We were most unlucky with TOP NOTCH yesterday in the opening race as, but for that one mistake at the 2nd-last fence which looked like it cost him about 5-lengths, he probably would have won well. He certainly looked the best horse in the race to me and he stormed up the hill on the run-in from the last fence almost catching eventual winner Yorkhill.
In the Ryanair, Josses Hill just wasn’t good enough. Eventual winner UN DE SCEAUX did not have to do much other than stay the trip, which I felt he only just did, and he was helped in that matter by his euphoric jumping display which nearly cost him mid-race when he landed on a fence. However, it looked a poor Ryanair to me with little depth as show by ASO running in 3rd place. By my ratings, the winner didn't have to top 160 to win this, and trainers really should start having a go at these short-priced horses.
My 3rd selection Champagne At Tara never looked like going and was soon pulled-up, which was disappointing. Of the others mentioned on the blog, Hadrian’s Approach fell and Sutton Manor (after some support on the betting market) ran a positive race to be 5th in the 3-mile handicap hurdle.
In the Stayers’ Hurdle, Unowhatimeanharry disappointed, running about 7-10lb below his best form. The proven stayers Lil Rockerfella and Cole Harden ensured it was a true test and eventual winner Nichols Canyon looked more at home at this trip – his first attempt at 3-miles – than he had at 2-miles. The leading pair are young enough to dominate this 3-mile hurdle division for the next couple of seasons.
Onto the final day and we could do with a winner!
Todays opening Triumph Hurdle over 2-miles is dominated by the McManus owned Defi Du Seuil, Charli Parcs and Landofhopeandglory. However, I was most impressed by MASTER BLUEYES winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton LTO (Charli Parcs fell 2-out), and the ground today will suit this decent flat performer well who took his time to take to hurdling but looks top class now. Odds of 7/1 look generous for a race that may have little depth to it.
The County Handicap Hurdle looks like a real head-scratcher to me and I’m happy to leave that to others and so I will move onto the 3-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. This race takes some winning by a proper staying horse and the 2/1 fav Death Duty has yet to race beyond 2m4f so we are looking at opposing him. Augusta Kate hasn’t enough experience in my mind (only 1 completed hurdle race), however Monalee won over 3-mile LTO on heavy ground. But it is Wholestone who has won 4 of his last 5 races, winning at 3-mile and over C&D on “good” ground that ticks a lot of boxes. With The Worlds End and Constantine Bay evenly matched on form (via No Hassle Hoff), and the remainder looking outclassed, WHOLESTONE looks like being a worthy wager at 7/1 as there are not many in this race with winning form at 3-mile and on this ground.
Finally, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
16 of the last 18 winners had already won a race that season;
15 of the last 16 winners were in the 1st-3 in the betting (exception was 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 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. There is a big field of 14-runners and this race looks like producing a surprise result to me as I just cannot see the 3/1 fav Djakadam winning a Gold Cup as he just isn’t good enough. On form this season I have Cue Card and Native River closely matched (and better than Djakadam) and age puts me on the 7yo Native River. The form of Sizing John took a hit yesterday when Empire Of Dirt was well beaten in the Ryanair. The form of Outlander isn’t strong enough (Don Poli is a 155 horse at best), but Champagne West is interesting as he handles Cheltenham well and is back to his best with trainer Henry De Bromhead – but is his best good enough? Bristol De Mai has questions to answer after his run LTO, and the others look outclassed other than MINELLA ROCCO. He won the 4-mile NH Chase last year, beating Native River into 2nd in the process, Scottish National winner Vincente in 5th and Vieux Lion Rouge in 6th – this was a “vintage” NH Chase. His season started at Cheltenham when 3rd to Viconte Du Noyer over 3m3f when I thought he looked most unfit beforehand. He then fell at the last fence when trying to beat the ill-fated Many Clouds at Aintree in December (and Many Clouds beat Thistlecrack NTO). LTO he unseated his rider at the 5thfence in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February. If he can get a clear round in today then I am sure he will be in the shake-up as he will strip a lot fitter than he did when here in November.
I advised those on my email list and readers of the blog to take the 20/1 about Native River on the morning of the day he won the Welsh National, and he is the most likely winner of the race. So, if you are on at 20/1 then don't bother adding to that today, if not then the 9/2 looks fair as I'd have NATIVE RIVER at 3/1 for this race, maybe even a bit shorter.
Todays advised selections
Cheltenham 1:30pm MASTER BLUEYES, £10 win @ 7/1 (available generally)
Cheltenham 2:50pm WHOLESTONE, £10 win @ 15/2 (Paddy Power, with 7/1 generally available)