Category Archives: Cheltenham festival 2015
Many Clouds first came to my attention when he won the Hennessy. I had missed his seasonal debut at Carlisle, but reviewing it, I was struck with the precision of his jumping, echoed today in his BetBright Chase win.
What impressed me in the Hennessy was his will to win, despite being very tired. He did not jump so well at Newbury as he’d done at Carlisle and perhaps they went a bit quick for him early.
Today I was hugely impressed with everything about him. He jumped beautifully, ears pricked some way from take-off and jumping with precision and efficiency. I prefer horses who jump like that. Sprinter Sacre and a few others can take the breath away at times, but you’re safer with horses who measure every fence confidently and spend little time in the air.
His ears never stopped flicking, showing he was always listening to his fine jockey Leighton Aspell. Between fences he just relaxed and his raking stride did the work naturally, saving much energy. Come battle time, he stretched his neck and they were never going to pass him, and I thought he won with quite a bit in hand.
His trainer Oliver Sherwood does not want fast ground for him in the Gold Cup, but perhaps too much has been made of his disappointing run at Aintree in April. That very tight track would not suit him at all, with the long stride he has. His galloping action does not suggest that he needs deep ground, and they won’t allow it to be faster than genuine good ground at worst in March.
He has everything going for him: jumps soundly, stays, battles, is now close to top class and still improving. His attitude and jumping ability are precious assets. I thought it remarkable how well balanced he was after each jump. For such a big horse, he’s entitled to look awkward at times, but far from it. He took the downhill fence with elan and composure.
I haven’t been so confident I’ve just seen a Gold Cup winner since I watched Denman win his RSA. Many Clouds reminds me of Denman, not least in the way he just lowers his head at the business end and rams his way past the post.
10/1 non runner no bet is available with Paddy Power, and I strongly advise you to take it.
It’s very rare for 3 good value bets to come out of a Gold Cup trial like the Lexus, but Road to Riches looks much smarter than the bookies offering 12s about the Gold Cup – should be half those odds imo.
Surprised too to see 33s available about Sam Winner for the Gold Cup after today – he ran a fine race and jumped superbly bar once.
And to top off the value, those going 20s about Bobs Worth might live to regret it. He’s always been a difficult horse to train, and until the last week or so was a doubtful runner for the Lexus. Wherever the training problems lie, he does not seem to have an obvious defect (to my eye, at least). For example, At Fisher’s Cross has looked very uncomfortable in most of his races over the last two seasons. He has an arthritis problem, and obviously connections do not believe it affects him during races, but it sue as hell looks like he’s in plenty discomfort at times.
Cue Card is another example. Since stopping to nothing in the 2013 King George, he’s been nowhere near the horse he was. He’s another who looks to have something ailing him, and it shows in his racing style. He’s always carried his head a bit high, but he seems to do so even more noticeably since Kempton. I’ve always believed that something ‘went’ that day a year ago, and he’s never recovered from it.
Anyway, I mention those two to draw the comparison with Bobs Worth: he does not race as though something is physically wrong with him, otherwise, I’d avoid him. It would help to know more about the ‘training problems’ Henderson has mentioned, though I doubt he’ll expand on them.
But many seem to have forgotten that Bobs Worth is a triple Festival winner, with a Hennessy and a Lexus also under his girth. Whatever training problems Henderson’s yard faces now, he invariably gets everything right for Cheltenham, and I’ll be taking some of that 20s in anticipation that he’ll get the horse bang on song for the Gold Cup.
Good luck, and a happy 2015.
Many reading this might share that sentiment because Purple Bay’s profile is far removed from that of a typical champion hurdler these days. Musselburgh, Stratford, and Taunton have been his stamping grounds rather than Cheltenham, Sandown and Newbury.
He’s not trained by Nicholls or Henderson, but by John Ferguson. The jock who’s had most success on him is a 7lb claimer. But the manner of his victory in the Elite Hurdle last Saturday bore the stamp of a fast-improving horse, for whom a solid plan has been laid out.
Irving’s last flight fall in the race seems to have diverted attention from Purple Bay’s performance. He was first to come under pressure when hitting a flat spot turning into the straight, but when he got back on the bridle, he came away from his pursuers with ease and won with some authority, ears pricked and it took Mikey Ennis a while to pull up.
That was his first run since finishing 7 of 20 in the Galway Hurdle, a race which came within 12 days of his easy Market Rasen victory. I suspect his runs will be a bit more spaced out from now. He has an entry in the Fighting Fifth on November 29th.
At this time last year, Purple Bay had an official rating of 130. It’s now 161. The current champion hurdler Jezki is rated 169. At the front of the festival market are Jezki, Faugheen and The New One, a horse I’ve always liked but one I now believe is just lacking that killer touch.
I’m not saying Purple Bay will win the Champion, but 50s is way too big in my opinion. The experts believe the horse has quirks; other than the habit of hitting a flat spot, (and he seems to run around a bit approaching some flights) I’ve seen nothing to worry me enough not to back him at that price. He’s just 5 and will still be learning. He wouldn’t want to hit that flat spot at a critical stage in a Champion Hurdle, but the hill should be a significant advantage to his racing style.
If he turns up at Newcastle, we’ll learn an awful lot more about him. For now, I’m content to take the chance.
Good luck – and for those unused to ante-post betting, the usual warning: if your horse does not run in the event, your money is lost.