What a thrilling start to the week yesterday with Hurricane Fly taking the feature and regaining the Champion Hurdle crown to ecstatic scenes in the stands as the well backed favorite flew up the Cheltenham hill.It wasn’t all plain sailing as Ruby looked far from happy as they reached the top of the hill after a good pace had been set by Rock On Ruby. I was surprised to see on reflection that the Champion was 4 seconds slower than the Supreme Novice Hurdle won by Champagne Fever earlier on the card. Similar scenes also followed 35 minutes later when Quevega overcame tripping and nearly losing Ruby Walsh at the top of the hill to power through the field and win her 5th mares hurdle on the bounce. She is remarkable but I can’t help but think about what if…………World Hurdle?
Simonsig was a fairly comfortable winner of the Arkle in a much less impressive fashion than was anticipated. It is the least fluent I’ve seen him jump but I just think this was down to how quick they went. He looks a surefire Gold Cup horse of the future for me.
We move onto day two and a day that looks like a winnable card.
JOHN OAKSEY NATIONAL HUNT CHASE – 1.30 Cheltenham
Judging by the state of the ground today this is really going to take some getting and could be a real slog. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t many finishers. I have to confess to think that the two horses at the front of the market are absolutely bomb proof and are the likely winners. Both BACK IN FOCUS and BUDDY BOLERO come here with solid credentials. Both strong travelers that jump and stay well they come here with all the right attributes and I’m sure one or the other will win.
It’s not highly original as they are best priced 3/1 and 9/2 but I will be splitting stakes on them in a hope to get a flyer on day two.
NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES´ HURDLE – 2.05 Cheltenham
A fascinating renewal for the staying novices and a potential high-class one too. Must start with a horse I am very fond of in the form of PONT ALEXANDRE for the Mullins/Walsh combination that had three winners on day one. He comes here with a tall reputation, but that is a reputation that has been backed up thus far. He has been beating horses rated in the high 130’s+ with consummate ease and he is surely going to be very difficult to beat here with conditions and the track likely to suit. The way Ruby talks about him reminds me of the way he used to talk about Kauto in the early days. He could be very good indeed and I think he is a worthy and solid favorite.
Although I think Pont Alexandre will win I have to say that I am also very interested in RULE THE WORLD who has looked every bit a high-class hurdler himself to date. If your after a solid each way bet in the race then he is definitely it at about 7/1 as I write this on Tuesday evening. His form was given a real boost yesterday when Champagne Fever won the Supreme as he gave him a pasting last time out. On that evidence he should be second favorite and therefore must represent plenty of each way value at 7/1. The shrewdies will be out in force to mop this price up overnight I’m sure.
TAQUIN DE SEUIL comes here with every chance after a bloodless win in the Challow last time. His form was also given a boost when My Tent Or Yours ran so well in the Supreme yesterday. On that line of form though you would say on balance that Rule The World may have his measure. THE NEW ONE will have plenty of supporters again tomorrow but he was put in his place by At Fishers Cross last time and the health of the yard would have to be a major worry.
I think that Pont Alexandre will be very hard to beat and I will be having 4 points on him but also must back Rule The World each way as a saver tonight at 7/1 as I’m convinced he should be second fav.
RSA CHASE – 2.40 Cheltenham
Just about my best bet of the day today will come in the form of Paul Nicholls UNIONISTE in the RSA. He was a very impressive winner of a grade 3 handicap before Christmas off a mark of 143. He followed that up by beating Hadrian’s Approach at Newbury and is better off with that rival at the weights today being the only five-year old in the race. Having only had four starts over fences in this country there is untold potential there and I think he will be very hard to beat.
Boston Bob is a viable alternative for the Irish Challenge but i think the fact Ruby opts for Unioniste is significant. Boston Bob has looked like a dour stayer in the making and so conditions will be up his street. I just worry that there maybe one or two that have too much speed for him at the business end. He looks nailed on to be a Grand National horse to me.
Clear preference is for UNIONISTE and I will be having 5 pts win @ around 7/2.
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE – 3.20 Cheltenham
Not too much to report here other than to sit back with a cup of tea and watch one of the most exciting jumpers you will ever see be crowned champion. I was lucky enough to be there the day MASTER MINDED thrashed his field in 2008 and I think you might see something similar today. If there are any “how far” markets I will be very interested in the overs as I think today might be the day we see the hand brake taken off. On a side note I am interested to see how Mail De Bierve goes.
THE CORAL CUP – 4.00 Cheltenham
An absolute minefield for punters and we are likely to see 7 or 8/1 the field. There are plenty of concessions available though and most firms are going 5 places so there is lots of scope for some value.
We’ll start at the obvious point of PENDRA who has been at the top of the betting for this since his very good second to Melodic Rendezvous at Sandown last time. Unfortunately the winner didn’t take his place in the Supreme yesterday so we don’t know the strength of the form. The other line through Puffin Billy now looks just fair and you can pick holes in his Plumpton win. ABBEY LANE has been very well backed on the back of the Mullins/Walsh three timer yesterday and will come here with an obvious chance after a convincing win in the Boylesports Hurdle last time. He is up a stone for that win in a better race which means I would be inclined to look elsewhere.
Not being overly convinced by the front of the market means that there must be some value elsewhere (we hope). Cash and Go has been disappointing for me and he needs to improve markedly to be considered. Master Of The Sea is up another 12lbs (52 in total) on his quest for a five timer. This could be a step too far and I would be worried about the yard so that means we have ruled out the top four in the market, which could be very shrewd or very stupid.
As always I will be throwing several arrows at this race in the hope of picking up a tidy profit. The first of those darts is the Irish raider UN BEAU MATIN who is a general 16/1 chance. He is a lightly raced five-year old that ran a cracker in a grade 2 last time that suggests to me that he might be on a feasible mark. Conditions should suit and he will form the first part of my profile. Second dart at the treble twenty is ERICHT who seems to be a new horse all of a sudden. His win off 122 last time was impressive and was greeted with a 12lb handshake from Sir Handicapper. Gary Derwin’s excellent 10lb claim largely offsets that rise in the weights and he must be of major interest in here and is a whopping 16/1. The more I look at this race the more I fancy him. He does have his quirks and may well throw in a stinker, but he looked like a horse at Kempton that had turned a corner and he is much too big a price.
I’m not sure who the man with the mic is tomorrow but I’m sure they have prepared a line for BONDAGE. He will need to have improved since he was last seen to be winning off 145 but the break of three months may well have been just what he needed. I think Carberry will be a good partner too and also at 16/1 he has to be part of the portfolio.
The last one I am going to add is BLACK THUNDER who is definitely capable of winning off this mark and I think the undulations of Prestbury Park are perfect for him. He’s a strong stayer as we saw at Haydock when Ruby was livid with himself for letting the leaders get away. He was messed about last time at Kempton and Harry Derham was not overly hard on him. Daryl Jacob takes over and the 35/1 available on Betfair is as Dizzee Rascal would say……B B B B B B BONKERS.
A four pronged attack.
ERICHT @ 16/1, UN BEAU MATIN @ 16/1, Bondage @ 16/1, Black Thunder 1 pt e/w @ 33/1!
FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE – 4.40 Cheltenham
This looks an absolute punting minefield unless you have a strong view on a particular runner. There are many unexposed runners in this race. The two that I liked the look of the most were COUNSEL and MEGALYPOS with slight preference for the latter who looks completely unexposed having only had one start in this country on terrible ground at Chepstow. He could be very interesting indeed and would be my overall selection.
WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER – 5.15
It is very rare that I come into this race with a strong opinion but I have to say I was just about the most taken I have ever been with a bumper horse when I watched in amazement how easily REGAL ENCORE won at Chepstow back in October. He looks like a bit of a machine and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th from that race all have so fair form in the book since that race. He’s about a 9/1 chance tonight and will be my only bet in the race.
Another cracking day in prospect and hopefully loads of winners along the way!
Enjoy and be lucky!