Friday 6.00pm I hope you are all enjoying reading the Cheltenham Festival blogs as much as I am researching and writing them. Don Poli out for the season is the latest headline but on a personal note I was more disappointed that Harry Fry hadn’t left Wotzizname in the Pertemps final on Thursday! A well handicapped horse.
Back to the day job and hopefully we’ve found four for Saturday. Don’t go crazy we need all the ammunition we can muster for next week. Typical that the three selections that Paul Kealy and I agreed upon today didn’t get a sniff but the fourth leg of my un-posted Lucky 15 wins by 22L at 11/10!
Saturday Lucky 15
Sandown 3.00 KAYF BLANCO 11/1 PP 10/1 general
Ayr 3.55 ONE FOR HARRY 10/3 standout Betfred 5/2 PP!!
Hereford 4.00 SIRABAD 5/2 general
Hereford 5.10 ROLLING DYLAN 6/4 general
and here’s why
Sandown 3.00 KAYF BLANCO The Betfair hurdle represents smart 2m handicap hurdle and the selection was a “couldn’t quite go through with it from two out” fifth behind two smart Cheltenham bound novices in Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes. In this slimmed down version of the Imperial Cup that run is standout. Kayf Blanco was already on my hit list after his third to Brain Power over C&D in December and with the McPherson/Woods combo in good form looks a solid each way bet even as an 8yo towards the top of the weights.
My good friend Ben Linfoot at sportinglife.com thinks it’s value too! “The Betfair Hurdle has been a good guide in recent years, though. Both the last two winners of the Imperial Cup, Flying Angel and Ebony Express, came out of the Betfair and there’s no doubt this year’s renewal, featuring two novices that have sound claims in the Sky Bet Supreme, was a good one. That leads me to think KAYF BLANCO’S effort in fifth was good, particularly as he went into the race on the back of a kicking from Lord Of The Island at Exeter, an incident that required stitches. He travelled well on the inside in the Betfair Hurdle and only Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes were going as well as him three out. At two out he got a bit outpaced as the leaders turned the screw, but he stayed on nicely enough into fifth after that. It wasn’t a performance that suggested he was thrown in off a mark in the mid-130s by any means, but it was a very solid effort in the context of this Saturday’s race. The handicapper has also dropped him 1lb – every little helps – and trainer Graeme McPherson reaches for the hood and tongue-tie in a bid to squeeze out a bit more improvement.
We’re not certain to get a good gallop here but there is hope that Bigmartre and Fix Le Kap, both of which like to race prominently, ensure a sound enough tempo. That would suit Kayf Blanco as he can be a little keen and he’s gone well in big-field handicaps like the County Hurdle. He goes well at Sandown, too, and he ran a cracker when third behind Champion Hurdle hopeful Brain Power and his stablemate Consul De Thaix here in December. There isn’t a horse of that calibre in Saturday’s line-up and the softer ground will help Kayf Blanco as well. He’s a solid, consistent horse with good course form and the general 10s (you might get bigger at Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook) probably underestimates his chance a little.”
Ayr 3.55 ONE FOR HARRY Second last time to Cyrius Darius in the C2 Morebattle hurdle at Kelso should be good enough to see off this moderate bunch of C3 handicappers. Ryan Day taking off 5lbs is a plus on both counts. Obvious danger is the progressive Tomkevi but that was an ordinary C4 Sedgefield handicap he won last time.
Hereford 4.00 SIRABAD Class should tell and Sirabad carries top weight for a reason, he has the best form in the book. Not been seen since a solid second to Knockgraffon at Newbury back in November but Sean bowen should be able to dictate from the front and collect this decent £15K Hereford pot.
Hereford 5.10 ROLLING DYLAN Got stuck in the mud last time at Sandown when sent off 5/1 favourite for a G3 handicap but prior to that had an upwardly mobile profile. Has plenty going for him here. He drops to a C4 novice hurdle, better ground, a step up in trip to beyond three miles and the services of Richard Johnson and supposedly this ride is the main reason the champion hasn’t gone to the days big meeting at Sandown.
Thursday Lucky 15
Absolutely pitiful set of results!
Carlisle 2.35 MASSINI’S LADY 7th 5/1
Couldn’t go the pace, jumped fine and looked like staying on turning for home. Looked a schooling run.
Wincanton 2.55 SARTORIAL ELEGANCE 3rd 6/4F
Spooked at the start giving away ground. Jumped left. Never competitive.
Carlisle 3.45 DARTFORD WARBLER 3rd 6/4F
Spooked at the start giving away ground. Jumped left. Never competitive.
Thurles 4.55 PLAIN TALKING 10th 14/1
Never competitive, beaten three out, tailed off!!
Cheltenham News starts right here!
Racing Post David Jennings 1:09PM, MAR 10 2017 While admitting to be “awfully disappointed” with the mark Presenting Percy has been given for the Pertemps Final, owner Philip Reynolds has confirmed his promising six-year-old will definitely run in the race. Reynolds and Galway-based trainer Pat Kelly teamed up to win the same contest 12 months ago with Mall Dini and there are plenty who believe lightning will strike twice, with Presenting Percy vying for favouritism with Tobefair at around 6-1.
Kelly likened himself to a “raging bull” when learning last week the British handicapper had given Presenting Percy a mark of 146 – 6lb higher than in Ireland. The horse had run off 130 when winning last time at Fairyhouse. “I was awfully disappointed with the mark he got,” said Reynolds. “To get a hike of 16lb for his win at Fairyhouse is very severe, but we think he’s a very nice horse and the plan is to run. It’s not often you have a chance of winning a race at Cheltenham, so we have to take our chance. He’ll have to try to win the race off a 7lb higher mark than Mall Dini did, and that is a tough ask.”
A decision on whether Mall Dini bids to become a dual festival winner in the Kim Muir was due to be made on Friday night. “Mall Dini was a bit sore after Gowran Park, where he clattered the second-last, so he missed a bit of work,” said Reynolds. “There’s the Irish Grand National to think about but, to reiterate, having a fancied horse for a race at Cheltenham doesn’t happen often, so hopefully he’s able to run.”
Reynolds could have a third runner at the festival in the shape of the Willie Mullins-trained Tin Soldier, who is unbeaten since being purchased from France and could go for the Martin Pipe on Friday. The owner added: “Tin Soldier is a nice horse with a good attitude who stays well, so the Martin Pipe could really suit him as it’s usually won by horse who comes from off the pace. They tend to go very quick and it suits stayers.”
Five Festival Chances for the Butler Sherborn sponsored Ben Pauling Racing
HighBridge – Supreme Novice Hurdle, 2 miles Tuesday. He has won his three starts over hurdles this season and is going there in great form. He appears to have plenty of speed so should travel well through the race. He also stays well which is important as they go very quickly in this race, especially as it is the first race of the whole meeting and the jockeys are normally a little over excited!
A Hare Breath – Arkle Novice Chase, 2 miles Tuesday. He has a very big task ahead of him, as Altior, the favourite in the race, is most people’s idea of the banker of the meeting. I couldn’t be happier with A Hare Breath and Richard Johnson has been booked to ride him. He won his first chase this season and then was third in a grade 2 at Doncaster, but the race didn’t work out in our favour at all with it being a slow early gallop. He wants a fast end to end gallop as he stays well and he has very good course form, which is always a big plus. If we ran into a place we would be thrilled.
Willoughby Court – Neptune Investment Novice Hurdle, 2m5f Wednesday. I have never had this horse in better form, and he goes there as probably my best chance of the week. His real strengths are his jumping and that he is a strong stayer. He won the Grade 2 Leamington Spa novice hurdle at Warwick last time out by 8 lengths, and that form alone is as good as any in the race. There are a few very nice types in the race but I think he could be a tough nut to crack.
Leoncavallo – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, 2m5f Wednesday. He is a horse that has been a bit in and out form wise this year, but is now back down to a good mark, and is in good form at home. Alex Ferguson will take 7lbs off his back, which will be a big help. He should stay the 2m5f and has course form, having been fifth in the Triumph hurdle last season.
Dolatulo – Foxhunters Steeple Chase, 3m2f Friday. This is an amateur Hunters Chase that is normally very fast and ferocious, as it is seen as the Amateurs’ Gold Cup. Dolatulo ran very well at Kelso to finish second, and won at Ffos Las on his third outing. He is a lovely horse, and if the ground came soft, he could just have a good each way shout. I would be worried if the ground went a bit quick though by the end of the week. Dougie Gittins rides him for his mother, Nicky White, and will be very much looking forward to it. Let’s hope the ground doesn’t get too quick towards the end of the week.
FESTIVAL GOING Good to soft (GoingStick: 6.7 on Tuesday at 13:00) Last updated @Fri 10 Mar 3:23pm
RP Lee Mottershead 5:13PM, MAR 10 2017 Cheltenham’s weather forecaster John Kettley believes Simon Claisse may have to water over the coming days but the man himself insists it is too soon to be making irrigation predictions. Former BBC regular Kettley is employed by Jockey Club Racecourses, whose flagship jumps venue remained good to soft on Friday on the Old and New Courses with the cross-country track additionally having some good places. Kettley said: “There should be a little rain on Sunday but not much. Realistically, we should now only have small amounts of rain prior to the meeting. I would have thought for that reason Simon must be thinking of having to turn on the taps. There is a batch of rain coming in on Thursday night into Friday. I’ve told Simon at this stage we could be looking at 5mm to 6mm, so that would be ground-changing, especially if they have watered. Friday looks like being the wettest day of the week.” Asked about watering, Claisse said it is “too far out to be making any predictions”, adding: “Nothing has changed today. We’ve had a dry, overcast day, one that was cooler than Thursday, and the going description remains the same.”
Claisse revealed Jonjo O’Neill was out on the track on Friday and supported the good to soft description.