What can I say? Yesterday was a day for the bookies, with none of the fav's winning. For the blog it started badly when Mighty Potter struggled to pick-up the pace over the final couple of fences in the opening race; he ran to his best, but that wasn't good enough. The Pertemps hurdle was a blanket finish, and the selection The Changing Man stayed on but just missed out on a place. Like many, I thought Shishkin was unbeatable in the Ryanair, but he wasn't placed well by his jockey, and his jumping suffered. Fair play to Envoi Allen, he's won the Bumper, the Ballymore, and now the Ryanair Chase. The final nail in my Festival coffin was Sire Du Berlais winning the Stayers' hurdle at 33/1 at the age of 11. Flooring Porter ran a brave ace, but he's 10lb below his best; and Klassical Dream just didn't want to race: very disappointing. Any hope of a confidence boost was snuffed out when Fugitif was beaten into 2nd on the run-in of the Plate having looked the winner jumping the last fence. I wasn't interested in the Mares race, and then in the Kim Muir, the selection Ballykeel was given every chance but just wasn't good enough.
Just the one winner - El Fabiolo in the Arkle - posted this week, it has been disappointing.
1:30pm Triumph Hurdle over 2-miles
Unbelievably, Willie Mullins trains the top-4 in the betting: Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny, Gala Marceau, and Zenta. With the stable jockey Townend on Lossiemouth, that's the fav and probably the most likely winner. A no bet race for me.
2:10pm County handicap Hurdle over 2-miles
Very competitive race, and one won by Mullins 6 times. He has 4 entries, including the well fancied Hunters Yarn but this looks a big ask for the 6yo who is very lightly race. The one I like is Winter Fog who loves these big-field handicaps, ran 4th in the Pertemps Final last year, joined Willie Mullins in December and immediately won a h'cap hurdle over 2-miles. Gordon Elliott has 2 runners, and his Pied Piper is a decent hurdler but OR154 looks a tough mark to win from. Gavin Cromwell has just Path D'Oroux and this one looked destined for the "Supreme" when winning his debut hurdle in October, as he was then sent for a couple of Grade 1's. Not quite than level, he won LTO when dropped in grade and his OR141 mark looks fair.
2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle over 3-miles
When you look at the odds of past winners, probably the first horse to strike off the list is the fav. You can make a case for more than a few in this, so let's just try with one: Gordon Elliott's Favori De Champdou. Yes, he's an 8yo but he's had very little racing and he looked decent when winning a Grade-2 at Xmas. Elliott knows his hurdlers, especially at 3-miles, and while he also has Three Card Brag in this race, that horse needs to prove his stamina today.
For me, Favori De Champdou looks to hold a fair chance in this race.
3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup over 3 miles & 2 furlongs & 70yards
This time last year, I posted up A Plus Tard to win the Gold Cup, and he duly did capping a great week. He's not had the best of time in the past year, running only once and being pulled-up, but he did look outstanding last year, and nothing has come close to that level in the intervening period. What's more, trainer Henry de Bromhead is in great form and there's no reason to doubt that if A Plus Tard is here, then he's in good form too. The talking horse is the short-priced fav, Galopin Des Champs who fell at the final fence here last year when looking likely to easily win the "Turners" over 2m4f. He's won 3 races since then, proven he stays 3-miles LTO, and looks the one to beat. Bravemansgame has done nothing wrong this season, and in many a year he would be the fav today after winning the King George at Kempton in good style LTO. With Paul Nicholls having his horses running well this week, he looks the value in the betting market as, when you look at the remainder of the runners, there is nothing much else in the race that you can consider to be a potential winner. Noble Yeats may sneak 3rd, but he really should not be winning this race.
I already have an antepost wager on Protektorat, but that looks a poor wager now, and if I had to have a wager it would be an eachway punt on Bravemansgame, but I expect the fav Galopin Des Champs to win, and hope A Plus Tard runs a gallant race.
That's it from me for today, and I will review the results over the coming couple of weeks in more depth.
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