We said yesterday would be an interesting day on several levels, and so it proved. One thing which struck me most was the fact that the good ground made it possible to go from the front and stay there. Marracudja, Midnight Shot and Troika Steppes all raced prominently and didn’t seem to tire, whilst the first and fourth races were small field affairs that didn’t give much away. So there may be a few pointers for today’s racing seeing as it’s remained dry in Cheltenham.
As is always the way, we’ll first analyse yesterday’s selections:
2:10 – El Bandit won what was quite frankly a farce of a race. They practically walked the first mile and the main thing to be taken from the race is that El Bandit showed huge heart in winning when headed from the final bend. You can teach a horse to jump, you can teach a horse many things, but it’s hard to teach them courage. It bodes well for El Bandit’s future as he moves out of novice company.
2:45 – As expected, Marracudja ran a big race, but our selection Ridestan was pulled up after four fences having appeared to go wrong. The screens went up and I feared the worst, but hopefully he’ll survive – fingers crossed.
3:20 – Altesse De Guye was one who suffered from not being on the pace throughout – she finished strongly having been hampered on at least one occasion, but came fifth and hence just missed out on a place. I doubt she’d have beaten the worthy winner Midnight Shot but she remains one to keep on side this season.
3:55 – Tiger Roll was not at his best for us, finishing third, and having mentioned in the preview that Henry De Bromhead was sending over 3 runners and was in good form, it’s slightly annoying I missed the deserved 1-2 he obtained here.
4:30 – our selection was a non-runner but a couple of things to note here. Firstly, both Thomas Campbell and Khezerabad for Nicky Henderson will achieve better things this season. I doubt they’ll face each other again anytime soon as both are more than capable of getting a few wins. Secondly, Garo De Juilley pulled like a train and will surely come on for this experience. He was well beaten but looked threatening coming down the hill.
5:05 – Cecil Corbett suffered from never being on the pace; on the good ground the horses in front just didn’t tire and whilst he ran on well to finish fifth, it was far too little too late. The winner Troika Steppes was very brave in victory particularly after a shuddering mistake on the back straight.
5:40 – Cliffs Of Dover did what I hoped and relished the decent ground. Three wins in a week for a 3yo hurdler is no mean feat and he is a particularly exciting prospect for next spring.
So onto today’s previews. My main disappointment is that we won’t see the lovable rogue Holywell – I would have thought this ground would suit him perfectly so if he’s declared anywhere anytime soon then jump on. Small stakes are again the order of the day – no need to go crazy when in under 5 months the Festival will be over…
1:50 – Handicap Chase.
A test over 3m1f, this looks as competitive as any with a general 6/1 the field. After plenty of thought, I’ve narrowed it down to two, but again in the interests of keeping this Showcase meeting simple, we’ll go with just one selection. I like Henryville for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily, whilst Keltus and Alternatif must be dangerous as relatively unexposed 6yos. However, my two are Full Shift and BUCKING THE TREND. Full Shift has plenty of talent and for the never-ignored triumvirate of JP McManus, Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty he will be a threat, but he hasn’t raced since May which puts me off ever so slightly compared to Bucking The Trend. In May Bucking The Trend was 2nd over 3m1f, whilst his close to 3m hurdle reappearance at Uttoxeter earlier this month should see him strip fitter this time around. Tim Vaughan’s stable is going well and so we’ll take a chance on him.
Selection: Bucking The Trend (ew)
2:25 – Novices’ Hurdle.
A good test over 2m7f for novices, and I’m afraid (EMOTIONAL KLAXON WARNING) my eyes are drawn to simply one horse and one set of colours. I bloody love Thistlecrack. I told a friend in December 2014 this horse was supposed to be a machine, but it took another six months until mid way through his 7yo year that he finally started to fulfil his obvious potential. He’s not looked back since then, other than at horses trailing in his wake. So I hope that a victory in May this year proves similar for his half brother WEST APPROACH, when he produced a career best performance in winning at Newton Abbot. He hasn’t run since then but Colin Tizzard should have him ready. The most likely winner here is, of course, Wholestone for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who should be race fit after his victory at Warwick last month. I wouldn’t dissuade you from backing him, but I think West Approach can improve a lot. Cue Young Dillon beating them both…
Selection: West Approach (win)
3:00 – Handicap Hurdle.
I’m going to keep this relatively simple. Adrien Du Pont should win, based on the fact he has won 4 of his 5 starts to date and he runs for the Paul Nicholls yard. If he doesn’t win, Gibralfaro, not disgraced in a Triumph Hurdle which continues to look exceptionally strong, should take advantage for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson. But I’m happy to take a flyer – and it is a flyer – on WOLF OF WINDLESHAM. He won over C&D in taking style on good to soft ground, and his last hurdle victory at Sandown in April also came in May. His one real blot on his hurdle career to date came on Trials Day in January 2016 when he finished last on heavy ground. I can forgive him that and at double figure prices in a 6-runner field, I will take a small chance.
Selection: Wolf Of Windlesham (win)
3:30 – Handicap Chase.
15 runners over 2 miles and once again it looks competitive which is exactly what handicaps should be. Fox Norton, for Neil Mulholland and Noel Fehily, will likely be favourite and I can see the appeal. He came an excellent third in the Arkle, behind the doyen Douvan (a feat he repeated at Aintree). He then won here in April and is sure to go well again. He’s yet another I wouldn’t put anybody off backing but I’m going to side with ROCK THE WORLD. He likes it round here and also has previous form racing prominently, which should see him benefit under Barry Geraghty. I am wary of both Colin Tizzard’s runners, but I think an each way play on Jessica Harrington’s charge has plenty of upside.
Selection: Rock The World (ew)
4:05 – Handicap Hurdle.
Welcome to the wacky races world of the Pertemps Network series. 6/1 the field, just like our opening chase, tells you all you need to know. Call The Cops, Eshtiaal and Zarib all figure high on my shortlist, but I’m happy to go with FOR GOOD MEASURE. This JP McManus gelding is just 5yo (like only 3 other rivals) which suggests we haven’t seen the best of him yet, and for Philip Hobbs under the champion jockey Dickie Johnson I think there is plenty to come. Having been third over 3m1f at Warwick on good ground in April, the 2m7f with the hill at the end shouldn’t prove too daunting.
Selection: For Good Measure (ew)
4:40 – Novices’ Chase.
Having tried to keep some race previews simple and failing, this one will be very straightforward. SHANTOU VILLAGE is going to win if he stays on his feet. He was a brilliant novice hurdler, being beaten only by Yanworth in 5 outings before not running his race at the Festival when favourite for the Albert Bartlett and being pulled up with excuses. His reappearance at Fontwell in August was encouraging, and whilst Brother Tedd is strong in the market, I have no desire to take on Shantou Village.
Selection: Shantou Village (win)
5:15 – Bumper.
This looks a very strong race even at this early stage of the season, with Brahms De Clermont and River Wylde filling the first two spots in the betting for Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson respectively. Some might say you’d be a fool to take either of them on, but Derek is a lovable fool and I’m happy to do so with WOODFORT. Nigel Twiston-Davies owns this gelding and it is not inconceivable he will improve from his Ffos Las victory with better ground underfoot. I expect this to be a competitive race and so Jamie Bargary’s 5lb allowance could prove criticial in the run-in. Kalanisi Circle is a brother to Barters Hill and well worth keeping an eye on.
Selection: Woodfort (win)
The final paragraph in this column must go to Moscow Flyer – what a horse. Let’s just repeat his career form figures here: 6343111813121F21F111F111U111U111U11111112245. Incredible.
If you want of my random thoughts as the season progresses, then my Twitter handle is @theonlyhorseguy