Good Evening from the Major who writes from the clearest Worcestershire evening – Cloudless skies of such certainty. Didn’t we do well today!
All of the layers will be nursing wounds and us merry band of warriors, well, we all had steak tonight. For if you did not make money at Cheltenham on this, the finest of Paddy’s Days, then there is no hope.
Black Hercules went in for the blog at a tasty 6/1, returned 4/1. Headed in the straight, a little like Un de Sceaux, Ruby did not react, this time he had the horse. He was crossed heavily by L’ami Serge but being the sort of composed genius that has been to the fun fair before, he calmly switched outside again, got Black Hercules straightened up and fired home… Shabash!
My main picks in the Pertemps ran with real credit, Arpege D’Alene looked like the winner twice in the straight but as this trappy events will, it unfurled in a slightly different way, still, 16/1 the place, it will do.
The Ryanair went as advertised too to Vautour and the rueful Rich Ricci could only contemplate what might have been. Bitter sweetness, drink your drink Mr Ricci.
Thistlecrack was immense. One of the performances of the week, in a week which has seen many striking horses. Alpha Des Obeaux looked a momentary threat after Cole Harden relinquished the pace making duties and well, the rest is for the record. It will be interesting if they see him as a chaser next year because that did not look a bad World Hurdle. It might be argued that Cole Harden ran to a similar standard as his winning run last year.
As a marvellous footnote, in a week in which the redemptive training performance of Nicky Henderson has been well advertised. He managed a highly impressive feat when nursing Bobs Worth back to place in a Cheltenham
My 14/1 shot Kings Palace placed and my 12/1 shot, Fingal Bay was pulled up but I was personally kicking myself as I knew that Empire of Dirt had a had a race in him someday. I am a sucker for the song too.
Limini. I know some of you out there dislike this sort of thing, consider it uncompetitive and bad for racing but you and I depart on this point. I love to see an imperious winner, one so confident that that they do not think they are best, they know it. Shabash! The bookies were buried.
Doctor Harper would have had the money delivered in lorry loads rather than barrowloads but we cannot all have it our own way.
Friday. I shall keep things sensible. I think. What the hell. It is never enough is it.
Gold Cup Day Tips – Cheltenham
The Triumph. Of all the novice races at Cheltenham, the juvenile ones are perhaps my most financially baron.
For what it is worth, on breeding and on performances, many of the runners in this year’s Triumph seem to be proper national hunt prospects, perhaps this will not be their day. On spring ground, over this trip, I am not sure that it is the profile of winner I am seeking.
Ivanovich Gorbatov is my pick and I know it will split opinion. Yes, he has more reputation than proven form and he was put in his place last time out. Yet, he has a flat breeding and may well perform better for a return to a good surface. 9/2, for the sort of stake my modest record suggests. I’d like it for Joseph O’Brien to get a winner – Would add a twist.
The County Hurdle is always a bit of a ‘drop a pin’ job for me too. You cannot go wrong with a 5/6 year old from the Mullins or Nicholls yards and my chosen weapon is Modus who placed in a Champion Hurdle last year. While Moon Racer has had issues and we wait to Aintree to judge the value of the winner, Modus did have Bellshill, Supersundae and Yanworth all in behind so cannot be that bad! 14/1 will do.
The Albert Bartlett has memories for me from last year when No More Heroes was staying on to glory but things just did not work out.
This year, I have held my reservations over Barters Hill for some time and so have been looking forward to finding an alternative in the race. My selection is the unfashionable (surprising given connections) Long Dog at 8/1. I will grant you that it has not been winning with the same panache that some of the other Mullins aeroplanes have managed but some horses do not. Some do just enough, more of that thought in a bit. His battling style to me, suggests he will enjoy the step up in trip.
Then it is Gold Cup time. This was almost the Gold Cup of a generation. Had Vautour and Coneygree made it then I might have called it as such. Still, it is a superb field and I envy those there to see it.
We need class. We need staying credentials. We want a good jockey and we probably want a good ground horse.
This last factor is where I expected to depart from my chosen horse. I expected, in anticipation of writing up this years Gold Cup sermon, that I would be saying that the style of running and record on soft ruled him out.
Instead, the conditions reinforce my view. I shall get there, bear with me.
Djakadam had a heavy fall latest but in a way, it might have saved his Gold Cup chance. He was only going to get in an almighty scrap with Smad Place and he may well have left his chances on the hill last time. Watching the rueful response of Ricci; one has to wonder whether that will be hammered home. They know Vautour is a better horse, even if unproven as a stayer. I just feel the team won’t be fully geared up for victory and I am unsure of the horses chances on this good ground.
Cue Card is the hardest horse for me to rule out. I am battling the fact that I have never been attracted to him; I know it is a harsh judgement. He has been resurgent this year and stands to win a cool £1m for connections following his earlier season exploits. He has the experience and while I often think of him as a good ground sort, the reality is that he is pretty versatile and truthfully, is more effective on softer surfaces. I fear him.
Don Cossack is leggy and possibly unlucky not to have a King George on his CV. Bryan Cooper who is a well-balanced jockey is well suited to him. I would not put anyone off. It has to be a concern that he has fallen twice this year, in a Gold Cup that might be relentless, I’d be worried. Particularly that fence as they turn at the top of the hill, second time round, that has had a few.
Smad Place has been a revelation this year, leading with exuberance in his races and seemingly transformed by a wind operation. My goodness. He is another who in my mind is better on good but the stats do not necessarily back it up. He also has a bad record at Cheltenham winning here once but losing on all six previous visits to the festival, though he did place in a number, four to be exact.
The ground will play a part. Smad Place will bowl along and Cue Card will be handy. This is a Gold Cup though, none is going to let them slip anchor easily.
To mine. Don Poli.
He races like he needs a bog to run in but he actually has performed well on the top of the ground too. I had made up my mind to back Don Poi right after last years RSA. To be fair I also made up my mind to back Vautour after the JLT too! Thing is, the year previous, I remembered Don Poli in the Martin Pipe too.
Don Poli has a touch of Big Buckitis of Ingles Drever Syndrome, if you will. He does often hit a lazy spot and requires a wakener or two. In the same way I think Cossack is suited by the soft, well-balanced approach of a Cooper, I suggest to you, that Iron Lung Russell is a perfect partner for Don Poli. He will stay, he will respond to encouragement and when your lily livered sorts cry ENOUGH! up that, oh so famous, hill, my boy will roll on relentlessly. Roll on like the river, eternal.
The Foxhunters will be dominated by the story of Vicky Pendleton and fair play to her. Again, I know there is some difference of opinion here but, I admire her commitment to getting race ready in a year and wish her luck. Of course, she has had advantages, but she is one of our finest Olympians, she deserves advantages. She has bought a splash of the sparkle and it is not her fault. Good luck to her.
Pacha du Polder is no mug either, he gives her a chance of getting around.
However, in spite of this seasons form, I have to recall last years Foxhunters. On The Fringe, is not a hunter chaser. He is capable of a lot more and I believe will prove to be one of the bets of the week. I suggest a sturdy investment.
The Martin Pipe. Good God. My pick (Lord help me) is Qualando who is the only runner to have won on course and is ground proven. Nicholls saddles up and the jockey is good (best strike rate in the field) which is important in a conditional jockeys event.
The Grand Annual. The great close.
I have to back Next Sensation. I have patted his neck in the yard. I can personally say that Maz Scudamore is a fine person, from my short yard visit. Do what you want. I have mine.
I hope your festival has been spectacular. Mine already has.
Courage, roll the dice.