Good morning all,
Well, here we go then, it all begins and who saw a heavy-ground Festival in the tea leaves? Not me, and as I stare at a pile of ante-post slips this morning, most of them needing good ground, I'm already in need of a winner today!
I'd just like to wish you all the very best of luck this week, it's going to be a tough old week ahead punting-wise and for today at least, I'm keeping it fairly tight until we see exactly how bad that ground is.
This weather is playing absolute havoc with trying to find a winner or two. In fact, as I type this up, on Monday, there’s got to be some doubt we even get Day 1 on, if the forecast is correct. (Update – not on my watch, says that nice Mr Claisse. We race. ) As such, I’d advise an awful lot of caution for Tuesday – let’s see exactly how bad it is before we try and get stuck in later in the week.
Getabird remains favourite, but a slightly uneasy one. In fact, he’s starting to drift to a backable price now and I reckon someone will go 5-2 this morning (not to huge amounts, but still, okay for £20 punters.)
Unsurprisingly, there’s been money for the mudlark First Flow, who has almost halved in price over the last week. His Haydock form brings him into the reckoning but he’s the right price rather than overpriced now.
I’m more than happy with my ante-post punt on Summerville Boy, although I’ll admit I’d have liked better ground for him. I know it was testing when he won at Sandown, so we know he gets through it, but I believe a speed test would have suited him more and been against a few of the others. Especially Kalasknikov, who will love the fact this has turned in a stamina test now.
Not many of the outsiders makes much appeal – I did give Us And Them, trained by Joseph O’Brien, a second look, as he goes well on this ground, but it’s going to be mighty hard to make all the running here.
Not much to say here that’s not been said in the preview. I think Saint Calvados will win, but with just the five going to post, it makes little appeal as a betting contest now.
I had a look at this at the weekend and drew up a shortlist of four. With three of those non-runners, it’s left to Vintage Clouds to get himself among the places.
He wasn’t running a bad race in this last year when falling two out, and that was on ground a bit quicker than he’d like. He’s laden with stamina, has a solid record on heavy ground (222242, that fourth coming in the Welsh National this season) and will be plugging on when others have long cried enough here. And there’s no shortage of pace on either, with at least half a dozen (including Vintage Clouds himself, who doesn’t mind sitting just in behind the pace) wanting to push on early. You’re almost looking for a four miler here – and Vintage Clouds fits the bill.
On that, I’ll take Cogry as a back-up. The Twiston-Davies yard found a bit of form over the weekend, never a bad thing to be coming into Cheltenham with, and Cogry, although probably high enough handicapped at present, makes some appeal on both staying the trip and ground conditions. He needs to avoid errors which can sometimes blight his round, but he has winning Cheltenham form in the bank and I can see him being well backed today.
(Update – I've been Pricewised on both of these, not the best of starts…)
The John Constable ante-post slips (I backed him at 40s and 33s e/w without the favourite) are all but distant memories already. My only hope is that it’s absolute slop and he goes through it fine, rather than claggy, holding soft. The prayer mat is out, but I’m far from hopeful.
This is all rather falling into Buveur D’Air’s lap. He’ll go through this better than most of these will and it looks his to lose. Faugheen tries cheekpieces, and you can win this with headgear (Hardy Eustace, Jezki) but it’s always a hard task to regain a crown once you’ve lost it.
I think, at the current prices, Melon makes a bit of appeal. Again, slightly better ground would help but disregard his last effort when not taking to the hood, and he’s a been a fairly progressive individual this year. He’ll probably be ridden for places, and on that score, makes more appeal as a place-only bet, but he’s not without hope.
And equally, is this the year that My Tent Or Yours doesn’t hit the frame? It’s not difficult to argue that, over the years, his worst efforts have come on heavy ground. He could find this a struggle – I hope I’m wrong, but he could just be a place lay this time around.
Again covered off in the previews done pre-Cheltenham, sadly the ground has gone against the big-priced fancies I had for this, but at least I get my money back on Dusky Legend. Midnight Tour will take her chance, and she’s not without some hope of creeping into the four (which I’ll need, as I’m without Apple’s Jade) as this will turn into a stamina test, which she’ll like. Here’s hoping.
Good grief. I’m going to take a punt at the the number of finishers here and say no more than 6. Slowboats to the fore then, and one of my ante-post picks, Duel At Dawn, has actually made it to the race he’s supposed to! Hurrah! And he’s far from without hope, as the heavy ground will play to his strengths too. If he stays, he’s every chance as a resolute galloper.
But you can basically say that about everything here, although I’m really struggling to see why Jury Duty is so short – he basically stopped over 3m last time, looking short of stamina, so why should he stay four? I’ll be very much against him, and will lay him both three and four places. (Update here – starting to drift like the Kon-Tiki, making the place lays look a bit less attractive).
Some of you may have seen me Tweet up that I thought Le Rocher looked overpriced at 33s for this at the weekend – guess what, he was, but there’s still a bit of juice in the price at 20s (25s in a spot) and he’d be my first pick for this.
He’s probably been campaigned a bit too honestly for this, but with every drop of rain that falls this becomes more about what handles conditions and less about what’s well handicapped. Le Rocher will handle them fine, having won twice on it already this season , and might be unbeaten in his last four but for a bad mistake late in the day last time at Exeter – he was still in front and going well when it happened.
De Plotting Shed is hard to ignore, and he’s one of those horses you look for in a race such a s this – his chase mark is still some 8lb below his hurdles mark, so there’s every chance he can find a bit more. He won’t mind the ground, will stay, and has surely been campaigned with this in mind.
Today's selection -Duel At Dawn 4.50 Cheltenham
Good luck with Day 1, see you all tomorrow morning!