Good morning all,
It’s been really good to be back at Cheltenham this week, the first time I’ve attended since last year’s Festival. There weren’t many of us there, but we did our best to make a noise and clap the winners as they came back in!
Here’s my thoughts from Wednesday’s card.
1.30 – Novice Hurdle
Only the four and as the rugs came off, it became pretty clear that favourite Faivoir, despite being on the go for much of the year, was still in good shape and looked best for this. I tend only to go in at odds-on if it really does stand out in the paddock and so he got a few quid thrown at him at 4-5 on Betfair. Travelling well throughout, he’s won this with little fuss, in truth, and afterwards the questions to Dan would be whether he goes chasing next year or not.
That was interesting, as I thought, of the four, he looked the least likely to do that, he’s quite lean and athletic whereas second home Witness Protection looks a chaser through and through and should improve for fences next term. I suspect they may yet keep him to hurdles if they think there’s something to be gained.
2.05 – Handicap Chase
I’d backed Coole Cody the day before and wasn’t overly happy with what I saw pre-race, his coat looked a little dull and I suspected he might have had enough for the year. He made most but had little left from two out and couldn’t hold off the finishers, fading to fourth.
Winner Manofthemountain was on his toes beforehand but ran on most willingly for the win, and good ground seems to bring out the best in him.
Up The Straight was doing some good late work up the hill and looks ready for a crack at 3m now.
Old Two Taffs looked in good health beforehand and this was arguably a better effort – maybe dropped in grade this spring they can find a race with him.
2.40 – Handicap Hurdle
Talked myself out of a winning bet and into a losing one here, as Proschema was the pick of the paddock but I wasn’t convinced he’d stay, and stuck with Quinta Do Mar, who also looked well and is a horse I’m following. Should have backed them both, in retrospect, but racing’s an easy game when you know the results, isn’t it?
Quinta Do Mar ran like he’s already looking ready for further again, as Kevin Brogan sat still enough on the run for home, giving the impression he was still going well, but he didn’t pick up straight away when asked, merely plugging on up the hill for fifth. I’ve not lost the faith yet.
The winner will now go to Haydock on Swinton Hurdle day, as there’s a 2m6f race that Dan believes will suit him really well. He’s learning to settle better, he says, which will enable him to get further still.
Of the others, I thought Pileon would come on for the run, and so too Captain Tom Cat after 130 days off, so his third here rates a decent effort.
3.15 – Handicap Chase
Only five and wasn’t a lot I liked, with Oski paddock best (very fit, shiny coat) but he made mistake after mistake in the race and his fall two out was hardly unexpected. That was my money done, and it left Jersey Bean to make all. I don’t think this is strong form by any means.
3.50 – Handicap Hurdle
Good race for the money. The Domino Effect was just about paddock best, he looks a chaser for next year, you’d think, but after making most he found disappointingly little on the run for home. Maybe a flatter track might help but I do find the Lavelle horses hard to read, when I back them I seem to frequently get them wrong.
On form I’d fancied winner Ask Dillon and did have a small saver. That’s him done for the season now, says the trainer, and it lost Liam Harrison his 7lb claim.
I’ve never been a fan of Welsh Saint, he’s no size about him, and in cheekpieces he once again disappointed. He’s always opposable, even in lesser company than this.
The big surprise was how well rank outsider Dolciano Dici looked. It’s the first time I’ve seen him, and he really does fill the eye, good size and topline about him, on his toes but not too much, and he took best turned out here, which was no surprise. Fit as a fiddle, he ran on in taking fashion for fourth and in the hope this gets dismissed as a fluke, he might be a decent price next time. Under similar conditions, I’d want to be with him.
I missed them in the paddock for the 4.25 as I was in need of a cup of tea, and to do some work for Thursday!
5.00 – Handicap Hurdle
After a day of near misses and getting the wrong end of 50/50’s it was nice to finish on a winning note as three of the eight looked particularly well and they finished 1-2-3. (No, I didn’t do the tricast, but I did have a bit on the forecast). Hooper was paddock best, very fit and well, and he was my investment for the race. He looked to be getting the worst of it with Nordic Combined between the last two but the latter has never been the most resolute of battlers and threw the towel in again up the run in, taking his total over hurdles to 1-23. One to lay when he’s short in running, for sure.
Elham Valley suffered a bit of trouble in running when Storm Rising fell two out but it didn’t affect the result. Indeed, Sarasota Star was still travelling with more purpose and might have been involved in the finish had he not been brought down, and on tracks with an emphasis on stamina, he’s always worth a second look.
Oakley, despite going off just 9-2, looked in need of the run and that showed, finishing off weakly after being front rank for much of the way. He ought to do better next time, possibly on slightly slower ground.
Quiet day on trhe betting front, with the jumps fields strating to shrivel up as the ground dries more and more. I see Taunton and Exeter are staging hurdles-only cards next week, so bad has the situation got that there's simply not enough water to make sure both tracks are safe. Anyway, today, and maybe old Fearsome Fred can reward each-way support in the 3.35 at Fontwell. He came back from a two year absence to run quite well at Plumpton earlier in the month, statying on nicely after getting outpaced, and I'd expect him to get a lot closer to Good News this time around with that under his belt He stays well, acts on most ground and in the hope he's 20-1 plus come race time, he can hit the frame here.
Today's selection – Fearless Fred (e/w) 3.35 Fontwell
Good luck with all your bets today,