I really do hope that none of the 400 visitors to the Majors blog on Saturday January 26th took too much notice of my write up of the card. I managed to get every tip beaten in a black day where nothing went right.
That said, some valuable observations can be taken from a top class day of racing.
First of all, credit to Channel 4 again whose coverage was excellent. I attended the course and so caught up with the recording later. The response Claire Balding gets from the key individuals makes for much better interviews and I have to say, she is a fantastic front or the sport… bravo.
The Racing… Firstly, Bobs Worth has clearly had a set back and while Henderson is a master of preparing a horse for the big race, I am surprised that his price has been unaltered for the big race, his absence concerned me. Then again, my main portfolio interest is in Long Run with a growing position on Silviniaco Conti, for the Gold Cup antepost, follow the link.
Tidal Bay was also a notable absentee but he does not feature in my thoughts anyway.
The opening Triumph trial concerned the two main yards represented by Irish Saint and Rolling Star. The latter won with plenty in hand although the former gave him a good tow. He was well on top though and there is probably more to come, I don’t see many reasons as to why that form will reverse, in fact if anything, the Henderson trained Rolling Star was not fully extended and is a danger to all in the festival (5/1).
Katenko looked like a massive horse to take out of the Murphy Group Chase. Venetia was immediately suggesting the Gold Cup where he would have an outsiders chance. A comment from Steve Freer on the main antepost Cheltenham page suggests he might be better suited to the opening day chase handicap and the Major would concur as the Gold Cup is a mighty ask.
Bold Sir Brian took a crashing fall and we all thought the worse as the screens remained up for some time – What a relief to see a bruised horse eventually get his breath and stand up again. A decent spell of rest is deserved n’est pas?
In the Victor Chandler, Sprinter Sacre did his usual demolition job on a reasonable field – The measure of how great it was can be taken from how he finished. He was hard held as he romped up the hill, superb athleticism at the fences and this all on ground that should be inconveniencing him.
A word for Sanctuaire, he travelled like the runner up until he turned for the hill, I suspect the ground may be a factor. He beat Kumbeshwar on heavy but was headed that day and fought back. That may be the sign of a genuine sort that dislikes the glue or it could alternatively be a horse fine on the ground, with plenty of ability who is far from genuine.
The next three races were jump racing at their best. The Argento was won by a rallying Cape Tribulation who clearly had not read the script for the glorious return of Imperial Commander to the site of his Gold Cup win.
Grand Crus didn’t travel with any relish, something is clearly amiss but he has sadly become a horse that you are expecting a shocker from. It would be no surprise to see him put away for the season but equally, I wonder if the World Hurdle would be a sensible target.
Little Josh was a faller in the Argento and pleasing to see him up quickly.
Imperial Commander really enjoyed himself and it was a fantastic training performance to get his so fit. Hunt Ball put in a decent show and while his soft record is OK, I am certain the barrel chested fella would prefer good ground.
Cape Tribulation benefited from a superb ride from O’Regan who waited until after the last to throw the sink at his mount, it took time for the animal to respond but in the finish, I think he got the message rather than Imperial fading.
Notably Hunt Ball finished at a walk some distance behind. Stayer? or ground? The Major reads it more ground but as a Gold Cup prospect he would need an awful lot not to go his way.
Another thriller was to unravel in the Neptune Novice trial. The New One was out-battled up the hill by At Fishers Cross. I am not sure either of them are going to be winning the Neptune and Rebecca Curtis has indicated that At Fishers Cross will be an Albert Bartlett horse. Essentially, At Fishers Cross outstayed The New One and had the benefit of the rail – On better ground, I think The New One has a better turn of foot but as I say my ideas of the Neptune winner are elsewhere and I will soon be posting my thoughts.
Whisper travelled well and might be better over shorter. He closed up really well on the way down to the home turn but emptied at the bottom!
In the Cleeve Hurdle, Oscar Whisky looked to be running all over Reve de Sivola at the last but a combination of possibly not staying and meeting an opponent who seemed carved from granite put pay to his chances. It was an unbelievably exciting finish and I wonder if he had the race again whether Geraghty would go for his mount a bit earlier… it is easy from the armchair you know!
Reve de Sivola has won two staying hurdles really well now, following up on his Long Walk hurdle. On better ground, I think Oscar Whisky is a very sound bet to turn the tables in March.
Mr Watson was a storming winner of the last. AP shed the weight and it proved very worthwhile as made every post a winner.
A great days racing. On the whole, it posed more questions than it answered as we won’t expect heavy in March. I took positives from Oscar Whisky as well as Katenko (if he stays handicapping) as well as the obviously impressive Mr Watson.
I am in no rush to be backing At Fishers Cross or Imperial Commander. Shoe Gazer is a Pipe timebomb waiting to go off… the tension builds….