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Friday 18 March 2016

Cheltenham Festival 2016 - Day 4

Yesterday was a disappointing day for me at Cheltenham, with one of my strongest selections of the week Bristol De Mai, being beaten into 2nd by the LTO faller Black Hercules.
From thereon, the day went downhill, with Taquin Du Seuil not showing the improvement I expected following his promising comeback run.
Then Saphin Du Rheu ran like a horse completely out of love for the game, being under pressure going up the hill over a mile from the finish and even being beaten by his stablemate.
There was a course gamble on my next selection Stilletto from 11/1 to 11/2 joint-fav, but he fell at the 3rd fence. He’s worth following next-time-out.
The final race of the day produced my best result with both selections A GOOD SKIN and SILVERGROVE finishing in the places, but they were beaten by the Irish plot horse Cause Of Causes. In my narrative I mentioned 5 horses, and 4 of them filled the 1st-4 places.

The performances of the day were from VAUTOUR and THISTLECRACK and the combined odds of 3/1 for the double looked (in hindsight) as the best value of the day as both horses never looked like being beat.  VAUTOUR looked like he was capable of winning todays Gold Cup, putting in a 170+ performance; and THISTLECRACK dominated his race so much it is likely owners will still to hurdles and scoop all the leading races next season.  Spare a thought for the last horse to beat Thistlecrack – Killultagh Vic who has missed Cheltenham and resides in the Mullins stable.

This is not a good festival for me and, on reflection, I’m spreading my resources too thin by trying to assess each race in turn. As such, I’m ignoring todays 3 opening hurdle races as they are outside my comfort zone.

3:30pm  Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
15 of the last 17 winners had already won a race that season;
14 of the last 15 winners were in the 1st-3 in the betting (exception being Lord Windermere @ 20/1); 
 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.

This horse is usually won by the best horse in the race, and there are rarely hard-luck stories.
I know readers of this will very likely have already formed an opinion on which horse they will be supporting in the Gold Cup. However, this is a race in which recent form is very important, and the horse with the very best recent form is CUE CARD. He beat LTO at Kempton non-other than Vautour who romped home yesterday looking every inch a 170+ horse. CUE CARD has run to 170+ six times in his career over fences, with two of those performances this season. The only doubt is will he stay this slightly longer trip, but for that we are able to obtain odds of 4/1.  Djakadam has had an interrupted preparation (suffered a deep cut requiring many stitches when he fell LTO), and Don Cossack ran like a non-stayer in my opinion when falling at Kempton 2-out in the race won by Cue Card. Don Poli is the fly in the ointment as he’s done nothing wrong this season, but he will need to improve about 15lb on what we’ve seen. Smad Place is another who will stay the trip but this will be his 6th race at the Festival and he’s yet to win here. I just cannot see him winning this. Based on this years’ form, CUE CARD should be the 9/4 fav.
CUE CARD, £20 win @ 4/1 available generally.

4:10pm Foxhunter Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
For this race you need to look for a LTO winner that is no older than 10yo and, of the 9 that meet those criteria, I like the chance of MENDIP EXPRESS. On his day he is a 145+ chaser like when he won over C&D in January 2014 carrying 11st7lb, and when 2nd at Aintree in the Becher Chase in December 2014. He ran here last year in the handicap chase on the opening day off OR148 when he looked like being involved but the ground that day (and the pace of the field) were too quick for him. This field is nowhere near as competitive and if he can run near that form today then he will take some beating. Odds of 12/1 look good eachway value as he looks to have only the fav On The Fringe to beat based on known form, and that horse has to show he still has the ability to repeat last years win now that he’s an 11yo.

MENDIP EXPRESS, £5 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally)

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