2) I'm afraid. Ut Majeur Aulmes (9/2) took up the running three out; Ulck Du Lin was beaten two lengths with the selection a distant twenty two lengths further adrift in third.

Reader TW pointed out Easily Pleased's chance and he looked in the process of running a decent race when the rein broke and Richard Johnson was obliged to pull up.