Friday, March 02, 2018

Festival longshots in freezing temperatures

Eleven days to the start of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and the country is in the grip of snow, ice, blizzards and freezing temperatures; at the time of writing Monday is the earliest racing on turf could resume.

Today I purchased a copy of the Racing Post Cheltenham The Ultimate Guide which I'll work my way through in more detail in the coming days.

Meanwhile, here are some initial thoughts and ideas - for you to do with as you wish.


The Arkle
I tipped Footpad each-way for last season's Champion Hurdle; he finished fourth, beaten ten and a half lengths behind Buveur D'Air, My Tent Or Yours and Petit Mouchoir. He's proved particularly fleet of foot over the larger obstacles this year but at around 6/4 offers no value.

Potential winners amongst the entries include Petit Mouchoir, Saint Calvados (last five-year-old to come home in front was Voy Por Ustedes in 2006), Sceau Royal and Brain Power. I'm not particularly fond of this race but will look closely at Sceau Royal's chance nearer the time.

Champion Hurdle
This doesn't look the best of renewals. At around 20/1 Elgin will be of interest if connections decide to supplement.


Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Samcro is the Irish hotpot while On The Blind Side probably represents the best of the British form.

A word for a couple of the less fancied runners... Two entries from Tom George's yard look interesting; Summerville Boy also holds an entry in the Supreme on Tuesday while Black Op also holds an entry in the Albert Bartlett on Friday. I feel the latter is likely to appreciate the better ground.

I was pleased to see Tom Collins give a mention to Vision Des Flos. Being turned over at odds of 1/4f on his penultimate start at Hereford doesn't look very encouraging but a wind operation followed and he then beat Mercenaire (holds a Fred Winter entry) over 30 lengths.   

The one I've really been waiting for from that Hereford race is Smuggler's Blues who looked certain to be in the mix two out before fading away tamely to finish fourth. He may have had an issue but I haven't seen anything reported.

Champion Chase
Provided we get decent ground, an each-way interest in Special Tiara will be de rigueur. Henry De Bromhead's charge is eleven years old now but I simply love his style of racing; he's currently a 16/1 shot.


JLT Novices' Chase
Bigmartre has been doing all his chasing around two miles. Last year it looked as though he failed to stay two and a half in a handicap hurdle at Aintree. He's a year older now - and 25/1 looks tempting.   

Stayers' Hurdle
Another I'm hoping to see improvement from on better ground is The Worlds End; this one looked unlucky to fall two out in the Albert Bartlett last year. He was beaten 11 lengths by Sam Spinner in the Long Walk and then 16 lengths by Agrapart in the Cleeve on unsuitably heavy ground. He's currently priced at 25/1.


County Hurdle
Not a race for the faint-hearted and I include myself amongst their number. Flying Tiger won the Fred Winter last year; his fourth behind Elgin in the Kingwell last month reads well and 25/1 makes some appeal.

Global Citizen was impressive in the Dovecote at Kempton last weekend but I suspect connections may choose to go to Aintree.

Hunters Call's win in the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle (formerly The Ladbroke) at Ascot in December catches the eye; Elgin finished sixth that day.

Gold Cup
This year's renewal looks particularly open; on official ratings favourite Might Bite is there to be shot at so here's two longshots while I work through the rest of the form.

Tom George has talked up Double Shuffle's chance on the back of his one length second behind Might Bite in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. The trainer points out his charge has Cheltenham form in the book but my worry is he wouldn't be guaranteed to come up the hill in a Gold Cup. Double Shuffle is still available at 40/1.

Saphir Du Rheu is available at double those odds yet was only beaten six and a quarter lengths behind Sizing John when finishing fifth in last year's renewal. The horse has had his jumping problems in the past and last season I was amongst the many who thought he could never win a decent chase. However, over the course of the season, we saw steady improvement in the jumping department which culminated in that fine effort behind Sizing John. He fell in the National and then finished well behind Native River in the Denman at Newbury but he'll improve for that seasonal debut and there's just the hint he has been trained specifically with this race in mind. 80/1 is big.


Reamonnt said...

Terrible weather here in Ireland and in the UK too. Do you think Cheltenhams going will be soft this year. I like summerville Boy e/w for Supreme.

GeeDee said...

Hi Reamonnt,

Chris Cook's piece in yesterday's Guardian reports Simon Claisse cautious about predicting the usual 'good to soft' for the opening day of the Festival:

Summerville Boy's chance certainly won't be hindered by the forecast with a further 15mm precipitation predicted before the opening day.

A couple of days ago layers were quoting the prices below about the going on the opening day:
Good to soft 4/7
Soft 7/4

Today's prices (04.03.18):
Good to soft 5/6
Soft 11/10

The thaw has started; BBC Weather predicts temperatures of 8-9 degrees through this week and then up to double figures at the weekend:

The excitement builds... ;)

Reamonnt said...

Yes Ive got as we say in Ireland Cheltenham fever. I also looked at First Flow Kim Baileys horse who looks like a big improver? Getabird may hack up but at 5/4 no thanks. The clerk seems confident and Cheltenham dries out quickly. I will keep an eye on your blog throughout the weeks ahead. Best of luck to you!

GeeDee said...

Hi Reamonnt,

Yes, First Flow looked impressive winning the Rossington Main at Haydock in January. I can vaguely recall the TV interview Kim Bailey gave immediately after the race in which he stated unequivocally that First Flow would be put away now for next season. It seemed rather a bold statement at the time and the reason it comes back to mind was Kim seemed pretty determined in that view.

I don't know if connections have had a re-think.

Vinndication hails from the same yard and holds entries in the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett. His defeat of Western Ryder (fourth behind Summerville Boy in the Tolworth) in the Sidney Banks Memorial Hurdle at Huntingdon reads well; in the post-race report Bailey refers to him as the best novice in the yard:

That said, the pen-picture in The Ultimate Guide talks of Vinndication as a horse that takes some stoking which could be a disadvantage on quicker ground but he would certainly enter into calculations if it were to come up soft.

Those scribes at the RP have already been busy looking to identify horses which may benefit from, and those which may be disadvantaged by, soft ground:

I'm trying to save up all my good luck for next week; trust you're doing the same.

Good luck!

Reamonnt said...

Thanks for all that info. I have not had much luck at Cheltenham in the last 2 years so this year Ive decided to limit my poring over the stats. Its of course ultra competitive so getting a few winners is not easy. I somehow feel that the Irish horses would be at an advantage if its soft. I dont think I can back that up with hard facts but its something to consider. I will watch Davy Russells less obvious rides with interest. Do you think Alan King can get a winner this year he is overdue.

GeeDee said...

Hi Reamonnt,

I've just come off the phone discussing Cheltenham with a fellow racegoer - he'll be there every day next week and I'll meet up with him for Wednesday's card. This year, unusually, we spent as much time talking about the weather as the form.

On latest forecasts I think there's a fair chance it will ride soft, even soft, heavy in places on the first day.

Dounikos (Gordon Elliott) was on my short list for the four miler but an update this evening appears to indicate he'll run in the RSA for which he's 12/1 with Betfair this evening.

There was a discussion on the RP site earlier today about Irish horses being reasonably treated in the handicaps (by the British handicapper). Delta Work was the one example discussed; Gordon Elliott says he's going in the Pertemps on Thursday and he's generally priced at 16s.

I'll see what Alan King says in The Weekender tomorrow before I pass any opinion. I did fancy Sceau Royal in the Arkle but unfortunately the horse has met with a setback and doesn't run.