After an average February for tipping it was a good tonic to start March off with a nice double 7/2 and evens with my other selection finishing second after taking it up jumping the last only to be beat by a very smart young horse who had plenty in hand close home and could be anything. It is good to be in the top performers table with a over 55% strike rate and I am just hoping I can stay there.
The Lambourn wizard Nicky Henderson (8/1 with Paddy Power to be 2015 Festival top trainer) hosted a media visit at his Seven Barrows yard just to the north of Lambourn in Berkshire last week.
The most successful trainer ever at The Festival, with 51 successes, talked of his hopes for the four-day Cheltenham meeting next week.
His highest-profile runner is superb two-mile chaser, Sprinter Sacre (3/1), who is continuing a comeback in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 11.
Sprinter Sacre won the Grade One chase in 2013 in great style but missed out last year after recuperating from an irregular heartbeat.
The nine-year-old had his first run since December, 2013 at Ascot last month, finishing a promising second in the Grade One Sodexho Clarence House Chase to Dodging Bullets.
Henderson said: “We are as good as we have been for a very, very long time with Sprinter Sacre. He is right there – spot on. We have had our run and he has done plenty of work since and he does not need to go to a racecourse (for a gallop).”
“We will probably go to Mandown (part of The Jockey Club’s Lambourn gallops) on Wednesday. He worked on Saturday (Feb 21) and schooled on Friday (Feb 20). As always the better the ground, the better for him. He travelled well at Ascot – like the best horse in the race – and just got tired at the second last.”
“We knew he had to have a run and it was there or nowhere. The ground was not bad and I cannot make that an excuse. They went a right good gallop and set out to test him so it could have been a kinder race for him. He seems in good shape and since Ascot has been great.”
“We have been waiting for that spark which wasn’t there last year – you cannot force it to happen and have to wait. He was absolutely, ridiculously unbeatable a couple of years ago – I am not saying we are totally unbeatable next month, but he is in seriously good shape. He has done everything we have asked him to do. It will be a great race (Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase). Sire De Grugy has a crown we want back. I think we have a good chance – I am not confident but pretty hopeful.”
The trainer is looking forward to L’Ami Serge running in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday, March 10, Josses Hill in the next race, the Racing Post Arkle Chase and Vaniteaux in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on the same day, with Ma Filleule in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday, March 12.
Then on the last day, Friday, March 13, he is pleased with his three runners in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam, while Bobs Worth goes for a second Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup success following on from his 2013 victory.
Henderson said: “Ma Filleule came to herself in the spring of last year and she is back there – it was a good run at Ascot the other day (when second in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase). We have reason to believe she can find a length or two on that.”
“Luckily, I don’t have to split my three in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. I would be hopeful with one of them and I have got three shots. They are three lovely horses, they are all entitled to go there and are good enough to go there. They compare well with the horses we have had in the past for the race.”
“Bob’s Worth has only had the one run in the Lexus this season but that was always the plan. He has one more bit of work to do and the plan is to go to Newbury on Sunday if the ground is not too bad. He is fresh and well. Barry (Geraghty) was pleased with him in Ireland where the ground was desperate. He wants better ground.”
“In normal circumstances, I would be pretty keen on L’Ami Serge. He was very impressive in the Tolworth – he quickened well, is classy and experienced. Soft ground won’t worry him.”
“They will go quick in the Arkle and Barry says that will suit Josses Hill. It will be easier for the horse to jump well if they go a good gallop.”
“I still think Vaniteux is a very good horse and he is very, very well. Good ground would be important to him and he has not had it this season.”
Danny Cook is looking at a lengthy ban after testing positive for Cocaine, the 31 year old jockey will miss Cheltenham in a act of foolishness, he said last Friday in the Racing Post.
Former Newmarket trainer Gerry Blum died last week at the age of 90 and Bruce Raymond, who rode many winners for Blum said ”He was a great man and we had a lot of winners together in sellers and claimers at places like Yarmouth and Warwick.”
I fancy L’Ami Serge (4/1 with hills) to get us off to a good start to the Cheltenham Festival on the Tuesday in the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle. The New One is my bet for the Champion Hurdle on the first day 3/1 with all the firms. The banker bet of the week has to be Un De Sceaux (4/6 with Betway) on the Tuesday in the Racing Post Arkle Chase.
Bidourey is my advice for the Imperial Cup Handicap at Sandown on Saturday.
Back next Thursday.
Yours In Sport.
Kevan Minter – Colonel