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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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Wednesday 19 March 2014

Cheltenham 2014 - the aftermath (part 2)

The 2nd-part of my review of the Cheltenham Festival 2014, with the focus on Wednesdays racing.

Readers may want to use these notes to prepare an antepost portfolio for next years Festival, or just include horses identified as having "potential" into an alert list. Most major horseracing websites operate email alert lists, and I use that operated by www.easyodds.com but www.racingpost.com and www.sportinglife.com also operate alert lists.

Wednesday started the same way as Tuesday, with a Willie Mullins novice hurdler routing his rivals to take the "Neptune" novices hurdle over 2m5f.  FAUGHEEN, who cost only 12,000 Euro's, massacred this field, winning by over 4-lengths. Mullins also supplied the 3rd-placed Rathvinden. The plan for FAUGHEEN is to go chasing next season, but given his lack of respect for the hurdles I'd like to see him jump a fence first before having a wager on him. The runner-up Ballyalton also goes chasing next season and looks a potentially exciting recruit altho' his form on soft ground is a concern.  With Royal Boy a non-runner the English challenge focused on Red Sherlock, but he ran a stinker and may have been suffering from a long season (this was his 5th race), and I'm prepared to give him another chance.

The RSA (Novice) Chase is always eagerly awaited as it's recent history is filled with Gold Cup winners: Lord Windermere, Bobs Worth and Denman; but don't forget Albertas Run who twice won the Ryanair Chase. The betting suggested the race was wide open with 13/2 joint-fav's and, with half-a-dozen still holding every chance after 4-out, the race looked like having a blanket finish. However, two emerged and quickly went well clear with O'FAOLAINS BOY eventually beating Smad Place by just a neck with the remainder 6-lengths behind. Smad Place loves Cheltenham, having twice run 3rd in the 3-mile World Hurdle, but the "good" ground may have been a bit quick for him. Interestingly, he never won beyond 2m4f as a hurdler and it may be that the Ryanair Chase in 2015 is a more likely target than the Gold Cup. As for O'FAOLAINS BOY, he met the trends for an RSA winner and trips of 3-mile-plus are his battlegound. Looking back, he probably should've won his chase debut; and he scoped dirty when pulling-up on his 2nd chase race. As such, his win at Ascot on 15-Feb (in what looks now a good novice event) was a helluva comeback effort. He was brought slowly into this race by Barry Geraghty and did not have a clear pssage coming down the hill but, when asked for his effort, he was not found wanting. The handicapper has raised him 12lb to OR156 but that could be light, and the Hennessy GC in November looks a great place to start next season. Of the others, none could say they were unlucky. Sam Winner stayed-on well on ground that was too-lively for him and he could be a good handicap horse next season. My selection in the race was Corrin Wood who tried to make-all and failed, with his jumping failing him once tired.

The Coral Cup handicap hurdle saw Get Me Out Of Here run 2nd at the Festival for the 4th time in 5 years, and for the 2nd time in the Coral Cup. He's also been beaten by a margin of a head or less on 3 of those occasions - unlucky, or what? The race time was almost 4 seconds slower than the Neptune run over C&D (won by Faugheen) so the form of this race may be hard to get a handle on. However the fav Dell' Arca ran 5th and he's what I've used to rate the race which puts the winner WHISPER on 157. This hurdler has improved with every run this season and has been on my alert list since running 3rd on his seasonal debut with 11st 12lb over this C&D on 15-Nov off OR137.  He therefore came into this race on a career-high of OR153 which I felt was too much for him. Given he was expected to go chasing this season, it's likely that's what he'll be doing in the autumn and he looks to have a bright future. Of those behind, I’ll give a mention to the ex-JLT Chase winner Noble Prince who ran a cracker to be 7th.   After an injury in early 2012, he’s not been the same horse since. My selection Vendor made headway coming down the hill having been last of the 28-runners for most of the race, but I felt he was caught-out by the bunching of the field as they turned into the straight for final flight. He could prove interesting if turned-out again quickly.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was the feature race of the day, and the only debate was whether the race-fav SIRE DE GRUGY could reproduce his form this season at Cheltenham – the scene of 2 of his 3 chase defeats (the other was at Aintree, in April last year, where his jumping fell to pieces). His form held up, and he was able to easily put this mediocre field to the sword. In hindsight, his SP of 11/4 was a gift as if he’d been trained by Henderson, Nicholls or Mullins then he’d have started at 5/4. It was great to see old-timer Sizing Europe challenging 2-out but, we have to be honest and not kid ourselves, he’s not anything like the horse he was.  Even at his peak in 2011, Somersby was no better than a mid-160 horse (rated RPR165 when 5th in 2011 Champion Chase) so how he can be considered 2lb better on RPR167 now is beyond me. He maintained the slight advantage over Module that separated them when they met at Exeter in November, and I reckon he ran to that rating again – 158. That puts SIRE DE GRUGY on 164 which puts him 3lb behind Voy Por Ustedes and makes him the worst Champion Chase winner in 10 years. As such, he’s certainly worth opposing for 2015 for which he’s a 4/1 chance. My speculative wager on Kid Cassidy was soon going astray as the horse’s jumping was poor but, when he gets his act together, he’s well-up to his OR160 rating.

Next on the Wednesday card was the Cross Country Chase and I’m not going to bother reviewing it. The front 3 came to the final fences in the straight looking like any of them could win, but none looked to have the resolution to go through with it.

The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is always a tough task for the punter to find the winner of and, with 33/1 chance HAWK HIGH being successful, this year was no different.  Paul Nicholls always has a good go at this race, and his 3 runners finished 2nd, 4th and 7th.  The winner HIGH HAWK was having his 5th run over hurdles and had won twice already but, LTO, he’d not handled the heavy ground at Haydock – which is not surprising for this winner on good-to-firm on the flat. The runner-up Katgary was running his debut hurdle in the UK having last run in France in November – hard to fathom this one but should have a good future. Also with a big future is Orgilgo Bay in 3rd whose half-bro Third Intention ran 5th in the Byrne Group Plate on Thursday. He loved the good ground having run poorly on soft/heavy in his previous couple of runs, and could well be the sort that comes good at Cheltenham in March.

The Champion Bumper drew the day to a close. For once, this race did not go to a horse trained by Willie Mullins altho’ he supplied the runner-up with Shaneshill, a half-bro’ to the useful Northumberland Plate and Doncaster Cup winner Far Cry.  The race was won by SILVER CONCORDE who, unusually, did not come into the race unbeaten. What was also unusual was the horse ran unsuccessfully in a couple of bumpers in the summer of 2012 before being off the track for 18 months. Connections have plans for a flat campaign this year, so we may see a lot more of the horse before the autumn.  

I’ve taken the 20/1 offered about O’FAOLAINS BOY for the Gold Cup in 2015, and I’d have liked to have taken similar odds (or longer) about SMAD PLACE for the Ryanair which (judging by this year’s running) could be a weak Grade 1 next March. But, so far, SMAD PLACE isn;t included in any Ryanair antepost lists.  My thoughts are that Sire De Grugy can certainly be opposed for the next QM Champion Chase, tho’ I’d like to see Sprinter Sacre win a race before wagering on him for that one. In the meantime, Arkle winner WESTERN WARHORSE at 20/1 and Arkle runner-up CHAMPAGNE FEVER at 12/1 both look capable of developing into 165+ chasers in the 2-mile division.

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