Monday, March 13, 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Tuesday

Firstly a quick word of thanks to readers Reamonnt and TW for pointing me in the direction of two sites that should prove extremely useful in the week ahead:

GaultStats is for those who like to analyse trends before making a decision;

At The Races' dedicated Cheltenham microsite has all the latest news, views and comment.

The Festival is a marathon not a sprint so in the interests of my bank balance (and yours?) just two selections for the opening day...

1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
Favourite Melon is clearly held in very high regard but with just one hurdle run under his belt he looks short on experience. Trainer Willie Mullins states in the Weekender 8-12.03.17:

"There's no doubt he has the ability to run a big race and Fiveforthree won the Neptune for us after one run over hurdles."

I was surprised by the turn of foot Ballyandy showed in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month. Nigel Twiston-Davies has opted to run here rather than in the Neptune or the Coral Cup and right now he must be thinking he's made the correct call as a couple of potential dangers have fallen by the wayside - Moon Racer goes in the Champion Hurdle while Betfair Hurdle second Movewiththetimes misses the Festival after picking up an injury.

Last year's Champion Bumper winner is the top one on RPR and official ratings but the nagging doubt is stable form - an RTF figure of 38% looks on the low side with just one win from twenty one runners in the past fortnight. Contrast that with Chris Gordon who has sent out ten winners from his last fifteen runners! In case you were wondering, Chris has one entry at the Festival - Remiluc in the Martin Pipe on Friday.

Bunk Off Early heads the Irish challenge and makes plenty of appeal to this employee in any Festival week, River Wylde represents last year's winning trainer Nicky Henderson and Ben Pauling's High Bridge is worth a second look at an each-way price but I'm going to remain loyal to Ballyandy who did me a favour in the photo finish to last year's bumper.

Ballyandy is the selection.

3.30 Champion Hurdle
In November J.P. McManus' Yanworth, second in the Neptune last year, beat Lil Rockerfeller over two miles three and a half furlongs in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot. Immediately afterwards the general consensus was connections would step up in trip and target Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle. That plan was quickly blown out of the water for the very next week Unowhatimeanharry, in the same ownership, beat Ballyoptic 'easily' over a three mile trip at Newbury. Fast forward four months and we find Yanworth, still unbeaten this season, favourite for the Champion Hurdle despite displaying some rather indifferent hurdling in the interim. It all just seems slightly incongruous. Admittedly, this year's race couldn't be considered a vintage renewal, but with twelve set to face the starter it remains wide open.

Nicky Henderson saddles three. Buveur D'Air, third behind Altior in last year's Supreme, would probably appreciate more cut underfoot; he beat Petit Mouchoir a neck at Aintree on soft ground last April.

Brain Power has his ground so it's not immediately obvious why he is a bigger price but his eighth over course and distance in the Greatwood Hurdle behind North Hill Harvey (holds entry in Friday's County Hurdle) just leaves a nagging doubt - does he handle the track?

At the age of ten, My Tent Or Yours, placed in this race on two previous occasions, is probably past his best.

I keep coming back to Petit Mouchoir, eighth behind Altior in last year's Supreme when trained by Willie Mullins, top-rated on current RPR ratings and equal top-rated with Yanworth by the official handicapper. He likes to race prominently, has won his last two from the front and would probably have won the Fighting Fifth but for a crashing fall three out. Is he good enough to win a Champion Hurdle from the front? Henry De Bromhead's charge is a 7/1chance.

But wait, there's further intrigue with Footpad whose form is closely linked to that of Petit Mouchoir. The latter has beaten the former twice this season but there was just a hint the last day that Daryl Jacob had held up Footpad, third in the previous year's Triumph, a shade too long ('nearest finish' comment noted). Willie Mullins' charge was in receipt of two pounds at Leopardstown; he states in the Weekender 08-12.03.17:

"...I expect the undulating track [Cheltenham] to play to his strengths, so he should be able to give Petit Mouchoir a good run."

After his annus horribilis you can see why Mullins would be mighty keen to reverse the form although it's noted five-year-olds have a poor record in this race. That said, those layers are offering 20/1... I fear it's Siren voices I can hear calling but their song is so damned seductive it's pointless trying to resist...

Footpad is the each-way selection.

4.10 Mares' Hurdle
Before a decision had been taken on Limini's participation in the Champion I had Vroum Vroum Mag down as a vulnerable favourite in the Mares' Hurdle (4.10), a race she won last year. She looked to have a hard race at Doncaster six weeks ago but it's all academic now as Ruby Walsh rides Limini who will oppose her stablemate in this year's renewal. After all that I'm going to watch from the sidelines.

Good luck to one and all at this year's Festival!    


Anonymous said...

I know you are keen on Ballyandy and I have NTD running at around 80% on my trainer ratings so I’d not worry too much about stable form.

However I cannot let the 66/1 about Glaring pass without taking a minimum stake interest. A £50K purchase from Juddmonte Farms Glaring was just short of Group Class when trained in France by Andre Fabre (a level much higher than today’s favourite Melon achieved in the same sphere). Since joining Amanda Perrett it is fair to say that his flat form has fallen below that level but he made a winning start when switched to hurdle when beating Burbank (now rated 134) and Top Tug (now rated 130). He was then in the process of running a big race in Kempton Boxing Day Novice Hurdle won by today’s rival Elgin (now rated 143) when looking sure to be at least involved in the finish before making a right mess of the 2nd last. An ex flat horse is not the normal type to win this race but if he has been well schooled since his Boxing Day mishap he is still unexposed over hurdles and an argument could be made to rate him 140+ which will put him right in the mix here and entirely possible that he could therefore make the frame. Very speculative but stranger things have happened!

I’m hoping Leighton Aspell gets off to a flyer as in the Ultima Handicap I’m going to take a chance on Junction Fourteen. He still looks like he has some scope off his current mark, conditions should suit and his form after 100+ days off is 2 from 4 so at 40/1 I’m taking a chance he’s been kept back for this with 5 and even 6 places available he looks an EW shout.

The New One’s chance of winning the Champion Hurdle has probably gone, but his form this season is at least on a level of previous years and in a below par renewal he must have a chance of making the frame at 14/1 (4 place 1/5 odds with SkyBet).

Finally, in the closing handicap I’ve taken a chance that Mixboy has more progression than the 13lbs he was put up for strolling home at Musselburgh in January. It was only a 4-runner affair but the form looks healthy enough and he’s another horse with a great record fresh (only lost once when running after 60+ days off).

I could be a lot poorer come Day 2!

Best of luck with the PG's Tips.


GeeDee said...

I like the case you make for Glaring, TW. Best of luck with your selections for tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

I should have heeded the "..marathon not a sprint..' advice.

Glaring ran to his odds and was the first beaten, good effort by Ballyandy but I’m not convinced the interference he suffered cost him the race? Labaik never made my radar.

Junction Fourteen was the first beaten.....a bit of a theme developing here; I thought it was too big an ask but it was great weight carrying performance by Un Temps Pour Tout.

You were right to doubt Yanworth but Petit Mouchoir confirmed form with Footpad whilst The New One just was not good enough.

The two PG's Tips selections ran well enough to provide hope for the rest of the week.....but back to the drawing board for me!


GeeDee said...

Tomorrow's another day, TW. I'll be at the track but I'm far from hopeful on a very difficult card.

I watched today's opener in a Paddy Power shop (view intermittently obstructed by a cleaning lady) and I haven't had a chance to run the replay. Looked as though Ballyandy was bumped and suffered slight interference quite early which saw him lose his pitch. I was never really happy with his position after that - he jumped one on the far side quite slowly. The writing was on the wall three out; he wasn't quick enough and I have no complaints. I wouldn't pick the winner even if you asked me now.

Reasonable effort from Footpad but I was hoping for a much closer finish to that one...

Good luck for tomorrow!

GeeDee said...

Ballyandy (3/1jf) appeared a little tapped for toe half a mile out; he stayed on into fourth but the leaders had gone. A big surprise in the opener which went to the unconsidered Labaik (25/1) who swept past Melon (3/1jf) and River Wylde (8/1) with the minimum of fuss to win as he liked.

Yanworth started to struggle and went backwards from three out. Buveur D'Air (5/1) took the Champion in some style with My Tent Or Yours (16/1) second, long-time leader Petit Mouchoir (6/1) third and selection Footpad (14/1) fourth, unable to reverse form with the third.