Wednesday 6.45pm It is currently 3.20pm and I’ve just had a most enjoyable and necessary cigarette! Time to calm down. Often I ask myself “Why spend hours scouring the form book, reading blogs, stewards reports, watching video after video?” That’s why. So you can bang in a 16/1 winner of a 25 runner Coral Cup handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival!! I will apologise if the rest of this blog is a little patchy but I will do my very best as I’ve got the wheelbarrow on standby for tomorrow.
GOING:- Cheltenham Clerk of the Course & Director of Racing Simon Claisse said this morning: “I cannot believe that yet again today the sun has come out. There has been no rain since Sunday. We have had a dry night and another heavy dew and the forecast is for dry and warm weather with sunny spells today. It was quite murky early on and I thought the forecast was for it to remain cloudy throughout the day with the odd sunny spell. Maybe, we are going to be fortunate again. I had a good walk round with the stick this morning, the ground may be marginally quicker. There is a little bit of good ground at the top of the hill when they turn for home as is always the case but I think it will be pretty similar to yesterday, maybe marginally quicker. This is what we describe as groundsman’s ground because it is perfect from a horse’s point of view, really safe ground, but the horses haven’t really made a mess of it because the grass is so strong. I’ve been delighted with how little damage has been done with 112 runners on the first day. I had no temptation to water last night. Whether we will have to do something for tomorrow’s tracks (on the New Course) which is a little bit quicker and currently Good, Good to Soft in places, that is a decision we take later today, depending on what happens and how much it dries out. It’s looking as if the rainfall may come on Friday afternoon so we could be lucky and have four dry days.”
Thursdays Lucky 15
Cheltenham 1.30 DISKO
Cheltenham 4.10 EMPIRE OF DIRT
Cheltenham 4.50 UNOWHATIMEANHARRY
Cheltenham 5.30 POTTERS LEGEND
and hopefully this is why
1.30 JLT Novice Chase 2m 5f Big race for me!! I covered it extensively in “Could it pay BB YY at Cheltenham Part 2.” In essence I don’t trust Yorkhill and I think Disko is destined to the top. Just eight runners which may put a different complexion on matters. Disko three star*** win
2.10 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle 3m 1f You could make a case for most of these. You had to earn your place to get in this race by finishing in the first six in a qualifier so a lot of the runners have form that ties in. However lots of “light hiding under bushels” here. Ground could be key, qualified on Soft or worse runs on Good! Two against the field:-
PRESENTING PERCY – Same connections as last year’s winner Mall Dini. Two concerns. Firstly they gave him an extra run to make sure he got in and he has been clobbered by Phil Smith, the handicapper. However on his last run especially he still has to be competitive in the hands of a very patient Davy Russell. Secondly I am not 100% sure he genuinely stays three miles. Could be a Grade horse in a handicap. One star* win
ROCKLANDER – Just think this improver may be best suited by 3m at Cheltenham on Good ground and OR140 is a competitive mark. Messrs Heskin and George are having a fine season. Didn’t think he was too busy when second to Impulsive Star last time and I’m hoping for fast and late! Two star** each way.
2.50 RyanAir Chase 2m 5f This is trappy. Un de Sceaux up in trip and on Good ground has to be taken on. Pricewise and I are keen on Empire of Dirt and burgled 25/1 weeks ago. Won the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival last season and the 10yo has really got his act together, loves the trip, loves the ground. Two star ** win.
3.30 Stayers Hurdle 3m I have come to the conclusion that Unowhatimeanharry is the best of this Festival’s odds against hot pots. He strikes me as a horse that just does enough. He has the whole of the British contenders covered and the Irish challenge is dubious. Jezki and Nicholls Canyon have class but the stamina? Shaneshill comes to Cheltenham and finishes second, usually. Five star***** nap of the meeting.
4.10 Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase 2m 5f This is a very difficult handicap and maybe I’m looking more towards the top of the handicap after Un Temps Pour Tout so let’s have three against the field.
VILLAGE VIC – I can’t think of another horse that has such a fantastic record over this trip and this course. He will wear his heart on his shield and probably try to grind it out from the front and if you get past him you’ll know you’ve been in a race. One star* win.
BARON ALCO – If his run here before Christmas over this trip when second to Whisper, beaten 2½ lengths giving 5lb, is to be believed he could be thrown in here off 146. Trips OK, has jumped round Cheltenham and he will appreciate this Good ground. 13th in the Fred Winter, 12th in the Coral Cup, so a Festival regular and looks an improved horse over fences. Family Moore know how to win a handicap! One star* win.
BOUVREUIL – Another with strong Festival form, second in the Fred Winter and last year in the Tuesday novices handicap. I think Paul Nicholls has laid this one out for this race all season and as long as the ground isn’t too quick he has to go too close. One star* win.
4.50 Mares Novice Hurdle 2m I am going to stick by my guns here and I’m all over La Bague Au Roi for Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan. This could be one of the hottest races of the Festival as I think amongst the novices the Mares may be better than the geldings. An obvious case is Airlie Beach who won the G1 Royal Bond beating the boys headed by Saturnas and at the time Ruby Walsh and I agreed that she and Death Duty were the two best novices in Ireland. However since then there has been no love emanating from Willie Mullins for this horse and indeed Ruby Walsh rides Let’s Dance tomorrow instead. She was fourth in the Triumph, second at Punchestown and since then won her next four, a maiden, a Listed, a G3 and a G2. Progressive indeed especially as the last one was against the boys. However there are two negatives, firstly the obvious cloud over the sweaty palmed Mullins team but secondly she is best over half a mile further! I originally thought La Bague au Roi was a grinder, albeit a good one as she is a big girl with a raking stride but she has shown herself better than that and the eureka moment was probably at Wetherby when after the second last she quickened and ran away from her field. She repeated the dose in a Listed event at Newbury beating Dusky Legend who had finished second to Limini in this race last year! Three star*** win
5.30 Kim Muir Amateur Riders Handicap Chase
This is a twenty four runner handicap chase over 3m2f for amateur riders and any shortlist would have over half the field on it with the market headed by two sexy horses in Squouateur and Mall Dini but are only there on their connections and their hurdling form because what they have done over fences has been pitiful! I am only going to tell you about one horse because I love his profile. Trained at Newmarket by Lucy Wadham, a stable in winning form, and she has booked Harry Fry’s amateur the very talented Michael Legg having his first ride for the yard.
POTTERS LEGEND – In his last run over hurdles he was third in the 3m+ G1 Sefton hurdle behind Balyoptic. Tick trip and ground and very definitely ability! This season he won his first two novice chases including 3m on debut, second in a G2 at Doncaster, fourth at Newbury to Belami des Pictons when hampered three out (this is race where my ears pricked up) and then a staying on second here at Cheltenham over 2m 5f. Not seen since the end of January with a spot on mark of OR139 and the trainer went public saying this race was the plan!! Is my enthusiasm coming through? Two star** each way.
1.30 Disko Three star*** win
2.10 Presenting Percy One star* win
2.10 Rocklander Two Stars ** e/w
2.50 Empire of Dirt Two Star** win
3.30 Unowhatimeanharry Five Star***** win Nap of the meeting
4.10 Bouvreuil One star* win
4.10 Village Vic One star* win
4.10 Baron Alco One star* win
4.50 La Bague au Roi Three star*** win
5.30 Potters Legend Two Stars** each way
Total 25 stars
Boys and Girls I’m running out of time and I need to post this blog The Review will be tomorrow at 11am and you’ll have to use Oddschecker to get the prices!!