A good day today with Concertista and Simply The Betts winning. The Storyteller and Kilfulum Cross were 2nd, Ben Dundee placed and Faugheen also went close.
Onto the final day of the Cheltenham Festival where we are faced with another three fascinating handicaps. We have quite a few to get stuck into but confidence is high for another good day.
1:30 – 1pt e/w – A Wave Of The Sea @ 10/1 Willhill 1/5th odds 5 places
2:10 – 1pt e/w – Aramon @ 15/2 Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places
2:50 – 1pt e/w – Ramses De Teillee @ 12/1 1/5th odds 4 places widely available
3:30 – 1pt e/w – Kemboy @ 9/1 Skybet 1/5th odds 5 places
4:10 – 1pt e/w – Shantou Flyer @ 8/1 Paddy Power 1/5th odds 5 places
4:50 – 1pt e/w – Éclair De Beaufeu @ 7/1 Skybet, Willhill & Paddy 1/5th odds 5 places
5:30 – 1pt win – Escaria Ten @ 14/1 widely available
1pt e/w – Flash The Steel @ 14/1 Paddy and Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places
0.5pt e/w – Ecco @ 50/1 Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places
Already advised Ante-post
2:10 County Hurdle – 1pt e/w Buildmeupbuttercup @ 20/1 Betfred 1/5th odds 5 places NRNB
0.75pt e/w Sir Valentine @ 25/1 888Sport, Paddy and Betfred
4:50 Grand Annual – 1pt e/w Paloma Blue @ 14/1 1/5th odds 5 places 888Sport NRNB
5:30 Martin Pipe – 1pt e/w Five O’Clock @ 16/1 Coral ¼ odds 4 places NRNB
1:30 Triumph Hurdle
A great race and a classy renewal of the Triumph hurdle which will be a fascinating watch considering the keen going nature of many of those prominent in the betting. That is going to be a massive negative I think for Allmankind, who may be the best horse but having been off for 77 days then I worry will be far too keen. For these young, inexperienced horses then a recent run has been a must with no winner being off the track for longer than 48 days. To me a fresh horse like that looks a recipe for disaster in this race. Not only that but there are other keen horses as well. Goshen, another keen goer will also be fresh having not run for 55 days and worryingly has shown a tendency to jump right. Unbeaten in three starts though like Allmankind, and nothing has got even close to testing it, let alone beating it so who knows what more he may be capable of. Five of the last six winners ran in a grade 2 last time out and six of the last eight had run a grade 1 which would be negatives for Goshen though especially with my preference for graded form.
Solo has yet to race in a grade 1, but dotted up on UK hurdles debut in a grade 2, beating Fujimoto Flyer who itself had been well touted originally for the Triumph. The Adonis used to be a good guide for this with Zarkandar and Soldatino both doing the double in 2010 and 2011 though nothing since. On official ratings that run has put it 5lb clear of the rest though only level with Aspire Tower on Racing Post Ratings. Fits many of my trends and Paul Nicholls knows what it takes. The worry would be its win was on good to soft around easy Kempton. Stiffer track of Cheltenham, at a very strong likely pace and possibly softer ground as well would raise a little concern, though seemed to stay 2m 2f on very soft in France.
The other prominent in the betting is Aspire Tower who had looked very good when winning a grade 2 by 18 lengths. Was still going well in a grade 1 when falling at the last at Leopardstown. Will probably appreciate the softer ground again though is another keen going sort so how it will jump and travel is questionable if taken on. Has plenty of class so could defy that and price has taken a drift.
Considering the pace that is on offer then I will bypass all of these in favour of something that will be ridden more patiently. The standout is A Wave Of The Sea who is another that fits all the trends but also is a grade 1 winner. Somewhat fortunate maybe considering that Aspire Tower fell but you could argue whether it should be twice the price. The harder they go the better and with Geraghty on board who is in the form of his life (and enjoying it without Ruby there) then a patient ride might be what is called for here. Is a good ground two mile winner so should also have the pace to stay handy. It looks a very solid each way bet for me.
1pt e/w – A Wave Of The Sea @ 10/1 Willhill 1/5th odds 5 places
2:10 County Hurdle
Ante post bets still stand on this with Buildmeupbuttercup and Sir Valentine though the booking of Danny Mullins for the former isn’t a positive sign on jockey bookings. Sir Valentine has been nibbled though and gets in off a very low weight.
There is a massive plunge on Saint Roi for this race which in part could be down to the jockey booking of Geraghty, who could have ridden the well handicapped though hard to win with Ciel De Niege. However, is the lowest rated in the race on RPRs and on all known form needs to improve a great deal to win this. You have to respect the money and the connections but its price doesn’t support the form. I would therefore much rather be on Aramon who could well be suited to the tests of this race. Was a fancy of mine for the Supreme last year though race didn’t turn out as strong a pace as I thought and was staying on at the finish. I’m not convinced Aramon is the most straight forward and doesn’t necessarily find much under pressure but then it hasn’t had a big field and a strong pace which would play to its strengths.
I wouldn’t rule out Stolen Silver either if getting to chance the usual strong pace and we don’t get a farcical standing start. Real good novice form with 2nd to Chantry House and beating Edwardstone. Only 8th in the Betfair though from standing start it was left somewhat at the beginning. Early pace wasn’t excessive either so was given plenty to do. Stayed on well but had no chance of getting there. Gets to race off 2lb lower here, if things drop right for it then it could have a great chance.
Mohaayed could go off well backed for the Skelton yard who has won this in three of the last four years including this horse in 2018. 3lb higher for that still and not shown much this year, its price is surely based around the yards good connection with the race. Had been generally leaving off some of its headgear it has been racing with and had a wind operation prior to this run so understandable that you could see it bounce back to form.
There are plenty of other horses that had run down the field in the Betfair Hurdle that re-oppose here and you would not surprise if one of them got things right on the day. This race could well take a lot of luck to win which is why I am spreading my risk about.
1pt e/w – Aramon @ 15/2 Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places
2:50 Albert Bartlett
Staying hurdle for novices over three miles could be tough going though with ground drying out you wonder if it could be quite tacky. Latest Exhibition has been well supported into favourite in many quarters though it could be based around the theory that the Irish novice form is standing up better than the British. However, if you don’t rate the win of Latest Exhibition, where it was boosted on a line through Abacadabras but then hit by Andy Dufresne then you could also question those in behind last time with Cobblers Way and Fury Road. That race has a strong influence here and I would rather take the chance that the form isn’t as strong as believed. Thyme Hill has done nothing wrong, winning all three starts, though wins over Fiddlerontheroof and Champagne Well have done nothing for the form. Has been the only horse to beat The Cashel Man though who has an outside chance here. Still yet to race over 3m, while this race has always been the target the trip is always a concern on softer ground.
I was always going to be against Monkfish who has yet to be seen outside of novice company. All 15 winners of this race had won or placed in a graded novice hurdle while 14 of those had contested a graded hurdle last time out. That would also rule out Janadil and Sempo who are prominent in the betting as well.
Harry Senior has done nothing but improve this year and as a grade 2 winner would have a shout. However, the form of the yard is a big concern considering the fancied chances this week to under-perform. His record reads 0p734p6fp0p0 at the Festival so far including fancied hopes Fiddlerontheroof and Copperhead. His only place was Lamanver Pippin who was beat 30 lengths in the NH Chase. I will have to avoid his horses on the final day.
Instead I will put up Ramses De Teillee who will be unfashionable to many and better known as a staying chaser. However, been able to take advantage of novice status here and proved very difficult to pass this season. Beat Champagne Well by 17 lengths and followed up with a win over unexposed Kalooki when eventually grinding the horse down to win by 4 lengths. Not sure conditions can ever be tough enough for it with stamina in abundance. 11 of the 15 winners of this race had run 4 or more times, with last years winner Minella Indo an exception. Prior to that the last 6 winners had all run 4 or more times so experience is crucial. 6 of the 15 winners were also second season chasers which is surprising considering the limited number to have run. Ramses De Teillee still wouldn’t be the most experienced winner over hurdles in recent years on his 11th start with Unowhatimeanharry having run 15 times and Berties Dream 14 times. Bang there on ratings, people would tend to prefer the less exposed types but experience often pays.
1pt e/w – Ramses De Teillee @ 12/1 1/5th odds 4 places widely available
3:30 Gold Cup
An interesting race but not fully convinced on anything from a betting perspective. Al Boum Photo is the one to beat. Last years winner who has taken the same prep as last time and even run to a better rating prior to this. However, horses don’t retain this title back to back even though they may win at a later date. With the weight of favouritism on its back as well this time then it is a fair price but not sure is value. Previously beaten horses in this have a terrible record with only Native River able to reverse that trend this century. This would thus be negatives for Clan Des Obeaux, Kemboy and Presenting Percy, though the last two also had their excuses. Kemboy never made it past the first fence having unseated and Presenting Percy was never fully fit having rushed its preparation. Kemboy has quite possibly been trained to peak here improving nicely on its first run this season without winning. Twice a beaten favourite this year, it would be something for an Amateur jockey to win the Gold Cup, though Patrick Mullins is arguably due one having placed on half of his 8 rides so far at the Festival. It wouldn’t be a surprise either if Presenting Percy was able to defy the trend as well. His trainer, Pat Kelly has never been the most orthodox and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the horse found a bit extra here. However, was disappointed at the lack of improvement it showed from 2nd to 3rd run and will require a bit more improvement to take this. On the positive side though, the trainer does have a habit of getting his horses to peak at the Festival when needed often finding that little extra.
I always rated the RSA last year, believing it to have some semblance on this years Gold Cup as it so often does. Santini is the shortest of the pair here, only just over Delta Work which is a little weird. Admittedly Santini finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of his rival in that RSA but you can’t argue that Delta Work hasn’t shown the best form this year of the pair. Santini scraped home against Now McGinty in November where it then had wind surgery and was put away. Returned with a good win over Bristol De Mai beating it 3 1/2 lengths though still isn’t Gold Cup winning form. To me it still needs to improve to take this, though considering how lightly raced it has been throughout its career then it could easily be possible. Delta Work meanwhile has won its last two races beating horses prominent in the betting here. Finishes its races off well and has done very little wrong to be fair. Maybe not the flashy profile like Santini and did throw a poor run in when only 4th to Road To Respect, but then it could also have been in need of the run. On form you have to have Delta Work ahead of Santini.
Clan Des Obeaux is a best priced 8/1 and in theory holds a strong chance as a double King George winner. However, I am determined that the horse is better going right handed. Four of its top five RPR have been right handed, the exception being its run in this last year. Its form figures going r/h read 5121121 compared to l/h of 1264124123452. It is no surprise to me either when you see Clan Des Obeaux jump prominently to its right in its most recent start at Kempton. Having also failed on the ‘beaten in the race before’ trend then it is not for me.
While Clan Des Obeaux may still of had the best prep having won the King George, the worst must be Lostintranslation having pulled up in said race and not been seen since. Can’t help but feel they would of got a prep into it if they could of done as it is no way to be turning up for such a big race. Recent form has been significant as well with the last 5 winners all winning last time out and only Lord Windemere not having won last time in 9 runnings. In theory held by Santini on a line through Bristol De Mai though to be fair he did go to the latters back yard and win as it is a track the horse excels at. Either way, it is still not ideal and with the poor form of the Tizzard yard as well, I won’t be backing it here.
As a conclusion, last years RSA pair both hold very solid chances along with last years winner but they dominate the head of the betting. At a price therefore I will take a small chance on Kemboy peaking under the Mullins spell. Closely matched with Delta Work on this years runs, it at least showed improvement between the two starts whilst a stronger all round gallop may be more to its liking. Lacks the tactical speed to outsprint much, it is more likely to kick on turning for home and if jumping well could therefore prove hard to catch.
1pt e/w – Kemboy @ 9/1 Skybet 1/5th odds 5 places
4:10 Foxhunters Chase
Strange race for me this year as normally I have a very strong opinion on it and was unlucky last year with my tip Shantou Flyer finishing second. Not got that same feeling this year however which is unusual. I do know that I want to be against Minella Rocco though. Lucky to win its first hunter chase when the joint favourite pulled up with the jockey having got cramp or something and then Minella Rocco coming from a long way down to rally and win when looking beat. This was just in a four runner contest. Didn’t look straight forward at all to me with the horse having his own ideas about the game now. Made it two out of two though when beating last years winner Hazel Hill when showing a bit more resolve, though with Hazel Hill jumping to its right it certainly never helped its chances. Really not sure what Minella Rocco will do here back at Cheltenham in a big field like this. It isn’t a horse you want to be taking a short price about anyway.
Second in the betting is Billaway, a hunter chaser for Willie Mullins who has taken his form to another level on last two runs. Its win over Staker Wallace looks good in what looked a pretty hot race. The worry is the lack of real racing experience. Just the 10 career races for the 8yo where the last 6 winners have also been 9yo or older. Hazel Hill had 19 races and had won 14 of his last 15 starts which is still pretty lightly campaigned for an 11yo. Possible it had shown signs of weakness last time though when behind Minella Rocco which would be a concern. However, if you can excuse that then three horses have managed to retain their title in recent years so not unusual for horses to do so.
I am however sticking with last years selection Shantou Flyer. Ridden and owned by David Maxwell the jockey is desperate to win the ‘Amateurs Gold Cup’ (Though ironically the actual Gold Cup may be won by an amateur this year) and had a choice of horses for this. The fact he is sticking by this one is a positive sign, though I suspect this race is why it was bought in the first place and the argument I also made last year. Improving as a jockey I think the ground went against the horse last year. His five best RPRs were all at Cheltenham on soft or heavy ground, with the ground also accounting for 7 of its top 8 performances. Drying conditions won’t therefore be a help again though with all the rain we have had then it could still be quite tacky. Reliable and with a good win under its belt then I fully expect it to go close again.
1pt e/w – Shantou Flyer @ 8/1 Paddy Power 1/5th odds 5 places
4:50 Grand Annual
My ante post selection Paloma Blue is in which is good to see, I’m expecting it to go well with Aidan Coleman on board. Interesting to see Great Field still in the race as well. Fascinating runner as a grade 2 open winner as well as a grade 1 novice victor. Since switched from Mullins to Jonjo O’Neill, it is potentially well handicapped. However, nobody in the betting wants to know it and the jockey booking hardly installs much confidence either with no Geraghty or even Jonjo O’Neill junior.
Greaneteen has done little wrong for a yard who has won this twice in the last four years, however it is vastly inexperienced for a test like this with just three chases to its name. Has handicap form but is up 12lb from that 5 length win. No horse has won this in the last 10 years from such a low number of chase starts with 8 of the last 10 having had 7 or more runs. The lack of runs is also a concern for Chosen mate who has had just the three. Form when 3rd to Melon obviously received a boost though it is still going to need to improve a fair bit from what it has shown so far in chases, which can also be said about Lisp, another with just three runs. Gained plenty of experience over hurdles though its chase form has taken a few knocks this week.
Éclair De Beaufeu is closely weighted with Paloma Blue on last run having beaten it 2 1/2 lengths. Has a fine record in big fields though, when racing in fields of 10 or more it reads 13233114U211, the 4th being in a 19 runner handicap so would of got paid for the place and unseated when looking like easily doing best of those to race prominently in the County hurdle last year. Was always thought it could do better as a chaser and that is starting to look the case. Trainer has kept his faith in the jockey who won on it last time and with the form the yard are in at the moment then you wouldn’t put it past this horse winning. Either way I don’t think it will be out of the frame.
The rest of the runners here generally look poorly handicapped and uninspiring bunch suggesting that it may not take a great deal of winning this year. So, I am happy to add one more to the portfolio but don’t want any more.
1pt e/w – Éclair De Beaufeu @ 7/1 Skybet, Willhill & Paddy 1/5th odds 5 places
5:30 Martin Pipe
As always a tough finish to the day, though Gigginstown and McManus have dominated in the past couple of years. Currently gutted I rejected Front View on account of its price a week ago, the little bit of 6/1 around not lasting long with the horse now a best price of 4/1 and only Bet365 are going that price with everyone else shorter. Possible it could drift on the day a bit but depends somewhat on how the owner gets on through the day. Still my recommendation on Five O’clock has still shortened somewhat with the jockey booking a positive.
Column Of Fire has done little wrong, has good experience and seems well suited to big fields (Record of 23BD32F13, placing every time it has completed). Five of the last six winners had raced over further earlier in the season, another positive for the horse who ran over three miles last time out. Often races prominently however which isn’t the best in general in a race where the pace is normally very quick. Jockey has a bit of experience in Ireland, often riding for Noel Meade though his strike rate is markedly better in bumpers and chases. His lack of course experience would be a worry.
Of more significance could be Gordon Elliott pulling the top weight out so that Escaria Ten, the reserve gets into the race, also of his. In good form he also fits the running over further trend having won his last two races at 3m. Not seen outside of novice company he could be absolutely anything though the runner up of last run didn’t do much for the form. Another that also likes to race prominently and horses carrying 11st or less in the race are 0/87 are significant concerns. But, the yard know what they are doing here and it is interesting they clearly feel this has a chance to pull another horse out. I can see it being the subject of quite a gamble in the last.
Ilikedwayurthinkin is another McManus horse that has been supported. Progressive at 2m having previously won at Galyway over 2m 5f, he would appreciate the ground drying out as much as possible considering its form is on better ground. Disappointed a little last time out as that was on soft, however only one winner has took this in the last 9 years having finished outside the first 3 last time out. Recent form is all important once again.
Pileon has a chance of bringing the trophy back to the UK, easily looking the best we have in a betting market dominated by Irish horses. Its debut 4th behind Chantry House (OR 140 though not assessed since Supreme 3rd), Stolen Silver (OR 143) and Pipesmoker (137) reads well with a mark of 138 whilst he hammered a 124 rated horse by 20 lengths. Who knows how much more there is to come though again all known form suggests it is likely to be ridden prominently.
Despite all this there are two horses that I hope will provide some value to add to our Five O’clock bet. The first is Flash The Steel for Dan Skelton. This is a horse who has already proven itself in a strongly run soft ground handicap having won a grade 3 handicap first time up this season coming from a long way off the pace. Run just the once since when tried over 3m (trend positive) and not staying I suspect the horse has been saved for this. don’t forget this is from the yard who has plotted up the winner of the County in three of the last four years, they know exactly what they are doing when it comes to Cheltenham handicap hurdles! The ideal type to sit out the back and finish fast, it will require luck in running and a good ride but this is a talented conditional who could be up to the task.
My final bet is a horse I have been following, costly for the last year. Ecco was 6th in the Triumph last year despite a lack of experience and still a maiden. Admittedly that Triumph form has took several knocks but still showed its ability in a strongly run race. Hasn’t really had it all season where a standing start ruined the pace of the Betfair Hurdle. Despite this the horse looked outpaced that day and in need of a step up in trip. Doesn’t fit the normal profile of having already raced over further as it is only just venturing beyond two miles, but it is a big price for the yard who has won this the last two times for England, where both runners were also a double figure price. I am determined it will pick up a big field handicap one day and I don’t want to miss out when it does.
1pt win – Escaria Ten @ 14/1 widely available
1pt e/w – Flash The Steel @ 14/1 Paddy and Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places
0.5pt e/w – Ecco @ 50/1 Skybet 1/5th odds 6 places