Tag Archives: briar hill

The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup Sermon

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire beset in a dull grey, the sun never quite managed to rid the land of that cool malaise and as dusk fell, I felt tired.

Today was not to plan.  Annie, oh Annie.  Ruby blamed himself, he parked in behind the wrong JP horse, whichever way you look at it, More of That was impressive and a second Championship winning racehorse that AP McCoy chose not to ride!  I was involved in a major position on Annie and was quite gutted to see her not quite real in More of That who was the deserved winner.

I cannot quite describe how, since the blog had a poorer day, that I ended up in some clear profits.  Some old forgotten antepost and a dash of fortune, the war chest is prepared for the final assault.  I feel a bit dirty over some of the wins, fortuitous and unlikely would not quite cover it.  Still, I am armed – Let’s get to business.

I am expecting guests tonight and so, will discharge the dribble of my mind for your own appraisal without much of the buffer you might usually expect.  I trust you are in position too for the final assault – Ah Gallipoli, Crimea, Cawnpore – Those final stands.  Allow us to aim true, with a steady hand and a sharp eye.  Stay frosty my friends, you need to act without emotion.

Cheltenham Friday Gold Cup Tips

As per all posts this week, I will be referring back to the antepost piece I compiled a week ago, reviewing the Grade 1’s on the Cheltenham card.

We start with the Triumph… My selection last week was Calipto, 5/1 then, 9/2 now – The same logic applies, his form from beating Activial is the bit that stands out for me, Royal Irish Hussar being the next best.

We move into the County Hurdle and of high interest is Arctic Fire who while having achieved less than some of these, is the choice of Ruby Walsh and let us not forget that Mullins has won the County twice in the last five years.  He has won on good ground and is receiving support.

Hobbs has talked up the chances of Cheltenian and it is easy to foresee him going well.   Never Enough Time caught the eye, as did many, as he looks very well handicapped and this is typically a race that goes to an Irish raider.   I am having one and it is a Mullins horse but not Arctic Fire. No, If AP can jock himself off two winning rides, it is not too far removed to imagine Ruby managing to get off one too…. Upazo, gets the services of Paul Townend (as long as he is OK after a bad fall earlier today).  I think he is well handicapped and while only a tentative selection, at 25/1, he gives us a chance to really deal up a stake of pain!

The Albert Bartlett also got the Grade 1 treatment and my logic has survived another week.  First of all, I like Kings Palace and am on at some reasonable antepost prices.  Yet he might struggle to cut it from the front against this opposition – Although the ground is a massive plus for him.  Briar Hill is an obvious call, I would not put anyone off, his champion bumper left us all agog at how we managed to let a 25/1 Mullins / Walsh through and his course form and impeccable CV this year put him rightly at the head of the market.

However, Captain Cutter has done little wrong too.  He had the beating of Kings Palace on bumper form and was my antepost pick… Hmmmm… On balance, I am going to get after this particular Mullins favourite but I am going to back against Captain Cutter too.  As a rule a front runner in this sort of race would not be my thing but I am going to side with Kings Palace on two counts.  The ground and the super confident form of Tom Scudamore.

Then the big one, the Gold Cup.  We have been waiting from it, ever since last year with Conti sprawling out on the way down the hill, Sir Des Champs playing a role and Bobs Worth niggled but classy, determined and perpetual, building his run in layers, with his foes unable to respond at the death.

Again, I have already a position here where Silviniaco Conti has been my choice and this has been true since the start of the season.  Prior to his King George win, I was backing him at the fancy prices.  That said, I have been hedging in with Bobs Worth too – He is five from five on good ground.  There is something funny about him though, he does hit flat spots and I wonder how reliable he is in a fight.

Silviniaco Conti will battle, I think he is wiser at his fences and while his good ground form does not quite stack up as equal, it is impressive enough.  Go large or go home as they say.  7/2 is available but in the morning, I bet some game bookmaker, offers us 5/1.

The Foxhunters is a race in which I have another of my antepost positions built up.  On the Fringe at 4/1 is an absolute snip.  Go watch his last race, it is highly impressive.  Of course, nobody would begrudge a win for Oscar Delta and Jane Mangan after the disaster that struck last year… Can you imagine if he sails over the last, how people’s memories of last year will be in our minds, how we will cheer if he charges up the run in, incident free… Good luck @jane_mangan

If you get to the last two races of the festival and need something, you are in a world of trouble my friend.

The Martin Pipe is a wide open handicap and playing it for a big result is a very perilous affair.  My best guess is The Skyfarmer who will absolutely love being returned to a sound surface.  Yes he is a stone and a half more weighted down since his last win but he needs this surface and despite being seemingly the second Hobbs string, I hold a hope.  16/1 is available.  Vieux Lion Rouge is a suspicious looking Pipe horse but has been campaigned on heavy ground and that puts me off.

I have a simple theory for the lucky last of the Festival.  Last year, the Grand Annual, named after Johnny Henderson about ten years ago, almost fell to his son, Nicky for the second time since the renaming.  Surely he has another prepared for us?  Tanks for That is not a typical horse for me, being older but his run in an all weather bumper will have put him right and while he has two ways of running, maybe we will strike true with his 16/1 price.

Courage and roll the dice!

Wednesday Punchestown Festival Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes from his bed again after a weary day of battle.  Forgive me for a more concise post but sleep is calling me with her sweet siren song, irresistible urging me downwards… one limb becoming heavy and almost impossible to lift, a drifting sensation and peaceful slumber.

I value the commodity of sleep far more than when a young man.  In life most of the fun things happen in the small hours, where normality slithers between the cracks.  Now, as a father, the noise of two children and constant demand of your attention, well it drains you.  I still gather sleep in small harvests, a useful habit but now the motivation is not preparation for more moonlit mischief, rather the sagging necessities of everyday existence.

In the dark hours, I lie awake thinking.  Not fervently you understand, more aimlessly, my mind wandering through memories and daydreams that I have collected and deposited in a vast library with no Dewey codes.  A great palace of thoughts in small rooms with unlabeled doors, unsure of where the next one takes you, closing your eyes and seeing shapes move, colours morphing and light blurring at the edges.  Cogito ergo sum.

To Punchestown.  I hope we fare better than day one.  Tasiocht and Western Boy both returned one place out of the money, Moyle Park and Sprinter Sacre did their jobs, the former scraping in, the latter doing enough.  The champagne went flat.  Tuesday I score as a moderate defeat, wounded but merely superficially, we return.

Wednesday Punchestown Tips

The opener is as open a race as you will find.  8/1 the field and no amount of research is really going to make me feel better about it, this is wrestling an octopus.  Instead of pretending, I shall inform you that my eye was drawn to Chavoy who is priced up at 14/1 with Boylesports – He is a Ferdy Murphy runner and that has not happened at Punchestown for years.  He has won a couple of races already, thought nothing anywhere near this testing and he looks as likely as the next.

The 4.20 is an intriguing race as the market is dominated by two Mullins horses. Call Me Bubbles seemed to step up at Navan and has a race fitness advantage over the exciting French import Viconte Du Noyer.  The race won at Auteuil looks decent with Blood Cotil, a decent yardstick back in 4th and two other french horses holding up the form.  It is a bit of a concern that the horse has been missing for a year and this is a hot introduction back to the track.

I am going to take a risk on Gassin Golf at 6/1.  He is out of Montjeu and made a mark of 99 on the flat.  It is early days on his hurdling career and he pulled ridiculously hard before being pulled up in the Triumph – Throw in that he is another clearly targeted at the Punchestown festival and we have a decent bet prospect.

Ballycasey is a hot favourite for the novice hurdle at 4.55pm, I am a little concerned that this is a big step up in class but the talk has been hot about him and evens quotes might be hard to come by at the off.  He missed the Albert Bartlett in which Inish Island chased At Fishers Cross up the hill finishing five lengths down at the line, that is solid form and this is a classic balance of proven ability versus potential.

Instead of the pair of them I am going to chance Road to Riches at 10/1.  Soft ground is preferred and so drying conditions are a concern but I am willing to give him a chance.  His Aintree run was too bad to be true and earlier form reads well.

5.30pm and the race we will be waiting for – The Punchestown Gold Cup.  I have a real issue in this race because I am torn between a desire to see Long Run prove me right and the fact that my logic is appealing to me to abandon him.  Say what you will, he keeps getting placed at the top level.  I do think though that three miles and a furlong around Punchestown is not far enough these days and given his penchant for throwing himself into the odd fence, the extra pace around here may not help either.

The quality of this years renewal is stunning.  Last year, China Rock managed a win at 20/1 after running just a few days before! That horse won and was rated 162 at the time, five of the eight runners in this years contest are rated above that mark, make no mistake, this is a superb race.  Be warned though, prior to the China Rock 20/1 turn up, winners have come in at 20/1 and 14/1 so the principals are no shoe in.

In short, First Lieutenant is very interesting, especially if the ground dries more. He looked like he needed further in the Ryanair and being second to Cue Card is no disgrace anyway.  Sir Des Champs surprised me, I was the first to think his form was not as strong as popular opinion.

What the hell – I am sticking with old faithful Long Run – Mainly because I could not bare him to win and me not to be on… do with that as you may.

The Cheltenham bumper winner Briar Hill is attempting the double taking on this Grade 1 Punchestown event.  There has not been a major turn up in the bumper for some time but one I like at a humongous price is Noel Meades Apache Stronghold at 28/1.  The yard have a terrific record in the bumper.  All said and done though, Briar Hill has an excellent chance here and 6/4 is a fair price.

The 6.40pm is the handicap chase.  Nadiya de la Vega is not my sort – The mare is likeable but might just be found out.  Instead I am opting for 10/1 shot Mr Cracker who I suspect has had this as the target for some time and whose second in a grade 2 last time looks OK.

In the lucky last, I am dodging the two at the head of the market and opting for Fairy Island who might be much better than we have yet seen.