Did the Sandown Steward Bottle It?
I wasn’t going to take a look back at the weekends action this week with the Cheltenham Festival starting tomorrow but events at Sandown mean I am compelled to look at the outcome of Saturday’s Matchbook Imperial Cup.
The clearly talented if quirky Mr Antolini won the Imperial Cup to give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies another win in the race. The horse is a rather hard ride as he showed when he hung badly to his right after the last and then squeezed up the eventual runner up Call Me Lord just before the line. A steward enquiry then ensured as too see if the interference that the runner up suffered had affected the outcome of the race. The fact that the winner won by a neck meant that the placings remained unaltered.
But should the race result have been changed? In my opinion it should have. It was a shocking decision by the stewards who clearly ‘bottled' a decision on a big day. Meanwhile at Hereford in a not too dissimilar situation a horse was thrown out by the local stewards there.
There is too much flexibility in Britain for the stewards which leads to inconsistency. The French have this one right as there is no ambiguity, you hamper an opponent as Mr Antolini did and you lose the race. If he had won by a head or short-head does anyone think he would have kept the race?
Was Mr Antolini the best horse in the race? We can argue about that but did he interfere and hinder the chance of the runner-up? For me he did and he should have been placed second.
That’s my Monday rant over let’s get back to the good stuff. At last all the waiting is over and the tapes are about to rise on the year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham Festival: The Final Countdown
Here's my three Cheltenham Tips:
1. Make sure you use a separate betting bank to your normal day to day one.
2. Set aside a certain amount of money for each of the four days and don't be tempted to play anymore.
3. At these big Festivals it’s all about finding winners, so in the big handicaps in particular look to have three or even four onside.
Personally, I have 25pts per day betting bank. Looking at the Tuesday card It's unlikely that I will use it all up so anything left over is carried over to the next day and so on.
Day One Early Thoughts
As I write this article the 48-hour decs are out for Day 1 so let’s have a quick look. The going looks set to be soft, possibly heavy in places. Which I don’t think anyone expected back in the autumn.
1:30 – Sky Bet Supreme – I am not sure if I will be having a bet in the race yet but I want to take on Getabird here. Paloma Blue puts the Samcro form to the test here. He was third at Leopardstown to the Ballymore favourite. If he settles better than he did in the last race he could run into the places and the 6-year-old is certainly going the right way.
Just three places and four lengths behind that day was the Mags Mullins trained Debuchet. The 5-year-old has only had two starts over hurdles and remains a maiden but it’s interesting to see connections are giving at go. He is another who looks to be getting better with experience and he could well outrun his big odds at 50/1. It’s worth remembering he was second here in last year’s Champion Bumper so we do know he handles the Festival atmosphere. Trainer is 1 win from 2 runners +13 2 placed 100% with her runners at the Festival who had their last run at Leopardstown.
2:10 – Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase – Well only five are set to go to post for the race but I am on Saint Calvados each way at 33/1 for the race and with soft ground in his favour I think he can really give Footpad a race.
2:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – The first of the days two handicaps. My three for the shortlist at his stage are the potentially well-handicapped Coo Star Sivola who likes the track. Beware The Bear needs to jump better than he has done so far this season but if he does he is capable of further progress. Vintage Clouds is a difficult horse to get a handle on as to what his best trip is but his stamina will come into play and a mark of 141 looks more than workable.
3:30 – Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy – To be honest this a race I definitely won’t be having a bet in. I am not saying Buveur D ‘Air is unbeatable but I just haven’t a clue who would be the one to cause one of the biggest shocks of the Festival by beating him.
4:10 – OLGB Mares' Hurdle – Another race I won’t be having a bet in or trying to take on the hot favourite Apples’s Jade.
4:50 – National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase – The 4-mile chase which looks like it will be a real stamina test this year on the rain softened ground. Not a race that I have looked at in much detail. Trainer Philip Hobbs has had a poor season but maybe the spring festivals will bring him some joy.
He saddles the J P McManus owned No Comment who lacks the experience of plenty in the field as this will only be his second start over fences. A potential improver at the marathon trip. The 7-year-old will be ridden by top Irish amateur Derek O’Connor who won this race in 2011 and 2016. The owner has a good record in non-handicap chases at the festival with runners sent off at odds 9/1 and under – 5 winners from 14 runners 36% +18.63 8 placed 57%. Odds of 6/1 look a shade short for me but he looks a big player.
5:30 – Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase – As expected a maximum field of 20 are declared to go to post for the concluding card on Day 1. Plenty in with a chance. I backed Coo Star Sivola ante post for this but he now goes for the earlier handicap. I also backed Mister Whitaker at 20s after his course win here at the last meeting and he looks to be on a handy mark and has to be high on the shortlist.
The likes of Rocklander, De Plotting Shed, Testify and Kolandra all look capable of going well. Barney Diwan is 311 over fences in small field races and to be honest he hasn’t really beaten much in them either. The potential is there for the 8-year-old to rate higher than his present mark of 143 though and he was second here last year in the Pertemps Final over 3m so handles the Festival well enough.
3:40 – Ask The Weatherman – Looked set for a good season when winning at Exeter on his seasonal reappearance back in November. He’s pulled up on his last two starts in the Welsh Grand National and last time at Kempton when never travelling from an early stage. Get the first-time visor in a bid to revive him and if it does he can go well from just 4lb higher than for that last win. Trainer Jack Barber is 1 win from 2 runners in the past 14 days and is 2 wins from 5 runners 40% +11.83 with his runners at Taunton.
Ask The Weatherman – 10/1 @ Bet365 & BetVictor
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable Cheltenham.
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