Cheltenham Festival: Thursday 15th March 2012

March 15, 2012

Two days down and the MOB bank is such that only a lack of discipline on a biblical scale could prevent a loss on the week. The plan is always to be ahead and not have ground to make up and so we can become more selective.


We see only the second renewal of this novice event this year after the inaugural race was won by Noble Prince in 2011. High Class novices abound, it’s a wonderful way to get Thursday underway. I can only put a black line through four of the 12 due to go to post in the first instance which leaves me with eight to work through the form of. That covers from the top of the market right down to ZAYNAR. On second thoughts, make that five scrubbed and down to BOLD SIR BRIAN

PEDDLERS CROSS will no doubt be very popular in the betting and whilst sharing favouritism with SIR DES CHAMPS overnight will probably edge ahead in the market through the morning. Donald McCain will be happy with how things have gone for him already. Peddlers Cross was certainly a very handy hurdler as shown by his runner up spot in the Champion behind Hurricane Fly at last seasons festival, I would be reluctant to suggest that ALL that talent has been transferred to fences just yet, although his only defeat in three chase outings has come at the hands of Sprinter Sacre. he wont be the first and certainly will not be the last to see that ones backside disappearing into the distance. My main concern would be the size of the field; he has had only a maximum of four to beat over fence at any one time, and looking behind him in his races, there hasn’t been much there. Willie Mullins has not had the best of luck and to my eye, his string are not as strong as they should or indeed could be here at Cheltenham which tempers enthusiasm that was previously in place for SIR DES CHAMPS. The fact that this race has been chosen as preference is a positive. Three chase wins, including 2 grade 2 events and Four Commanders (ran well Wednesday), behind in one, add to his two hurdle wins and leave him unbeaten on the racetrack. I would have preferred to have seen him step up to 3miles in the RSA and feel he is in this race after avoiding Grands Crus and Bobs Worth.

So with the above pair ruled out, I look further down and into my Crystal Ball at CRISTAL BONUS. What I see is a lot of potential. We certainly have not seen the best of Paul Nichols 7yo, his debut over fences after moving to Ditcheat was full of potential, and I’m not sure we saw much more when returning to the track in February when beating Duke of Lucca easily. He’snot the first to do so and I’m not sure we learned anything.

Running Al Ferof to a neck at Sandown, we thought we had something special on our hands in FOR NON STOP. For me he has gone backwards in the two runs since, despite the latest effort recording a win. Cue Card had him well held at Newbury on his penultimate outing. he has fallen twice from the three time he has raced at Prestbury park including over hurdles in last years Coral Cup. He is not for me.

We arrive now at SOLIX and CHAMPION COURT who went head to head the last time we saw them both on new years day here, the latter emerging victorious by a length and three quarters whilst receiving 3lbs from the Henderson inmate. We know how well Seven Barrows did on Wednesday with a four timer and we have to factor this yard form into consideration but I am of the opinion that Champion Court is a far sounder jumper as he showed last time when ultimately holding off Solix and despite the three pound weight swing can hold him off again. Which leaves only BOLD SIR BRIAN who could be a bit underestimated but would likely be better off with a bit of cut in the ground> True good ground will not be ideal for him.

CHAMPION COURT it is then the confirm form with Solix and perhaps Peddlers Cross could get a place.



The first thing I do in the Pertempts is get rid of anything carrying too much weight. BUENA VISTA completed a wonderful feat last year and is only 2lbs higher for David Pipe who is dangerous in handicaps at the Festival, bu to retain the crown at 10 was some marvelous, to do it at 11 would be miraculous.

I just wish PRINCE ERIK was trained by anyone other than Dermot Weld. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with him as a trainer, indeed his strike rate this year has been fantastic, but his record at Cheltenham is desperate. 2nd here 2 years ago off the same mark, he could possibly achieve that again but no more. CAPE TRIBULATION  was in the World Hurdle 2 years ago but didn’t figure. He can run to a good mark but I’m not sure he has ever come the hill here that well. RICK is an interesting runner making his UK debut but I think the ground is against him.

THEHILLOFUISNEACH comes from local trainer Jonjo O’Neil who has a great record in this race having trained three previous winners  of it. Progressive and unbeaten in three runs over the winter until running into heavy ground as much as his opposition last time out, he looks like he has more improvement in him and the ability to handle a large field having won previously two sixteen runner affairs can only be a plus. 14/1 is generally available and that is worth taking.

BELLFLOWER BOY had to go up in the weights to get in this race, but with two consecutive wins in winnable events at Warwick, his mark has gone up some 25lbs. Weight can stop horses and although he remains carrying 10stone 6lbs for the race on 135, he has it to do. PALACE JESTER remains in the race for Jonjo as well, but with Geraghty on the already mentioned Hillsofuisneach, the choice between the two is an easy one to make.

You’ve noticed little mention of those toward the head of the market. That’s because I don’t fancy them, they are carrying to higher mark, and they just don’t do well in this race in general. At 10/1 there is an element of temptation in Paul Nichols SONOVIC. I am sure there is a very good horse there, certainly the engine is in place, it’s just the fine tuning over the jumps that would be the worry, nevertheless, very interestingly switched back to hurdles for this and very unexposed.



This race has shaped up to look like one of most competitive of the week. Certainly bits and pieces of form stand out, as do all the names. A closer look however and there is a chink of light for us punters trying to find the value in the book.

I’ve long been a fan of SOMERSBY and was pleased to see him finally get his grade 1 win at Ascot last time. he has run well enough round Cheltenham, placing twice in three runs, including the 2010 rearranged Tingle Creek and prior to that in the Arkle of the same year behind Sizing Europe. He is uber consistent and the form of his win at Ascot was well and truly franked by Finians Rainbow yesterday. That said, I don’t think Finians Rainbow was top notch that day, the run coming very soon after his prior outing. Anyway, SOMERSBY may even be better on a flatter track and the same could be angled at RIVERSIDE THEATRE. There is no doubt his return from injury to retain the Betfair Ascot Cup was a really taking performance. All eight of his wins have come on flat tracks though. It’s the only fly I can find on him, but it could be a significant one.

I’m going to mention POQUELIN now. He was 2/1 favourite for this race last season but couldn’t stick with ALBERTAS RUN when the race picked up, fading back to fourth. This year, the one thing i think will be in abundance is pace, and a tussle for the lead, behind which he can sit with Daryl Jacob playing a waiting game. He has won a couple of grade threes and a grade two, just this grade one is proving elusive for now, but i think he has an excellent chance of picking this up. I would concede he beat nothing major in winning when coming back to Cheltenham in April after this race last year, but was given lumps of weight to the entire field and I feel on a ratings basis at least he had improve from the Ryaniar. Nothing was expected on his return at Wetherby and unseating David Pritchard in the Paddy Power Gold Cup might have had some followers running away. He returned to this venue at the end of January and beat all but one of a field of 10, with The Giant Bolster providing the pace he needs up front but also making the most of the 23lbs POQUELIN was giving him and holding Poquelin to a runner up spot. On level weights for this Paul Nichols has every chance of winning this race and at very tasty odds too. 20/1? Are you sure?

Of course the opposition is there and RUBI LIGHT and NOBLE PRINCE make up half of the Irish Challenge. Add BLAZING TEMPO and you have three quarters. It’s not been a great festival for them so far and I don’t think this race is going to provide much help. Rubi Light will face different conditions to his last outing, not to mention little chance of an uncontested lead and I think he prefers a right hand run. Noble Price  from Paul Nolan is interesting, the trainer will know whats required to beat Rubi, given that his Joncol had to play second fiddle to Rubi Light in December. Two defeats from Big Zeb and by Blazing Tempo last time out does not bode well for his chance. Willie Mullins’ mare gets that allowance again today and is three times the price.

I am left wondering if MEDERMIT or GREAT ENDEAVOUR are the ones to take on Poquelin. I think Alan King’s Medermit can reverse form with Riverside Theatre today. I think RT will bounce, and is not as suited as Medermit to the course. My main concern with this one is that he is generally held up, and that has not been working on this holding ground this week. Finally I think Great Endeavour is better before the turn of the year and probably had his race of the season in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Poquelins presence in that race buggered up all the weights below him and I’m not sure the result is as reliable as the form looks.

So that’s it, whilst it looked eally tough from the outset, I have managed to convince myself it’s fairly straightforward. POQUELIN at a easy to back price will get the race set up beautifully with a true gallop from start to finish.

SELECTION: POQUELIN EW @ 20/1 anywhere


No need to mention that BIG BUCKS attempts a fourth World Hurdle crown, not to mention a tilt at sixteen races over hurdles unbeaten in the process. Are there any chinks in his armour? No is the short answer. So the only approach from a betting perspective for me based on the fact that most punters cant afford to make a decent return on a 4/6 shot, I am looking what might come in behind to either play a forecast or indeed play a place price. Hell, there may even be one to play each way.

And indeed there is. The strategy is quite simple. Big Bucks runs consistently to the 160′s. THOUSAND STARS has previously run to that level on more than one occasion through 2011 all over a 2 mile trip, but he did go to France and win over 3miles plus against a good field. OSCAR WHISKEY, for me, has also run to those heights in the Aintree Hurdle last year and has won 3 of his 5 runs at this course, the only time not finding a place being the Supreme Novice Hurdle of 2010 when fourth. he’s never raced further than 2m4f, so we are supposing 3miles suits.

They have both dropped away from better performances earlier in the season so I would prefer to go with the likes of DYNASTE. In fact, in mentioning David Pipe’s 6yo, I am of the opinion these are the only four that have any chance whatsoever of figuring int he business end of the race. Dynaste has been comfortably held on two occasions by Big Bucks and there is little reason to suggest that he could possible turn that form around, although many might have been saying the same about Hurricane Fly on Tuesday. Personally I don’t think there will be failure in the foursome attempt but i am willing to suggest that Dynaste can improve once again and beyond Thousand Stars and Oscar Whisky on the day and land the forecast or indeed place odds of 3/1 with Bet365

SELECTION: DYNASTE 1pt place @ 3/1 Bet365, and BIG BUCKS/DYNASTE straight forecast for a single point


This one I will keep brief. Given the fact I would have been more than happy to take the 25/1 for DIVERS to win the JLT on Tuesday which I thought he would have gone for and two runners I would have preferred to see go in other races this festival have run in the alternatives and won already. I think DIVERS is a no brainer for me. I think he is thrown in on his Paddy Power Gold Cup run, unseating his rider in the Atlantic4 and then getting a run out over hurdles. Ferdy Murphy usually lands one at odds at the Festival, although this one will possibly be single figure odds, he looks an excellent chance


That sums up a not so selective portfolio to go for the bookmakers jugular today, although only one race covers more than one selection. Fingers crossed for another good day safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens, we are still in an excellent position going into Gold Cup Friday

Have a Great Day

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *