Tuesday 6.00pm Today has been Gordon Elliott’s media day and on the back of Willie Mullins yesterday there is a lot to take in. So this is a massive blog containing the following:-
Wednesday’s Lucky 15
Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham team courtesy of Kevin Blake and attheraces.com
Gordon Elliott did a Q and A with Betfair on twitter last night. Edited highlights.
Willie Mullins Cheltenham team. Extended version courtesy of Ben Linfoot and sportinglife.com.
Six most vulnerable Festival favourites? Thought provoking article online at racingpost.com
Huge difference in approach to the media between Elliott and Mullins with Elliott seemingly much more direct. It will be of interest post Cheltenham to see how what they have said over the past 48 hours pans out over the four days of the Festival!
Wednesday Lucky 15
Wincanton 2.40 SLEEP EASY 15/2 WH 6/1 general
Musselburgh 3.00 DOWN TIME 10/1 PP 7/1 general
Ffos Las 3.50 PADDYS MOTORBIKE 5/2 general 13/8 PP??
Musselburgh 4.00 SUPERIOR COMMAND 4/1 general
and here’s why
Wincanton 2.40 SLEEP EASY This horse has a line of outstanding form, comes from the yard of Neil Mulholland still buzzing from winning the Betbright Chase at the weekend, has entries at the Festival and a 7lb claimer who normally rides in Scotland plus he’s owned by Brighton chairman and all round shrewdie Tony Bloom (Penhill etc.). The form is he failed by only just less than five lengths to give 7lbs to Movewiththetimes, Betfair Hurdle second and single figures for the Supreme at Cheltenham! The yards had six winners in the last fortnight including Saturday’s biggie and Neil Mulholland has entties in the Coral and the Martin Pipe handicap hurdles at Cheltenham of which the latter is interesting. Why? Well the Martin Pipe is for conditionals and here Sleep Easy is ridden by a claimer who normally rides in Scotland for his dad, Tim Reed, or Lucinda Russell. Mulholland could have used the yards excellent claimer, Sean Corby! Sleep Easy has to give weight to some in form horses but could easily be up to the task!
Musselburgh 3.00 DOWN TIME My eyes are immediately drawn to Brian Hughes riding at just 10st for Brian Ellison! Down Time has bits and pieces of form including a reasonable third over this trip at Hexham on Good ground but he will get almost two stone from those with any form at all.
Ffos Las 3.50 PADDYS MOTORBIKE No racing in Ireland on Wednesday and surprise, surprise Davy Russell is at Ffos Las for five rides! He is retained by the owner of Ffos Las, Dai Walters, and Paddy’s Motorbike looks the best bet of the five as I just don’t trust West Wizard! This is the selections first go in a NH handicap off just OR120 in a C4 2m 4f 0-120 event, I like that and as he was a OR90+ animal on the flat he could simply be too classy for these! The heavy ground could be an issue but the trip is fine and the man on top is enough to make Paddy’s Motorbike the best bet of the day!
Musselburgh 4.00 SUPERIOR COMMAND This 8yo is a course and distance winner in this grade, C4, and his two main rivals are 4yo’s who have both gone up 20lbs for winning and just have to be taken on. Tom O’Brien makes the long trek north to partner Silver Streak for Welsh in form trainer Tim Vaughan and all presumably in search of Good ground but 20lbs is a hell of a hike to overcome! I’ll stick with Lucinda Russell and a favourite jockey, Derek Fox, to keep the prize in Scotland.
I am sorry but I’ve been through tomorrows Jumps cards at Leicester and Catterick a couple of times and with winter ground, small fields, hunter chases I just can’t find four selections to put in a Lucky 15 and so it will just have to be the one selection and it’s each way at that!!
Leicester 2.10 THREEOFAKIND Fell 9/1
Tried throughout, raced prominently but was beaten when taking a tired fall three out.
Tuesday 28th Feb. Kevin Blake is on the ball again and this is off the attheraces website! Gordon Elliott could clean up in the handicaps! GG=Gigginstown
Apple’s Jade (FR) GG The plan is to run in the Mares’ Hurdle. She was beaten by the better horse on the day at Punchestown last week and I wouldn’t like to make any excuses. I’d be hoping that better ground and getting a lead off something would suit her better at Cheltenham, as she can be a bit idle in her races. To look at her, you’d say she takes her racing well and she’s been beaten on her two runs back from a break for me, so hopefully she can come on a bit from it. She’s a great mare to have around the place.
Automated The Coral Cup is the plan and I think he will run well in it. The race should suit him, as he loves being ridden quietly and passing horses late on. Bryan gave him a peach of a ride when he won at Navan and that will be the plan again at Cheltenham.
Brelade He’s entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup and the Neptune and the mark he gets will dictate where he runs. I think the step up in trip will really suit him wherever he runs. He’ll go on any ground.
Cause Of Causes (USA)The plan is to run him in the cross-country race at Cheltenham. Based on his form over normal fences, he’d have a chance and all we can hope for is a bit of luck on the day. He raced over that cross-country course last time and we brought him back over during the Cheltenham sales since then and schooled him around there two days in a row, just to get his eye in, so hopefully that will help him. I’m 90% sure Jamie Codd will ride him and he knows him well. The Grand National is the longer-term plan for him.
Death Duty (IRE) GG He will definitely run in the Albert Bartlett. The Neptune isn’t being considered for him. I just think the Albert Bartlett is made for him, he should really be in his comfort zone over three miles. I wouldn’t have any worries about better ground for him. Even if it turned up very soft, we’d just drop him in there and take our time with him. He’s the sort of horse that nothing phases him, he’s very laid back and doesn’t do anything flashy, but they are often the best ones. His form has been solid all the way and it’s hard to knock him. He’s a big three-mile chaser in the making and I’m looking forward to next season with him already.
Diamond King (IRE) He’s in great form and I think you’ll see a different horse if he gets better ground. The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase is the race he’s being aimed at. He was very good at Galway earlier this season, but just hasn’t had suitable ground since then.
Dinaria Des Obeaux (FR) GG I was happy with her the other day and she just looks like she needs a longer trip. She’s entered in the Fred Winter and we’ll see what mark she gets. I would nearly rather run her in that than in the Triumph as it won’t be as strong. I think Cheltenham will suit her well.
Don Poli (IRE) GG He’s in great form and his last few runs have been good, though he has had plenty of chances at the top level now and seems a bit short of the very best. I hope he’ll be able to race a lot more prominently in Gold Cup this year than he did last year! I don’t know what happened at Down Royal, it was embarrassing. The way he ran that day he wouldn’t have won a point-to-point! Though in fairness to him he ran very sweet last time and is really enjoying himself these days.
Empire Of Dirt (IRE) GG Michael wants to run him in the Ryanair and that’s the plan. The only way that might change is if something went wrong with Outlander or Don Poli, in which case he could possibly run in the Gold Cup. He has improved this season and he would look to have a very good chance in the Ryanair Chase.
Jury Duty (IRE) We have had the Pertemps Final in mind for him for a while, but when he won at Navan he picked up a nasty cut and that put us on the back foot with him. We were just running out of time to get him qualified, so that’s why he ran at Chepstow the other day. Thankfully he got qualified and I’m looking forward to running him in it. I entered him in the Coral Cup just in case he didn’t get qualified for the Pertemps, but he’ll definitely run in the Pertemps all being well. He’s owned by a great bunch of lads, friends and neighbours of mine, so it’ll be fantastic if he runs well for them.”
Mega Fortune (FR) He’s won a Grade 1 and looks to be the pick of the Irish juveniles. I think the cheekpieces and riding him more positively are more important to him than the ground. I don’t think he’ll be unsuited by better ground than he got at Leopardstown last time. He’s a lazy horse at home, you’d think he was a three-mile chaser rather like a Flat-bred. Cheekpieces helped him on the Flat when he was with Andy Oliver and putting them back on him last time seemed to really help him.
Mick Jazz (FR) The plan is to run him in the County Hurdle. A fast pace there would suit him well as he travels strongly in his races.
Missy Tata (FR) When she won at Limerick she picked up a little suspensory problem. It isn’t career threatening, but she won’t run again this season. Chasing will be the plan next season.
Noble Endeavor (IRE) The Ultima Handicap Chase is the plan for him. He was running a big race in the four miler last year, he was only just behind Native River and Jamie said he was only getting going. He ran very well when a close second in the Martin Pipe too, so he clearly likes the place. It was always the plan to wait for this after winning the Paddy Power and the Irish National will be the plan after Cheltenham.”
Outlander (IRE) GG We’re looking forward to running him in the Gold Cup. We decided to skip the Irish Gold Cup with him as he had already had three runs and we thought freshening him up was the right thing to do with a view to the spring. He is a bit more unexposed than Don Poli and while it will be his first time over the Gold Cup trip, we’ll give him every chance to get it as we’ll drop him in and take our time with him. I don’t think he’s another Don Cossack, there’s no point in saying I think he is, but he has surprised us already and I’d be delighted to be surprised again by him.
Runfordave (IRE) He is entered in the Martin Pipe, Coral Cup, Neptune and Albert Bartlett. It depends on what happens with The Storyteller, as they are owned by the same man, but I would like to run one of them in the Martin Pipe for sure. I think he’ll stay mid-range trips well and might get three miles when he goes over a fence.
Shattered Love (IRE) GG I might run her in the Neptune and take advantage of the mares’ allowance. Her form isn’t far off the best of those novice hurdle mares in Ireland, but I just think the trip in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle would be a bit short for her, that’s why we are looking at the Neptune for her.
Squouateur (FR) He’s entered in the novices’ handicap chase and the Kim Muir, but we’ll wait and see what the handicapper does on Thursday before making any decisions.
Sutton Place He won’t travel to Cheltenham, but Aintree or Fairyhouse will be on his agenda. He could be a horse for the Aintree Hurdle.
The Storyteller (IRE) It all depends on what mark he gets, but we’d like to run him in the Martin Pipe. We entered him at Cheltenham a few weeks ago and he had a mark of 137 or 138, so hopefully that hasn’t changed too much since then.
Tiger Roll (IRE) GG Tiger Roll is capable of surprising us all! He’ll run in the National Hunt Chase and you’ll know after two fences whether he fancies it or not. There won’t be many rated higher than him in it and he has winning form at the track which is always a positive. He’ll get the trip and the better ground will suit him. Hopefully he fancies it on the day, as he’ll stay all day. Lisa O’Neill could well get the ride on him. She’s working very hard here and has been lucky for Gigginstown.
Tombstone (IRE) GG He’ll work at the weekend and if everything goes alright, he’ll be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. He’s an unexposed horse and while I’m not saying I know he’s good enough to win a Champion Hurdle, when you see Petit Mouchoir is third or fourth favourite for it and Tombstone finished in front of him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, that would give you hope. He was actually supposed to go chasing this season, but he needed a screw put in his joint last year and that just held him up getting back to the track this season. He’ll definitely go chasing next season.
Gordon Elliott Q&A with BetFair on twitter Feb 27th
Sam lee @Samlee1991 Would you say Death Duty is 100% going Albert Bartlett? Thanks.
#AskGordon Yes 110%
Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Where is Blood Crazed Tiger likely to be aimed?
JordanS @Shukes014 wheres does Barra go?
#AskGordon Mares Novice Hurdle
Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Rightdownthemiddle has plenty of potential targets. Which is the most likely at this stage
#AskGordon Irish Grand National
Grant Griffiths @grant_griffiths is Tycoon Prince going to Cheltenham and if so what race?
#AskGordon Not travelling
Millhouse @mtharrison How good is Tombstone?
#AskGordon Good horse who has earned his inclusion in the Champion H but chasing is going to be his game
Kev kelly @Kevkelly4 is there any chance apples jade will run in the champion hurdle?
#AskGordon Mares Hurdle
Cheltenham Punter @Harchibald04 Is Brelade likely to go to the Neptune or Handicaps at the festival?
#AskGordon We will see what Phil Smith does and make our decision this week
David Weldon @theweldon88 Shattered Love going to mares novice? Chance?
#AskGordon No, Neptune with a live chance
Tony Keenan @RacingTrends @BetfairRacing If/when The Storyteller doesn’t get into the Martin Pipe, where will he run?
#askgordon If he doesn’t get into the Martin P it will probably be the Coral Cup
Joe @Howley_Joe Who are you planning on running in the Fred Winter and Martin Pipe atm?
#AskGordon Pipe – Storyteller Fred W – D Des O
Rob @coxy182 Does Cause of Causes go straight to the Grand National?
#AskGordon X-country race at Cheltenham all being well
PG76 @pgchop76 What’s the plan for Empire of Dirt?
Aaron Boland @Salsify96 dark horse for the festival Gordon.
#AskGordon Automated in the Coral Cup
Greg Thomas anything for the Champion bumper?
#AskGordon No runner
STEVEN ORME @sormey is Diamond King on target for the Brown Advisory?
#AskGordon Yeah & I’m very happy with his prep. Looking forward to a bit of good ground with him.
TK @tkits14 Hi Gordon, what are the plans for Squouateur? Will he go to Cheltenham, if so which race?
#AskGordon Still no plans finalised
Mark McIlvaney @markmcilvaney dinaria des obeaux for the Fred winter?
#AskGordon See what Phil Smith does
Michael Catling @MichaelCatling will Tell Us More run in the Champion Chase?
#AskGordon Has an entry but may run in the County hurdle
Jim Moore @MonkrtyTunkerty _racing sum up the chances of Mick Jazz in the county hurdle. Thanks.
#AskGordon Must have a great chance after his last run, hopeful
Matt Cowburn @matt_cowburn When will we next see Poli Roi??
#AskGordon Bumper in Fairyhouse at Easter,
Andy @hendoracing, Will Minella till dawn run again this season please? Looks a lovely horse for the future,
#AskGordon Nice horse and will run in another novice hurdle in the near future all being well
Tom @tomdean93 do you have any exciting horses running in the next few weeks? & who wins the gold cup?
#AskGordon One of my Gigginstown runners in the GC & Cracking Smart in the coming weeks
Conor @ConorC_ Where’s Desoto County being aimed? No entries at Cheltenham.
#AskGordon Out for the season
Jay @mufc_fan_saf What happened to Three Swallowsnick?
#AskGordon Out injured but hoping to have her back next season
Greg Blundell @TheGoodRhebel When will Campeador be back Gordon? looks like a serious horse if getting round safely
#AskGordon Probably next season at this stage
New Rules? @CrippsSean Is Icario definitely going to the Fred Winter? (depending on mark obviously)
#AskGordon No, wont run
Dan Kelly @muffinmannhc Is Ball D’Arc going to hunt for place money in the Arkle?
#AskGordon No, keeping him at home
Simpo @bensimpsonuk does Samcro definitely miss the festival?
#AskGordon Yep, Punchestown or Fairyhouse with him
Steeple Jack @JAlexanderKing Will Sire Du Berlais be running at the festival? If so which race seems most likely at this point?
#AskGordon No plans to run at the festival
JordanS @Shukes014 Where’s Mala Beach?
#AskGordon Out for the season, hoping to have him back in full health next season
Paul Cakebread @Onlygolfnhorses 2 of yrs I like Baltazar D’Allier & Tocororo. R they ok? What r the plans? Was lookin 4ward 2 seein BD’A in 1 NovHRace@Chelts??
#AskGordon Tocororo at stud, Baltazar to Navan
Richie Morris @richiem07 will Fayonagh run in the bumper at the festival?
#AskGordon Entered but will probably run in the Sandown mares bumper on Imperial Cup day
PatrickJ @PaidiDeFaoite What plans are in place for Suttons Place
#AskGordon Not Cheltenham but could head to Aintree or Fairyhouse at Easter
Olly Keen @ollykeen09 when will we see blow by blow on a racetrack?
#AskGordon Wont jump a hurdle at this stage of the season so probably next season
Antepost Racing @AntepostRacing Is Duca De Thaix going the Triumph?
Ryan Gethins @ryangethins is blow by blow or lucky pass running at cheltenham?
#askgordon Neither will be running at Cheltenham
Harold Martin @mdoonan1989 @BetfairRacing @gelliott_racing is Baltazar D’allier put away for a chasing campaign next year or will we see him again this year
#AskGordon Will have another run over hurdles, Probably Navan in a few weeks. Will make a nice Chaser next year
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of the Mullins machines courtesy of sportinglife.com!
Willie Mullins gave our man Ben Linfoot the very latest update on his likely team for the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
DJAKADAM He’s in good form. He hasn’t had any setback this year. Last year he got that nasty cut when he ran at Cheltenham and we just had enough time. This year we’ve had a clear run, a better run, to the Gold Cup. It was part of the plan all along [to miss the Irish Gold Cup] and then when I saw the date I think it was about a week nearer this year between and I’m not sure that’s great for the Irish Gold Cup. Whether we need to see that moved back, I don’t know why it was so close this year. I think he’s more mature now. First year he was young, second year he had a bad prep. This year everything is going right. Would he need to improve? Would last year’s run do? I was very taken with his run at Christmas. We reflected afterwards that if we had used different tactics we might’ve had a different result. We’re happy with where we are now and that’s the important thing. Obviously it’s more open this year. We were 12-1 a week ago and 5-1 now, but it’s obviously been a funny year with injuries for a lot of people. It would be nice to win. We’ll hope, we’ll see. I’m looking at getting there, I’m not looking at other horses in the race. My horse has finished second in it the last few years we just need the ball bouncing in our favour a little bit more and it could happen.
DOUVAN Douvan’s in good order. Everything has gone well. At this stage we’re just trying to get there in one piece and hope things go right as well. He’s a lovely relaxed individual. Holly rides him every day and they go round there at their own pace. Just to get there and hopefully run his race. When you go to Cheltenham with a strong favourite it’s always relief rather than joy. There’s a fair bit of expectation with Douvan and you just hope it all goes alright and he gets there. You’ve just got to try and mind them as best you can and hope nothing stupid happens like a gust of wind frightening them and they clip into themselves or something like that. He’s not there yet, but the bar keeps rising and he keeps meeting it. He’s got to win a Champion Chase or maybe a couple of them. Maybe we’ll go in a different direction after that. He’s won everything we’ve asked him to win but you’ve got to win your championship races. I only think every morning about keeping him sound. I’ve younger horses in the yard I think might be a Champion Hurdle horse one day or a Gold Cup horse one day, but with him I just take it day by day and try to get him to the Festival and hoping nothing goes wrong on the day or in the race. It’s that narrow for me with him at the moment. I think I’ve said what I thought about him – that he could be the best that I’ve ever had – but he’s a long way to go to get there. He’s certainly got to get past Hurricane Fly, who did what he did. The bar is high for him. We’d all like to win them (championship races). I think we’ve been second five or six times in the Gold Cup and we’ve probably had very few runners in the Champion Chase or the Stayers’ Hurdle. I’d like to tick them off if we can. I don’t really watch the replays, but there’s a few times he’s given me frights and everyone else is saying he jumped fantastic. Ruby says ‘I couldn’t see what you saw on the ground when I’m on his back’. He’s so in control and he’s got the scope to get in close or stand back. He seems to have everything. It’s rare for a horse of his size to stay so sound. Usually when they’re that big, things go wrong.
LIMINII would say it’s 50-50 [that she is supplemented for the Champion Hurdle]. I had a chat with Rich the other day and we both said we wouldn’t chat much more until the morning of the thing comes. A lot depends on how Vroum Vroum Mag goes between now and then, she’s obviously in the Mares’ Hurdle. I think if she’s fine and sparking, we probably might take a punt. I went to Punchestown thinking ‘am I mad going there’. Last year when Annie Power won it you’d would probably have said before the race would be a schooling hurdle for her, with what was in the race. This year I thought Apple’s Jade wouldn’t make it easy for us and maybe a hard race three weeks before Cheltenham is not good. But I thought we’d said we were going to run, so we probably had to turn up and I just hoped it wouldn’t turn into a race of attrition. We thought we’d ride the race Ruby did ride and everything just fell into place. What I didn’t think was that Limini could pull out and go past her without getting a slap, which begs two questions – have we improved that much? I thought we’d improved at home, but I didn’t know we’d improved that much and did Apple’s Jade run up to her form? If she did, I think we’re well entitled to go for the Champion Hurdle. Limini didn’t have a hard race and pulled out of it well. It was not more than she would do if we didn’t go to Punchestown and took her away somewhere. Her jumping has improved hugely from last year.
FOOTPAD will also run in the Champion Hurdle and I’d imagine I’ll try and get WICKLOW BRAVE there, he’s a course winner.Petit Mouchoir wasn’t going anywhere from Footpad so we’re hoping wherever he is we’re not far away. The track should suit us better at Cheltenham.
UN DE SCEAUX The one that’s hard to watch is Un De Sceaux. Every morning he goes out he wants to race, he’s a bit like Hurricane Fly, he wants to be competitive. He pulls, puts his head down and wants to get on with the job. You worry that he can go out there every morning and do that without pulling a muscle or overreaching, those type of horses are harder to mind. The Ryanair is the plan with him. Ground or no ground, that’s where we are. He won over two and a half miles on heavy ground as a four-year-old. He could get three miles now. He is keen but I think he’s settled a lot better than what he used to, I think fences have settled him down, and I think his last run showed how well he can settle. The horse is settling down as he gets older and I don’t think the trip will be a problem. He’s probably easier to ride in a race.
BLACK HERCULES is not pleasing me, you can put a line through him.
SHANESHILL goes for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
NICHOLS CANYON I’m not so sure about. He’s had an in-and-out year and I might leave him and go to Punchestown. He’s in the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle. If I changed a few things with him and he started to bounce between now and then, I might bring him, but at the moment I could leave him at home.
CLONDAW WARRIOR also runs. He should probably have been running over three miles long before now. They’ve both got chances in it. It’s going to be tough for them, but they have each-way chances.
VROUM VROUM MAG I think Vroum Vroum will go for the Mares’ Hurdle. On her last performance, that’s all I can see her doing. I’d have no problem with her going back over fences but the hurdle programme is suiting her better at the moment. She was terrible at Doncaster. But she’s coming back right, we’re much happier with her. I think she was just brewing some sort of a cold and when we got home we gave her antibiotics. I gave her an easy time, she’s had bits of work since and we’re happier with her now she’s coming back to herself. I don’t think she could run in a Champion Hurdle after Doncaster. I don’t think we could ask her any of those questions now. The mares’ hurdle is the obvious route for her now.
I didn’t get YORKHILL going over fences until Christmas time. I thought I had the other two for the Champion Hurdle (Annie Power and Faugheen) and I said I’d let him go chasing. I thought about it [going back over hurdles] for about two seconds and then I said no. I spoke to Graham Wylie and he was thinking the same thing. We could always come back over hurdles next year, but we’ll see how he gets on in Cheltenham. We’re going for the JLT.
ROYAL CAVIAR goes for the Arkle. He’s in great order. We think he jumps very well and he’ll like nice ground.
I’m not sure where BELLSHILL will go, either the RSA or the four-mile (National Hunt Chase). We’re blaming ourselves [for previous Cheltenham defeats].
HAYMOUNT will go for the RSA or the four-miler, probably the four-miler. I thought he hated the ground the other day. He jumps well. He wants nice ground, he’s settled down a lot. I’d be happy enough he’ll get the trip in the four-miler.
SKY BET SUPREME TEAM
We’ll probably have four or five runners. MELON, BUNK OFF EARLY, CRACK MOME, CILAOS EMERY – those four, anyway. Melon is a horse with plenty of ability who jumps well. He’s a fine, strong, tall horse who has the ability but doesn’t have the experience. The form in the two-mile division is not as strong as other years. We’ll find out on the day, I suppose. When you’re looking at what Melon does at home, all the time, I’d say it will be an easy enough decision for Ruby. Fiveforthree won the Neptune after one run and Melon has plenty of jumping experience at home. He seems a natural jumper. I suppose when I bought him I thought ‘Champion Hurdle horse’ but if you look at the size of him now I think he’s really grown and matured. He could easily jump fences. Let’s see what he does here first. I think both Crack Mome and Cilaos Emery have good enough form to be placed in it if not win it if things go right for them. All of them will improve.
KEMBOY, SATURNAS, MONTALBANO and BACARDYS. Saturnas didn’t ride out this morning. He’s pulled a muscle and hopefully he’ll be all right in a few days. Montalbano could be Neptune. I don’t know what to do with him, he’s very keen. Bacardys probably did surprise me in the Deloitte, but I was happy with the way he did it with the tactics we used. He’ll probably go for the Neptune, rather than the Albert Bartlett. He’s a horse we did think a lot of and the Deloitte put him back on track. INVITATION ONLY is 50-50. We might keep him for Fairyhouse.
ALBERT BARTLETT TEAM
AUGUSTA KATE looks like she’d want a longer trip, so I’d say she could go Albert Bartlett. C’EST JERSEY could be Albert Bartlett. PENHILL could run. BON PAPA could be another one, we’ll have to see what connections want to do. Augusta Kate was upsides him [Death Duty] and that form puts her in with a good… she could easily run in the Albert Bartlett. No I wouldn’t be [afraid of taking Death Duty on again]. BATTLEFORD could go for the Albert Bartlett as well.
The obvious one for LET’S DANCE would be the mares’ novice. We seem to have a few a few nice ones for that, but at the moment I would have to say it will possibly be the mares’ novice. She’s a second-season novice, which is a big help to her. That would look the easiest one, but she could slot in any of the novice races and mares’ form seems to be good this year. I think the mares form is stacking up better than the geldings form. AIRLIE BEACH probably has to take her on. I don’t think we’d run her in the Supreme.
I think the nice ones are BAPAUME and MERI DEVIE. I think they will go. DANDY MAG is also entered in the Triumph but I don’t think he will run. I was disappointed with Meri Devie last time, she’s a lot better than that. I probably gave her too much time off after her first run. Maybe she needs to be trained a bit more like a gelding. She’s been in good order since. She’s growing and putting on weight so I can afford to be a good bit harder on her over the next few weeks. Ruby had huge time for her before the last day and I made him ride Bapaume, when he wanted to ride her. He thinks she’s a fair mare and she’s not out of it by any means. Bapaume had won a Grade 2 before, she’d won a maiden hurdle. I thought it was a simple enough decision. I think he’ll need to improve but they both should be competitive.
CARTER McKAY goes there. NEXT DESTINATION goes there. The two fillies, RED HOT FILLY PEPPERS and MYSTICAL THEATRE are also entered. Carter would be the one wouldn’t he? He’d been doing nice work at home and it was better than I’d hoped. You don’t go expecting a performance like that. I suppose he does [compare favourably with his past bumper winners]. That performance the other day would compare favourably with anything. He’s a fair machine. Next Destination works well.
Our horses usually get somewhere between 6-8lb over their Irish weight. If ISLEOFOPENDREAMS does he should get in the Pertemps. I don’t like giving out about handicappers. You enter, you run, you take it or leave it. People get upset about the handicapper, I try not to. We’ve been lucky to win handicap hurdles. I don’t think we’ve ever been sighted in a handicap chase at Cheltenham. IVAN GROZNY could go for a handicap. BLAZER’s entered in a handicap or two. ARCTIC FIRE is in good order, he’s working well. I stuck him in the County Hurdle to see, it’s probably 50-50 whether he runs or not we’ll see what kind of work he does in the next few days.
Further Cheltenham News
Interesting thoughts on-line @ racingpost.com
Which festival bankers are most vulnerable? By Tony McFadden 8:00PM 27 FEB 2017
BOOKMAKERS took a battering at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, with a succession of well-backed winners sending punters home happy. There are six horses trading at shorter than 2-1 for this year’s meeting, and how they fare could make or break the week for punters and layers. In a bid to ensure this year’s festival is another 2016, we’ve ranked the hot favourites in order of shaky to certs.
- On The Fringe St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase (6-4 generally)
Pros: Has dominated the hunter chase scene for the last two years, winning this contest before completing the festival treble at Aintree and Punchestown. Now a 12-year-old but looked as good as ever when posting a highly-encouraging second to Foxrock on recent reappearance at Leopardstown.
Cons: Only scrambled home in last season’s race and this year’s renewal could be stronger with Wonderful Charm, a high-class Grade 2-winning chaser at his peak, not needing to come off the bridle to win on both starts in hunter chases. Prolific winner Ask The Weatherman brings a big reputation from the pointing sphere and impressed when slamming a formerly smart chaser at Wincanton recently.
Conclusion: The horse to beat but doesn’t make appeal at such a short price against a couple of strong contenders, in what is likely to be a chaotic 20-plus-runner cavalry charge.
- Vroum Vroum Mag OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (6-4 generally)
Pros: Consistent, versatile mare who has been beaten just once in 13 starts since joining Willie Mullins. Was an impressive winner of this race last year and the 2m4f trip appeals as her optimum.
Cons: Often compared to illustrious stablemate Annie Power but does not boast a piece of form to suggest she is nearly as good as last season’s Champion Hurdle winner. Her one defeat was inflicted by likely rival Apple’s Jade, and she was well below her best at Doncaster last time when narrowly winning at 1-5.
Conclusion: Arguably should have beaten Apple’s Jade at Fairyhouse when set plenty to do, and meets that rival on 4lb better terms. But there’s not a great deal between the pair in terms of ability and her lacklustre effort last time – on the back of a hard race over a stamina-sapping three miles – has to be a concern.
- Unowhatimeanharry Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (11-8 Betfair)
Pros: Successful on all eight starts since joining Harry Fry and hasn’t had to pull out all the stops to register a hat-trick of Graded-race successes this season. Twice a winner over course and distance and holds rock-solid claims.
Cons: Not as far clear on ratings as you may expect for a horse trading so close to evens, so may not be able to get away with performing much below his best if other rivals bring their A-game.
Conclusion: By far the most likely winner but not a great deal of juice in his price, and both Shaneshill and 2015 winner Cole Harden appeal as legitimate rivals, particularly if the ground is good.
- Yorkhill JLT Novices’ Chase (7-4 Betfair, Coral and Ladbrokes)
Pros: Looked a potential top-notcher when comfortably beating Champion Hurdle hope Yanworth in last season’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, and further displayed his huge engine when following up at Aintree despite refusing to settle and pulling hard throughout. Not hard pressed to win both starts over fences and has a clear edge over his rivals in terms of raw ability.
Cons: Not straightforward – as evidenced by his hard-pulling antics – and has displayed a tendency to jump to his left.
Conclusion: Plenty will be willing to take him on having displayed a shaky jumping technique and signs of temperament, but he remains an exciting prospect and by some distance the most talented horse in the race.
- Altior Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy (1-3 generally)
Pros: Wide-margin winner of last year’s red-hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and has taken well to chasing this season, winning all four starts with ease, including against more experienced rivals at Newbury last time. The heir apparent to Sprinter Sacre and is rated higher than that superstar was at the same stage of their careers.
Cons: Jumping largely an asset, but stood a long way off a couple at Sandown and wouldn’t want to take similar liberties with the stiff Cheltenham fences.
Conclusion: A potential superstar whose presence will make the distance markets more interesting than the outright betting. Will win barring a fall.
- Douvan Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (1-3 generally)
Pros: Eight-time Grade 1 winner who is unbeaten in 13 starts for Willie Mullins, including two authoritative successes at the festival. Regarded by many as the best horse in training and has significantly better form than all his likely opponents in what will be a small-field renewal.
Cons: Looks bombproof. But you won’t get rich backing him.
Conclusion: A cut above his rivals and should be a formality.