How many of you are fed up with the sound bites about how good Altior is and that he is the banker of the Cheltenham Festival?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the horse. He has a superior motor to every other four-legged friend on the planet, but I can’t, I just can’t, hold him in the same high esteem as the master two-mile chasers of the past. Those speedsters who gave weight away to inferior horses in handicaps and still beat them senseless time and time again.
Badsworth Boy and the legend that was Desert Orchid fit that bill. The latter, when he showed guts, tenacity and class to give a lorry load of weight to Panto Prince in the VC Chase at Ascot was awesome…..now come on that was a two-mile performance par excellence!
The fact is, however many times Altior wins in the remainder of his career it will always be in grade one events and for the majority of those races he will frighten off the opposition.
Which brings me onto the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday – day two of the Festival.
Ok now don’t dis me before you have read this whole passage, but I think he is not best suited to Cheltenham. I didn’t say he won’t win – he will – but I reckon he will have flat spot in the race coming down the hill, where he has, in the Champion last year and more obviously in the Arkle in 2017, become outpaced before his turbo kicks in up the final climb.
A hill is his domain. Sandown has one and so does Cheltenham and that is where his superior horse power helps him. But one day when he possibly misjudges one of the last two fences at Prestbury Park he will finally pay the price for being outpaced coming down the hill. One day may be not on March 13.
I have to admit that Day Two has always been a holding afternoon for me. A case of not betting for the sake of it and maybe enjoying a pint or four of the black stuff a bit more than I would normally do, to help with my overnight sleep into day three, but not this year.
With OK Corral being re-routed to the four miler, (I still feel he should have run in the RSA Chase as he may run too free and ruin his chance in the amateur’s race) then his stablemate SANTINI will take a lot of beating in the RSA Chase.
I have already backed him for the 2020 Gold Cup in the belief that he won’t fully mature physically at least for another 12 months.
His third behind La Bague Au Roi at Kempton Park was never going to play to his strengths in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and that form has been rubber-stamped by the winner since in Ireland.
This big, raw-boned gelding has masses of improvement in him. The only minor negative is that Henderson hasn’t managed to get a warm-up race into this magnificent looking son of Milan.
I shall also be plunging in on Dan Skelton’s KNIGHT IN DUBAI if he lines up in the Coral Cup.
I know that weights haven’t been released at the time of writing and he may just struggle to get in at the foot of the field, but if he does he will have nowt on his back and his back form bears the closest scrutiny. Paddy’s also non runner no bet so what’s not to love?
Third in a grade two at Warwick in a novice, he then tailed off in the Ballymore at last year’s festival behind Samcro, but something was obviously amiss as he was subsequently off the track for seven months and was given the old wind jobbo.
Just the one outing this season saw him run a cracking second to I’m A Game Changer in a class two handicap at Newbury and he looks as though he has been laid out for this event.
I really like his chance if he lines up here.
To my eyes, the Cross Country race is for punters that wear those horrible green tweedy jackets, coats and skirts at this four-day do and I would much rather talk about Brexit during that time.
So onto my wagers of Wednesday and my biggest investment is going to be lumped on CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM, my nap of the day in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle.
I was all over the grey for the Supreme Novices Hurdle, but Henderson has changed his mind and will run him over the extra three quarters of a mile on the second day instead. I was at Newbury when he was a heavily backed even-money favourite in a bid to follow-up an easy success in a maiden hurdle at Newcastle. Barry Geraghty took the inside route on this long-striding sort and despite his inexperience, his hurdling was supremely efficient.
When he was let loose between the final two flights he showed superb acceleration on top of his high cruising-speed and put the race to bed in eye-catching style. He improved on his Gosforth Park win by the best part of 20 lbs.
A big, raw-boned individual, he may possess plenty of speed, but is bred to stay three miles so this intermediate trip looks spot on and is likely to improve again.
He could easily shock his stablemate and favourite Champ at double-figure odds.
*Prices correct at time of publishing
Paul Jacobs: Cheltenham Day one NRNB preview