Good morning all,
Continuing my early thoughts on each day of Cheltenham and we're up to Wednesday now. Hopefully still got money left by this point, and if so, in we go again….
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As mentioned on the Tuesday preview, this is probably where Bob Olinger ends up rather than the Supreme, and he was a very impressive winner of the Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle in January, always travelling well and hurdling proficiently on what was only his third hurdles start. Blue Lord, in second, ran well at Leopardstown last weekend and gives that form a very solid look. I’d just about have him favourite over Galliard Du Mesnil on that, as I think his form is just slightly the stronger.
Bravemansgame is probably the best of the Brits but what that Challow win is worth is open to question, with two of his five opponents not completing for varying reasons, and the form of second home Star Gate can now be questioned too. The time figure is decent enough, and he’s clearly going the right way, but whether he quite has the same scope for a big step forward in the way Bob Olinger does, I’m not so sure.
Nothing much at the bigger prices makes appeal, although I have a soft spot for Straw Fan Jack after his demolition job at Aintree in December (third home won a little Jumpers Bumper last week) and I could see him outrunning huge odds on the day. One to back with extra places.
The Brown Advisory is what the RSA used to be, and the old Brown Advisory is still the Brown Advisory but that has the Merriebelle attachment and this race doesn’t. At least it was until last week, and now it’s the Paddy Power Plate. Is that clear?
Monkfish looks one of the bankers of the week to me. The worry for many was that the drop back in trip for the Flogas might find him out but all it did was improve him, as he beat Latest Exhibition by even further than he had done at Christmas time. In fact, having initially beaten Latest Exhibition half a length in the Albert Bartlett last year, he beats him further every time he meets him now, which either means LE is going backwards (and I don’t think he is) or Monkfish is getting better (which looks more likely). He should be winning this.
However, this is a race where a couple at much bigger prices make some appeal.
Very soft or heavy ground would be an absolute necessity for Lieutenant Rocco, but he looks the sort that’s tailor-made for this test – just a big, old-fashioned galloper – and it is worth remembering he had both Chantry House and Fusil Raffles in all sorts of trouble at Cheltenham back in December before the latter’s class got him there. That was over 20f, which is too sharp for him (as his subsequent Wincanton run showed, far from disgraced there either) but he absolutely caned some decent 130+ sorts at Ffos Las on his latest start when upped to 3m. He needs more again but if he gets his ground, he’ll be galloping on when others have long had enough.
In a similar fashion, Tom Mullins’ Court Maid needs this to be a proper test but she kicked their backsides in the Porterstown at Fairyhouse in November and then lost little in defeat in trying to give the best part of a stone to Storm Control at Cheltenham the month after. Getting 7lb here, she’s really not that far behind a few of the principals on the figures and could easily find herself staying on for minor honours if it’s soft enough.
Bets so far – Fanion D’Estruval e/w (at 66-1) and Nube Negra e/w (at 16-1)
My views on this race are pretty well known already, I thought it was open at the start of the season and gave a chance to anything with a stone of improvement left in him or her. Nube Negra stepped up to the plate at Christmas with a scintillating display in the Wayward Lad at Kempton and if he jumps as well as that around Cheltenham (not a given) he’d be a huge player here. Fanion D’Estruval ran really well to finish upsides Waiting Patiently and two lengths behind Politologue in the Clarence House but First Flow was ten lengths in front of the lot of them. Nevertheless, another good effort and the fact they want to take Altior on at Newbury in the Game Spirit shows they aren’t scared of tackling the big guns. I still hold out some hope, although neither would it be the biggest surprise if they went down the Ryanair route.
Chacun Pour Soi has the look of another Mullins banker. I have had some concerns about his jumping at times, there seems to have always been a (small) mistake in him somewhere, but he jumped much better and dotted up at Leopardstown last week. The only possible chink in his armour is whether Cheltenham will suit, but at this stage, that’s about all you’ve got to worry about.
Has Altior been written off too quickly? When all’s said and done, he was trying to give Nube Negra 6lb at Christmas and was only beaten 3½l at the death, but you have to say at no point did he look like winning that. He takes longer and longer to go through the gears and was in trouble very early at Kempton. Can Nicky bring him back one last time? On weights and measures he’s every chance, but your eyes tell you a different story, and the fact he’s going there without a warm-up is a negative for me too.
First Flow was very impressive in the Clarence House but all his quality form is on flat tracks, so like Chacun he has to show Cheltenham suits. Politologue is reigning champion but he’s surely beatable, and Defi Du Seuil looks a shadow of the horse he was (update – he’s out).
Today then, and if Going Native runs her race in the 5.45 at Southwell she looks sure to be in the four, yet you can still get 14s four places with a few firms and that looks well worth taking each-way. Plenty of these have stamina to prove, the favourite Mack The Knife has yet to run on Fibresand and she looked very much like she was coming back to form last time out. Indeed, this is her time of the year to start winning, and she looks solid each-way material to me.
Good luck with all your bets today,