Good morning all,
Cheltenham is back, with the 2-day Showcase meeting taking centre stage (there’s some Flat racing on or something, but this is all that matters) and I only wish I was there to give you some paddock pointers next week. Sadly, with the rules as they are, I cannot be found a small space to stand in near the paddock to write notes, which seems ludicrous given the size of the place, but there you go. Instead, I shall watch from the sofa with a bag of Bacon Wheat Crunchies, and possibly a beer if all my other work is done. Cheers!
My thoughts on the four TV races on the main piece today.
1.50 – 2m5f Ballymore Novice Hurdle
Possibly a bit more open that the betting suggests, and I rather like the chance of Midnight River at the evening prices.
He’d already shown plenty of ability in two bumpers last season, running the useful Ask A Honey Bee to four lengths on his second start at Wetherby, but he left that form well behind when really only having to be shaken up and nudged out to beat the potentially classy Shantou Express at Uttoxeter.
He won’t want the ground deep, but Cheltenham appears to have missed the worst of it, and it shouldn’t be any worse than soft, which should be fine. I’d have him a couple of points shorter in the betting, at least.
2.25 – 3m½f Matchbook Novices Chase
These small field novice chases make little appeal for betting purposes at the best of times, with usually only a couple that really want to win the race, and the rest not wanting to get that close for fear of damaging their handicap marks. (Unless you’ve marked a race out and you need to go up to get in the handicap, of course. Always worth bearing that in mind, particularly come February and early March.)
Galvin is well used to beating small fields, but the question is whether he truly wants 3m at this stage. The jury is out with me, and in the hope the rain has got in enough for Mossy Fen (softer the better, really) he’d be the pick for the race. He’ll definitely stay 3m (and probably a bit further) and he kept improving throughout last year. Worth remembering he went off a much shorter price than stablemate Redford Road to win here last December, and I was impressed with his attitude in the Leamington Hurdle, staying on well under pressure to lead close home. If he jumps well, he’s a chance.
3.00 – 2m5f Handicap Hurdle
I’ll take a couple of stabs at this.
Our Power did Punt readers a favour when scoring at Kempton in the spring, that win coming off the back of what I think might be one of the strongest pieces of handicap form of last season when third to Downtown Getaway and Palmers Hill, both of whom I expect to improve again this season. The question is whether he’ll be fit first time up, as he needed a run to put him right last year, but now he’s found the right trip I’m sure he’ll do better again.
Again, much like Mossy Fen, in the hope enough rain has got in, then Hometown Boy has to be worth a second look. Taken out because of the quick ground at Chepstow a fortnight ago, he has one of the strongest-looking pieces of form in the race, a second to the potentially top-class McFabulous at Market Rasen last year, giving him 6lb. Yes, the winner won easily enough but Hometown Boy made him do some work for the win, and he was merely backing up the visual impression he’d created when dotting up the time before. I’ll never make any apologies for the number of Stuart Edmunds runners I put up – I still think the majority go off overpriced, I think he’s absolutely top drawer as trainers go – and there’s surely better to come from Hometown Boy this year.
3.35 Cheltenham – 2m Handicap Chase
A long chat with my good friend and colleague Mr Delargy saw us come to different conclusions about this race, but I can see his points regarding Northern Beau – some very good course form to her name, and the fact she’s out of the handicap is of no concern, she’s won from out of the handicap here before, and she ran a personal best over hurdles last time out too. At the prices the case is easy enough to make, but I’ll be backing Ballywood too. I thought he ran well until getting tired when second to Beat The Judge at Fontwell on his reappearance and an 8lb swing in the weights should bring them closer. He wasn’t beaten that far in the Grand Annual, sticking on well late, so that final hill isn’t a problem.
I’m a big fan of On The Slopes too, as regular readers will know, but nearly all of Chris Gordon’s are needing their first runs of the season and I’d rather be backing him next time out than today.
Today’s selection – Hometown Boy (e/w) 3.00 Cheltenham
Good luck with all your bets today,