Sunday, March 08, 2020

Cheltenham Festival 2020 - Tuesday

It's been a messy season all round and this year's Festival takes place with the threat posed by coronavirus on everyone's mind.

As always, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle opens the meeting (Tuesday 1.30); this renewal looks particularly trappy. Asterion Forlonge has been well tipped up and likes to race from the front but his tendency to jump right would be a worry.

Gordon Elliott had indicated Envoi Allen might run in the Supreme rather the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Wednesday 1.30) if the ground turned up testing; after walking the course on Saturday he indicated Envoi Allen goes in the Ballymore.

At present the going is described as soft with further rain predicted on Monday evening.

This year the showcase race on the first day, the Champion Hurdle (3.30), has been routinely declared as substandard and 'wide open' by the world and his wife; the final declarations number seventeen.

The Nicky Henderson trained Epatante heads the market and her seven pounds mares' allowance looks significant. She has won four of her five hurdle races to date, her only defeat coming in the mares' novices' hurdle here last year. That course form leaves a question mark but she comes here a much fresher horse after winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day (Silver Streak second, Ballyandy third, Fusil Raffles pulled up). The favourite has obliged on four occasions in the past decade; the last three mares to win this race: Dawn Run (1984); Flakey Dove (1994); Annie Power (2016).

Pentland Hills won last year's Triumph Hurdle well but he has been turned over twice this term and makes little appeal at the price.

Cilaos Emery has been supplemented so connections clearly feel their charge will be competitive.

Given the open-looking nature of the race, a number of runners have been put up at each-way prices including Supasundae, Coeur Sublime, Ballyandy and Silver Streak (for me, not always fluent enough at his obstacles).

On official handicap ratings the best horses in the race are:

163 Sharjah (prefers better ground)
160 Supasundae
159 Epatante
159 Cilaos Emery
159 Cornerstone Lad

Cornerstone Lad pulled off a shock when beating Buveur D'Air in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle; it later came to light that Buveur D'Air had suffered a freak injury when jumping the penultimate flight.

Micky Hammond's charge was then beaten threequarters of length into third in Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial, trying to concede six pounds to Ballyandy and three pounds to Pentland Hills. That form reads well.

He prefers soft / heavy ground and, to date, has finished in the first three on his fourteen starts over hurdles. His handler has indicated he doesn't have to race from the front - and perhaps won't get there with Not So Sleepy in the field! Hughie Morrison's charge is not for the faint-hearted but, if he gets to the front, he could easily outrun his odds; 40/1 has long since disappeared; at the time of writing he is a 25/1 chance. 

Cornerstone Lad (33/1) is the each-way selection with most layers paying one fifth the odds four places.

Off a mark of 159 Vinndication heads the market and the weights for the Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50).

Last year the Trevor Hemmings owned Lake View Lad carried top weight off a mark of 155 and finished third, two lengths behind the second, another Hemmings owned horse, Vintage Clouds. Vintage Clouds is rated seven pounds higher this time (151); connections are probably using this as a stepping stone to the Grand National.

Several commentators have put up Kildisart on the back of his recent fifth behind Mister Malarky in the Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton. He has been declared with first-time cheekpieces but I just wonder whether he might prefer better ground.

Irish trained runners don't have the best of records in this in recent years (last winner Dun Doire in 2006). Discorama's previous two runs have been disappointing but he has had a wind operation since and is near the head of the market.

I had Now McGinty pencilled in for this but he's nowhere to be seen.

At the weights the one to catch my eye is previous course and distance winner The Conditional. He has made marked improvement since moving over the water to David Bridgwater's yard in Gloucestershire and found only De Rasher Counter too good in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November (Mister Malarky ten lengths adrift in sixth). He didn't appear to stay thee miles five at Warwick the last day; the handicapper has relented and dropped him three pounds for that effort.

At a bigger price Activial looks to have been trained with this as his target. He finished sixth last year  - beaten just over seven lengths - and he lost a right hind shoe that day. He tries this year six pounds better off and his last run behind Native River at Newbury should have put him spot on. However, at ten years of age, the trends suggest he may struggle to come home in front  - the only ten-year-old to win in the past decade was Chief Dan George in 2010.

William Hill offer 9/1 and pay one fifth the odds five places - The Conditional is the each-way selection.

The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle sees a clash between Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle while Irish runners filled the first three places in last year's running of the 4.50 (cf. previous post). It's not a bet for me but Gordon Elliott has indicated Galvin, sixth behind City Island in last year's Ballymore, is expected go well.               


Anonymous said...

Day 1: GOING SOFT [Part 1]

1:30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f
Mrs Donnelly stands a good chance of heading the leading owner table after the 1st race of the meeting! It’s hard to get away from those at the head of the market; I’d have Asterion Forlonge as the favourite on what we’ve seen thus far on the racecourse and the system priced him up just below the 5/2 mark so there does look to be value at odds of 3/1+

1PT Win Asterion Forlonge @ 4.1 [Decimal odds, Betfair net of commission]

2:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase (Grade 1) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m
Our Merlin aside this looks a competitive renewal. It is possible Notebook is one of those that only does enough to win without looking particularly impressive. I liked the shape of this race for an EW play but none of the leading layers are offering enhanced place terms, so I’ll sit it out unless that changes.

2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1f
If Vinndication’s jumping holds together he may well run out an easy winner but odds of around 6/1 looks short enough. Looking for one to make the frame at a bigger price I’m going to ignore the trends and opt for the fully exposed 11yo Cogry at 25/1. Cogry ticks all the required boxes having ran 3 great races this term over course and distance on similar going and there is every chance the old boy can run another big race and snatch a place without perhaps being quite good enough to win it.

1PT EW Cogry 25/1 5 places 1/5 odds


Anonymous said...

Day 1: GOING SOFT [Part 2]

3:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f

I’d love Cornerstone Lad to win this for the North and he must have a shout at grabbing one of those enhanced places. It is hard to know just how good Epatante might be but her impressive win in the Christmas Hurdle against some solid yardsticks bodes well and my system has allocated her a rating of 167 [8lbs above her BHA rating] and even this might be below her true capabilities. She deserves to be favourite and may well reward her followers.

That said I’m going to take an EW punt on Sharjah; I don’t think anyone knows if he’ll be on a going day in this but if he is then he might be the one that serves it up to Epatante. I’m not sure that he does necessarily prefer better ground rather he just has in and out performances.

1PT EW Sharjah 12/1 4 places 1/5 odds

4:10 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle) (Grade 1) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4f

Promises to be a fascinating duel between the two market leaders; a race I’ll sit out and simply enjoy.

4:50 Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 (5yo+ 0-145) 2m4f

I’ve taken two at a price in this. Earlofthecotswolds (25/1) was a decent enough hurdler and looks set to be as least as good over fences, comes here a fresh horse after his win at Exeter in December. Champagne Mystery (25/1) has a few pounds to find on ratings but he is unexposed and the almost certainly will be better suited by this race than the sharp 2-mile event he ran in last time out.

0.5PT EW Earlofthecotswolds 25/1 5 places 1/5 odds
0.5PT EW Champagne Mystery 25/1 5 places 1/5 odds

5:30 National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m6f
No Bet.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Good luck, TW!

Anonymous said...

William Hill offer 9/1 and pay one fifth the odds five places - The Conditional is the each-way selection.

Very well done....


Sandracer said...

Brandan Powell - Cooler Than A Fan..

GeeDee said...

The Conditional (15/2) provided an uncharacteristically good start to the Festival; despite a stumble at the penultimate flight, he took it up after the last and held the challenge of the fast-finishing Kildisart (10/1) a neck on the line with Discorama (11/2jf) third and Vinndication (11/2jf) fourth.

The talk beforehand was all about a wide open Champion Hurdle but in the event Epatante (2/1f) easily proved herself the best horse in the race, scooting clear from the last to win in impressive style. TW's each-way pick Sharjah (16/1) was the only one to get anywhere near, finishing three lengths adrift in second, with Darver Star was a further three and threequarter lengths back in third.

Selection Cornerstone Lad (33/1) raced in second behind Petit Mouchoir for the first mile or so but went out quicker than my bathroom lights; he was pulled up before the third last. The trainer was uanble to offer any explanation while the jockey reported the horse ran (as) flat (as a pancake).