Cheltenham Gold Cup
Author Frank L Baum once said: “How very wet this water is,” a genius quite obviously stating the bloody obvious, but sometimes when something is staring you straight in the face and is apparently too good to be true, then it is human nature to simply look for an alternative; cue NATIVE RIVER.
When I look back at his error strewn round of jumping in the 2016 National Hunt Chase I can barely believe the unbelievable heights he has reached this season.
Physically the seven-year-old has filled out into a magnificent beast and has all the attributes to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is no other contender in the entry that has a combination of a high cruising speed, jumps impeccably well and critically the cream on the cake, stays the extended three and a quarter mile trip thoroughly.
Thistlecrack doesn’t jump as well or stay as strongly. Yes, he was imperious in the King George, but this isn’t Kempton, this isn’t three miles and this Championship race will run at an out and out gallop.
I am convinced Thistle will crack in the closing stages. Better horses than the King George VI hero have bottomed out in the closing stages of a Gold Cup and the fact the he faces a stable mate with no flaws leads me to firmly believe that Native River should be favourite.
Sizing John looks a blatant non-stayer to me even on good ground, Djakadam is what he is, a Gold Cup placer, and Outlander’s jumping is not to be trusted around here which leaves Cue Card as the biggest danger. Below these six the race is bereft of any quality.
CONCLUSION – NATIVE RIVER – 7/2
Cheltenham: Ryanair Chase
I was over the moon to see Sizing John win the Irish Gold Cup, a race that played to his strengths last weekend as it took him out of a hazy Ryanair Chase picture.
I have little doubt that granted some dig in the ground Un De Sceaux is the right favourite for this Grade One event, but I think this market is too lop-sided with the Mullins’ charge the 3/1 favourite and PP then offering 6/1 bar.
Uxizandre put in a big performance on his comeback run behind UDS in the Clarence House, but that race flattered the Alan King charge as he merely stayed on past inferior rivals and I will be surprised if gets anywhere near reversing those placings.
Readers of this blog know I am a huge fan of Black Hercules; a spring horse, good ground lover, C&D winner and slowly being brought to the boil, but the stand out Ryanair trial came from EMPIRE OF DIRT.
A late maturing son of Westerner, he travelled like the best horse in the Irish Gold Cup and was merely out-speeded from the last by a quicker horse with a turn of foot.
Hugely impressive in last year’s Byrne Plate, Gordon Elliot’s charge has taken huge leaps forward again this season and has all the attributes needed to win this race.
It is worth noting that of all the graded races at the festival, the Ryanair is the one race always run at a helter-skelter pace and that is exactly what this 10-year-old requires.
CONCLUSION – EMPIRE OF DIRT – 7/1 – (e/w) –back up with Black Hercules (e/w).
Finally, two horses that caught my eye last week and are worth putting in your little black punting book. DANDILION wasn’t seen to best effect at Wolverhampton on Monday and granted a better draw is sure to win races shortly, she has a rapid turn of foot.
COMMANDER WON has twice caught the eye at Dundalk over 12f this all-weather season. Best held-up off a rapid pace, the son of Zamindar is attractively treated at the moment.