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Seeyouatcheltenham

binocularsSeeyouatmidnight has been declared to run on Saturday in the Betfair Chase. He’s 7/1 at the time of writing and well worth an each way bet.

But the best value lies in his Cheltenham Gold Cup odds of 50/1 (Betfred and Stan James – who have an awful site for finding ante-post bets: it’s under OUTRIGHTS).

SYAM is classy and versatile. He hammered Bristol de Mai last time over 20 furlongs at Carlisle and also finished last season with a 3rd in the Scottish Grand National over 32 furlongs. He’s had just 7 chases and could be improving fast if his Carlisle win is taken fully on merit (I just have a slight doubt that Bristol De Mai ran his race; he never looked comfortable that day, but that could be simply because SYAM never allowed him to. The winner should have the benefit of the doubt until there is more evidence.)

His big festival price will have a fair bit to do with him being trained by a man unknown much beyond the Scottish Borders where he trains fewer than 20 jumpers – Sandy Thomson. Sandy seems determined to campaign the horse seriously as a stayer, although his Carlisle win suggests he could run a big race in the Ryanair.

Anyway, 50/1 should look great value after Saturday, even though Thistlecrack is a beast from another planet and should win the Gold Cup. It would nice to have a backup at a long price in the shape of Seeyouatmidnight. Let’s hope he does not live up to his name.

Good luck

Joe

Fox Norton top value at 50/1 for Champion Chase

binocularsA thirty-grand two-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham today and Fox Norton could be called the winner well before they turned down the hill: he was absolutely tanking along. He threw some athletic, energetic leaps, even late in the race and his handicap mark should go up at least 10lbs to 156. That would still leave him a fair bit short of the mark of a normal Champion Chase winner, but he’s only 6 and looks to have come on a ton since last year.

Douvan is 1/1 fav for the Champion Chase just now, but given what can happen between now and then plus Willie’s penchant for changing a horse’s target, I think 50/1 Fox Norton is a good value bet to keep you warm between now and March.

His form suggests he might benefit substantially from a long rest between races and Nick Williams, who used to train him said early last year that he doesn’t want too much racing. Yet, he had a busy season, and finished 3rd in The Arkle.

Also, it might be that proper good ground is important to him and Cheltenham will open on good to soft at best, as it always does (the Champion Chase is on day 2).

Still, a wee bet at 50s represents value, even with those caveats. And, going by my experience, a wee bet is all you will get at 50/1. The only established bookmaker displaying that price is Bet365 who offered me a maximum of £2.50 ( yes, £2.50, not £25.00).

Good luck

Joe

This Cheltenham Fence Move Just doesn’t Add Up

cheltenham logoCheltenham’s new season started today. Over the summer, the second-last fence has been moved ‘seven or eight yards’ (Sophia Dale, Cheltenham’s communications manager) closer to the last fence. The fence had only been in-site for 6 years having been moved 239 yards in 2010 from its former position near the foot of the hill before the turn into the straight.

The key reason for the move appears to be that 6 horses fell at the fence at this year’s festival. Cheltenham offered a comparative figure of an average of 3.4 fallers ‘there, between 2007 and 2016’: I assume this is up to and including the 2015 festival, but that is not clear. Nor is it clear why 2007, 08, 09, 10 have been included in the 3.4 figure as the fence was not in position for those festivals.  What might complicate matters further is that from the season the re-sited second-last first came into use (2010/11), runners in races over two miles and two and a half miles had an extra fence to jump.

The less cynical side of me assumes the figures are a communications malfunction and are linked to some of the figures associated with the 4th last fence on the New Course which has also had its position ‘adjusted’. No doubt the executive will clarify at some point. But could there be another reason?

Sophia Dale said, “The faller figures at both fences have been slightly creeping up, so we spoke to the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association], who had given us some feedback anyway, and moved the fence to give the horses a bit more time to get themselves together when they come off the bend.”  Despite possible conflation of casualty figures, it is clear from reference to the bend that, in this quote, SD is talking about the second-last. I wonder what was in that feedback from the PJA, and was it sought or offered?

2010 Move

After the move of the fence into the straight in 2010, jockeys who were asked to test it at what appears to have been a media day said this:

Brennan said: “The ground has never been better and the new fence could not be in a better place. You will still get fallers as it is the second last but they won’t be so severe.”

Sam Waley-Cohen said: “The fence is beautifully presented and I look forward to coming down to it on Long Run.”

Carl Llewellyn said: “I think the fence will be a great improvement – it rides nicely off the bend with plenty of room between the two fences. It will be safer all round.”

By the way, three horses had come down at the fence that morning in the ‘test’. Simon Claisse appeared to assign that to the jockeys having jumped it so well the first time, they were keen to have another go. Claisse:

“They jumped the plain fence and ditch on the back straight and came down the hill over the third last. They were going very fast and seven horses came around the corner – Paddy Brennan, Carl Llewellyn, David England, Sam Waley-Cohen and Sam Twiston-Davies were among those riding – and the bend rode beautifully and they jumped the fence.

“We were happy but Nigel’s gang wanted to do it again. So they went back up the hill to the third last and one of the senior jockeys who is now retired said they went off with their tails on fire.

“We could hear them coming and the first horse hit the fence pretty hard and fell and brought down two others. So we had three jockeys and horses on the deck – fortunately they all got up and were fine and they made some positive remarks about what we had done.”

 

After that Showcase meeting in 2010, Claisse seemed pleased:

From Cheltenhamfestival.co.uk website:

The fence was jumped 118 times over the two day meeting with only two fallers and a hampered and unseated rider . Claisse said that “the old second last was responsible for 75% of fallers last year so this is a big difference .”

Let’s go back to that ‘seven or eight yards’ difference mentioned by Sophia Dale. In 2010, journalist Jeremy Grayson wrote on the The Racing Forum that he’d read in Robert Thornton’s Racing Post column that Thornton was :

…delighted to discover horses get 15 strides between turn in and the second last fence, then another 16 to the last. Evidently a bit more space to play with than anyone, myself included, had necessarily reckoned with.

I can’t find that original Thornton quote on the RP site, but I have immense respect for Jeremy and am happy to take his word for it.

So, 15 strides from the turn-in now becomes 16 strides, leaving only 15 strides to the last; we must wait and see what effect that has. And does that single stride that’s been gained really make such a difference? Could it be that the faller figures “slightly creeping up” (SD), could be something to do with the way the fence is being ridden? If so, what will jockeys use their extra stride for?

Or might it be that the fence was sited wrongly in 2010? Was it perhaps an error that Cheltenham were reluctant to admit to relatively soon after the change was made? Cheltenham’s communications error (or obfuscation) today certainly hasn’t helped. One prominent journalist was fobbed off when requesting more information on the figures, apparently with the excuse it was a busy raceday today.

I suspect all is not as it seems here.

I’ll leave the Racing Post‘s Nic Doggett to sign off with a highly prescient piece from six years ago, written just after the Paddy Power meeting.

 

A lot has been written about the re-siting of the infamous second last but from the evidence of this meeting the historically troublesome obstacle is still just that.

Two fallers in the Novices’ Chase won by Wayward Prince brought the total number of fallers at the new fence to seven, a whopping 50% of all fallers at the track since it was moved.

Fences late in a race will always be responsible for tired fallers, however I cannot help but wonder whether the new position is at an awkward spot for horses because of its proximity to the stand.

The noise and sight of the grandstands really hit you when turning for home and this must be distracting for horses. Couple this with tiredness. Then add in what appears to be a landing area that looks slightly too low, and I think it will continue to cause problems.

The worry is that it’s hard to move the fence further up the run-in because then you’d have an inadequate gap between the final two fences, but put it back much and it’s too close to the bend.

This looks likely to run on and on, I suppose much like the argument over the old siting did, and I can’t think think of any easy solutions. Can you?

 

Don’t back Don Cossack for the Gold Cup

riskAnother informative run from Don Cossack today. He has a very awkward action, especially behind where both feet come out almost like a breast-stroking swimmer – he tends to do it more with his off-hind. I suspect it’s this action that makes him tilt his head quite often (much more noticeable rounding bends, or when initially trying to pick up under pressure). His ears go one way, his nose the opposite. At Kempton his nose went left, at Aintree it went right. His long stride too makes it very difficult for him to put in a short one; he can do it, but it tends to break his rhythm and lose him ground. He also jumps quite flat at times, and I think he’s going to need an awful lot of luck at Cheltenham to win a Gold Cup.

He’s a horse I’ve always liked, and I backed him to win the Betfair Million (he did not run in leg 1). But the more I see of him, the more inclined I am to keep my cash in my pocket.

He has a mighty engine, but that action looks even more awkward coming down the hill at Cheltenham. All in all, I think he’s going to find things happening too quickly for him. It’s highly unlikely he’ll get into a rhythm, and he’ll probably belt at least one, and need scrubbing along. I don’t think headgear will make a jot of difference. He strikes me as a most honest horse, and not at all lazy; it’s just that when something happens that requires a quick move from him, he cannot make it; he’s just too big and gangly.

It’s not just errors that cause him problems. When Vautour took it up in the King George and raised the pace, Don Cossack could not go with them and got shuffled back. That pace increase happened as they went into a bend, which disadvantaged him further.

He’ll be a place lay for me in the Gold Cup where I suspect young Cooper will be aboard Don Poli.

12/1 a 3/1 chance in the Ryanair? Ptit Zig

P Zig

UPDATE: 11 January 2016  If you are a latecomer to this post, be aware that the trainer says that although PZ will get a Ryanair entry, he will return to hurdles on his next outing.

I’m afraid that since I tipped him, he’s managed to tip himself up – twice, and even if he runs in the Ryanair, the last thing you’d call him now is a value bet.

Apologies to those who took my advice at the outset!

Ante-post betting can be dangerous. If your horse doesn’t turn up on the day, your cash is lost. However, when you get it right, it can be lucrative, and give you a lot of personal satisfaction. When placing an ante-post bet, you need to weigh up the following:

Is the horse likely to run?

Which of its rivals in the betting are likely to run?

Will the price shorten significantly enough to justify the long term risk?

Is the animal sound enough to rely upon, barring accidents?

You can marshall facts, but the biggest decider will be your experience and, often, your instinct. From time to time, a race is priced which appears to throw up an opportunity as close to ante-post perfection as you’ll get. The last one I recall is the  2013 King George, when Cue Card was available at 12/1 early in the year, despite the fact that the front 4 or 5 in the betting looked doubtful runners. Had Cue Card not gone wrong two out at Kempton, the biggest ante-post bet of my fairly long life would have been landed. Still, a couple of years on, I think I might just have found another one.

Here’s the current betting from Stan James for the Ryanair Chase in March:

  • 11/4 Vautour
  • 5/1 Cue Card
  • 7/1 Don Cossack
  • 12/1 Ptit Zig
  • 12/1 Valseur Lido
  • 12/1 Sprinter Sacre
  • 12/1 Vroum Vroum Mag
  • 14/1 Simonsig
  • 14/1 Sound Investment
  • 16/1 Road to Riches

The current intentions  of connections, gathered from reading race reports, stable tours, blogs etc suggest that the following are likely to be seen in the Gold Cup, not the Ryanair:

Vautour

Cue Card

Don Cossack

Road to Riches

The QM Champion Chase is the likely destination for Sprinter Sacre, who might be joined there by Simonsig (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the grey return to hurdling full time).

Valseur Lido could also end up in the Gold Cup as connections appear to believe stamina is his strong suit. Vroum Vroum Mag might run in the Ryanair, but I doubt she’ll have accumulated sufficient tough-it-out experience by March. Also, she has yet to run left-handed outside France (she has an entry at Carlisle at the time of writing, another right-handed track).

Should all of the above pan out (unlikely, but far from impossible), that leaves the Nicholls pair, Ptit Zig and Sound Investment. The latter is a fast-improving handicapper, who could run well. Ptit Zig is a horse bordering on top class. He is also much more likely to run here than in the QM or the Gold Cup. The QM would mean facing a potential superstar in Un De Sceaux as well as a rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre. The Gold Cup would see him taking on arguably the best field in the history of the race, over a trip he’s not at all sure to stay.

Ptit Zig ran Vautour pretty close on Saturday, giving the Gold Cup favourite five pounds, a performance which brought brickbats raining down on the Irish horse rather than bouquets on PZ. I think it will turn out to be very good form indeed. Prior to that, Ptit Zig had won easily in Ireland on his seasonal debut. In the JLT, he was routed and gutted by Vautour, but so was everything else in that field. Ptit Zig does have a Cheltenham victory, having won there last January. Nicholls has always thought a lot of him (he ran him in the 2014 Champion Hurdle). I’ve a feeling Ptit Zig will progress this year much the way the yard’s Dodging Bullets did last year.

Crucially, Ptit Zig is the one horse in the above betting list who looks most likely to turn up in the Ryanair. Nothing is certain, but that risk is more than built into the price of 12/1.  If my hypothesis proves correct, he’s unlikely to be bigger than 3/1 on the day.

Good luck

Joe

 

 

 

The quick and easy way to profit at the Cheltenham festival

cashA Huckster headline, if ever you saw one, eh?

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.

Good luck.

For Cheltenham fanatics with time to spare

qmMy friends at Racenews have sent me their usual highly detailed guide to Cheltenham’s International meeting set for  next weekend.

For lovers of facts and figures it makes a good read.

Just click the text link below and when the page comes up, click it again

Cheltenham internationalmg2012

Joe

WarnedOff

Take 16/1 Al Ferof now for the Ryanair

I believe Al Ferof has a fine chance of winning the Paddy Power on Saturday. If he does he’ll be close to favourite for the Ryanair over half a furlong farther in March.

His Cheltenham record has been blotted only by his poor run behind Sprinter Sacre in this year’s Arkle when he made a horrendous mistake four out (sweated up beforehand too). Mr Nicholls can rarely resist the temptation of taking his Cheltenham runners to Aintree when  in my opinion, many should be rested (he’s not the only trainer whose common sense is holed below the waterline by the lure of huge prize money).

Anyway, he boxed up Al Ferof  and took him there where he ran a lifeless race. Prior to his festival outing, he’d run a really good race for a novice in the Victor Chandler; he lined up there with just two fencing runs behind him and ended the race with his best ever RPR of 163 for finishing 3rd.

He won a very good Supreme last year beating Spirit Son, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card and is a high class horse with a strong liking for this track and an excellent record on good to soft which looks likely for Saturday and is always favourite for the festival in March.

I like Grand Crus but I suspect he is a wee bit soft. Al Ferof could come late and battle him out of it in the Paddy Power. Take the 16s now for the Ryanair. If you get the ante-post yips over the winter, you can always lay it off at half the price!

Good luck

Paddy Power Gold Cup weights and comments from connections

 

 

 

WEIGHTS REVEALED FOR PADDY POWER GOLD CUP

The following courtesy of my friends at Racenews

 

Grands Crus has been allotted 11st 6lb for the £160,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup following the publication of the weights for the highlight of The Open at Cheltenham on Saturday, November 17.

 

David Pipe’s charge, Paddy Power’s 3/1 favourite for the extended two and a half mile Grade Three handicap chase, enjoyed a superb first season over fences last term that included a facile victory in the Grade One Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

 

The Keiran Burke-trained Hunt Ball, second favourite with Paddy Power at 6/1, has also been given 11st 6lb following a stunning novice campaign that culminated with an emphatic win in the Listed Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase at The Festival.

 

Fellow second-season chaser Micheal Flips (10st 8lb) was cut to 14/1 from 20/1 by Paddy Power last week after being recommended in the Racing Post’s Pricewise column. The eight-year-old is set for the Paddy Power Gold Cup after coming home fifth under top-weight on his seasonal return for trainer Andy Turnell in a two mile, one furlong handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday (November 3).

 

Micheal Flips went down by two lengths to For Non Stop (11st 11lb & 10/1) in a Grade One novices’ chase at Newbury in February and came home fourth behind the current favourite for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, Sir Des Champs, in the Grade Two Jewson Novices’ Chase at The Festival in March.

 

Turnell revealed: “Micheal Flips is a definite runner for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, all being well. I thought that he ran all right at Ascot on Saturday – he was carrying a lot of weight and the trip was a bit sharp for him. He will be better for the run and it should put him spot on for Cheltenham.

 

“His good form last season was very good. His second to For Non Stop looks very good now and he seemed to run consistently well without setting the world alight.

 

“He made one error with his jumping on Saturday but he jumped pretty well otherwise and he seems more confident over his fences now.”

 

Poquelin (11st 12lb & 25/1) heads the weights for the Paddy Power Gold Cup for a third successive year. The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old has won five times at Cheltenham and was second to The Giant Bolster on his latest appearance at the home of Jump Racing in the Grade Three Murphy Group Handicap Chase in January.

 

A total of eight entries from Nicholls also features Cristal Bonus (11st 6lb & 16/1), who was an easy winner of a Grade Two Chase at Down Royal on November 3, recent Kempton graduation chase scorer Ghizao (10st 13lb & 14/1),Aerial (11st 4lb & 20/1) and Grade One winner Al Ferof (11st 8lb & 16/1).

 

Other notable contenders include the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of course and distance scorer Nadiya De La Vega (10st 8lb & 12/1) and the 2011 secondQuantitativeeasing (11st 4lb & 20/1), last season’s RSA Chase fifth Walkon(10st 6lb & 10/1) and Jewson Novices’ Chase runner-up Champion Court(11st 4lb & 10/1).

 

Paddy Power Gold Cup, Paddy Power bet: 3/1 Grand Crus; 6/1 Hunt Ball; 10/1 Champion Court, For Non Stop, Walkon; 12/1 Nadiya De La Vega; 14/1 Micheal Flips, Ghizao; 16/1 Cristal Bonus, Divers, Al Ferof; 20/1 Aerial, Menorah, Quantitativeeasing, Notus De La Tour, The Disengager, Havingotascoobydo, Edgardo Sol, Time For Rupert, Tanks For That, The Knoxs, Triolo d’Alene, Pepite Rose; 25/1 Poquelin, Solix, Tartak, Wishfull Thinking, Kingsmere; 33/1 Gilbarry, Calgary Bay, Forpadydeplasterer, Giorgio Quercus, Darna, Torphichen, Fosters Cross, Tiptoeaway, Criqtonic, Questions Answered, Jamsie Hall, Casey Top; 50/1 Finger On the Pulse, Vino Griego, Ordinary Man

 

OLOFI ON SONG AHEAD OF RACING POST HURDLE

 

Trainer Tom George is hoping that Olofi can make it third time lucky in the £100,000 Racing Post Hurdle after the six-year-old was allotted 10st 7lb for the feature race of the third and final day of Cheltenham’s Open meeting on Sunday, November 18.

 

A 16/1 chance with Paddy Power, Olofi was fifth behind Menorah in the extended two-mile contest in 2010 and found only Brampour two and a half lengths too strong in the same race last season.

 

He subsequently fell when bang in contention at Newbury in December and was fifth in a valuable Grade Three handicap hurdle at the same course in February before ending his campaign with a disappointing effort in the Grade Three Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at The Festival.

 

George revealed: “Olofi is set for the Racing Post Hurdle. I took him away to Lambourn on Tuesday morning to work him over a mile and a half on grass, just to give him a trip away, and he did a good, strong piece of work.

 

“He ran a very solid race last year – he won his race on the stands’ rail whereas Brampour came up the middle. He’s rated 136 now but he was competitive off the same mark last season – he fell at Newbury when he was going to run a big race and then his season fell apart.

 

“Everything went wrong at The Festival – he got a bad start, was badly hampered and I don’t think he was quite the same after he fell at Newbury, although he’s fine now. He has schooled over fences since he was three and we have chasing at the back of our minds with him.

 

 

“We always planned to give him one start over hurdles before going chasing and we hope that we have got him straight enough to do himself justice on his first start of the season.

 

“He could have easily been one of the high-profile horses of last season but things didn’t go his way and hopefully we can get him back on song.”

 

Raya Star (12/1 with Paddy Power) heads the weights for the Racing Post Hurdle with 11st 12lb following a game victory over It’s A Gimme (10st 11lb & 7/1) in a competitive handicap hurdle at Ascot on November 3.

 

Darlan (11st 8lb & 5/1 favourite) could return to Cheltenham after filling the runner-up spot in last season’s William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the five-year-old’s trainer Nicky Henderson may also be represented by Irish Grade One scorer Cash And Go (10st 12lb & 8/1) and Une Artiste (10st 12lb & 14/1), who won the Grade Three Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at The Festival in March.

 

Irish raider Domination (10/1) has been allotted 10st 7lb, while other entries include the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle fourth Kazlian (10st 7lb & 10/1), the lightly-raced Ranjaan (10st 12lb & 12/1) plus course and distance winner Dark Lover (10st 2lb & 12/1).

 

Racing Post Hurdle, Paddy Power bet: 5/1 Darlan; 7/1 It’s A Gimme; 8/1 Cash And Go; 10/1 Domination, Kazlian; 12/1 Ranjaan, Dark Lover, Raya Star; 14/1 Prospect Wells, Staying Article, Lexi’s Boy, Une Artiste; 16/1 Ile de Re, Dodging Bullets, Hinterland, Edgardo Sol, Snap Tie, Vendor, Olofi, Ted Spread; 20/1 Moon Dice, Cause of Causes, Maller Tree; 25/1 Starluck, Bothy, Desert Cry, Constant Contact, Conquisto, Hi Dancer, Rattan, King Of Queens; 33/1 Changing The Guard, Star of Aragon, Blue Bajan, Alasi, One Cool Shabra, Hunters Belt, Glam Gerry, Albert Hall; 50/1 Grey Soldier, The Tiddly Tadpole, Akula

Brampour worth a bet at 11/2 in the Stan James Hurdle

Brampour appeals at the price for Saturday’s big hurdle race at Cheltenham (3.05pm). It is a tricky looking race which even Donald Rumsfeld would have trouble describing with his collection of ‘known knowns, unknown unknowns’ etc.

If Overturn lines up it should, at least, ensure a truly run race. I seem to recall many runnings of this in the past (The Bula Hurdle) have turned into sprints.

Overturn looks as though he’s improved a fair bit but he’s a horse I just cannot catch right. I’ve never bet him when he’s won but have done a couple of times when he ran poorly. Mr McCain had a habit of going to the well once too often with this horse although I think young Donald is learning all the time.

Still, even if the horse runs to form, a flat track would see him to better effect. I believe the same applies to Grandouet who ran a perfectly good race in The Triumph but went from cantering turning in, to not finding much on the slope.

I always avoid Menorah because although he is capable of absolutely flying a hurdle, he is prone to walk through the odd one too and I’d rather not chance him because of that.

Clerk’s Choice has changed stables. His reputation rests mostly on a Cheltenham victory in October last year which was very taking to the eye. But that was an unusual race in that two horses burned each other out at a very hot pace on fast ground leaving Clerk’s Choice to almost canter home by more than 20 lengths.  He would, arguably, have to get those same conditions again to run close to that performance.

Irish Grade 1 winner Pittoni is interesting too though the classy and consistent Thousand Stars made him look flat-footed last time.

I like Brampour a lot.  His form and running style suggest he’ll want a strong pace although young Derham said he was run off his feet in the early stages last time. Still, there’s a chance he wants a stamina test, and he’ll be the one I’ll be watching closest on Saturday. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent articles, if the price is big enough, I’m always happy to pay to find out just how far an improving horse can go. Highly thought of last season, he disappointed somewhat then, but one of the famous P Nicholls breathing ops seems to have made all the difference.

He’s shown his mettle in big fields off a strong pace. If he can pull this off, he’ll be a lively Champion Hurdle option for those reluctant to take the 7/4 about the yet-to-be-seen-this-season Hurricane Fly.

And a word here in appreciation of Brampour’s owners, Banks, Blackshaw and Gannon.  This is their only horse. Young Derham cannot utilise his 7lbs claim because of the race conditions, and they could easily have given the ride to Ruby Walsh. Many people feel loyalty has no place in professional sport, but I think some owners take joy in being able to make dreams come true for others. To Ruby, it would be just another ride; to 17-y-o Harry Derham, it will be a day he’ll remember all his life.
A fascinating race in prospect.

Update: Brampour ran well – he was 3rd though I didn’t back him EW

My thoughts on the big Saturday Chase at Cheltenham are here