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Friday 14 March 2014

Cheltenham Gold Cup - Day 4 (Friday)

A great day for the blog yesterday with selection TAQUIN DE SEUIL winning for the blog at 9/1 (advised) and an SP of 7/1. He didn't look the winner for most of the race as he didn't jump well, but the magical AP McCoy got him running again.
My other selection Buddy Bolero, was the subject of a sustained gamble but never looked happy on ground that was too fast for him, and he fell when beaten.

1:30  Triumph Hurdle for 4yo’s (2-miles & 1-furlong)
Since the introduction of the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap  the Triumph Hurdle has developed into a serious Grade 1 contest in which the best 4yo hurdlers can show their promise. 
·         17 of the last 20 winners won LTO.
·         17 of the last 20 winners had won at least two hurdles;
In recent years the race has been dominated by Nicky Henderson (who provided the 5th & 6th in 2013), Paul Nicholls (who provided the 2nd & 3rd in 2013) and Alan King who have each sent out 2 winners. This years field looks a moderate bunch and it may pay to try your hand with either Broughton who looks progressive, or Pearl Castle who meets the major trends.

No selection advised.

2:05  Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2-miles & 1-furlong)
My favourite race of the final day and (as it happens) one of the most competitive of the NH season, a real cracker of a race. 
·         5yo’s have won 8 of the last 15 runnings;
·         Irish trainers have won 6 of the last 7 runnings;
·         3 of the last 4 successful UK trained winners were trained by Paul Nicholls;
·         The last 8 winners were rated between OR131 and OR139 (Ted Veale was rated OR134, and carried 10st 6lb)
·         8 of the last 12 winners ran in either the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown, or the Betfair Hurdle run at Newbury.

No selection advised.

2:40  Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (3-miles)
Introduced in 2005, this race celebrates its 10th anniversary and, in my opinion, it already has a roll of honour that makes it a worthy addition to the Festival race roster.
·         4 of the 9 winners started at shorter odds than 2/1;
·         Just 1 of the 9 winners started at longer odds than 9/1 (the exception being Berties Dream (2010) at 33/1)
·         No previous winner raced on the flat.
·         7 of the 9 winners had previously run at Cheltenham
·         7 of the 9 winners had run a race over 3-miles
Personal notes
Run over 3-miles, there is no hiding place for those lacking in stamina and it will likely that the winner will already have won over the 3-mile trip but (as with 2011 Bobs Worth) that is not a necessity.  In my opinion, the ability to stay 3-mile at this Grade 1 level is comparatively rare, especially amongst novice hurdlers.
At the odds you have to oppose Briar Hill who is racing mainly on hype having beaten very few horses in his previous races over hurdles. I looked at this earlier this month and I am drawn to DEPUTY DAN at 16/1 as one who looks much better than his odds.

DEPUTY DAN, £5 eachway @ 16/1 available generally.

3:20  Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
The race considered to be the climax of the meeting.
This is always an emotional race, and the connections of the runners will have been aiming their horses at this for the past year. Last year’s winner Bobs Worth will line up to defend his crown.
·         14 of the last 15 winners had already won a race that season;
·         The last 13 winners were all in the 1st-3 in the betting;
·         Only Best Mate (in 2003 & 2004) has retained the Gold Cup since L’Escargot in 1971 – a feat that has escaped Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander in recent years.
·         No winner aged 10yo or older since Cool Dawn (aged 10yo) won in 1998 (and he was a 25/1 outsider) and before that Cool Ground (also 25/1) who was also a 10yo when winning in 1992.
Only the very best staying chasers have been winning the Gold Cup in the past 15 years or so, and to be considered amongst the very best, they’ve been contesting the best races, such as the KGVI Chase at Kempton, and the Lexus at Leopardstown.
It is very likely that readers will have already formed an opinion on which horse they will be supporting in the Gold Cup. It is that sort of race, a race of strong opinions and the taking of sides. Virtually nothing that I write here will persuade anyone to alter their opinion.
I am a rock solid SILVINIACO CONTI supporter and that is where my money is going.

SILVINIACO CONTI, £20 win @ 4/1 win Stan James

4:00  Christie’s Foxhunters Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
After the “climax” of the Gold Cup, the crowds are allowed the respite of another “traditional” race at the Festival, one that gives the professional jockeys some time to take in the satisfaction of riding in the feature race. 
·         21 of the last 23 winners were no older than 10yo (last year’s winner Salsify was a 8yo);
·         23 of the last 28 winners were a LTO winner (last year’s winner won LTO)
This race can change complexion in a heartbeat. For the past couple of years, several horses have gone off like scalded cats in an attempt to create an unassailable lead – it hasn’t worked.  Tired horses fall and, last year, Oscar Delta (3rd in 2012 and 2011) was unfortunate to unship his rider on the run-in after the last fence when in a clear lead.  As I wrote last year “the formbook goes out of the window with this race as the chances of most in the race will depend on whether their amateur jockey can stay in the saddle”.
Only 4 from 23 starters completed last year, with most pulling-up before the final fence leaving the 40/1 chance Doctor Kingsley to be 4th nearly a quarter-of-a-mile behind the winner, so don’t throw away those betting slips mid-race. Using the trends filters above reduces the field from 24 to 9 possible winners.

No selection advised.

4:40  Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap hurdle (2-miles & 4½ furlongs)
2014 sees the 6th running of this competitive race.
·         For years 2009, 2010 & 2011, it was run as a 0-140 handicap, for 2012 & 2013 it was run as a 0-145 handicap;
·         2 of the 5 winners were relatively untried and/or relatively unexposed as hurdlers when they won this race.
Like the other handicap hurdle races, you are looking for an unexposed, lightly raced horse that should have won LTO and is 16/1 or shorter in the market. Trainer Nicky Henderson has targeted this race since it started and it’s likely he’ll continue to do so. This race looks a nightmare for the punter.

No selection advised.

5:15  Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (handicap) Chase (2-miles & 110 yards)
The race that draws the curtain on another Cheltenham Festival.
This race winner has started at odds of 12/1 or greater, 5 times since 2006.
·         14 of last 15 winners had raced in no more than 12 chase races (in 2013, Alderwood was having just his 5th chase race);
·         9 of the last 13 winners were rated OR129 – OR134;
·         The last 3 winners were rated OR138 – OR145;
·         Since 1998 when Edredon Bleu (who went on to win a Champion Chase in 2000) won with 11st 6lb, no horse has won carrying more than 11st.
·         Alderwood in 2013 was the first successful fav since 2004.
This race seems to be getting better quality entrants.
Despite the rise in quality, and the average rating of the race-winners, we still have to go back to 1998 for a winner that carried more than 11st.  Nicky Henderson always has a good go at this race (as it’s named in honour of his father) with 6 runners in both 2013 and 2013 with a winner and 2 x 2nd’s.
Mullins and Walsh combine on PASSAGE VENDOME currently 28/1 (Bet Victor and Stan James) and this horse meets the trends of weight, rating and experience. He has to be an eachway wager.

PASSAGE VENDOME, £5 eachway @ 28/1 (Bet Victor and Stan James)

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