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Wednesday 7 March 2012

Festival Preview courtesy of Coral bookmakers

The 451st edition of the Wayward Lad blog.

Yesterday evening, I attended a Cheltenham Festival Preview evening with a friend at the "Loose Cannon Club" in Allhallows Lane in the City of London. It was my first ever preview evening, and a good night it was too. There were a lot of friendly faces from twitter and the Chilworth Lass syndicate and overall, it was well attended with perhaps in-excess of a 100 people at the venue.

It was chaired by Nick Luck (NL) the Channel 4 Racing presenter, and he was joined on the stage by Simon Clare (SC) PR Director at Coral, Mark Winstanley (MW) professional punter and jack-the-lad, and top-jockey Paddy Brennan (PB) who rode Imperial commander to win the Gold Cup.  

Before I go any further, Josh Fletcher (who I met last night and goes by the twitter name of @joshfletch) has produced a comprehensive write-up of the evening and published it on his blog at http://longshotbetting.com. As such, I'm not going to repeat what he's already written, and if your visit his blog for the first time to read his write-up, I'm sure you'll return to it again. I'll give you my take on the events and a few snippets that I have drawn from the panellists "body-language".

There was a lot of strong support for SPRINTER SACRE in the Arkle, as might be expected. But a comment that came from MW made me sit up, and he said that Barry Geraghty (who rode Moscow Flyer, perhaps the best 2-mile chaser of my lifetime) had told him that SPRINTER SACRE was better than Moscow Flyer. Those who are on my antepost bulletin list will know that I have recommended another horse for the Arkle as an eachway wager at 9/1, and I'm confident my selection will be no worse than 2nd.

In the JLT Handicap chasse on Day-1 of the Festival, there was plenty of panel support, especially from MW, for Emma Lavelle's PENNY MAX. When given the opportunity, I countered that Lavelle's other entry ZARRAFAKT held as good (if not better) a chance, but MW was having none of it.  All the panel were confident that HURRICANE FLY would retain his Champion Hurdle crown. Who would follow him home created some debate and what interested me was that nobody mentioned ZARKANDAR. I admit that the horse is far too short in the betting for his form and is no value at all (IMO, he should be 10/1), but he does have unlimited potential.

There was no opposition put up to QUEVEGA for the Mare's Hurdle, tho' the general consensus was that UNACCOMPANIED (current 2nd-fav) was not going to be the horse that followed QUEVEGA home.

Wednesdays starts with the NH Chase over 4-mile and there was no agreement from the panel, as might be expected.  I noted BENBANE HEAD in this race, and he's also given a positive vote by Peter Naughton in today's Weekender. The Neptune Hurdle produced unanimous support for BOSTON BOB, but it is likely that he'll go for the Albert Bartlett on Day-4 and that will leave the way open for SIMONSIG who could start a very short fav for the Neptune on the day. MW was most vocal about the Champion Chase and reckoned an upset was on the cards as he had no time for SIZING EUROPE and especially BIG ZEB who he thought was gone at the game. MW said that this race, and others at the Festival, would provide a real opportunity for "match-betting" and he'd be looking for a match-bet on FINIAN'S RAINBOW to beat BIG ZEB. Mention of one horse brought more facial expression from PB than any other, and that was SIVOLA DE SIVOLA. Basically, he reckons the horse will be up-to racing in the World Hurdle next March and should be backed in whatever race he runs in, including the Coral Cup, and full use of NRNB should be played on his Festival chances. For the Fred Winter Hurdle, whatever trainer Alan King sends should be given serious respect, so says MW, and he had a particular liking for FIRE FIGHTER. Finally, for the Champion Bumper, the best advice came from  the audience with a couple of votes for COOL GEORGE.

Onto Thursday racing and, after his defection from the Arkle, PEDDLERS CROSS had no support for the Jewson from the panel, in fact he was considered the weeks best "lay". PB was sweet on the chance of CHAMPION COURT in this race.  Given the betting, the Ryanair could have been expected to produce no agreement, but the panel were all behind NOBLE PRINCE (which gave me particular satisfaction). MW was very scathing about RIVERSIDE THEATRE, who I reckon he will be laying. He was also indicating that he'd be laying BIG BUCKS in the World Hurdle simply on the grounds that age will catch up with him one day!

Onto Day-4 of the Festival, and PB reasserted his support for SIVOLA DE SIVOLA in the Albert Bartlett, suggesting this would be his target if he's balloted out of the Pertemps Final on Thursday. The rest of the races were rushed thru' as time was getting late, but the finale of the evening was the Gold Cup preview. PB and MW had no time for KAUTO STAR's chances, with PB saying that the fall in training was one of the worst encountered by the horse. The form on 2011 took a battering when the replay was watched, with MW pointing out that WHAT A FRIEND was staying-on like a train, and KAUTO STAR was dead on his feet after the final fence. The only horse given support by the panel was WEIRD AL who most thought should have bypassed the Betfair Chase (where he was 3rd behind KAUTO STAR and LONG RUN) and will come into the Gold Cup fresh and essentially unexposed at the trip.

There you have it. An enjoyable evening, and I will be at the Festival on Wednesday courtesy of some complimentary tickets from Coral bookmakers and "Best of British Bloggers"

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  1. Good meeting you last night (albeit briefly) and thanks for the kind words regarding my review! Enjoyed reading yours too, a different slant on the night of sorts.

    Good luck at the Festival!

  2. Hi Ian,

    Great write-up from both blogs. Well done, Josh, for your comprehensive review of the Cheltenham Festival Preview. I would have left a comment on your blog but don't think you have that facility open to readers. However, you deserve much credit for a great post. Sounds a great evening.

    Kind regards,

  3. Hope josh doesn't mind but I posted his write up and a link to his blog on the Football365 forum, where the Cheltenham preview thread has already reached 48 pages!

    1. I don't mind at all, had wondered where those views had come from. Cheers Mark and Jason !


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