Tuesday 14th March
1.30 – Supreme Novice Hurdle
Already covered in previous email.
1pt win – Il Etait Temps @ 6/1 (General) Previously Advised
0.5 pt e/w – Doctor Bravo @ 25/1 (General – 3 places) Previously Advised
2.10 – Arkle Chase
A few more runners than what first looked likely with 9 declared to run. Still not too appealing from a betting point of view. Generally it is a toss up between El Fabiolo and Jonbon with the left side of my brain saying the former and the right side the latter! El Fabiolo won easily the strongest contest for this in the Irish Arkle. The trainer looked to have a strong hand of novices going into this year and this looks to be his best chance at the minimum trip. Always thought to be a chaser they were fairly cautious over hurdles, missing Cheltenham but taking on Jonbon, going down less than a length at Aintree. He is 3lb higher than Jonbon on official ratings and Racing Post ratings. Jonbon was another who was always thought to be a chaser as the half brother to Douvan. A great hurdler who was able to transfer that to the larger obstacles. Was thought so good that Paddy Power paid out early on him to win the Arkle! Bet they regret that decision now!!! However, may still be justified as I don’t think he has fully been tested yet. Has the Cheltenham experience, unbeaten and from a yard that does so well with their two mile chasers. Not been fully tested you do think there is more to come. If I had to pick then I think Jonbon may just come out on top with the superior jumping.
Dysart Dynamo may get an easy lead but then he is such a buzzy type that it may be hard for him to be reigned in with all the furore going on. Saint Roi is one who can pick up the pieces off a strong pace and is a grade 1 winner, though looks a few pound off the top two. However, in my previous preview I suggested a forecast bet leaving out one of the front two. They are the bets that I am proposing now though chancing what they will pay.
0.5pt S/Fc – El Fabiolo/Saint Roi
0.5pt S/Fc – Jonbon/Saint Roi
2.50 – Ultima Handicap Chase
23 of the maximum 24 look set to line up. In races like this I do tend to narrow the field down using a few significant trends. The first is one I invariably use though proved costly last year when ruling out horses on age. Once again here horses aged 9 or older are just 2/92 in the last 10 years. This was one of the few handicaps last year which didn’t see an older than normal winner, for whatever reason. Suspect it was just one of those things. I also look at the minimum ratings of the winners. Generally races are getting stronger and horses are getting better, which has seen the average rating required to win increasing as well. The last 9 winners of this race have been rated 139 or higher so I have ruled out all horses rated lower. I have also put a big red line through all the Irish trained horses. It is not one they take too serious and have won it just twice in the last 54 renewals! This is not a race that goes to exposed rivals either. 9 of the last 10 winners had run 12 or fewer times over fences, the exception being Vintage Clouds who had 27 starts and was also an 11yo. In a race where there is an emphasis on stamina then I have ruled out all horses yet to race over the distance. They might stay but this is a massive test for a horse on their first try. If a horse is considered a strong stayer then there is a good chance it would have raced over three miles already. I finally ruled out all horses that lacked Cheltenham form. 9 of the last 12 winners had raced at Cheltenham earlier in the season whilst 11 of the last 13 had run at a previous Festival.
As to the type of horse, I am looking for a strong stayer who generally races up with the pace. Corach Rambler managed to work his way through the field to win last year and Beware The Bear is another who has been ridden patiently to win but those types do need a lot to go right for them. Is a 23 runner field though so there could be competition for the lead and could be more set up for the hold up type.
This left me a shortlist of 5 horses from which to base my opinions around which for me is a much more manageable amount. First up is Oscar Elite who was third in the race last year, an actual positive considering 4 of the last 12 winners (3 in the last 6) ran in the race the previous year with several exceptions being novices over fences. Is only 1lb higher than last year but is more experienced now having been a novice last year and finally got his head in front over fences winning a 3 runner grade 2 last time. Stayed well over hurdles though not shown it so much over fences. However, wonder if he is more a Spring horse. His record from February to April is 13233P1. The pulled up came at Aintree just three weeks after his Ultima exertions of last year. The other concern is soft ground as most of his racing of late has been on good to soft or faster. He did handle heavy well as a novice over hurdles so there is some hope.
Next in the betting from my shortlist is Threeunderthrufive who is one I am keen on. Owned by the sponsors of the race so surely one they would like to win. Been to the last couple of Festivals, finishing 6th both times, firstly in the Albert Bartlett and then in the Brown Advisory last year. Travelled really well in the Brown Advisory last year before fading badly down the straight in a strongly run race on bad ground. A plot for the Coral Gold Cup this season went out the window at the first fence when unseating. He was then kept for the 3m 5 1/2f handicap at Warwick won by Iwilldoit. Travelled well once more before not getting home. This is an easier test than the Brown
Advisory last year, he has a fantastic record under rules of 9 wins from 16 races and still not exposed over 3m. Looks more than capable if things fall right, though you feel he could be susceptible to something with less weight having to compete off 150 here.
The Big Breakaway has a further pound more to carry in weight here. One of those horses who keep running well but then keep going up the handicap without winning. Just this season his mark has gone from 144 to 151 for finishing runner up on both outings this year including the Welsh National last time out. He looks an out and out stayer so the trip is no problem. I do think he will find some faster horses in this race though. Course form does read 413 with 4th in the Ballymore and 3rd in the Brown Advisory behind Monkfish. Tea Clipper is another to have come from this race last year, like Oscar Elite but having finished 4th. Only 2lb higher it means he is weighted to go well again especially as more experience having been a novice last year. Not convinced me as a strong stayer at the trip though, getting beaten further at Aintree before placing in some faster ground 3m races. Twice been pulled when set to race on soft ground, the only time connections went ahead was in the 4 runner Kauto Star and he was beat over 42 lengths finishing last of the 4 runners. He doesn’t fit for me in the race under the likely soft ground.
At a massive price the last selection on my shortlist is Iceo Madrik for the David Pipe yard.
Interesting as the yard have had 2 winners and 2 placed from 10 runners in the last 10 years (Though both wins were the same horse Un Temps Pour Tout in consecutive years). Hard to know what to make of it as it has never run in Britain or Ireland, coming straight from France. Has competed at Grade 1 level over there and last run saw it placed in a grade 3 over 2m 7f the longest trip it has faced. RPR’s have it closely matched here with the majority of the field so may not be badly handicapped. However, he was only bought at the end of February so the trainer hasn’t had long to get to know the horse and though he shapes as if he will stay, he has yet to actually race at 3m or further so I will have to pass him up.
1pt e/w – Oscar Elite @ 10/1 (Skybet – 8 places)
0.75pt e/w – Threeunderthrufive @ 20/1 (Paddy – 6 places)
3.30 – Champion Hurdle
Not sure much more can be said about this race that hasn’t already been done. In my previous blog on the race I did recommend a bet on Not So Sleepy each way at 50/1 with three places in the without Constitution Hill market. He is still 50/1 but as only 7 horses have been declared then they are only offering 2 places so we already have that bit of value. All we need is him to beat three other runners for a 50/1 place bet to land. On official rating he only has 4lb to find with Vauban, 1lb with I Like To Move It as is the same rating as Zanahiyr. However, Vauban doesn’t look to have trained on. I Like To Move It could well bounce after a much improved display less than a move ago and Zanahiyr hasn’t looked the same horse this year either having been thought and tried as a stayer. Not So Sleepy is no world beater but on soft ground and possible pace angle he could be hard for some of the stragglers to pick up.
Either way whatever happens there we are set for a fascinating contest between Constitution Hill and State Man which I think will be closer than people believe. State Man may not look flash in his wins but he only does what is required and that is all Mullins lets him do. Unbeaten this year for a top trainer, I think he will push him all the way till CH accelerates up the hill in the closing stages.
0.25pt e/w – Not So Sleepy @ 50/1 (Bet365 – 3 places – without Constitution Hill) – Previously Advised
4.10 – Mares Hurdle
Covered in previous email.
2 pt win – Love Envoi @ 11/2 (Hills) – Previously Advised
0.5pt e/w – Shewearsitwell @ 20/1 (Skybet, Unibet – 4 places)
Fred Winter Boodles Juvenile Hurdle
Probably my least favourite race of the Festival, partly because trying to pick the winner is a lottery. Trends are not strong and prices of the winners is all over the place with favourites having a poor record. Therefore I don’t want to spend too much time on this race. My initial thought was Common Practice who had gained good experience taking on Gaelic Warrior in a handicap but he now misses the Festival.
The most interesting runner is Bad for Ben Pauling who gets to race here off its French rating as they are not allowed to reassess the horse. He has been the subject of quite a gamble over the last few weeks and shows up well on Racing Post Ratings suggesting he could be well in off a mark of 126. Yard is in great form and booking of Rachel Blackmore looks significant. But, trying to weigh up his form is virtually impossible, though clearly he stays well and handles soft ground which is a good combination for the conditions of the race. While I wouldn’t want to invest too much in the horse or the race, at the weights he could be thrown in on potential and so is worth getting onside in a race which doesn’t look too strong.
1pt win – Bad @ 8/1 (General)
5.30 – National Hunt Chase
Disapponting that a grade 1 winning three mile chaser lines up for this race in Gaillard Du Mesnil. I can understand the principle of trying to win the easiest race so my issue is with the conditions of the race. If a horse has already won a grade 1 chase then it shouldn’t get to race here unpenalised. In the mares chase if you have won a listed race or higher then you have to carry a penalty, the same with the mares novice hurdle. So why is this grade 2 chase exempt from that? While I complain about it, financially I much prefer him running here as I have been on him ante post since Cheltenham last year for this race so sit in a comfortable position. He fits the general trends for the race as a second season novice, the class runner of the field and for a yard that has won this twice in the last 5 years and often lines up horses for it. He already proves he stays having finished 3rd in an Irish National off a mark higher than any of these have achieved! That just highlights how much he has going for him and so would represent banker material in my book. The concern is his win record of just 1 from 8 starts over fences. However, the majority of those races have been over shorter and it is not as though there is a sprint finish to the race. I expect him to gallop these rivals into submission. Patrick Mullins knows what it takes and I expect him to get the job done.
Betting short priced favourites isn’t my game though so I would rather select something at a bigger price. The issue I have is that with the ground likely to be soft, especially by the last race of Tuesday then it is more prone to shocks and this could be a significant stamina test. I’m not convinced either that any of Chemical Energy, Mahler Misson, Minella Crooner or Mister Coffey will be seen at their best in these conditions. Mahler Mission stands the best chance with his win over Tenzing in a 3m beginner chase at Navan proving the most on soft to heavy ground. However, at the prices I am tempted by a small bet on the runner up here at a big price. Still a maiden after 3 chase starts he is one I am already keeping in mind for next years race potentially, if he maintains novice status this season. But, I do believe he can go well here. A three mile winner over hurdles on his only start, he was quickly switched to the larger obstacles which has seen him finish third to Brown Advisory favourite Gerri Colombe, 2nd to Ramillies, also prominent in the betting for the three mile race, then 2nd to Mahler Mission when 5lb worse off due to the jockey claim on the winner. Was still fancied in the betting that day as he started at a shorter price than the winner when 2/1 2nd fav. Looked to have been outpaced that day even over 3 miles so marathon trips could be more his game. Only a 6yo which is why there is room for improvement but may be better for next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he follows a similar route to Galliard Du Mesnil and takes in the Irish National with a current mark of 141 looking lenient. Either way I am happy to take a small chance on a good price each way.
0.5pt e/w – Tenzing @ 16/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
Tuesday 14th March