Reasons to be cheerful…
Well soon have January behind us, the racing is now starting after Bargain Hunt, the afternoons are getting longer, and Cheltenham is peeping over the horizon like a nosey neighbour so all we need are a few winners to maintain the cheery outlook.
Another reason to be cheerful is the lifting of Covid 19-restrictions this week which will make the whole experience of going racing much more hassle free and hopefully more enjoyable. There seems a certain symmetry in the fact that Wetherby which hosted the last race pre shutdown in March 2020 became the first to race without restrictions on Thursday. Probably a good quiz question in a few months’ time.
Last Saturday’s heavyweight clash lived up to its billing with Shishkin and Energumene serving up a cracking contest. Energumene who led everywhere but the final half furlong lost nothing in defeat and connections of both horses must be looking forward to round two in the Champion Chase on March 16. I think both geldings had hard races and deserve a break before the screws are tightened once again, interesting that Willie Mullins seemed to think his lad might be better suited going left-handed, however it pans out it will be a return to savour.
I thought the other stand out performance last weekend was from Venetia Williams’ Royal Pagaille who successfully retained his Peter Marsh crown off an official mark of 163 -the highest in the race since Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Jodami won off 169 in 1997. As I alluded to last week, we don’t often see class horses giving lumps of weight away in handicaps nowadays but judging by the Haydock crowd’s reaction the demand is there. All roads would appear to lead to Cheltenham for the gelding and his price was trimmed to 16-1 (from 25s). If the ground comes up soft for the big day this lad is not a forlorn hop
Selection – 1:55 Cheltenham – Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase
Cheltenham Trials day this Saturday which always produces a good card, and this year doesn’t disappoint. Three really decent chases plus rehearsals for the JCB the Albert Bartlett and the Stayers Hurdle. I like the look of the Paddy Power Grade 3 at 1.55pm which has almost as much quality as the Paddy Power handicap run in November.
Coole Cody will give it a real go from the front as usual, but I quite fancy the chances of Venetia Williams’ Farinet who burnt a few fingers in the Racing Post Gold Cup in December, mine included, when he was pulled up after reportedly losing a shoe. The grey was pretty impressive last time out at Sandown, and I think he can continue his improvement come the weekend. Around 5/1 would seem fair odds.
Selection – 3:20 Doncaster – Sky Bet Handicap Chase
The other race I can’t keep away from is Doncaster’s 3.20pm the Sky Bet Handicap another race which has been won by some quality horses over time. A typical open handicap as one would expect but somethings has to win, and I like the booking of top conditional Kevin Brogan for Kerry Lee’s Demachine. Demachine went off a short price favourite last time at Ludlow to follow up his cracking 5th place in the Ladbroke Trophy but stumbled and unseated his rider after the first. The gelding ran off 142 in the Ladbroke and has since dropped 2lbs so add in Brogan’s 3lb allowance and he’s looking tempting at around 10/1.
The supposedly Gold Cup trial has produced a disappointing turnout of only five and the likely favourite Chantry House is on a recovery mission after letting his supporters down in the King George. He never looked happy that day and connections are putting cheekpieces on the eight-year-old to try and perk him up. He is not my idea of a bet, and I would love to see the small yard of Harriet Graham fly the flag for the North with her stable star Aye Right. I am not sure the undulating track will play to his strengths, but it would be good to see the under rated Callum Bewley making people aware of his abilities.
I see Boodles beat Hope Eden to the Gold Cup sponsorship, oh well there is always next year.
Off to Dublin for the Festival next week so you are spared any losers from this column for a while, enjoy the break and have a good week.
Again, good luck throughout the winter. If you’re interested in racehorse ownership, take a look at the syndicate’s available shares.