The roar for the Supreme Novices Hurdle on Day One makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – but for the real aficionados – the mountainous anticipation just before the start of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is matched only by the Grand National.
With up to 25mm of rain expected over the next couple of days and more due from Sunday until next Friday, the one thing we can rely on is that the 2019 Gold Cup will not be run on good ground.
Forecasting the weather and the going description is nearly as dangerous as tipping horses for a living – but it’s an imperative exercise for our Gold Cup day selections. Good to soft, soft in places, maybe the state of play on Friday week and I’ve based my preview on that.
The extended 3m 2f of the Gold Cup has often found out non-stayers. Just look back at previous renewals from Wayward Lad bombing out through lack of stamina twice after hitting the front to Synchronised storming home like a knife through butter in the final two furlongs for AP McCoy in 2012.
Even what I consider to be the most awesome Gold Cup ride ever by deadly Davy Russell on the easily forgotten Lord Windermere, owed a lot to his ability to see out that final climb for home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Can Native River win again? Well yes if they go a championship pace, which Dickie Johnson will assure. Can Might Bite bounce back to his best? Yep, but his best simply won’t be good enough unless they shorten the distance of the contest to 3m. Can Presenting Percy step up with just one hurdle race under his belt? Possibly, but boy it will take an enormous effort to do so. And will Clan Des Obeaux take another big step forward to become king? Maybe, but I think he is better going right-handed.
I am not in the business to find the winner of the Gold Cup, but simply to make a profit and that applies to each and every race I play in.
And to my eyes, in the current market place, ANIBALE FLY looks the best investment at a double-figure price to hit the frame.
The current entry scenario of this year’s renewal means that several out-and-out stayers will not want this to be a moderately run affair. But as I said before the whole race revolves around Native River. He can only win back to back crowns if Richard Johnson makes this a slugfest and he is too wise, old and clever enough to ensure this will not happen.
So here is the theory. There will be several jockeys in the field that will come to the conclusion that they may have a better chance of picking up place prize money and even the outside chance of winning by sitting off a red-hot pace, picking up the pieces and motoring home up the final climb.
That is exactly what Barry Geraghty did last year, making stealthy headway through the final half mile to finish a closing third.
A repeat result would enable us to garner a very attractive profit on this strong staying son of Assessor. If we get a bit more rain than the forecast suggests, I think my massive each-way play, a plan hatched from last year, will reach a gleeful and joyous conclusion.
First place would be extraordinary if an unlikely scenario, but a place would still be living the dream!
But we always need insurance so in the second race on the card, the County Hurdle I intend to be double-handed with WESTERN RYDER and the massively interesting SAGLAWY from the Willie Mullins’ yard.
The former has an enviable record at Cheltenham and if held onto a little longer than he was in the Greatwood Hurdle, he has a first-rate chance of being involved in the finish even if he is not obviously well handicapped.
On the other hand, Saglawy could prove to be very nicely treated here off 148 and remains a work in progress. Yes, I know he is also entered in the Coral Cup, but that is where the PP non-runner/no bet offer comes into its own
Should the unexposed five-year-old line up here then he will not start at his current available odds of 20/1. Grab a slice and play the waiting game as I adore this horse and I am certain he has a race of this nature in him.
I simply cannot see past SIR EREC in the Triumph Hurdle even though he had the run of the race at Leopardstown last time out and the each-way alternative is probably the unexposed ECCO.
The latter was sent off a 7/1 shot in the German Derby and was a huge eye-catcher on his debut run for Paul Nicholls last month at Kempton Park.
The Albert Bartlett is a conundrum I find really hard to solve every year, but what is undeniable about this searching test of stamina for relatively weak horses is that outsiders should never be ignored. To that effect, I reckon David Pipe’s REMASTERED (if he doesn’t run in the Ballymore) could run well, while the stamina-laden MINELLA INDO could also be on my radar if he lines up here.
But they will be two insignificant wagers to the one I am prepared to have in the Grand Annual Chase which is now the penultimate race of Friday’s card.
Winner of the race was off 150 last year when given the peach in the basket of all rides by Barry Geraghty, the enigmatic LE PREZIEN is only 1lbs higher in the weights this time around. Would he have won off 151 last year? Yes, he would and 14/1 is way too big. If he puts in a similar round of jumping he is sure to go very close again.
* All price correct at time of posting.