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Friday, 25 January 2013
Cheltenham Trials Day - Friday lookahead
A combination of hard work by ground-staff and a dose of luck have saved the important Cheltenham "Trials" meeting today, and it is the only jump race meeting to still be on as we lost both Doncaster and Uttoxeter to the weather. We have the added bonus of the Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham making it an 8-race card; terrific value for the punter and I sincerely hope all goes well. It means an earlier start to racing with the opener jumping-off at 12:10, and so I've made an early start to reviewing the card on Friday afternoon. The ground at Cheltenham is "Soft".
The "Timeform" novice chase over 2m5f at 12:40 has been won by some decent horses in the recent past, and this field looks a cracker. Top-weight Radjhani Express has certainly improved as a chaser and he could be well-in off OR142, but I got the feeling that Rajdhani revelled in the conditions (heavy ground) and was just too good for the others that day. Others that catch my eye are John's Spirit, Sizing Santiago, and Ballygarvey. John's Spirit will love the ground and the trip (he was just outstayed by a very good horse LTO in Katenko) but going left-handed on a course like Cheltenham is a new experience for him, he's done all his best work going right-handed. Sizing Santiago handles Cheltenham well (was 2nd here in November) and has won on soft ground, but I reckon he'll be a much better horse on better ground and over 3-miles if he takes after his half-brother, Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Take The Stand. Even so, he will relish a strong pace in this which is likely, a rating of OR126 looks very reasonable, and Peter Bowen has booked Barry Geraghty for the ride. Ballygarvey is totally unexposed and could be the fly in the ointment following his LTO win, but the softer the better it is for him regarding the ground.
If I thought the novice chase was a cracker, this next race on the card is a stonker! There are several horses in this that I have followed successfully over the past couple of seasons in Bold Sir Brian, Bless The Wings, and Fruity O'Rooney. Connections are talking of Bold Sir Brian as a Gold Cup horse and if he is then he'll take some beating as he has the ground in his favour. The ground will be against Bless The Wings but he's won over C&D (won the novice handicap chase at this very meeting). As for Fruity O'Rooney, he always runs his heart out and never runs a bad race so it's in his favour that he's come down 6lb to OR139 since running well (but running-out of stamina) in the Hennessey Gold Cup. Throw in Katenko, Our Mick and Nadiya De La Vega and this is some race.
The Victor Chandler Chase looks good enough to be the Champion Chase, in fact the field looks stronger than last years Champion Chase by a long way. I don't think Cheltenham suits Sprinter Sacre and he may well be troubled approaching the final fence. I'm not going to wager against him, but he is not 12lb better than this field in my opinion. The horse I think will give him most to do is SOMERSBY as he'll be having his first run since moving to Mick Channon and all those that moved to him from Henrietta Knight's stable have improved, mainly in fitness. On his day, he was a 162-165 2-mile chaser so, if Channon has found a few pounds, he could be upsides Sprinter Sacre at the final fence and then, who knows?
The Argento Chase at 2:25 is another great race as this day turns into a classic. There is a possibility that Tidal Bay may not line-up. If Imperial Commander can run to his OR164 rating (which is about 20lb below his best) then he'll win with just 11st to carry, but that is a big ask. ~The one I like the look of at long odds is Cape Tribulation who is relatively unexposed as a chaser over 3-mile and won in a canter LTO on Boxing Day, so he comes here in the form of his life, racing on ground he'll love.
This blog is not completed yet, so no selections advised.