Whether we like it or not, sentimentality does play a part in racing even if you are the most analytical of all punters with veins full of ice and as such day three of the Cheltenham Festival always brings a huge Cheshire cat grin to my chops.
For it was on this day in 2009 that I landed one of my biggest ante-post bets having invested in Big Buck’s to land the World Hurdle before he bombed out in the Hennessy that year at 16/1 and Imperial Commander in the Ryanair Chase Chase at 10/1.
Standing in the parade ring that day working for national radio, I resembled a demented cat on hot coals as first BB galloped his rivals into the ground and then the Commander outstayed Voy Por Ustedes up the final climb to pay for a new car. It was unbridled and undiluted joy of the highest betting zenith I have ever experienced.
This year as, regular readers know, I have been backing PAISLEY PARK off the boards from autumn and I am just hoping for some juice in the ground for Emma Lavelle’s charge to claim the Stayers Hurdle crown that is rightly his.
Should, we get a quicker surface come Thursday March 14, though I will be having a right old saver on the Willie Mullins-trained Bapaume.
Third behind Defi Du Seuil in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle, the son of Turtle Bowl has always been regarded as a three miler, but has taken time to mature and grow into his frame. However, on only his fifth start over three miles he posted a career best effort by some way when staying on stoutly to run Presenting Percy to a length and a quarter in the Galmoy Hurdle.
I still think there is more to come from this six-year-old and if he gets the end-to-end gallop he needs, he could be a nice back-up each-way wager for us at double-figure odds.
So here is where I stand on this year’s Ryanair renewal. I simply can’t have Min over this extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham and Waiting Patiently at the Prestbury Park track is a total ‘no no’ especially as he is also hugely reliant on ground conditions.
On my private ratings, Footpad hasn’t run to within 10lbs of his Arkle success last year, a race incidentally that fell into his lap, while the next three in the betting Frodon, Road To Respect and Kemboy are all Gold Cup bound.
By the way, and I wouldn’t say it to his face because he scares me, but I think Mr Nicholls should be running Frodon herethe But hey, I am just the tipster and he is a multiple champion UK trainer.
Which brings me on to the professional in the field, TOP NOTCH. Some will bellow at their computer screen that he is not a Cheltenhem horse and is better on a flatter track, but I bloody well beg to differ.
His finest hour at the Festival came when he ran Yorkhill to a length in the 2017 JLT in a race where Ruby Walsh had to really galvanise his charge to score.
Furthermore, that day he had Disko, Politologue and Balko Des Flos behind in what was a vintage renewal of that fledgling novice event.
A winner of eight of his 12 starts over fences, including a near career best effort to treat Black Corton with disdain in a Listed event at Kempton last time out, suggests he is ready for this challenge and it is last year’s winner Balko Des Flos that I fear most as he strikes me as a the typical Festival returner despite some moderate efforts this season.
Which brigs me on to this year’s JLT Chase where Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil head the market.
I feel the former needs a greater test of stamina, whereas DDS would be better off in a helter-skelter run Arkle Chase, so I am happy to oppose that duo. Real Steel has endured problems with his jumping both over timber and the larger obstacles, while Glen Forsa looks bound for the Arkle.
But in the hope that he runs here instead of the Arkle (that’s the beauty of non runner no bet), I think that this is the perfect destination for HARDLINE.
Gordon Elliot’s charge has some tremendous form on good ground and his recent run in the Flogas Chase behind the super mare La Bague Au Roi was achieved despite being far from fluent down the far side of the track and having to come through to challenge from a near impossible position.
Furthermore that was his first run for six weeks and should have put him spot on for this assignment which is the perfect set-up for him.
I love an each-way play in the Pertemps Hurdle Final and at 12/1, AARON LAD is an absolute stand-out play in this big field staying event.
A huge eye-catcher when a never nearer sixth behind The Mighty Don over the course and distance in November, he has since won a qualifying event at Market Rasen and then hosed up at Cheltenham on the new course over three miles.
The handicapper has taken his revenge in the ratings, but I think we could have a championship stayer on our hands for next season. If that is the case, this highly progressive eight-year-old simply cannot be ignored now.
My final wager on Thursday, I have already backed her ante-post, will be my nap of the day; EPATANTE in the Dawn Run Mares’ Novice’ Hurdle.
As far as I am concerned that great Irish mare owes me one as I backed Cima at 66/1 for the 1984 Champion Hurdle only to get edged out by Jonjo and that brilliant champ.
This French import has pulled Barry Geraghty’s arms out at Kempton and Exeter this season, but still won hard on the steel both times and I am confident that there is a lot more left in the tank and she can see off Honeysuckle.
*Prices correct at time of publishing