Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Friday's Gold Cup

Watching Special Tiara win the Champion Chase at the track yesterday was a bit like being plugged into the mains for a couple of minutes but I'm cute enough to realise one winner isn't going to rescue an attritional season so when Grosvenor Casinos offered me a small inducement to include a link to the analysis their number-crunchers have carried out on tomorrow's Gold Cup, quite frankly it was too good an opportunity to knock back...

Their number-crunchers have crunched the numbers and Outlander is the pick; I see a couple of their experts are keen on Native River - the consensus amongst fellow racegoers yesterday was that the arrival of some rain would help his chance no end...

I backed last year's winner Don Cossack but as Paddy Brennan went to make that fateful move on Cue Card approaching the third last I thought second was the best I could hope for. Cue Card took an almighty tumble but, thankfully, was up in an instant with Colin Tizzard declaring 'there isn't a bother on him [Cue Card].' Tomorrow's race represents a chance of redemption for Paddy; you can be certain he'll be desperate to take it.

Cue Card is a remarkable specimen and seems as good as ever; however the handicapper dropped his official rating from 176 to 170 following his last run at Ascot - he now has just two pounds in hand over Native River and Outlander. The last horse older than ten to win the Gold Cup was What A Myth (aged 12) in 1969 but it should be said that Cue Card is no typical eleven-year-old gelding. Since 2000 the market leader has won on eight occasions.

From the same stable as last year's winner, Outlander merits every respect having beaten Djakdam, placed in the previous two Gold Cups and still only an eight-year-old, in the Lexus over three miles at Leopardstown this Christmas; previously Djakdam had beaten Outlander over an inadequate two and a half mile trip in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown.

Willie Mullins has endured more than his fair share of bad luck this year and with no winners after the first two days of the Festival there were a few questions being asked in some quarters yesterday; normal service has been resumed with the master trainer sending out Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Nichols Canyon and Let's Dance to win today.

Bristol De Mai was something of revelation winning the Peter Marsh in a common canter by 22 lengths on his penultimate start. He did not jump well when beaten by Native River the last day but that run can be ignored as he came home lame. He's not a horse I'm particularly fond of but 25/1 understates his chance; this is the first time he races beyond three miles.

On official ratings Champagne West doesn't have much to find with the principals to be in with a shout but on occasions his jumping is a cause for concern. Regular readers will know I've used that same comment in relation to Saphir Du Rheu's attempts over the larger obstacles; we've seen some improvement in that department on his last two runs but, together with Irish Cavalier (fifth in this last year) and Minella Rocco, he has at least twelve pounds to find to be competitive.

More Of That is in a similar boat but is highly regarded by his trainer and will appreciate better ground; this one looked unlucky when coming to grief at the last when still in with a chance in the Irish Gold Cup five weeks ago where Sizing John was all out to keep Empire Of Dirt (fourth behind Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair today) at bay.

Twelve months ago Sizing John finished second to Douvan in the Arkle so this extended three and a quarter mile trip may not play to his strengths but his price in the market tells you there are plenty out there who think he has a live chance.

Lizzie Kelly is all set to make history aboard Tea For Two by becoming the first female professional jockey to ride in the race while Smad Place is a front-running grey who was sixth in this event last year beaten some thirty eight lengths.

Thistlecrack may be missing from proceedings but it looks a very open renewal. I take Cue Card to lay to rest the ghosts of last year and will chance More Of That each-way on the back of his trainer's comments.

I have an informal long-standing arrangement with our Media Services people at work. At around 3.28 on Gold Cup day three of us creep quietly into their office (on hands and knees) and watch the race live on one of the many TV screens housed therein. The commentary is turned down and we are permitted to swap notes in running only in hushed tones; bizarrely, it sort of adds to the excitement of it all. Shouting one's selection up the hill in a close finish is considered extremely bad form and is, to all intents and purposes, forbidden; obscure threats of financial penalties have been mooted in the event of outbursts of such recalcitrant behaviour. Last year apart, you'll be pleased to hear that none of my previous twenty selections in this showpiece race have come anywhere near requiring additional vocal support; fortunately, they tend to weaken markedly on the long climb to the post, thereby ensuring I'm in no danger whatsoever of incurring a hefty regulatory fine.

Two selections for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup:

Cue Card win (5/1 in a number of places this evening);
More Of That each way at 14/1.

Reverse forecast anyone?


Anonymous said...

The Gold Cup is the Timefrom free race today so, for interest, I've included their ratings followed by my own in [].

188 [181] CUE CARD(GB)
185 [177] DJAKADAM(FR)
181p [178] NATIVE RIVER(IRE)
180 [177] OUTLANDER(IRE)
179 [176] SIZING JOHN(GB)
178 [170] MORE OF THAT(IRE)
176 [176] BRISTOL DE MAI(FR)
176 [175] SMAD PLACE(FR)
175 [170] TEA FOR TWO(GB)
172 [168] SAPHIR DU RHEU(FR)

As you note it does look an open renewal and on my book the 2 horses that look over priced are Champagne West (20/1, best 22/1) who looks revitalised under Henery De Bromhead and Bristol De Mai (25/1 best 33/1) both come with question marks but I'll take an EW interest in the pair with Paddy Power (4 places 1/5 odds). If I was a layer I'd be looking to take on the favourite who looks far too short at 3/1. Cue Card is the most likely winner and whilst 5/1 looks a bit short I hope you can shout him home in a loud whisper!

Two other outsiders I'll be taking a chance on today are:

Soldier In Action (28/1 Paddy Power) who easily beat Diable De Sivola (ran well enough in the Fred Winter) at Doncaster last time out and could still have more to offer.

Ozzie The Oscar (50/1) is a small speculative punt; he's disappointed the last twice but is back on better ground today and his form when 2nd giving West Approach 10lbs would give him a chance off a mark 135.

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts this week.

Good Luck!


GeeDee said...

Many thanks for those ratings, TW; Agree, Bristol De Mai is particularly overpriced.

Festival summary post to follow over next few days.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

The way Sizing John (7/1) took off up the hill after the last, I'm already wondering how many more Gold Cups he has in the tank; apparently one layer has quoted 6/1 for next year's race. Before you rush off, Minella Rocco (18/1) was fairly motoring at the death and snatched second from Native River (7/2) with 3/1 favourite Djakadam (fourth).

Win selection Cue Card (9/2) was never jumping particularly well. Niggled four out he came to grief at the same fence that caught him out last year.

A respectable run from 14/1 chance More Of That but it was no more than that. Unable to threaten the leaders, he finished sixth behind Saphir Du Rheu (33/1) whose improvement in the jumping department continues. I guess that's about as good as he is...

A brief word to empathise with TW who tipped 50/1 shot Ozzie The Oscar in the County. Ozzie led before the last and was headed near the finish, beaten a neck and a neck into third by Arctic Fire (20/1) and L'Ami Serge (25/1). Just how tough is that?