Good morning all,
As promised, a full rundown of Cheltenham from my paddock eye last week. It's a bit long, so get a cup of tea first…
To make up for it I'll do a video for tomorrow's racing instead!
1.10 Paddock picks Captain Blackperal (angular, looks a chaser), Paricolor (very fit) and Neon Moon. Half marks for Fontana Ellisi (looks a chaser) and Enemenenemo (two handlers, got warm but fit)
Unfit – Ballinsea Bridge, Subcontinent, Billinglsley. Look outclassed – Johnny B, Alohamora
1.45 No standout but Edituer Du Gite just paddock pick. Bun Doran will come on for the run.
2.55 No standout for me in the XC, but Singing Banjo was bang fit.
3.30 Two of these looks chasers in the paddock already – Blazing Khal (who is a gorgeous looker) and Kayf Hernando. Off Your Rocco looks fit but small in comparison to a few. Ran well giving the weight away but limitations possibly exposed.
Gelino Bello looks more for now and was very fit. Just found Blazing Khal too good but time may show he’s been beaten by a very good one here. Lost little in defeat.
Current Mood looked very fit, as you’d expect from one that won a week ago, and ran well to a point; outclassed in the end but against her own sex, ought to be up to winning a good contest.
4.00 A mixed bunch, as you’d expect from a 20 runner handicap, but I’d just have City Derby as the pick. Ran well to hit the frame and continued the good run of Fergal O’Brien.
The Swagman has the size for hurdling; looked fit, but again, head went slightly to one side when initially challenging. After seeming to flatten out, ran on again for sixth; thank God for extra places. Surely some headgear forthcoming?
Brorson a huge disappointment. Looked very well, fit, couldn’t keep up until last 220yds when he sprinted home. Hard to know what he wants on this.
Possibly surprisingly, a decent looking lot in the paddock but no one standout. I ended up having a small e/w bet on Saint Riquier (Ian Williams), who I just about had as the pick, and got a return for my money. But it says a lot that the third, debutant Yorksea (Gary Moore) who I thought looked big in the paddock and in need of the run more than anything was able to finish so close up in third. Might be the best of these by the end of the year.
Addosh is very small but has gears and if she learns to pick her feet up, she’ll start to progress again. Winner Knight Salute was fine and fit, but hardly took your eye out. More a Boodles than a Triumph field, for me.
Third Time Lucki was very buzzy when first brought into the ring, for a couple of minutes, then a second handler was called for and he calmed down. Sebastopol has grown into a good-looking chasing type, really lengthy and scopey and was just about the pick of the paddock.
I just can’t get my head around Mick Pastor, he just doesn’t look a chasing type and was well beaten again here. Hard to know what to do with him now, tbh. Maybe he’s an Aintree type but he’ll not carry my money over fences any time soon.
Also hard to know exactly what to make of the form. Third Time Lucki has jumped well again and put the race to bed turning in, but all the same, he’s not much left in the tank come the finish and in another furlong Sebastopol might well have picked him up. Harry Skelton said afterwards that he’s a bare 2m horse and the ground was a bit dead, but all the same I’d have liked to have seen him stride out to the line a bit better.
Dan Skelton was looking at one more run rather than two before March now, with Kempton or Doncaster mooted as possible targets. Perhaps his pre-race antics took a little more out of him than thought, but for all that, he’s got all the talent going.
Knew my money was cooked on Al Dancer on paddock looks, plenty looked better than he did. Pick was Zanza, who looked tuned to the minute but couldn’t keep up and only ran on late when it was all over for sixth.
Lalor looked second best and has run well to hit the places; whether he can do better than this, given he was fully tuned up, is open to debate. Nietzsche also looked a picture but once again failed to fire as a chaser, and maybe a return to hurdles will be on the cards at some point.
Winner Midnight Shadow was in good shape (if a touch keen beforehand) and added to his already good Cheltenham record. The King George was mooted as a target, which will require an awful lot more. Mr McGoldrick, Vintage Clouds, Midnight Shadow. Sue Smith can train ‘em for these big handicaps…
Those that looked in need of the run – Caribean Boy, Aso (another Venetia one after Subcontinent yesterday, they’re normally fit for this meeting), and sadly Al Dancer. It was a real surprise that he wasn’t as fit as I thought he would be for a race that clearly suits him.
Onagatheringstorm was the paddock pick by some way here. Not only did he look very fit, but he’s an excellent walker as well and looks all quality. He’s been beaten by a genuine Grade 1 (on his day) horse here, albeit getting a stone and a bit, but this was a decent effort and he ought to keep progressing. He’ll make a chaser no bother, and that’s where his future lies.
Optimise Prime also looked in great shape, although he did get a bit fizzy beforehand. Sadly, he was yet another from the Ben Pauling yard to run moderately in the past couple of weeks and until the yard start firing, horses like this will just have to go on the back burner, regardless of how good they look.
Ballymillsy is another that, perhaps unsurprisingly from the Twiston yard, got chaser written all over him and he was given a very positive ride here. He’s come up short in the end, but maybe softer ground would help his cause.
It was too far out to say where Proschema would have finished had he not come down three out; my impression was he was just starting to come off the bridle and would not have beaten Onagatheringstorm, who he was tracking at the time. As such, third might have been the best he could have hoped for.
The two I liked best in the bumper were the Skelton’s Signal Point, who is already crying out for some hurdles and 20f+ on looks, something that’s confirmed by her pedigree (she’s a half-sister to Duke Of Lucca; If The Cap Fits and White Star Line also in the family) and given this would have been nowhere near as stiff a test as she’ll require, to finish a close up sixth rates a good effort, and Mayhem Mya from Chris Honour’s yard, who had the red hood on in the paddock but has a bit of quality about her, and looks quite a racy, athletic sort. She’s also run well for fourth and is one to take forward.
I’d love to tell you how winner Bonntay looked, but she was (deliberately) late in the paddock, was jocked up as soon as she came in and was out again. A moan-up here; hardly fair on either punters that wanted to see her demeanour and fitness, or plenty of the others that had taken the test of the paddock and a large crowd and passed it. This isn’t the first time it’s happened and won’t be the last unless something is done about it.
Stayed for the first four races.
Paddock pick was the giant Undersupervision, who looked well in his coat and is quite flashy. Sadly an early fall meant my monetary interest went west, but I’ll be keeping him in mind for a similar contest soon, as long as this hasn’t dented his confidence.
Winner Threeunderthrufive is more lengthy, athletic, and looked fine. He probably hasn’t had to improve a lot to win this, in truth. Oscar Elite was travelling much better in behind horses when asked to go long three out and paid the price. This rates a good effort, as I thought he’d come on for a run, and is probably the best of these going forward.
Not much to say about these old chasers, except to say I thought Yala Enki would come on plenty for it, so for him to win was a slight surprise.
One of these days The Mighty Don will put a clear round in around here and win ten minutes. The Ultima is surely his target…
Only four for the Shloer but what a four.
An announcement was made that Put The Kettle On would be late into the parade ring and mounted in the chute. Someone didn’t get the memo – she was first into the paddock, got very fizzy (more so than usual) and I’m pretty sure was jocked up in front of the weighing room, and that after a bit more messing around.
Hardly a surprise, then, that she didn’t run her race on ground plenty quick enough for her, but the way she stayed on late said to me that she’ll do better next time. With that, I’ve taken the 25s that Hills were offering for the Champion Chase, as this wasn’t her running.
Nube Negra isn’t the biggest for chasing but he’s so lean and scopey it doesn’t matter. He was absolutely race-fit for this and announced himself a true contender for top honours come March. I think he’ll always want decent ground to show his best, though.
Politologue has learnt, as he’s got older, that getting worked up beforehand does him no good, and he’s a much more relaxed animal these days. Has done little wrong here – looked fit, just younger legs that will probably always have his measure now.
Rouge Vif looked the one that might come on for a run, but given he’s gone well fresh before this might be something of a missed opportunity. Might be hard to place, time will tell.
Three standouts in the paddock – Galice Macalo, who had two handlers but also a bit of quality about him, Cormier, who looked tuned to the minute but a bad mistake mid-race cost him any chance, and winner West Cork, hard fit to try and land the gamble for the Skeltons, and so it proved. This was very much his target and although he’ll still be competitively handicapped, he’ll not improve in terms of his fitness going forward.
The one to take out of this is Adagio, who was one of two I thought would come on for a run (Ballyandy the other, but he might have had enough anyway now) so for him to travel as well as he did and finish off well for second, behind one fully tuned up for the day, rates a superb effort. It’s hard for 4yos that have done well as juveniles, but Adagio might just be up to the job. Interesting to see where he goes next – will they stick to handicaps or step him up to the bigger leagues?
Today's pick is from Catterick where I like Bari Breeze in the 12.10. Milton Harris can't stop having winners and Bari Breeze steps up in trip for his handicap debut today, something that he's looked in need of. Milton is 2-4 with hias runners here in the last five years so doesn't bring them unless they have a chance. Plenty to like and I think he should go close.
Good luck with all your bets today,