Monthly Archives: March 2014
I see the Gold Cup is being written off in some quarters as a very poor one because of the result. I’m not having that. You don’t go into a championship race with two horses around 180 – trained to the minute – and come out of it with a field full of 160ish horses – it just doesn’t happen imo.
The rails were moved yesterday morning “between 7 and 11 yards on the inside of the ‘chase course” (Simon Claisse), offering a strip of ground that had not been raced on for a year. Given that the year also saw an unprecedented amount of water falling on it, and that most of the field raced on that strip for most of the race – except the finish where the first three came up on older ground – could that have something to do with the result?
The going announced was for the whole track – I wonder if Mr Claisse used his stick on that fresh strip? I’d be very interested to see a stick reading from it.
An unusual pace can, of course, throw up a strange result. But Geraghty reported that he thought they were going a stride to fast for BW throughout; the winner could not go the pace at all until turning in for the last time. And yet the time was nothing special. The Gold Cup was run less than seven seconds faster than The Foxhunters, run 40 minutes or so after the big race.
Yesterday was Lord Windermere’s first win on ground without soft in the official description (Timeform gave it as Good, Good to Soft in places). Bobs Worth’s connections have always insisted he is a better horse on decent ground – there’s insufficient evidence in the formbook to form a solid objective assessment of that claim.
Anyway, it’s nothing more than a theory on what was a very strange day at Cheltenham, all in all. Bobs Worth’s poor run at Haydock and the general form of the Henderson yard could also be seen as casting some doubt on his running. But I’m not having it that Silv Conti didn’t get the trip after bottomless stamina won him the King George. That race, of course, might have left a mark on him, so the front two could conceivably have run well below form. Whatever happened, seven minutes didn’t turn two horses with a ratings advantage of between 16/19lbs and 25/28lbs into a pair of donkeys.
2.05: Cinders & Ashes
2.40: Kings Palace (nap)
3.20 On His Own EW
4.00 Tammys Hill
4.40: Thomas Crapper/Hazy Tom
5.15: Drumshambo/Next Sensation
All pretty speculative bets on this final day, although I fancy Kings Palace quite strongly. He’s the best jumper of hurdles I’ve seen for a staying novice, skipping over them like a champion hurdler (touch wood). The likely short-priced fav, Briar Hill, tends not to pick up his back end when jumping. He’s effective enough, but KP should gain ten lengths on him through his hurdling alone.
I think Bobs Worth will probably win the Gold Cup but wouldn’t tip him at that price. Had he not run inexplicably badly at Haydock in November, I’d have thought him close to unbeatable here. But that poor run – very unlike him – sticks in my mind. Having said that. he’s 5 from 5 here at Cheltenham with 3 of those being wins at the Festival. I have backed him almost a year ago for this at 9/2, but would not tip him at 6/4 – and I have laid my bet off. Had it not been for Haydock, I’d have held onto the whole bet.
On His Own seems finally to be blooming at the age of ten. W Mullins never believes his geese are swans and for him to suggest paying 30k last week to supplement this horse for a pretty hot Gold Cup, well, that alone should be heeded, and I’ve high hopes the horse will place at least and might just make all and hold on.
1.30: Taquin de Seul
2.40: Rajdhani Express/Medermit
3.20 Big Bucks
4.00 Third Intention/Sew on Target
4.40: Our Father
Best value is in the Ryanair, as I think it’s turned into a really open looking race. I’ve never been a Dynaste fan; I backed Al Ferof some months ago for this. But his last run added to my doubts that he has not retained his ability after the long layoff through injury. If I’m wrong, he should hack up here. But his past two disappointing displays have been put down to stamina issues: I don’t buy that. His sire has produced many stayers and AF won a Paddy Power in bad ground with a big weight.
Anyway, there’s reason enough to believe Dynaste and Al Ferof will not produce their best. After Dynaste’s miserable display in the King George, his trainer said they didn’t know what was wrong and that they might not run him again this season. It was later reported that he might have pulled muscles. However, I think him over-rated anyway.
I always liked Medermit though things seldom work out for him as he almost always finds one too good. But he’s run well at a few Festivals and trainer Alan King reports him in really good order, so he’s worth an EW at 33s.
I love the look of Raj Express: a fine big type – a Festival winner last year and he looks to have scope for improvement. By Presenting, he should relish the ground and, at around 25/1 is 10 points longer than he should be imo. He’d be my main bet, with a saver on Medermit and a small Exacta in case they fill 1st and 2nd (hope springs eternal).
I’d love to see Big Bucks mince this lot tomorrow. He’s always had one of the best engines in racing and it should be perfectly tuned now. He’ll like the ground too. Giving a mare as talented and strongly built as Annie Power half a stone, will be his toughest task yet, but I think he can do it. Some have doubts about AP’s stamina. I don’t think she’ll fail on that count as she gallops like a horse who’ll stay this trip and farther. But this will be the fastest ground she’s raced on and I suspect she’ll always want deep ground to be at her best.
Third Intention has long been my cliff horse. For as long as he races, I’ll believe there’s a Festival win in him. I’ve tipped him for the last three festivals and have no intention of stopping now. I see he’s been stamped with the Timeform squiggle, denoting lack of trust in him. He had a good start to the season, but could never get it together after that. His trainer thought he’d caught a low-level virus…who knows? But he’ll get his favoured ground on Thursday and I won’t be surprised if he pounces late on his stablemate Sew on Target, another horse I like – he often front runs with real enthusiasm and I’ll be having a saver on him.
But if you think the Sire de Grugy win was sentimental, wait until you see me if Third Intention finally delivers!
Pateese is another who could land a decent race, and he’s worth taking a chance with at a big price. Stick him in an EW patent with Third Intention and Raj Express, and you might be smiling wide by this time on Thursday.
Very tough card, I think. I’ll only be having one decent bet and that’s on D McCain’s Corrin Wood at 11/1 (Paddy Power) in the RSA. But I offer one in each race for the fun players as we managed 3 winners and a NR on Tuesday:
1.30: Royal Boy
2.05: Corrin Wood
2.40: Far West
4.00: Sire Collonges
4.40: Orgilgo Bay
5.15: Black Hercules
Corrin Wood made all round Warwick – a very tricky jumping track, imo – even for experienced horses. He put in the best round of jumping I’ve seen there for a novice, even though he went right at a few fences. I think this jumping right is helping to push his price out, yet I got the impression that he could well have been doing it at Warwick just to meet the fence on the correct stride; it was never excessive. He battled on really well too when challenged and is my bet of the day, with Sire Collonges next best.
Here’s the short version if you can’t be bothered reading:
3.20 Jezki & Melodic Rendezvous (see below)
4.40 Shotgun Paddy
5.15 Baby Mix
I don’t know about you, but I feel all festivalled-out already. It’s a proper year-long build-up for me, as I tend to do much of my betting for the following year’s Festival during the current one. I feel that bookies are under such pressure to get a price for the Gold Cup/Champion Hurdle/QM etc in front of the TV folks quickly that they can make mistakes.
So I go into this week with a decent bet on Bobs Worth at 9/2 (from a year ago) and The New One at 25/1 (that was a price taken before he won last year’s Neptune – no aftertiming, either!) The ones that got away were Cue Card (25s for The Gold Cup and 16s for the QM, but he’s out injured). I also did my dough on Activial for whom all the talk was about the Triumph until he won at Kempton, then they said he was doubtful! Still that’s the downside of ante-post which makes up 80% to 90% of my punting.
Those watching my twitter account will know I spent much of late January trying to talk people in to backing Jezki at 14s for the Champion Hurdle. In the last week or so I’ve been pushing the value case for Melodic Rendezvous and I still believe these two remain the best value in the race. Jezki wears a hood for the first time (Festival runners wearing headgear for the first time have a much better record than headgear debutants elsewhere). But it’s not just the hood that persuades me Jezki is a sound bet. His last two races should be ignored as he was ridden wrongly last time – held up, pulling, he’d run his race by three out yet still finished within 3 lengths or so of Hurricane Fly. The time before that, young Mullins on Our Conor put AP in his place when the champ tried to barge through on Jezki coming to the last. AP persevered for too long before deciding to pull Jezki out and try to come again on the outside. He’s much better than he showed the last twice and the faster ground will suit.
I make Jezki the outstanding bet of day one with Betvictor who offer 7/1 about him betting without The New One – a great each way bet. And have a couple of quid on Melodic Rendezvous too. Everyone is asuming he needs very soft ground. I believe he might just need a stamina test which he should get tomorrow. He has plenty speed too, though has hit a flat spot in his last two races before powering back to win. If you’re an in-running better, Melodic Rendezvous could trade at real big odds on Betfair if that flat spot slows him again. I’ll bet nothing will be coming up the hill quicker than he will.
A year ago, I also backed Our Conor for this. But I’ve come to the conclusion that he finds little off the bit. He’s one who will trade very short, I think – like My Tent or Yours – but will find just one-pace wen asked for that final crucial effort. I’m confident The New One will reverse placings with MTOY from Kempton. TNO’s last-flight error there, cost him enough momentum and balance to give MTOY what I thought was a failry soft victory. I’m not having it that he proved in that race he was a real battler.
I’ve never been a backer of The Fly, although he’s an admirable horse and I wish him well.
But I’ll stick with Jezki and Melodic Rendezvous.
Of the others I’ve tipped, I have no strong fancies. Valdez is probably the best value of the remainder.
Above all – above profit, bragging rights, prestige – let’s hope that every horse and jockey travels home tomorrow night safe and well.
Good luck, and if you are going to the meeting remember, Gloucester in March is No County for Old Men.
But I’m fascinated by the amount of time invested in trying to find winners at Cheltenham in March. “1 of 237,000” might be the result of a Google search for ‘Festival Previews’. There are books, blogs, YouTube videos, RUK and ATR specials, stable visits. Some punters plan days to set aside for form study, and to what end?
I can’t recall the last time I studied form for a Cheltenham bet. Most of my betting is ante-post, seeking value about horses I know well, or ones I suspect will prove to be much better than they’ve shown. Come Tuesday, I don’t want to be scrabbling to pick winners; I’d rather relax and enjoy four days of superb racing.
One thing that has held strong in Festival after Festival, is that previous winners, or horses who have run really well there, have a fine chance of doing so again. The excellent Timeform guru Simon Rowlands breaks the figures down to prove the case for this ‘system’. For those who want to avoid the labour of ploughing through acres of print and horse of video – Simon’s study is the one for you.
The study is based on the previous 4 Festivals. Here’s a quote from it:
The 78 horses returning having won at the previous Festival were successful in 20 races, more than three times what could be expected by chance…
Why should horses repeatedly run well at the Festival? Well, many are simply classy horses. But many more are handicappers. Trainers prime their horses for the Festival – true. Course winners always have an advantage? Applying this assumption across all courses would, I think, find you in the grubber after four days.
My guess is that the key to this system is a combination of the track and the way races are run here. You could send out the same field, in the same conditions in January and you’d get a different result. At the Festival, races are invariably run at a hotter pace than they would be at any other time on this track or any track. To the jockeys, this meeting is everything. Adrenaline and desire push them all to go a stride faster in every race than they normally would. 60,000 bawling throats in the stands urge them on. The best horse does not always win, but the one who likes the pace at which these races are run on this unique track, the animals unfazed by crowds and brass bands and keyed-up jocks and anxious starters…these are the horses to concentrate on.
A very successful punter from the past – it might have been Pittsburgh Phil – I can’t remember, said something like: ‘I never started making money from betting until I stopped comparing horses to their rivals and started comparing them with themselves.’ Wise words. Under what conditions does a horse perform to its best? If you can replicate those conditions, all else being equal, the horses have a great chance of replicating their performance.
Perhaps Rod Street and his team at Great British Racing, should campaign for jocks on such horses to wear a big sign on the back of their silks: ‘Been here. Done that. Got the trophy.’ Failing that, the Racing Post offers a very helpful daily summary of runners returning from past Festivals.
Make the best of it.
I will post one or two tips next week, if something looks outstanding value. But you could do an awful lot worse than just back these Festival lovers and sit back and enjoy the show.