Last week I was MASSIVELY ANNOYED at the weather forecasters for being totally wide of the mark as far as predicting the amount of rain for the Open Meeting at Cheltenham.
On Monday, several sites suggested we could get up to 22mm, then on Wednesday and Thursday that was dramatically reduced to 11mm and then on Friday, looking at the various rain maps and forecasts, it looked as though Prestbury Park could be hit by a deluge of biblical proportions….and yet clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, suggested the ground would just be on the soft side of good!
I know predicting rainfall is a thankless task but the discrepencies are putting the art of ante-post punting at the track on the endangered species list. And don’t even talk to me about second-guessing the going at Cheltenham in March!
The Open Festival has always been a cracking guide to which horses will land a gold medal at the National Hunt Championships next spring and there were once again some serious performances at this year’s three-day meeting.
Will Thistlecrack win the Cheltenham Gold Cup if he replicates his run on Saturday? Of course not, but there is time in hand for the Tizzards to iron out his jumping frailties. Remember he is still learning the game, but there is little doubt he has the most powerful engine in the NH arena.
And finally, lock into O O SEVEN, a brilliant winner on Friday of the Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase and on offer at 20/1 for the RSA Chase. Hello! How impressive was he? And look at the top of the market, favourite Alpha Des Obeaux needs soft ground, Thistlecrack will run in either the Gold Cup or World Hurdle and Bellshill is enigmatic to say the very least. I’ve had an each-way lash.
Jumped like a donkey but …
LE PREZIEN jumped like an absolute donkey in the Arkle Trophy Trial and I was surprised to hear several interviews from connections suggesting he had jumped well. NO HE DIDN’T! He was hesitant, far from fluent and low at his obstacles. On the plus side he never looked like falling and he didn’t down tools.
What the race did tell us is that this youngster has a massive engine as he powered up the hill for a clear-cut success following the departure of Some Plan at the penultimate obstacle.
At this moment in time, Yorkhill would be an interesting favourite were he to take to fences the same way he did to timber and he heads the Paddy Power JLT market at 4/1. But I think there is a bundle more to come from Le Prezien if upped in trip to 2m 4f and I have already lumped onto him each-way at double-figure odds.
The staying handicap chase over 27+ furlongs on Saturday won by 20/1 poke Viconte Du Noyer gave us three eye-catchers in the staying chase division.
MINELLA ROCCO blazed up the run-in after getting out-paced from the top of the hill and would have won with a clear round. Yes, he has some gears, but if the Aintree National is the ultimate aim I fear he wouldn’t survive even the modified fences in April and Chepstow’s Welsh National is surely his race where he’s currently the market leader.
UNIONISTE is already a paid up member of the ‘far from fluent jumping club’, but the handicapper is easing him and bog-like ground allied to easier fences, I suggest Haydock or Kelso, should see him win a nice staying prize this season.
And finally, what a run from the old boy ALVARADO! He lost his place at the 15th, but ran on like a Trojan from the bottom of the hill to finish sixth.
Yes, he will be 12-years-old come April, but it is worth remembering he has only had 20 starts over fences and the 33/1 available with Paddy Paddy for Liverpool (e/w) is a play. The biggest obstacle to that bet collecting is the old boy actually getting into the race again.