It was a bit of a bloodbath for punters at Cheltenham on New Years' Day, wasn't it?
Winners at 50/1, 20/1 and 16/1 meant the bookies left the course with full satchels, and why wouldn't they? The rain came and turned the ground soft, and the recent formlines (gained on "good" and sometimes good-to-firm ground) were turned upside-down. Maybe that's a bit harsh as the race-fav's finished in the 1st-3 for every race and there were 4 x 2nds beaten a head, a neck, half-a-length, and 3-lengths.
I doubt many were on 50/1 winner Tour Des Champs, but f he were to win it would be on his seasonal debut on soft/heavy ground, and I cannot see him repeating that effort NTO unless he races under similar circumstances. He is unlikely to get soft/heavy ground at Aintree, where I expect the runner-up Doctor Harper is being aimed. Doctor Harper won a 3-mile Grade 3 handicap hurdle at the National meeting at Aintree in 2014, and he will go better on "good" ground, as such he could be David Pipe's National horse. In 3rd, and looking a tad unlucky, was Arpege D'Alene who we knew would not enjoy the soft ground but whom we also knew was well handicapped on OR140 (as his hurdle rating is OR149). I can see Arpege D'Alene returning to Cheltenham for the 3-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Festival. Behind them was A Good Skin who ran well for a long time (on ground he clearly hates) again displaying how well he likes Cheltenham - this one is looking well handicapped
The "Dipper" novice chase over 2m5f went to the 9yo Whisper, who took advantage of an error by Clan De Obeaux. This is a tricky race to evaluate as the time was a bit slow. If the error by Clan Des Obeaux was down to experience then it is promising, as the way he stayed on up the him it will unlikely have been to lack of stamina. I'm not sure what to make of Whisper but, at 9yo, time is not on his side and he will likely be thrown in the deep end now.
Given Shantou Flyer had won at Cheltenham on heavy (correction, it was "good" ground - see comments) ground as a 5yo novice chaser over 3-mile in Oct-15 beating Vicente (subsequent Scottish National winner), A Good Skin, and Ballykan - as well as Village Vic (who fell 3-out in that race) - at level weights then we should not have let him start at 20/1. A horse who goes well in the mud, he was lightly raced in 2016, and came into this fresh from a 6-month break. He is only a 7yo, and it is likely that there is more improvement left in him and 2017 could be a very good year for him with races like the Midlands National in March and the Welsh National next December much more likely to be run on soft/heavy ground.
Why am I looking at results of recent races more closely? Because, in respect of the Cheltenham Festival, the period from Boxing Day (26th December) to Valentines Day (14th February) is when 95% of all winners at the Cheltenham Festival in March will have their final preparatory run. As 55% of all winners at that Festival will have WON their previous race, then it makes sense to pay close attention to every winner if that horse has some expectation of running at the Festival. Another reason is that the racing today, tomorrow and Friday does not look to have anything worthy of a wager; being mainly Class 4 races or lower grade. There are a couple of Class 3 races, mainly hurdle races, but we will have to see how they cut-up.
Another reason is that in todays' RP Weekender, Tom Segal (otherwise known as "Pricewise") has declared that last seasons top-chase form to be rubbish. Sometimes I wonder how this man has obtained such a position in racings premier publication as he has declared on more than one occasion that he is no student of form, merely giving the runners a cursory glance. That shows in his appalling strikerate. To me, when he does occasionally hit the target with a long-odds winner, it is courtesy of being given "the nod" by a trainer who knows his horse has an outstanding chance. His sweeping statement in todays Weekender ignores the fact that Vautour - just pipped by Cue Card in the King George VI Chase - would likely have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March had he taken part (he went on to win the Ryanair Chase in a canter instead). It ignores that fact that subsequent Gold Cup winner Don Cossack has not run since due to injury. It also ignores the fact that he and his colleagues at the Racing Post have been ramping-up the ratings and are guilty of inciting "ratings inflation" in the absurd quest to find a modern-day Arkle - a horse with a rating topping 200.
Hi… Great blog as always but a cpl of inaccuracies if you want to amend...The going was quick (good) when Shantou Flyer won at Cheltenham as a novice and it was Vintage Vinnie and not Village Vic that fell 3 out. I know as was there that day and VV was my NAP!ReplyDelete
Always good to know my readers are paying attention!