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Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.
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Thursday, 14 April 2016
If all goes to plan, I will spend July and August updating and pruning the alert list - an exercise which proved excellent practise last autumn - and then begin writing blogs on the jumps scene in late September with the aim of posting my first selection of the 2016-17 jumps season around the 1st October.
So, to my loyal supporters and donators, there is no need to make any more donations until the autumn. I will be contacting all those on the email list in September with an invitation to rejoin the list for the 2016-17 jumps season.
The Grand National run last Saturday was a very exciting affair, and very open too as there were about half a dozen horses in with a chance of winning the race with 2 jumps to go. Unfortunately, there were none of my selections involved in the finish, as Holywell had fallen at the 2nd fence; Boston Bob was going well until he had to pull-up before Bechers on the 2nd-circuit after goung lame. While Silviniaco Conti pulled-up before completing the first circuit after running like he was hating the experience (he has never won a race with more than 10-runners, and it showed). And my "2nd-team" of outsiders fared no better as Hadrian's Approach fell at the 1st fence; Saint Are was with the leaders till heading-off on the 2nd circuit whereupon he faded and pulled-up late on in the race. My only "finisher" was Just A Par who trailed the field for the entire race and came home a distant 15th in his own time.
Horseracing moves on and, today, we have the opening day of the "Craven" meeting at Newmarket which announces the flat season is not in full swing. The next 8-weeks between now and Derby Day on Saturday 5th June will pass quickly in the excitement of meetings at Newmarket, York and Chester.
Keep a lookout for any recent blog selections running again in the next few weeks, especially if they are running in conditions that are considered favourable. All the best from Wayward Lad.
Saturday, 9 April 2016
The ground is likely to be more good-to-soft than soft on the National course, and I have already reviewed the field of 40 runners on an earlier blog (on Wednesday). From that review, I came up with a shortlist of 7 runners:
My shortlist for the Grand National:
Silviniaco Conti - In 2012, Paul Nicholls sent Neptune Collonges to win the race, and this year he sends a better horse in Silviniaco Conti to try and repeat that win. "Conti" loves Aintree, as he's won the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl twice, and he's shown he's as good as ever this season. He's not quite at home around Cheltenham but, like Kempton, this flat Aintree track brings out the best in him. Receiving 2lb from Many Clouds, should they both finish I'd expect "Conti" to be about 5-lengths in front. There is some debate that he does not stay the Gold Cup trip but my impression is that he's a one-paced, resolute galloper. He ran 4th in the 2014 Gold Cup, and was a disappointing 7th in the 2015 Gold Cup (behind Holywell). He looks the sort who could win this race by 20-lengths if he gets into the right rhythm. He's 14/1 with several bookies, and most are quarter-odds to 5 places.
O'Faolains Boy - beat Many Clouds over 3-miles as a novice chaser when in-receipt of 4lb, and he's shown this season he still has plenty of ability being a lot better than his OR151 rating. He couldn't keep up the pace in the Gold Cup when he made a brave effort, but he's on my shortlist being a class horse running off a fair weight, and he should be a lot shorter odds than 33/1. On reflection, he probably does not have a winning chance, unless he gets some luck in running, and won't be one of today's wagers. As it happens, he is a non-runner.
Holywell - went into a lot of notebooks for this race when running a cracker to be 2nd in the handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. He also beat a high-class novice field here in 2014 over 3m1f on the Mildmay course, with non-other than Don Cossack, Many Clouds and O'Faolains Boy behind him that day on level weights. A repeat of that form will see him win this race easily and, running off OR153 and carrying just 10st 12lb, he has been given every chance. Remember, he was 4th in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Odds of 16/1 are still available and most bookies are at quarter-odds to 5 places. It would be no surprise to me to see a gamble on this horse on the run-up to the race.
Boston Bob - is the mount of Ruby Walsh, and he's been thought of as a National horse since winning here in 2014 over 2m4f, but a win in the Punchestown Gold Cup NTO (in April 2014) beating a strong field, meant he was aimed at the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup instead (which he missed). This year, this race has been the target all season, and his win in the Bobbyjo Chase LTO will mean he's in peak form. He's much better than OR151 on his day and I'm surprised he's drifted out to 33/1. Ruby Walsh did have the ride but he's not able to do it as he's injured; so Paul Townend takes the ride and he is a very able deputy. Can trainer Willie Mullins crown an already mighty season by winning the Grand National with this horse?
Just A Par - won the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last April and comes alive at this time of year with the sun on his back, and he ran his best race since that Sandown win LTO at Exeter last month carrying 11st 11lb. He has only 10st 6lb to carry in this and, at 50/1, Just A Par is a lively outsider, and on the shortlist. Take the odds with Bet Victor who are quarter-odds for 6 places, and I'd be very happy if he comes 6th at these odds with my money on him.
Hadrian's Approach - also won the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, but in 2014. Very lightly raced since, his seasonal debut in February could have brought him back to peak fitness for this and Nicky Henderson will leave no stone unturned. He's another lively outsider at 66/1 as he's much better than OR147 on his day. The worry is that he may not have had enough racing and, as such, he's passed over.
Saint Are - looked an unlucky loser last year, and looks an even better horse with his win LTO at Doncaster. Running off OR146, just 3lb higher than last year, he has a tremendous chance of winning. This will be this 3rd Grand National and the 4th time he's attempted the National fences (he ran 3rd in the Becher Chase). The horse just loves this track (many don't) and odds of 16/1 look very reasonable, especially as his trainer Tom George is in top form.
The Grand National has changed recently, not just in trip (shorter) and fences (smaller) but in the quality of horses contesting the race. As such, in recent years 5 of the last 7 winners have carried 11st or more to victory. Horses that carry 11st or more to victory have the ability to either win a Cheltenham Gold Cup (L'Escargot in 1975 with 11st 3lb), or be placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (Mon Mome, Hedgehunter, and Neptune Collonges all carried 11st or more to win a Grand National and were placed in a Gold Cup). There are 3 horses in the races who could have gone close to winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup at their peak, and they are the 3 I am advising to place a wager on.
Advised Grand National selections
Silviniaco Conti @ 14/1
Holywell @ 16/1
Boston Bob @ 33/1
Wagers of £5 eachway on all 3, that's £30 staked.
I was going to advise another wager in the 3m1f handicap chase at 4:20pm, but the overnight rain has put me off as it will likely be more testing ground than I anticipated and that could mean an unpredictable race.
The best of luck to all the runners and riders, and let's hope all the horses come back safe to race another day.
Friday, 8 April 2016
Overall, it was a good day for punters as there were 3 winning hot fav's in Cue Card, Annie Power and On The Fringe. For me, the highlight of the day was CUE CARD winning the Betfred Bowl and showing that he'd almost certainly have won the Gold Cup had he not fallen at the 3rd-last fence. My assessment of the race is that CUE CARD did not have to run anywhere near his best to win this race, and he didn't as he made numerous jumping errors yet merely had to be shaken-up to win.This race puts the Gold Cup form into perspective, as there's no way that Don Cossack ran to 182 when winning the Gold Cup. Annie Power was the only horse that finished that stayed the 2m4f trip in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, and the win proved nothing. Had The New One not fallen we may have seen a closer race.
We have another full day of top class racing today. The opening 2m4f handicap hurdle run at 1:40pm looks very tough to solve, and there are a couple of horses from my alert list running in Ibis Du Rheu and San Benedeto, and both are ridden by 5lb claimers. Of the pair, I prefer San Benedeto as he's a very genuine horse who always seem to give his best.
I'm going to give the Grade 1 Novices hurdle over 2-mile at 2:15pm a miss, but it should go to Limini who is the race-fav. The next race is more interesting, the 3m1f Grade 1 Mildmay Novices Chase where it is no surprise to see Festival winner Un Temps Pour Tout as the 2/1 fav. Those who read my assessment of that race will know that I have taken the odds of 50/1 on this horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March, and he has the strongest form in this race (in my opinion). At the odds, I cannot advise a win wager (as my rule is no advised wagers at odds under 9/4) on Un Temps Pour Tout, but there are 3 places eachway in this 8-runner race and I do like the chance of Henri Parry Morgan who did not run at Cheltenham, but looks very exciting. Henri Parry Morgan is as long as 16/1 (5th odds a place) with Paddy Power and Stan James, and that looks generous.
The 2m4f Melling Chase at 3:25pm will almost certainly go to Vautour, who looks to be almost unbeatable at the moment. He's a bit below Cue Card on my ratings, but not by much.
The Topham Chase at 4:05pm is always one of the highlights of the season, and this year looks like being a classic. A huge field of 30 runners make this a tough race in which to find the winner. Looking at past winners, it seems that you need to concentrate on those above 10st 7lb, in other words the top-10 in the handicap. The soft ground will be against a few of these, and LTO winner La Vaticane ticks a lot of boxes. He is unexposed, likes soft ground and is also a prominent runner and this race will be run at some pace and you don't want to be on a hold-up horse. Odds of 25/1 with quarter-odds a place to 5-places with Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Coral look very generous.
The last couple of races on the card look tough to find the winner, and so I'm going to stick to having a wager on LA VATICANE.
Aintree 4:05pm LA VATICANE, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Coral all go quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
Thursday, 7 April 2016
The Manifesto Novices Chase at 1:40pm over 2m4f brings together some of the best novices seen this season over jumps. Arzal did not go to Cheltenham and he looks one of those best suited to the conditions and should prove to be better than his OR151 rating. Garde La Victoire looks an out-and-out 2-mile chaser, while L'Ami Serge was at the limit of his stamina over 2m4f LTO at Cheltenham and his only chance is if this flat track suits him better. Rock The World is another who seems best at 2-mile. The only horse to have beaten Sizing John since November 2014 is Douvan (they have met 4 times since that initial meeting), and this extra 4-furlongs 'could' bring about a further improvement in him. Odds of 3/1 look fair given his profile, and could look extremely generous if he proves to stay the trip. Odds of 13/2 about Arzal look fair eachway value as it's difficult to see him not being in the 1st-3 finishers. Of those with a win at 2m4f, only Bouvreuil looks to be capable of being placed, and odds of 14/1 look an interesting eachway play.
The 4yo Juvenile Hurdle over 2m1f at 2:15pm looks a penalty kick for Ivanovich Gorbatov and odds of 11/8 actually (to me) look generous as he's about 10lb better than anything else in the race. If you read my review of the 2nd day of the Cheltenham Festival you will know I think we will see more improvement from Romain De Senam and he can be an interesting eachway wager at 16/1 in this 9-runner race.
At 2:50pm we have the Betfred Bowl over 3m1f, and the only way Cue Card won't win this is if he does not finish the race. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that, had he not fallen at the 3rd-last fence when putting in a short-step and thumping the fence hard, he'd have won the Gold Cup easily. Everything else, other than Don Cossack, was beaten at the time and Don Cossack did not put enough distance between himself and the exhausted Djakadam to suggest he would have troubled Cue Card in the final 3-furlongs to the line. The Gold Cup run may have brought-on his fitness and he will likely be the one chasing home the fav. However, the Gold Cup was a hard race for both Djakadam and Don Poli. As such, it may be the 7yo Saphir Du Rheu who won over this C&D at this meeting last year in tremendous style, if his trainer has rekindled his enthusiasm which was lacking LTO at Cheltenham.
The Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f at 3:25pm is a race with a great history, and I think it is a real shame that it has moved from Saturday to a Thursday slot. The quality of the entries has not suffered, as we have the 1st-4 from the Champion Hurdle meeting again over this longer trip, but the race demands top-billing. In 2014, The New One won this race as a 6yo, and that was the last time he ran over a trip longer than 2m1f. If he can repeat that effort then the fav Annie Power will have to pull out all the stops to win. Nichols Canyon won the novices hurdle over C&D last year, and has improved about 10lb since then. He has a great chance too, as I'm sure the jockeys wont let Ruby Walsh dominate the race on Annie Power as he did at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle. What of My Tent Or Yours? He has never run beyond 2m1f but, if he improves for his seasonal debut when 2nd in the Champion Hurdle, he could prove hard to beat. All the above have chances of winning, this should be a race to savour. I may well have a personal wager on The New One at 10/1.
The Foxhunters' Chase over the National fences at 4:05pm is for amateur riders, and bility in the saddle counts for a lot, as all the horses carry the same weight. On The Fringe is easily the best horse in the race, rated OR147 and, in Mr JJ Codd, he has one of the best amateurs riding today. Pacha Du Polder is the next-best horse rated OR138 and this time trainer Paul Nicholls has put up Mr W Biddick who is another very good amateur. If he had been in the saddle LTO then Pacha Du Polder may well have won at Cheltenham. This pair were 1st and 2nd in the race last year (On The Fringe won) and they were well clear of the other finishers. Two other horses worth a mention at Current Event also rated OR138 and ridden by the excellent Miss Katie Walsh, and Mendip Express (also rated OR138) who is ridden by Mr D Maxwell. I think Mendip Express is capable of running a big race here and odds of 12/1 look decent eachway value, while Current Event has never run well here. The winner will almost certainly come from one of these 4.
Only one clear fav has won the 2-mile handicap chase run at 4:40pm in the past 10 years and there have been some long-odds winners. This race looks wide-open to me as I have no confidence in the market leaders Fayette County and Solar Impulse. A tricky handicap and one to either avoid or have a small wager on a long-odds chance. I will give the "bumper" a miss.
This looks a day for winning favourites and it could pay to wager on the fav's in the opening 3 races (Sizing John, Ivanovich Gorbatov, and Cue Card) and in doubles and a treble. I could not wager on Annie Power at odds of 1/2 if you paid me.
I think MENDIP EXPRESS has a great eachway chance in the Foxhunters' Chase and he's my only advised selection of the day.
Aintree 4:05pm MENDIP EXPRESS, £5 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Corals)
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Now, after a couple of weeks rest, it is the Aintree festival culminating in the Grand National. This year (unusually) I am between contracts, so not working (I return to the office on Monday). As such, I'm able to give the meeting a lot more attention than I usually do, and what a meeting is looks like being.
Thursday opens with 4 consecutive Grade 1 races, including the Betfred Bowl Chase which (hopefully) should see Cue Card gain recompense for his fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Friday brings us another 4 Grade 1 races, including the Betfred Mildmay Novices Chase in which Blaklion will hope to confirm he is the best staying novice chaser of this season. It also includes the Crabbie's Topham Chase (handicap) over the National fences, and a brief look over the runners entered suggests that this will be no easy matter in finding the winner.
The onto Saturday, with the feature race being the Crabbie's Grand National as well as a supporting cast of 3 more Grade 1 races, and the Listed Betfred Handicap Chase over 3m1f which has a high-class entry of top chasers.
Today, I'm taking a look over the Grand National runners trying to find a bit of value and - hopefully - the winner. I've done it before (Ballabriggs in 2011 - and not one tipster in the Racing Post even included the horse in their shortlists!) and I've had a few placed selections in the years since then. Way back in 2009, I tipped 100/1 winner Mon Mome on the Tuesday before the race on the Betfair forum and then wrote what some considered the "post of the century" when tipping Mon Mome at 12:17pm on the day of the race. I myself won over £1500 on that race for a stake of only £12 (Mon Mome was at 170 on the Betfair exchange).
First up, can Many Clouds repeat last years win? With similar ground conditions to last year (good-to-soft) and only an extra 1lb to carry in weight, there's no reason why he couldn't. He's shown himself to be as good as he was last season, so I expect he will run at around 158-160 (my ratings) should he complete the course. And that is the risk element - will he complete the course? Last year, 19 of the 39 starters completed so, as Many Clouds has never fallen and will stay every yard, then he should complete the course.
In 2012, Paul Nicholls sent Neptune Collonges to win the race, and this year he sends a better horse in Silviniaco Conti to try and repeat that win. "Conti" loves Aintree, as he's won the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl twice, and he's shown he's as good as ever this season. He's not quite at home around Cheltenham but, like Kempton, this flat Aintree track brings out the best in him. Receiving 2lb from Many Clouds, should they both finish I'd expect "Conti" to be about 5-lengths in front.
There are some horses that don't have much chance of winning, and First Lieutenant is one of them. Another is Wonderful Charm who is still suffering (rated OR158) for a successful novice chase season in 2013-14. Winners of the Grand National are proven stayers, having a win at 3-mile on the record, and Ballynagour has not won beyond 2m5f; and the same goes for Gilgamboa.
O'Faolains Boy beat Many Clouds over 3-miles as a novice chaser when in-receipt of 4lb, and he's shown this season he still has plenty of ability being a lot better than his OR151 rating. He couldn't keep up the pace in the Gold Cup when he made a brave effort, but he's on my shortlist being a class horse running off a fair weight, and he should be a lot shorter odds than 33/1.
The 12yo On His Own isn't the horse he once was, but The Druid's Nephew is possibly at his peak. He was leading and going like a potential winner when crumpling on landing in this race last year, but that was off OR146 and this year he's on OR155, and I don't think he's up to winning off that mark.
The 2013 Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D'Alene hasn't done much racing since then, but he did run in the 2014 National and he pulled-up. That isn't good on the CV, and I think he'll struggle again; as I think Rocky Creek will. H's best effort in this race was 5th in 2014, and he was well beaten last year. Sir Des Champs is best on soft ground, and is another who's best days are behind him.
Holywell went into a lot of notebooks for this race when running a cracker to be 2nd in the handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. He also beat a high-class novice field here in 2014 over 3m1f on the Mildmay course, with non-other than Don Cossack, Many Clouds and O'Faolains Boy behind him that day on level weights. A repeat of that form will see him win this race easily and, running off OR153 and carrying just 10st 12lb, he has been given every chance. Odds of 16/1 are still available, and I can see him starting the 2nd-fav at under 10/1. His stablemate Shutthefrontdoor, didn't look like he stayed the trip when fading to 5th last year, and I cannot see him winning. David Pipe's Soll was also well beaten and, though there was an excuse, he looks up against it on OR152.
Next, when have the enigma that is Buywise; can he win for the first time since April 2014 over fences? I can't see it myself and, at 50/1, neither can the bookies. Boston Bob is the intended mount of Ruby Walsh, and he's been thought of as a National horse since winning here in 2014 over 2m4f, but a win in the Puchestown Gold Cup NTO meant he was aimed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup instead (which he missed). This year, this race has been the target all season, and his win in the Bobbyjo Chase LTO will mean he's in peak form. He's better than OR151 on his day and 25/1 currently available is generous for a jockey/trainer combination looking to crown an already mighty season.
The 12yo Aachen is not on my radar, and Morning Assembly - following his great run LTO at Cheltenham - would be but (as I wrote in my assessment of that race) he emptied out quickly in that race and he may find the extra mile here too much for him. It's most unlikely that Double Ross will have the stamina for this race, and while Scottish National 2nd and Midlands National winner Goonyella will have the stamina, he didn't run like he enjoyed Aintree's National course when here in December.
You can never underestimate a Gordon Elliot runner, but I think I will pass over Uncello Conti. Another Nicholls runner is Unioniste who fell at the 5th fence in this race last year when running of OR157. He runs off OR149 this time and, on past form, he has a chance if he's in the mood - and that's the key to this horse, his mood on the day. He could run a cracker and win, or refuse to jump the 3rd fence. However, his best form is on soft/heavy ground.
Le Reve is very consistent and will almost certainly run to his rating of OR149, but no better. He is the sort of horse who is good for a place-only wager as he may sneak into 5th. The Irish-trained Gallant Oscar is one of the likely gambles in the race, as his win last May in the Pat Taaffe handicap earmarked his National potential. Unfortunately, he's not well handicapped with The Druid's Nephew (they met at Cheltenham last year), and much will depend on whether his trainer has brought him here at his peak. The 7yo Onenightinvienna is too young for a race as competitive as this, as is the 7yo Vieux Lion Rouge.
LTO The Last Samuri had everything in his favour (ground and trip) and the race fell into his lap. That will be unlikely to happen in this race and although that win means he comes into this race apparently 12lb well-in (he now has a rating of OR161, yet races in this off OR149) my opinion is that he was well flattered by that result LTO, especially when you look at the form of his win prior to that in December.
The race Kruzhlinin ran at Cheltenham LTO suggests he wont be good enough to win this, or even stay the trip. Rule The World has yet to win a chase. Just A Par won the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last April and comes alive at this time of year, running his best race since that win LTO at Exeter last month. At 50/1, Just A Par is a lively outsider, and on the shortlist. Both Katenko and Vics Canvas have no chance.
Black Thunder is another class horse on his day, who has lost his way, and it's asking a lot to expect him to recapture his form in this race. Ballycasey is another who has never won beyond 2m5f,
Hadrian's Approach also won the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, bit in 2014. Very lightly race since, his seasonal debut in February could have brought him back to peak fitness for this and Nicky Henderson will leave no stone unturned. He's another lively outsider at 50/1 as he's much better than OR147 on his day.
Pendra was my handicap snip of the season, and he did the business winning his seasonal debut over 3-mile at Ascot. However, much as I like the horse, he's not a 3-mile chaser, as was proved when he tried to repeat that win in December. If he stays well enough to be placed in the 1st-4, I will send £50 to the Injured Jockeys Fund.
However, Saint Are looked an unlucky loser last year, and looks an even better horse with his win LTO at Doncaster. Running off OR146, just 3lb higher than last year, he has a tremendous chance of winning, and odds of 16/1 look very reasonable.
Home Farm is another will next to no chance, while The Romford Pele could be returning to form and - if he is - would have a good chance at his best.
Just A Par
Monday, 4 April 2016
The opening race of the 2nd day of the Cheltenham Festival was the "Neptune" Novices Hurdle over 2m5f, which is usually contested by a high-class field. I say "usually" as I fear this year the contestants were not up to the usual standard. The race betting was dominated by Yanworth who was unbeaten in 4 hurdles races, and had LTO won on "Trials Day" here at Cheltenham on 30th January. I was present at Cheltenham that day, and was very impressed by that performance. In this race though, racing on the quickest ground he'd encountered since running 4th in the Champion "bumper" at last years Festival, I felt Yanworth lacked tactical speed. There was a lot of criticism of jockey Barry Geraghty (including from me on the day) post-race but, in hindsight, Yanworth wasn't good enough. He now has an OR156 rating and that looks possibly 8lb over the top. The race winner was the Irish trained Yorkhill who also came into this race unbeaten. Yorkhill is bred to win a Gold Cup as his dam is a half-sister to The Listener (won the Lexus Chase in 2006) as well as Offshore Account and Fork Lightning; and he was ridden like a horse who could stay 3-mile here. There was talk of trying the Champion Hurdle route next season, but if he were mine he'd go chasing and I expect to see him win his novice chase here next March, whichever one he runs in.
The RSA Chase was one of the races of the Festival, a real cracker of a contest. It was run at a solid pace throughout (thanks to Seeyouatmidnight) and, rounding the home turn with 2 fences to jump, there were any one of five potential winners. Going into the race, the top-rated runner was No More Heroes on OR159 and he landed in front on jumping the final fence but faltered on the run-in due to sustaining a severed tendon (he was subsequently put-down). It is likely that had he not been injured then he'd have won this race. The eventual winner Blaklion, came into the race with 5 rivals holding higher ratings, but he'd improved with every run over fences this season. While 3 mile looked beyond him as a novice hurdler, at this trip over fences Blaklion looks to be in his element, as he stormed up the hill holding-off the talented Shaneshill - who has now run 2nd in three successive festivals having previously run 2nd in the Champion "Bumper", and then 2nd in the Supreme Novices Hurdle behind the brilliant Douvan last year. Blaklion loves Cheltenham, he's now won here 3 times, and has no ground concerns having win on good, soft, and heavy ground. He will have to find another 10lb of improvement (at least) to win a typical Gold Cup, but it is distinctly possible. As for Shaneshill, he completely eclipsed his stablemate Roi Des Francs. This was his first attempt at 3-mile as a chaser, his other 3 chase races being run at about 2-mile; so he is completely unexposed at this trip and his jockey Paul Townend brought him into this race from off the pace - let's hope he keeps the ride. Personally, I think Shaneshill is more of a Gold Cup winner than the Blaklion. With Shaneshill at 40/1 and some bookmakers quoting Blaklion at odds as low as 16/1, you may be thinking (like me) that there could be some value in an eachway wager here. The 3rd horse home was More Of That and he was disappointing considering he'd won a World Hurdle over 3-mile. It could be that his best trip as a chaser is 2m5f and he could be a "Paddy Power" Chase horse (Paddy Power are not sponsoring the race anymore, but we all know which one I mean).
The Coral Cup handicap hurdle went to the very confidently ridden (by Davy Russell) Diamond King. who's jockey probably thought he'd won this race the previous week! Diamond King was with Don McCain until last October, when he transferred to Gordon Elliot in Ireland. Elliot stepped the horse up in trip from 2-mile to 2m5f, and the horse has improved over 25lb in the process. Elliot is a master at improving horses. Long House Hall who came in 2nd had done the reverse, coming over from Ireland to Dan Skelton's yard in March last year and quickly winning his first three races for him. This season, he had a couple of novice chases, winning one and falling in the other, and hadn't raced since last October; so this was a superlative effort to come 2nd in such a competitive race. However, for me, the most eye-catching performance was from the 5yo Baoulet Delaroque who finished very strongly and probably would have been 3rd in another 25 yards or so. He looks an exciting prospect for the next 12 months whether staying with hurdles or going chasing.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase produced the most emotional race of not just this Festival but, perhaps, the most tear-jerking win since Desert Orchid won the Gold Cup. After 2 seasons in the doldrums, Sprinter Sacre returned to the winners enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival. There wasn't a dry eye in the house and even opponents were cheering home Sprinter Sacre after he took the lead before 2-out. Emotions aside, this was nothing like his performance when winning this in 2013 beating Sizing Europe nearly 20-lengths in the process. I rated this winning run 19lb below his effort that day, and have Sprinter Sacre on 164 (while the official handicapper has him on OR175, and Racing Post Ratings (RPR) have him on 176). Why so low? There are 2 bits of form that correlate my assessment: 1) the runner-up Un De Sceaux beat God's Own by the same margin as when they met in the "Arkle" last season, and God's Own has yet to prove (on my ratings) that he's better than 158. 2) Special Tiara in 3rd is super-consistent on my ratings at between 158-160. Put those points together with God's Own on 155, and Special Tiara on 160, then we have Un De Sceaux also on 160 and Sprinter Sacre on 164. Simple. Without a doubt, were it not for his heart problems, Sprinter Sacre should have been winning his 4th Champion Chase. While I think Un De Sceaux is better than this, he's possibly only 164 at best - and that's when he gets his own way! When he was eyeballed by Sprinter Sacre he chucked-in the towel, and does not like being taken on.
It was the Cross-Country Chase next on the Wednesday card, and I'm not wasting my time with this race.
The Fred Winter Juvenile handicap hurdle was run at a strong gallop, and we were denied a likely tremendous finish when both Campeador and Voix Du Reve fell at the final flight. In my opinion, Voix Du Reve would have won this as he sluiced through the leaders approaching the final flight. However, you cannot ignore Campeador chance as he was having only his 2nd run for trainer Gordon Elliot. So, where does this leave eventual winner Diego Du Charmil and runner-up Romain De Senam beaten just a head? Having his race debut for Paul Nicholls, Diego Du Charmil was a real dark-horse but, being well supported, he'd been showing plenty of ability at home. He should do well going forward, but I was more impressed with Romain De Senam who came from a long way off the pace and finished like a train. He didn't handle the heavy ground LTO, and needs the ground no worse than good-to-soft. He's one for the future.
The days racing ended with the Champion Bumper, and this race is difficult to work out other than providing a race full of talent. Some of these ran very green, and how they develop is in the hand of their respective trainers.
Days 3 and 4 to follow.