There have been two big debates this week; namely that Nicky Henderson ruined the Tingle Creek by pulling Altior out and secondly references to the view that we focus too much on the Cheltenham Festival too far in advance.
Nicky celebrates his 70th birthday this week, god bless him, and is still a hugely relevant trainer within the ranks. If I were the owner of the great horse I would rather rely on his bottomless knowledge of the horse and the sport than any view from within the media – END OF!
As far as Cheltenham is concerned – well yes – it is the jewel not only in the National Hunt crown, but in the racing crown. In fact, scrub that, in the sporting crown. I know plenty of friends that have little knowledge of racing that go to the Prestbury Park track year in, year out in the third month of the year because they love the vibe and tradition.
The ante-post focus from a betting point of view may well be slightly over done, but you know what – we all have to have a dream come true in our lives, especially this year, and Cheltenham is the dream that comes to fruition every single year without fail. Win or lose, and I would much prefer that situation to any nightmare on offer in our cynical world at the moment. Bottom line, we should be thankful that we have this great festival in our sport and stop undermining it even if we look forward to it 11 months in advance.
And that dream continues on Saturday ..
Magic Saint returns to the scene of his Class 2 handicap chase success last month and was far from disgraced in his follow up race at Ascot where he found the combination of deeper ground and an in-form First Flow too hot to handle.
The Paul Nicholls’ charge is respected off top weight, but may find giving 22lbs to the still unexposed IBLEO beyond him. The Venetia Williams-trained light weight rather ran in snatches when just touched off in a Listed race at Ascot (third 7 lengths away) and this looks a cracking opportunity for him to record a third chase win from only five starts off a 5lbs higher mark.
It may not be on the ITV roster, but I reckon that this Alastair Ralph-trained six-year-old was one of the best bets of the day. The daughter of Scorpion is set to have only her sixth career start under rules (a winner of her only point to point start) and following a promising seasonal debut over 2-and-half miles, WHEESHT finally gets a chance to utilize her stamina over this extra half mile. On that occasion she looked big in the paddock and was given an extremely patient ride, creeping into the race from some way back.
In fact, the mare looked set to play a major part in the finish only to make a total mess of the final flight and once her chance had gone, she wasn’t persevered with. Set to race off the same handicap mark of 107 here and sure to have come on bundles for that start, I reckon she looks a rock solid each-way play.
Top weight Master Tommytucker undeniably has a big engine inside, but his jumping is far from the finished article and in this big field where you have to be foot perfect – so that part of his game is sure to be tested to the core. If a low sun comes into play and a few fences are omitted, I shall be having a lucrative saver on him!
But there is value all around in this field of 17, including the very well treated Benatar (returning from a 693-day break), course and distance winner Midnight Shadow, Windsor Avenue and our selection GOOD BOY BOBBY.
This seven-year-old has a lovely pull in the weights with Master Tommytucker on Haydock Park form and even on that, his sixth chase start, he still looked a bit green (only 14 starts under rules to date).
The marker to his chance here was his close-up second to Mister Fisher in the Ryman Novices Chase on last year’s card. That was a superb effort when you bear in in mind that he jumped right at several of his obstacles and so was unable to have a real cut at his fences. His jumping has improved significantly since then and this test over an extended 2m 4f in a big field at a searching pace, could bring out the best in him.
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With the price about my original selection Boldmere having gone and Jersey Bean taking on much better horses in a bid to complete a hat-trick, I have fallen down on the side of Kim Bailey’s charge ROCKY’S TREASURE as the best each-way value in this race.
Give Me A Copper has a fabulous record fresh, but after a wind operation I just wonder if this is merely a starting point for him and his peak run could come in something like the SkyBet Chase back here early next year.
There is little doubt that the selection is not the horse he used to be, which included a four length second to Santini in the John Francome at Newbury followed by a win in the Grade Two December Novices Chase here in 2018, but his mark has come down accordingly.
Wind surgery at the end of 2019 and one poor run, and a better one at Newbury, has seen his rating come down from 149 to 138. That last run at the Borders track should have put him spot on after he unseated at the first fence on his comeback run.
It does take a bit of loyalty to see him bouncing back, but Doncaster on good-to-soft has always brought out the best in him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play a major part here, as long as the ground doesn’t deteriorate.
With three last time out winners in Molly Ollys Wishes, the very lightly-raced The White Mouse and hat-trick seeking Aggy With It, we should be able to access a double-figure price about the Paul Nicholls’ charge.
EGLANTINE DU SEUIL, a classy mare went to post very strongly fancied for the Coral Cup in March, going off a 16/1 shot. However, we can upgrade her 11th of the 25 runners as she sweated up quite badly beforehand and found herself fairly far back coming down the hill off what was by Coral Cup standards a moderately run contest.
She made a big move thereafter and looked sure to be involved turning for home, but then the leaders quickened away from her thereafter and she wasn’t given an overly hard time by Rachael Blackmore. I expect that kindness to repaid here off a 6lbs lower mark after her lrun at Sandown Park last weekend, when she absolutely hated the very deep and gluey ground in a Listed event.
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