The works at the course seem to be progressing well, altho' the lack of a rail at the top of the parade ring steps could prove a safety issue come the 60,000 crowds of the Festival in March. That wasn't my only criticism: I'm not happy with the new position of the Arkle statue. He's lost his position of prominence and, as he's used as a meeting-point for many attending the racing, his new position could prove a problem.
For those who read my blog on Saturday, there should be no complaints as I gave 3 selections on Saturday morning, and 2 of them won at odds of 5/1 (Annacotty) and 3/1 (Saphir Du Rheu). My only loser was in the feature race, when Dynaste failed to haul-back the eventual winner Many Clouds on the run-in. The race was run at a slow pace (the first circuit was run at a crawl) and the time of the winner was only 16-seconds quicker than last year when the race was run on heavy ground. Going out onto the 2nd-circuit, I felt the pace of the race was playing into the hands of my selection Dynaste, and I'm sure if jockey Tom Scudamore to run the race again he'd kick-on from the 3rd last fence and try and lead at the 2nd-last. I heard comments post-race that he didn't stay the trip and, admittedly, the trip of 3m1f stretched his stamina at this level - but he certainly stays the distance. He just isn't able to quicken and he may have fared better defending a lead than trying to make one up on the run-in.
The race winner Many Clouds cannot be faulted. He's now won 5 of his 9 chase races, and has improved with each run this season. You have to wonder how close he'd have gone in the RSA Chase last March had he not been brought down at the 14th fence by another faller (who happened to be Don Cossack). The big doubt over Many Clouds is his requirement for a going description with the word "soft" in it. He struggled on "good" ground at Aintree when he ran there at the National meeting after the Festival, and it must be odds-on to be good ground on Friday 13th March. Thing is, he is an improving chaser and he could find enough improvement when he runs at Cheltenham to counter the quicker ground. I rated the race thru' The Giant Bolster who I reckon ran up to the rating of 157 (in my book) that he won the race with in 2014. That puts Many Clouds on 165, Smad Place on 155 and Dynaste on 163. In my estimation, the performances of both Many Clouds and Dynaste would have been good enough to win last years Gold Cup (I rated Lord Windermere's winning effort at 161) and so both are worthy of going to this years Gold Cup with winning chances. It should be taken into account that "good" ground will not affect the chances of Dynaste and at 25/1 NRNB with Paddy Power, he looks the value in the betting.
It should be considered that before Kauto Star and Denman won the Gold Cup. there had been a period of 30+ years during which the winner of the Gold Cup was a horse rated 165-170. It will be no surprise to me if we revert to "norm" and have another period of 30 years of Gold Cup winners rated 165-170 with the best horse "on the day" succeeding,
I had £40 on Dynaste at 5/2, so I was a little despondent that the horse didn't win after running a very genuine race, but I was fully recompensed in the next race when Annacotty repaid my faith by snatching victory on the run-in. This run was right up to the level of his performance in the novices chase over C&D on this day last season, and while he may suffer a re-rating he should be capable of defying it NTO. The other interesting aspect of the race was TAP NIGHT running he best race since running 3rd in this race last year. I felt he just about matched that performance and, if he goes onto contest the Byrne Group Plate again, he will be running off a 15lb lower rating this time.
My day ended splendidly with a win for Saphir Du Rheu at the enormous odds of 3/1. As I wrote on my blog, the horse should have been the 6/4 fav and anything longer than 2/1 should have been grabbed. I jumped in at 11/4 about 8 mins before the off and took my place in the stands, so I missed the 3/1. All the on-course money was for Un Temps Pour Tout but he never looked like justifying his £450,000 price tag and he could prove to be a very expensive purchase. As for Saphir Du Rheu, he needs to find a bit more to be in the mix for the World Hurdle but he's not far away. I'd hope for more than the current 6/1 being offered.