Good morning all,
I can’t get away without mentioning that picture. A picture everyone hoped had been photo-shopped. Sadly, it hadn't, it was all too real.
Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse like it was chaise longue sickened and appalled me. As I’m sure it did all right-minded people who love the sport of horse racing. Indeed I have struggled to get that sick and callous picture out my head today.
You can read my thoughts on the Gordon Elliott saga inside today’s main piece. Plus, I have had look at my Cheltenham ante post portfolio and I have a selection from Gowran Park.
What Elliott did was beyond the pale whether it was yesterday or four years ago and he must be held to account. However, for now, and as stupid as he's been, let's not forget there's a human being involved whose reputation is in tatters . Cancel culture is an ugly blood sport, in an era of social media, and its only going to get worse for him in the next few weeks.
He's likely to face a ban from the sport that's for sure. Where all this leaves him long term is unclear at this stage. Especially if some of the other rumours that are circulating turn out to have legs. It's such a shame as he's undoubtedly a brilliant trainer of a racehorse.
Racing enemies lie in wait
It couldn’t look much worse to the wider general public. A penalty kick for Animal Aid & The League Against Cruel Sports and the like. I try to defend the sport from my friends who have little interest in it but are happy to react to the negative headlines. In this case I won’t even try.
There is no doubt that he has bought sport into disrepute and done an incalculable amount of damage to the industry. The sport already operates in its own bubble and its insular nature means it often receives plenty of bad press. Most of it unwarranted it must be said.
On Monday evening the BHA announced that they have banned Elliott from travelling and running horses in the UK. However, as far as I understand it, they will allow the trainer's horses to run if transferred to another trainer.
What all this means for the horses who knows at this stage. Either someone else will have the licence or the likes of Envoi Allen and Zanahiyr will have moved to another yard.
The BHA on this occasion have acted very swiftly and in the interests of horse racing in the UK. They certainly can't be accused of sitting on the fence on this one.
A shadow hangs over Cheltenham
Unfortunately, there’s a big shadow now hanging over Cheltenham and Aintree.
I was so looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival, given what we have had to endure with Covid19 in last few months but now it’s been totally overshadowed by one photo.
It was going to be bad enough without crowds. Now its building up to be the most depressing one in history.
Cheltenham Festival ante post portfolio
Well to lighten up the mood and back to events on the track.
This time last year, I was going into the festival with twenty ante post selections still ‘alive and kicking’. I had anticipated something similar this season but it’s not turned out as planned. I’m going into this year’s meeting with less than half that number of ante post bets. However, most of them have been flagged up in my Daily Punt columns. Ironically, three of my ante post bets are trained by Gordon Elliott. This segment was written before the Gordon Elliott affair blew up.
Purely by accident rather than design I have two in the Stayers Hurdle and neither are the market leaders Paisley Park or Thyme Hill.
Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle
Sire De Berlais – 14/1
Lisnagar Oscar – 50/1 (each way).
Sire De Berlais is now a best priced 9/1 with Bet365 and Lisnagar Oscar is a best priced 20/1 with the same firm.
Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
Monkfish – 4/1
Eklat De Rire – 14/1 (each way)
I flagged up Monkfish after he made a winning chase debut at Fairyhouse at the end of November. He’s since gone onto win two Grade 1’s at Leopardstown. He’s now many punters bankers of the meeting and I’m more than happy with the 4/1 (now a best priced 5/6 with Bet365), on the best staying novice chaser either side of the Irish Sea.
I tipped Eklat De Rire each way in this column after his recent Grade 3 success at Naas. The 14/1 is still available with Bet365 although he’s as short as 8/1 with Paddy Power & Ladbrokes.
I’m happy with both my picks and won’t be having anymore bets in the race.
Parnell Properties Mares' Novices' Hurdle
Skyace – 25/1
The ‘Shark’ Hanlon trained mare Skyace was one of my first Cheltenham ante post bets. She’s now a best priced 16/1 for the race.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
Zanahiyr – 4/1 @ Bet365 & Paddy Power
Zanahiyr was my first dip into the Festival ante post markets after his win in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse in November. I had dithered and missed the 8/1 that was available but I’m still happy with the 4/1 I got. Remarkably 5/2 is still available with Bet365 for the race, which I think is still great value. After Monkfish the Gordon Elliott trained juvenile was one of my bankers of the meeting.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
First Flow – 14/1
Chacun Pour Soi will take all the beating here but I think First Flow has got solid each way claims and he’s been underestimated by the bookmakers – 14/1 is still available with Bet365 and William Hill and I’m expecting a big run from the improving 9-year-old.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
Wide Receiver – 8/1
I’m still hopeful the Martin Pipe will be the 6-year-old’s Cheltenham target, he’d also been given a Coral Cup entry. Gigginstown have provided both Gordon Elliott’s winners of the race in 2017 and 2018. They also had the second and third in 2019 and I think Column Of Fire would have won last year’s race but for falling, when challenging at the last.
Half of the battle for ante post punters is to get their selection to the race and three of my ante post selections won’t be running at this year festival. Star Gate (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), Gentlemansgame (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle) and Column Of Fire (Pertemps Series Final Handicap Hurdle).
I might be starting the festival 4pts down. However. I like to think there are still two or three winners among the above picks.
In tomorrow’s column I will be looking at two races from Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival.
3:20 – The form of the Paul Nolan yard is a bit of a concern but I’m going with the Mon Lino here. The 9-year-old is on a losing run that dates back two years but is on an attractive mark on his best form. Runner-up over hurdles at Clonmel, back in November, before pulling up back over fences. He returned to form back over the smaller obstacles when 2nd of 20 to the improving Damalisque at Navan last month. Simon Torrens takes off a handy 5lb of the top-weight and he will do for me.
Mon Lino – 7/1 @ Bet365.
Good luck with your Tuesday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk