Friday 6.00pm Obviously on tenterhooks for tomorrow with last week’s winner Vieux Lion Rouge running onto Shotgun Paddy (took 10’s about 7’s tonight!) in the Eider at Newcastle at 2.45 and Double Shuffle (took 10’s about 5’s tonight!) in the Betbright at Kempton at 3.35! Good luck to all of you who followed the blog ten days ago “Hoover up that 14/1 each way ¼ 1,2,3,4 right now. He’ll go off half those odds.” Here’s the latest:- Double Shuffle update “George said: “He was placed at the (Cheltenham) Festival over two-mile-five last season but even then he was running a bit too free and doing too much the whole way. We then tried to drop him in in the BetVictor Gold Cup and that was an unmitigated disaster, he hated it. He wants to get on with things a bit and the key is to get him to settle. We put a hood on him at Kempton last time out and it worked a treat as he gets to be ridden prominently, which he likes, but it just keeps a lid on him. That was over course and distance and he stayed it well and he appreciates a bit of decent ground.” Shotgun Paddy, Jockey Daryl Jacob in his blog “I head up to Newcastle on Saturday where I’m hoping Shotgun Paddy has a great chance in the feature Betfred Eider Chase. He ran very well at Warwick the last day where the ground wasn’t quite testing enough for him. Going back up to four miles here is very much in his favour and I’m looking forward to riding him in a race in which he finished second last year.” His trainer Emma Lavelle said: “He’s no stranger to staying chases and he’s no stranger to the Eider. This has been very much the target since Warwick when he ran well there. It’s fantastic prize-money and we’re hoping to take some of it home. He’s a cool customer and a pleasure to train, you can do anything with him.”
Here is the original blog. Thurs. Feb. 16th 1.15pm
4m BetFred Eider Chase, Newcastle Sat 25th Feb. This race is all about jumping well enough to get into a rhythm and then having stamina in abundance and for the past two years I have thought this race is ideal for Shotgun Paddy. In 2015 he was sent off as 11/2 favourite, clouted an early fence and was never involved and eventually unseated. Last year he was second ridden by Davy Russell when he just couldn’t give two stones to Rocking Blues and ten pound claimer Lorcan Murtagh and now he is back as a 10yo off a mark seven pounds lower and in some form. His first run at Cheltenham when seventh to Viconte de Noyer was excellent as he only faded from the second last and he built on that when an eye-catching third to One for Arthur in Warwick’s BetFred Classic. He travelled well, got a tad outpaced but stayed on really well in the home straight. He has never been the neatest of jumpers but he has seemed to have cut out the big mistake that use to end his chance. Daryl Jacob wouldn’t be my first choice of jockey and prefer a horseman such as Russell, Noel Fehily or Leighton Aspell, who have all ridden Paddy before! Currently available at 10/1 with sponsors Betfred but plenty of 12/1 on line and Shotgun Paddy has to be a solid each way selection ¼ 1,2,3,4.
Ever since I saw Knockanrawley finish fourth to Sausalito Sunrise in the 3m chase at Cheltenham on Paddy Power day eighteen months ago I have had his name down for one of these extreme staying chases when there is a bit of cut in the ground. Couple of issues were that after Cheltenham he didn’t run again for fifteen months but made a terrific comeback in the Classic at Warwick at a time when his trainer Kim Bailey couldn’t buy a winner! Well the yard has now revisited the winner’s enclosure and although this fragile, gutsy grey may “bounce” at a general 16/1 ¼ 1,2,3,4 I am willing to have an each way tickle.
3m Betbright Chase, Kempton Sat 25th Feb. At the Double! To crack these big Saturday handicaps you need a man with a very definite plan and here is what Tom George put on his website after Double Shuffle won over course and distance at Christmas, “DOUBLE SHUFFLE (IRE) appeared to relish the conditions and step up in trip when winning the 3m 32Red.com Handicap Chase on the same card. Adrian had him well placed throughout and he stayed on strongly to win with plenty in hand. Giving him less work at home seems to be the key with him and could explain his disappointing run in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham. He will now be aimed for the Grade 3 BetBright Handicap Chase back at Kempton on February 25th.” But does Double Shuffle have the right profile for the race? Absolutely! He ticks every box in the top nine BetBright Chase Betting Trends.
14/15 – Rated 139 or higher 13/15 – Finished in the top 5 last time out 12/15 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
12/15 – Aged 9 or younger 12/15 – Won a class 2 chase or better before 10/15 – Carried 10-13 or more
10/15 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before 10/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
10/15 – Came from the top 4 in the betting
This horse was placed at the Cheltenham Festival meeting last season, is still improving especially for the step up in trip and the red hot connections think they have found the key to him! I am really keen on this one and the only firm priced up is good old Paddy Power! Hoover up that 14/1 each way ¼ 1,2,3,4 right now. He’ll go off half those odds.
Here’s an interesting tweet from yesterday. “Pat Mustard@sinbinsuroor My festival lays Moon Racer, Yanworth, Finians Oscar, Messire Des Obeaux, Might Bite, Defi Du Seoul, Cue Card, Bacardy.s” Will he be out of pocket? Discuss.
And here’s another “Michael Looby@michaellooby2 Hidden Impact a very interesting one in the bumper at Chepstow Sat, ran a nice race behind Carter McKay in his PtP”
One for the Tracker:- “@bourkemossy How promising is Rebel Commander? Related to Rather Be and Sign Of A Victory; what do you like about this family?
I like him a lot and he was entered up in bumpers this weekend although we decided not to take up the engagements but he’s fit, well and ready to run. He’ll be out very shortly.” Nicky Henderson/SJ blog 24th Feb
Today it’s Cheltenham thoughts from David Pipe, Henry de Bromhead and Colin Tizzard.
Saturday Lucky 15
Obviously would like to put Shotgun Paddy and Double Shuffle in but hard to put a horse up when I’m holding a ticket at twice the price! So we’ll go with the big yards this Saturday as they move up a gear with just three weeks to Cheltenham!
Kempton 1.15 ARGANTE 6/1 PP 11/2 general
Kempton 3.00 CAPTAIN FOREZ 13/2 PP 11/2 general
Chepstow 3.40 RED HANRAHAN 9/1 general
Kempton 4.10 FULL SHIFT 7/4 general 11/8 PP??
and here’s why
Kempton 1.15 ARGANTE I like Mr Hendersons positive message on his blog on a horse who I thought was better than your average Fakenham winner, “ARGANTE will very much like the trip and the ground and won quite well at Fakenham last time but this is a much more competitive contest. That said, he’s a good, hardy sort of a horse who has been doing everything right and has a nice low weight so I expect him to be thereabouts.”
Kempton 3.00 CAPTAIN FOREZ You all know I love a man with a plan and my favourite man is Dan Skelton, so it’s bells ringing when he puts this on his Friday Coral blog, “ Captain Forez has always been targeting this race since he ran at Ascot, whereas with Mister Universum we were just umming and ahhing; that’s just the way it’s worked out. Captain Forez has nice form with Capitaine. They meet each other on exactly the same terms on a track that is probably slightly more in favour of Capitaine. If this race was a round Newbury I would be quite bullish. Having said that our horse is an improving horse that we like an awful lot. I do think he will run very well.” Like the fact brother Harry rides, Captain Forez gets weight off most of the field and he seems an improving type. Just have a feeling this race may throw up an Aintree winner or two.
Chepstow 3.40 RED HANRAHAN Well touted from the Irish PtP scene he should have won on hurdling debut but came down three out when galloping all over none other than Royal Vacation! Horse has a big engine but is a little casual at his obstacles. Impressed on his return this season when tanking through a good race at Newbury only to blow up two out. Trainer Paul Nicholls on his Betrfair blog puts him in with a shout. “Returned to action later than planned at Newbury a fortnight ago after a little setback before Christmas. He travelled nicely through that race before getting there a little bit too soon and then tiring late on. He is bound to improve for that outing, will be fine on the soft ground at Chepstow and a decent show here should be enough to qualify him for the Pertemps Final at Newbury. Good each-way chance.” He is entered for the Pertemps but to even get in he would probably have to win here, a fact I’m sure will be spelt out to top jockey, young Harry Cobden!!
Kempton 4.10 FULL SHIFT This horse is a course and distance winner in this grade, C3, but he is surely better than that. He’s been well fancied for much bigger pots than this indeed went off at just 7/1 to win the Brown Plate at last year’s Cheltenham Festival! The connections of Henderson/McManus/Geraghty won’t help the price but I share the trainer’s enthusiasm, “He’s got winning form at the track which counts for plenty and I’ve put a set of cheek pieces on to help him too. He’s in good form at home and 2m4f around Kempton is just what he wants.”
Friday Lucky 15
Just the one winner but at a decent price and a return of £28 we almost doubled our money!
Warwick 2.00 GLOBAL STAGE Fell 5/4
Weakened from three out in very holding ground. Tired fall at the last. Disappointing.
Exeter 2.45 GRACEFUL LEGEND 1st 9/1
Pushed all the way up the straight, still a length down at the last but battled to the line to beat the favourite. Gutsy mare!
Exeter 3.50 AUDACIOUS PLAN PU 14/1
Jumped three of the first six far too big and never got in any sort of rhythm. Fair to say never picked a hoof up and had no intention to do so. Pulled up before third last.
Warwick 4.45 MUCKLE ROE 3rd 15/2
Progress down the back straight to get into contention leaving the back straight but left for dead by the front two on the run for home.
Colin Tizzard’s contenders for the Cheltenham Festival Greg Wood The Guardian Fri. 24th Feb. Colin Tizzard was the latest trainer to open his yard to the media yesterday ahead of next month’s Festival at Cheltenham and, while much of the attention will be on Native River and Cue Card, the market-leaders for the Gold Cup on 17 March, he will have leading contenders for Grade Ones and handicaps throughout the four days. Here’s what he had to say about his main contenders.
Cue Card It was amazing the reception he got for winning at Ascot. He’s 11 years old and he should have won but he jumped better, right back to his very best, he was fluid and came away when he wanted and sauntered home. If he was a seven-year-old you’d say that he was just approaching his peak. I didn’t need to watch [last year’s Gold Cup] more than twice. The competition is to jump the fences and gallop three miles two and he didn’t. It’s a big occasion for all of us and hopefully he won’t be in that position again. Paddy [Brennan, jockey] came up with the idea to go to Ascot. He said two and a half miles around there would get his jumping slick and it’s worked out a treat, it was a lovely prep race for him. He started off as a champion bumper horse and he’s still winning Grade Ones at 11, so he’s done everything bar win a GC. It was his own making really that he fell last year but there’s everything to play for. I wasn’t that disappointed last year. The horse came back and so we’ve got another chance, and we actually thought the chance was going or gone, but he’s got equally as good a chance this year as last year.
Native River Native River’s got it all. He was in the four-miler last year and came out a few weeks later and won a Grade One around Aintree. That’s the constitution of these horses, they can take it, that’s why they are what they are. If you get a horse coughing, a weak one will cough for three weeks, Cue Card will cough once, Native River once, and that’s it, gone. That’s what they are, healthy and fit, and probably why they end up being as good as they are. He can handle any ground that comes up, he jumps and he stays, and we saw something last week [at Newbury] that we didn’t know he had. We don’t need to go on, six-out, and then hold on like in the Hennessy and Welsh National, let’s just ride him because he’s a bit faster than we think. He was beating a 154 horse [Le Mercurey] at Newbury but that’s a good horse. He’ll take a lot of beating.
Finian’s Oscar I’m sure if I said he was going to the Supreme [over two miles], he’d shorten up. Quite a lot of Champion Hurdle winners have run in the Neptune in the past and gone back to the Champion Hurdle, you can’t go there thinking it will be slower horses. He’s a brother to [2012 Champion Chase winner] Finan’s Rainbow and he was a two-miler. It’s just that he came through the point-to-point ranks and you feel as though he’s a two and a half miler. He doesn’t stop and they tell me the last half of the [Neptune] is just as fast as the Supreme.
Alary He was better at Exeter [last time], but you never know with these French horses. He might be acclimatising. He looked as though he would be a three and a half miler in heavy ground, but I think he’s a two and a half miler. I saw him on the gallops this morning and he’s beautiful now. When he first came, he wasn’t as healthy as he could have been. I don’t think it was French bugs, I think he caught ours and that’s why he flattened out first time. I think he’s a live player. He’s a man of a horse, we jumped him this week and he never worried about a fall, he arched his back and landed 15 feet the other side. He’s a good horse.
Fox Norton He tried to give Altior 5lb [at Newbury this month], which was an impossible task anyway, but he ran a good second and didn’t jump very well. He came back a bit stiff behind and I think he was feeling that in the race. All in all, he’s a good horse, he’s fine now and [his former trainer] Neil Mulholland says he’ll like spring ground and a flat-out two miles. I was leaning towards the Ryanair, as he took the whole of the Arkle trip last year to get to third, so we’re leaving that option open a little bit. Douvan [hot favourite for the Champion Chase], he does look a machine, but you shouldn’t be afraid of one. It will be left to the five-day stage, I’d say.
Royal Vacation He started off on 127 at the beginning of the year and we were chuffed as nuts when he was going to be second to Might Bite [in the Kauto Star, which he won when Might Bite fell at the last]. Then he came out at Cheltenham over two and a half miles and won by 15 or 20 lengths. He’s done nothing wrong and Paddy [Brennan] was saying, you’ve got to go for the RSA and not the National Hunt Chase. What he’s got in his favour is we can run him right on the pace, knowing he would stay four miles, so he won’t have to sit in the bunch and get involved in all the jumping issues that will occur in an RSA. He can be really positive, which gives him a chance.
Theatre Guide He’s going for the race at Kempton on Saturday [BetBright Chase] that he won last year. When I entered five [in the Gold Cup], I thought there might only be 10 in the race, but there could be 15 now and we don’t know who’s going to run. If he wins well [on Saturday], I’m sure he’ll go there, he’s won at Cheltenham this year staying on, and horses with his rating have run big races in the Gold Cup before.
West Approach He’s in the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett, he’s second favourite there and you’d have thought a novice would go the novice route. But John and Heather [Snook, owners] have never been afraid of campaigning at the highest level and we know pretty well what those horses [in the Stayers’ Hurdle] are. In a novice, there could be some real crackers in that, so I don’t think one race is much harder than the other. If the favourite [Unowhatimeanharry] came out, I know we’d go to the Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s not been ruled out at all. The horse is improving and doesn’t have to find much to be a big player in the Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s 50-50, I’d say.
Sizing Codelco He finished behind Top Notch at level weights in a graduation chase earlier in the season. We ran him over too far a trip last time, we’re dropping back to two miles five and he’s a big strong stayer. He very nearly beat Top Notch, he’s a good strong horse and the Irish boys all thought he was one of the best handicappers. He’s going well at the moment and looks well in his coat, he’d have a nice chance [in the Plate].
Alan Potts’s handicappers:
Sizing Platinum (Grand Annual) Bally Longford (Ultima, Plate, Kim Muir) Sizing Tennessee (Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase) Mick Thonic (Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase, Grand Annual) We have stopped [running these] purposely since Christmas to go to Cheltenham, there’s six or eight of them rated in the 140s and 150s which we haven’t run, we just gave them a break. We want our best chances at Cheltenham, they’ll get in the race, they ran three times in the autumn and they’ll go there and be at their best.
The class of 2017 represents Henry’s De Bromhead’s strongest-ever squad for the Cheltenham Festival and he talked attheraces.com’s Kevin Blake through their prospects.
All Hell Let Loose “He had a bit of a setback last summer, but he’s good now and is entered in the two-and-a-half mile novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He got a mark of 137 when we asked for it and while he’s lightly raced over fences, I would only be hopeful rather than confident of him being fairly treated.”
Avenir D’une Vie “Unfortunately he had a little setback and won’t be ready in time for the Cheltenham Festival, but the hope would be to have him back in time for the Fairyhouse Easter Festival.”
Balko Des Flos “He’s in great form and is going to run in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. I was disappointed with him when he tried him over three miles at Naas and his two runs either side of that over two-mile five-furlongs were much better, so maybe he didn’t quite get home at Naas as he travelled well for a long way. He was only eight lengths or so behind Disko last time, so we’d be hopeful things will go right for him on the day and he can turn it around if he meets him again in the JLT.”
Champagne West “He’s in super form and he will go for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He put up a fantastic performance in the Thyestes last time and based on that I wouldn’t have any great stamina doubts for him in the Gold Cup. He has a good record at the track too which could only encourage you. Tactically, he’ll be ridden wherever he is happy. He’s just a lovely horse to have in the yard.”
Heron Heights “He’s entered in a few different races at Cheltenham including the two-and-a-half mile novices’ handicap chase, the Kim Muir, the Ultima Handicap Chase and the RSA Chase, so he’ll run in one of those. We didn’t have many options for his latest run, so he ended running over a trip that is a bit short for him and I thought he ran well in the circumstances.”
Identity Thief “He’s much better in the last few days and is pretty much 100% now. We are running out of time to get another run into him before Cheltenham, but there is a two-mile one-furlong novice chase at Leopardstown on March 5th that might work for him. We won’t make a decision on that until closer to the time.”
Marinero “He’s entered in the National Hunt Chase and the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and we haven’t made a decision yet on which one he’ll go for. I wouldn’t have any great preference, but he will run in one of them. His form looks good to me and the better the ground, the better he’ll run.”
Monalee “He’s in really good form. He’s entered in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. There hasn’t been a decision made on which race he’ll go for. Death Duty gave him weight and a beating over two-and-a-half miles at Navan, so it might be best to avoid him, but the trip of the Albert Bartlett would probably suit our fella better than the trip of the Neptune. We’ll wait until we see what the ground is like before we make a decision, but he’s heading in that direction.”
Ordinary World “We freshened him up after his last run at Christmas and he’s in super form now. The plan is to run in the Arkle at Cheltenham. He jumps really well and is a real case of a horse that is just much better over fences than hurdles. He’s a real two-mile chaser and the better the ground, the better his chance.”
Paloma Blue “He’s a lovely young horse that won his bumper really well. He’s a real chasing type and we are happy to look after him this season. He won’t go to Cheltenham and will probably only have one more run this season, possibly in a winner’s bumper at the Punchestown Festival. He’ll go novice hurdling next season, but the sooner we can get him over a fence the better.”
Petit Mouchoir “I’m really happy with him and the plan is to run in the Champion Hurdle. He’s already had a fantastic season and hopefully it will continue over there. The original plan was to go chasing with him this season, but Michael suggested we stay over hurdles and it has proven to be a great idea!”
Some Plan “He is in super form and will go for the Arkle. He’s just a lovely horse that jumps deadly and bar his fall at Cheltenham he’s had a fantastic season. He obviously had a bit of good fortune in the Irish Arkle and who knows what would have happened if Royal Caviar had stood up? I think Some Plan would have stayed galloping to the line, but Royal Caviar looked to be travelling well, so who knows. Davy Russell tells me it was one of the fastest winning times in that race in many years and while the ground was obviously less testing than it often is, I still thought it was interesting.”
Special Tiara “He’s been a bit unlucky this season. He hated the ground on the two occasions he ran at Cheltenham and I probably wasn’t too clever running him on it last time. In between those runs he won at Kempton albeit in workmanlike style, but I’ve never thought Kempton was his ideal track. He’s in mighty form now though and if the ground comes up good, he’ll put up a bold show.”
Sub Lieutenant “He’s in mighty form and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham has been the plan for him all along. He’s already had a great season and hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself. I really think he’s a better horse on better ground, so for his sake I hope it turns up that way.”
Three Stars “He could well run in the Arkle and he’s in really good form. He’s beaten Ball D’Arc twice, which looks alright now and while I was a bit disappointed with him last time, he’d been busy up until then and maybe just needed the freshen up that we’ve now given him. I also think he needs to be ridden aggressively and we didn’t do that on the day. Hopefully he can prove himself to be better than that.”
David Pipe ATR Cheltenham Stable Tour February 21 2017
Champers on Ice “He is in the RSA, the National Hunt Chase and will probably be entered in the Kim Muir. He will probably end up in the four-miler. He was a little disappointing last time at Cheltenham but they just ran him off his feet. Hopefully, four miles will play to his strengths and obviously he finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year and has got some good experience around Cheltenham over the fences. I am looking forward to it.”
Moon Racer “He is good form and he will be left in the Supreme and the Champion Hurdle at the five-day stage and then we will make a decision after that. His form has been boosted by Ballyandy’s win at Newbury and it was always the intention to give him a mid-season break. It took us longer to get him going than we thought it would and we had intended to give him another run but we haven’t got time for that and he will go straight there.”
Poker Play “He is in the Triumph and the Fred Winter and is probably more likely to go for the Fred Winter. The softer the better for him and he ran a decent race at Kempton when runner-up to Fidux on his debut for us and he stays well so Cheltenham should suit him.“
Starchitect “He is in the Arkle and the two and a half mile novices handicap chase and he will have entries in the Grand Annual too. Once again, we will decide nearer the time but he was a good hurdler and he has run well over fences so far this season and will appreciate better ground.”
Un Temps Pour Tout “He will either go for the Stayers’ Hurdle or race the race he won last year the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day. He seems to come good in the Spring and he can be a little bit in and out but he has been running in all the top-class races.”
What a Moment “He will run in the four-miler or the Kim Muir depending on what he gets in. He would be an outsider but on his best form it would give him a squeak.”