Three down one (was) to go…
A few thoughts from the Festival’s first three days.
Both seemed to highlight the good in the sport. Tuesday… on the jockey front really good news stories with both Rachel Blackmore and Ryan Mania getting deserved headlines. Having 12/1 Rachel to be top jockey gives me some added interest to her performances hopefully she manages to get through to Friday and steers A Plus Tard to Gold Cup victory. On the horse front the youngster Shishkin lived up to the hype whilst the old lad Vintage Clouds produced a tremendous performance in the Ultima Handicap jumping from fence to fence and really enjoying himself. Meanwhile Honeysuckle kept her unbeaten run going whilst my fancy Goshen looked as if he was heading off the track at one point. Some good novices coming up in Honeysuckle’s rear-view mirror so she will have competition to follow up…. interesting though.
Wednesday was equally fascinating Bob Olinger might be the one to challenge Honeysuckle, is Monkfish a genuine Gold Cup contender? The latter made some novicey mistakes but looked the part. His odds for next year’s Gold Cup were shortened but not as much as I thought they would be. Tiger Roll seemed rejuvenated in the Cross Country which was a joy to see as he appeared to be falling out of love with the game. In the Bumper another excellent performance from Sir Gerhard who looked another superstar in waiting. Obviously, the switch to Willie Mullins’ yard has not affected this lad, it will be fascinating to see what happens, when Gordon Elliot gets his licence back, with the Cheveley Park horses.
Thursday to me topped the first two days, not least for yours truly managing to back a 20/1 winner at Hexham, with some great performances. Jack Kennedy had a fall on Envoi Allen to start the day but ended it with a superb ride on Mount Ida in the last. Almost tailed off on the first circuit the mare eventually warmed up started jumping straight passed horses and won going away. A double for Rachel Blackmore kept her in the lead in the top jockey table hopefully she has a good day Friday…. see above. I thought she gave Allaho a cracking ride from the front in the Ryanair Chase still managing to get a breather into the horse before kicking off the final bend. Finally, we mustn’t forget seven-pound claimer Jordan Gainford and his good ride on The Shunter yet another talented lad from Ireland he looks destined for the top.
The stands may have been empty, but the atmosphere was full of excitement let’s hope Friday managed to top the lot.
I think my favourite day of Cheltenham week is the Saturday …eh? Yep, you read it correctly. Not only is there time to reflect on the frenetic four days racing just gone but it is also Midlands Grand National day, yet another in my extensive list of long-distance chases to enthuse about. More of that later.
Selection: 3:35 Uttoxeter: Midlands Grand National
Looking through the list of previous winners for these big chases is like flicking through old photos which stir up memories some good some you just move on from quickly. Winners you backed, winners you missed, winners you remember backing in their previous outing the list is endless. Here is a short trip down amnesia avenue. Grey Sombrero won in 1971 then was killed in the Grand National when he came down at the Chair, Rag Trade 1975 won the Grand National a year later, The Thinker 1986 a year later he won the Gold Cup that was the year the race was almost lost to the snow but was run over an hour late ,Bonanza Boy 1991 a cracking stayer of Martin Pipe’s, Young Kenny 1999 what a stamp of a horse he was trained by the legend that was Peter Beaumont , Synchronised 2010 won the Gold Cup in 2012 then sadly lost his life a few weeks later in the Grand National. I could go on…. ok what about this year?
Another excellent renewal as it should be for the money on offer. The race probably won’t be as stamina sapping as some years although with the ground forecast as soft good to soft in places it will still be a true test. Twenty-two are declared so space is going to be at a premium over the first few fences and luck will be play some part in the initial stages. An unexposed type that attracts my attention is Phil Middleton’s Golan Fortune ridden by the under rated Kielan Woods. This nine years old has only had three races over fences. He won his first chase at Ludlow in December then has run in two better quality events. He was fourth at Kempton only beaten four and a bit lengths by the The Big Breakaway in second and then ran a good third to Next Destination and Fidddlerontheroof at Warwick. The three horses mentioned have all run good races at Cheltenham this week, so his form has some depth. Also, it seems interesting the canny Middleton gave Golan Fortune his last outing in a hurdle race over an inadequate 2m5f where he finished a staying on fourth. The gelding also has an entry in the Aintree showpiece so connections obviously feel he will stay the distance. The Irish have won this prize a few times and they have one challenger this weekend Screaming Colours who ran a good second at Punchestown last time beaten by the Big Dog who was really well touted that day. He will have his supporters but at around 12/1 Golan Fortune might bring a well laid out plan to fruition…. there again.
1. Golan Fortune
Selection – 3:15 Kempton: Virgin Bet Handicap Chase
The other race of interest at the weekend is the 3.15 at Kempton the 2m4f handicap. The shrewd and under rated trainer Sean Curran sends Domaine de L’Isle out to strut his stuff. This lad has not really reached the heights of last season where he rattled off a hat trick rising from 120 to 146 in the process.
He runs off 137 on Saturday then gets another 5lbs off for the services of top conditional Kevin Brogan, so off 132 plus the benefits of a recent wind op this might be the day he gets his first success of the season. Only nine runners and the top stables all have entries but Domaine De L’Isle will do for me. He is around 14/1 in the early betting which seems fair given his profile this season.
So, three days down as I finish off.
1. Domaine de L’Isle
So, three days down as I finish off.
The best of luck to Hope Eden’s Little India who runs on Friday at Southwell and also the strapping horse En Meme Temps who is set to run at Newcastle on Saturday.
Again, good luck throughout the winter. If you’re interested in racehorse ownership, take a look at the syndicate’s available shares.