Friday, January 26, 2018

Cheltenham Trials Day 2018

Tomorrow's Cheltenham Festival Trials Day should provide punters with plenty of pointers for the main event which is now less than seven weeks away.

Connections of runners in the Cotswold Chase (2.25) will also be looking for some insights from a race that looks far more open than a cursory glance at the market might initially indicate.

Favourite Bristol De Mai trounced his field in Haydock's Betfair Chase back in November but his price for this has drifted noticeably during the week. After he failed to fire in the King George over Christmas, he was diagnosed to be suffering from ulcers and has received the appropriate treatment.

From a trends perspective, Bristol looks one to take on. The last time the favourite obliged was in 1999 (Cyfor Malta) while Exotic Dancer's victory in 2007 was the last time a horse younger than nine years of age came home in front.

Unlike several in the field Bristol De Mai has shown he can act at this track - he finished 20 lengths seventh behind Sizing John in the Gold Cup last March - but his very best form has come on soft or heavy ground; I just wonder to what extent the ground at Cheltenham has dried out over the past couple of days.

At the time of writing Stan James offer 15/8.

Of course, identifying an opposable favourite is barely half the battle. The next four in the market have no noteworthy form over the Cheltenham fences.

Both The Last Samuri and American have their first run here. The former has victories at Doncaster and Kempton on the cv and receives weight from all his opponents except Singlefarmpayment; the latter is known to be fragile with connections openly admitting this is a retrieval mission after a poor display in the Hennessy. Sent off favourite that day American was done no favours by the standing start (my tip, Label Des Obeaux, suffered similarly) but had looked impressive last season when winning at Warwick and then giving Rock The Kasbah six pounds and an eight length beating at Uttoxeter.

Definitly Red was pulled up in the 2015 Albert Bartlett Hurdle and then the 2016 Festival four miler. He beat The Last Samuri 14 lengths in last year's Grimthorpe at Doncaster but Kim Bailey's charge was out of sorts at the time.

Tea For Two, third in the King George, got no further than the second fence in last year's Gold Cup but three weeks later went out and beat Cue Card a neck in the Aintree Bowl, recording his first win on a left-handed track in the process.

Nick Williams' charge was over-excited by the preliminaries in the Gold Cup; connections will be doing their utmost to ensure Tea For Two reaches the start without any mishaps tomorrow so they can watch their horse run on its merits and then make a decision about participation in this year's renewal.

The horses with form over the Cheltenham fences are those the punters appear to have rejected; Perfect Candidate, Singlefarmpayment and Theatre Guide are course and distance winners.

Perfect Candidate tries blinkers for the first time but the yard is going through a quiet spell while Theatre Guide has some decent efforts to his name and has undergone a wind operation since finishing a well-beaten third behind Present Man in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton.

Singlefarmpayment took a crunching fall when making ground up the home straight in the Hennessy and connections have indicated their charge will be ridden more positively tomorrow; he's the lowest- rated in the field on official ratings and has enough to find to be competitive.

A rather trappy affair; a bit of a fudge, I know, but I'm going to take an each-way interest in Tea For Two at 9/1. If he runs his race and takes to the track he holds a chance of coming home in front. On the other hand...

Like many, I'll be watching the Cleeve (3.35) - as well as all the other races - notebook in hand. With due respect to those concerned, it seems a number of handlers have identified this year's Stayers' Hurdle as a weaker affair than normal.

Sam Spinner currently heads the market on the back of an impressive win in Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle last month but Jedd O'Keefe's charge has never run on anything quicker than good to soft and there's a fair chance the ground will ride quicker than that in six and a half weeks' time.

A decent showing tomorrow is likely to see a contraction in the best prices currently shown below for the Stayers' Hurdle:

Finian's Oscar 12/1
Wholestone 16/1
Beer Goggles 20/1
The Worlds End 25/1
Thomas Campbell 25/1
Colin's Sister 33/1
Ex Patriot 66/1

In particular Finian's Oscar may not have taken to fences this season but Team Tizzard have maintained their charge still retains a 'massive engine'.

Mulchays Hill brings the best form into the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.00). Tikkanbar faces a tough task conceding weight to the majority of his opponents; he's a decent prospect but his hurdling remains a work in progress.


Anonymous said...

BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)

RTG,Horse,% WC
189,BRISTOL DE MAI(FR),21.73
185,TEA FOR TWO(GB),19.39

With rain falling until post time Simon Claisse has stated "If the forecast is right I would expect the ground to be much the same as it was for the New Year's Day meeting [heavy]."

Given this I’ve set the going for my system to Soft, Heavy in places and set the revised race distance to 3M 2F and 70 yards (around 3/4 furlong further than advertised).

These changes should suit Bristol De Mai (BDM) but I agree he looks an opposable favourite at the odds.

I can see the potential value in Tea For Two but fear the updated conditions may not play to his strengths.

American could still be the real deal however he’d need to improve further on his Uttoxeter win to take this and at the odds I’d rather be watching him than playing.

Definitely Red is still progressing and I can see him running a big race without quite been good enough.

It’s close to 2-years since The Last Samuri won a race but this has ensured he races here without a penalty in near perfect conditions. I can see him tracking BDM, taking up the race after the 2nd last and pulling clear coming up the hill! Odds of 5/1 look fair rather than generous, not helped by being Tom Segal’s selection, so I’ll not be going in to deep.

Best of luck


GeeDee said...

Hi TW,

Yes, I didn't foresee the arrival of more rain this morning. A make or break day for American, I feel, and The Last Samuri in with every chance.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

The rain arrived; the going was changed to heavy after the second race.

A slog in the mud wasn't for Tea For Two (17/2); the leaders started to get away on the second circuit and he was unable to maintain his position. He was tailed off and pulled up before the second last.

Definitly Red (7/1) struck a blow for the North beating American (9/2) eight lengths with Bristol De Mai holding The Last Samuri half a length for third. Brian Ellison has a Gold Cup horse on his hands (25/1 Ladbrokes) while Harry Fry indicated an entry in the showpiece would be a possibility if it came up soft; he also hinted American might come on again for this, his first proper race of the season.

The favourite didn't jump well and connections have said they won't be going the Gold Cup route.

Anonymous said...

Post the Cotswold Chase, Simon Claisse is in a spot of bother over the advertised, updated and actual distance of the race.

Advertised: 3M 1F 56YDS [25.25F]
Updated: 3M 2F 70YDS [26.31F]
Actual: 3M 1F 170YDS [25.77F]


GeeDee said...

Yes, saw this story, TW. To quote Simon Rowlands:

"...there seems to be a culture in some parts of racing that dropping the odd clanger is par for the oourse."

In a previous, callow lifetime, having read 'Mordin On Time' and armed with a Superform annual, I spent a season trying to compile my own speed ratings.

Another instance of a cunning plan that fell by the wayside - too many anomalies, many of which looked like races run over a distance different from the one advertised.

Undoubtedly, reporting of distance changes has improved but there's no accounting for data input errors... If a similar error occurred in a three runner novice chase at Plumpton, would we be any the wiser?

Anonymous said...

I think you are right, outside of the high profile races the actual recorded race distance might not be always be as accurate as we would hope.

“In a previous, callow lifetime, having read 'Mordin On Time' and armed with a Superform annual, I spent a season trying to compile my own speed ratings.”

Superform [twice] Weekly [and the annuals] is the best service I ever used; the service transformed me from a losing punter to a break even or, at times, a much better investor.

In the early 80’s when horse racing data was less readily available than it is today, Superform provide me with an edge that permitted me to quite nicely supplement my income.

It’s a real shame that Superform could not adapt from its paper based postal service to an Internet service.


GeeDee said...

Hear, hear!

Still have a number of Superform annuals from the mid 90s onwards stored away. I must dig one out sometime and write a blog post... ;)