With just over three weeks to go before the Cheltenham Festival this weekend is a good time for final prep races and Jezki could have most impact on betting markets with an impressive win in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday. The horse has been heavily backed for the Stayers’ Hurdle but this weekend’s race is over two miles, the distance of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
There are several mouth-watering races across the weekend in Britain and Ireland and Cue Card and Yanworth in particular can put down markers for their targets at the jumps meeting that dominates the sport. They both run on Saturday and even though connections would swap 10 trials races for one championship race at the most important meeting of the year the double on Cue Card to win the Ascot Chase at that track and Yanworth to win the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton pays over 5/4.
This year there is a three week gap between Cheltenham and the Grand National meeting at Aintree. That means horses could double up but it looks like Don Poli won’t run in the National. The horse’s owner, Michael O’Leary, of the Giggingstown Stud and Ryanair, is making a stand against the weight that his horse has been allocated. In Don Poli’s absence other horse have better prospects and one who will benefit is Blaklion who runs in the Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.
The money for Jezki to win the Stayers’ Hurdle was all the news in the Racing Post on Friday. There has been no announcement about the horse’s intended target at the Festival but the weight of money suggests the longer race is on the cards. Ladbrokes have fielded some of the money and their spokesperson described the betting move when quoted in the paper as saying:
“Jezki has been smashed up for the Stayers’ Hurdle ahead of his run at Gowran. The money we’ve seen suggests he will step up to three miles. Unowhatimeanharry is a short price but Jezki appears to be the punters’ alternative”
Running plans could be influenced by the fact that Jezki’s owner, JP McManus, also owns Buveur D’Air and Yanworth, prominent in the betting for the Champion Hurdle. The legendary Irish racing fan also owns Unowhatimeanharry but is not afraid to run his horses against each other in the championship races. However, My Tent Or Yours also belongs to McManus so he has plenty of options in the Champion Hurdle and Jezki looks like taking his chance in the longer race.
Yanworth is another McManus owned horse that could be competitive in both championship races. The betting market for the Champion Hurdle has been turned on its head due to the absence of Faugheen and Annie Power due to injury. Buveur D’Air won a Grade 1 hurdle at Aintree last spring but on ratings has little in hand over The New one who has been third, fifth and fourth in the last three Champion Hurdles. Yanworth must win at Wincanton with plenty in hand to remain a leading contender for the Festival.
Connections of Cue Card have taken the Ryanair Chase out of the equation and its all systems go for the Gold Cup. Stable mates Thistlecrack and Native River are shorter in the betting for the most prestigious chase of the season but Cue Card has delivered at Grade 1 level in the past at Cheltenham. That type of experience is invaluable in the atmosphere of the Festival. Cue Card should win at Ascot and set up a challenge for the race he deserves to win at some stage of a brilliant career.
Blaklion won the RSA Chase at the Festival last year and improved on the clock when fifth to Native River in the Hennessey in November. The horse has a decent weight in the National and there will be a market move given a good effort at Haydock. The trial over three miles four furlongs cannot replicate the demands of the Grand National but Blaklion can become a leading contender for the race if impressing at Haydock. Jezki, Cue Card and Yanworth are more about Cheltenham which is still the meeting that matters most.