13:30 – Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
The opening race on the Wednesday has been won by some big names down the years, Faugheen and Istabraq spring to mind. One thing to note is that the race is won by those at the head of the market more often than not. Fifteen of the 18 winners since 1997 were single figure prices.
After finishing an impressive 4th in last year’s Champion Bumper it’s hard not to be impressed with how Yanworth (5/4) has made his way through this campaign with three facile victories before hosing up at 2/1 the last time out in shockingly impressive fashion after stepping up in trip. That could prove to be the key piece of form for the Neptune as Alan King’s charge took care of some smart types. Rock solid course form in the book is hard to look past, even at the price. The layers are likely to get after the jolly on the day so it may pay to hold onto your money for now if you are keen.
Mullins otherwise dominates the head of the market. After toying with punters right up until the off with regards to which of the Hills would head for the Supreme and the Neptune, Bellshill takes his chance in the curtain raiser and Yorkhill (3/1) goes here with a live chance. Presumably Ruby will ride him and his Tolworth form reads very well. A Toi Phil (7/1) has been supported for weeks in the market now and it will be interesting to see if he handles the better ground. Bleu Et Rouge (12/1) sprung a surprise last time and lowered the colours of Bellshill but he is JP owned so may wind up in the Potato race on Friday. Long Dog (11/1) has a string of 1s next to his name and the last two weren’t just penalty kicks. However he’s not been campaigned like a horse for the Neptune, he also had a tough 2015 and can be looked over for those reasons.
Looking back at last year’s bumper, another horse stacked up behind Yanworth was O O Seven (25/1) and he could go well at a price. He’s still in the Albert Bartlett but in all likelihood will end up in the Neptune with Andrew Tinkler already jocked up. He’s been steadily progressive this season and rates a reasonable each way poke. For all that’s said, the TNS boys are mighty sweet on Yanworth and you can understand why.
14:10 – RSA Chase
After waiting nearly as long as they possibly could, it seems as though connections have made the sensible decision and decided to run More Of That here in the RSA. We say sensible because he gets a big fat tick next to 2 of the vital boxes:
- Stays the distance (beat the impressive Annie Power 2 years ago in the World Hurdle).
- Unquestionable course form, having won here a startling 4 times.
Not only that but he also follows some key trends:
- 51 of the last 52 winners all raced during the same calendar year.
- The last 28 winners finished in the first 3 last time out.
There is however doubts in that 15 of the last 16 winners had previously had three starts over fences. He’s also an 8 year old now and 13 of the last 16 runnings were won by 7 year-olds.
Looking elsewhere and No More Heros just hasn’t done enough to side with, although landing the Bar One at Fairyhouse, the form this calendar year is only superficial. Blaklion stays the distance but we feel he falls into the same category as No More Heroes. A horse that’s taken our eye’s is Vyta Du Roc. His 12L defeat by the classy Thistlecrack could make you think twice, but you have to remember he is a year younger than the apple of Mr Tizzard’s eye, which made him only a 6 year old at the time. He seems to have taken to chasing this year and is preferred to both No More Heros and Blaklion. It appears as though Gigginstown’s second string will line up in the shape of Roi Des Francs, who has never cut it when running this distance and we would thus put a line through him.
To sum up…More Of That just gets the nod for this and if you’re looking for some potential value, we feel Vyta Du Roc could relish this opportunity.
14:50 – Coral Cup
Finding a needle in a haystack, picking the winning lottery numbers and trying to fathom where TNS’ next winner is coming from, all appear to be much easier than picking the winner of the coral cup. The equivalent of Leicester this season, the winner of this race usually comes in the shape of a horse enjoying their second season as a hurdler.
A horse that arrives in incredible form is Rock the Kasbah having been successful in the last two races, the last being an impressive win over the likes of Baron Alco and Lil Rockerfeller who are decent sorts in their own right. He does have a lot of weight to carry therefore winning will be no easy feat but with the Champion jockey elect on board, this horse has a huge chance.
The Irish have traditionally had a lot of success in this race having won the race 7 times since its inception in 1993. They have however failed to notch a winner in more recent times and are without a winner in the last 4 years. The last time the race did go their way was with the Gordon Elliott trained Carlito Brigante and Elliott has the leading Irish fancy in this years renewal with Squouateur. Arriving in Stella Artois form with wins in his last two races, there will be plenty of punters hoping that their money isn’t squandered by Squouateur’s performance. A major worry however is that the ground will almost certainly not suit him and he will be left for dead by those with a sharper turn of foot.
In a race where picking the winner is as hard as they come, the TNS boys will approach this race with an element of caution however will look to side with Mr Hobbs and Mr Johnson to provide all of our followers with a winner.
15:30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase
Well there’s one obvious place to start here and funnily enough it’s with a Willie Mullins hot pot. If it wasn’t for two blemishes, there would only be one word that came to mind when thinking of Un De Sceaux and that’s bombproof. Both blemishes are falls on a season reappearance and looking at his next races both times, he has ran out an easy winner, seemingly learning from his mistakes.
Looking one place below in the market we see a horse that would blow the proverbial roof off if he managed to return to anything like his best (which is what it will take and highly doubtful) and that’s Sprinter Sacre. Mr Henderson has been bullish recently about this horse but trainers comments are often quite hard to gauge.
Special Tiara looked all but certain to win until Sire De Grugy stopped him in his tracks at Sandown last time out and is sure to be of interest. Last years winner returns in the form of Dodging Bullets, he faces a much tougher task here and we just can’t see him being competitive. Looking elsewhere, Felix Yonger has bizarrely been an improving horse at 10yo and it doesn’t look beyond the realms of possibility that he can run himself into a place up the hill. Expect to see him off the pace for much of the race and staying on strong come the last.
It doesn’t seem like anything in this race has what it takes to beat Un De Sceaux, other than his own aggressive racing style. If you want a favourite to go out and win from the front then this guy really is your man. He is very short in the market and is thus well worth sticking in a multiple, unless you are looking at a big stakes bet, which is exactly what a few of us have done.
16:10 – Cross Country Chase
The same old protagonists line up here in a wide open race, but with a cat among the proverbial pigeons in Josies Orders. He has taken the division by storm winning the two trials this year.
There won’t be a dry eye from the TNS boys at Cheltenham if Balthazar King were to make history and become the first horse to win the X-country three times. He’s a real fan favourite and to top it all off, an out and out stayer. He loves Cheltenham and the X-country track but you do have to wonder how much his injury has taken out of him, if he has retained any of that ability and whether or not the Grand National is his main target.
This race is now a conditions race and as such they will race off level weights. They did this in December at Cheltenham and yet again Josies Orders won after carrying almost two stone more than when victorious over track and trip in November. He had many of his main rivals behind that day, however we’d like to think Any Currency didn’t run his race and even after the race, Enda Bolger (Josies Orders wiley trainer) was quoted as saying they were afraid of Any Currency off the revised weights.
We always forgive a horse one bad run and the trainer has come out and said that a few of his horses were not right before Christmas. Given he has finished second in the last two runnings of this race, the swing in the weights with Josies Orders and the current price of 10/1. Our heads will bet Any Currency but somehow our hearts will manage to get a few quid on Balthazar King.
16:50 – Fred Winter
Added to the festival in 2005, the Fred Winter has had more than a few big priced winners with five of the ten priced at 20/1 or bigger making this an unenviable puzzle to try and solve. The short lifespan of the race makes it a tricky race to draw any conclusions from statswise but ten of eleven winners were rated between 124 and 133 which does allow us to narrow the field down slightly.
In the last three years Paul Nicholls has saddled nine imported runners from France, six on them have won or placed. Unfortunately, the market has beaten us to this as Diego Du Charmil (6/1) dominates the betting for the Ditcheat handler. For Campeador (8/1) to win off 141 for Gordon Elliot would be a stellar effort, even if he does have plenty of scope, Phil Smith has seen to put a halt to that. Harley Rebel (33/1) could be interesting for Neil Mulholland but perhaps a little exposed after six starts, so my beady eye turns to two both on a mark of 132.
Messire Des Obeaux (14/1) looks to have been campaigned with this race in mind by Alan King and stands a great chance. The other is Coo Star Sivola for Nick Williams, who was beaten by the smart Adrien Du Pont last time out. Firmer ground is likely to suit at 25/1 seems fair with Grade 1 winning Lizzie Kelly taking off a handy 5lbs, a lot fairer than taking 6/1 about the fav Diego Du Charmil at least, for all he looks the quintessential Fred Winter type.
17:30 – Champion Bumper
In the Champion Bumper you have a race that can be seen in two ways; an open race in which there’s some great value…or an absolute minefield. So we’ll meet somewhere in the middle.
The favourite for this race at the time of writing is Nigel Twiston Davies admittedly smart Ballyandy. He isn’t the horse that TNS will be siding with though, as he just hasn’t done enough for us, especially after finishing behind Coeur Blimey. Although conceding 7lb on that day, it’s going to take something special to battle through and win this race. Second favourite in the race is Augusta Kate who has absolutely hacked up in both races so far. She’s owned by not only both Ant and Dec but also Alan Shearer and was bought by Mr Graham Wylie who completes an intriguing jigsaw. Her form looks solid with horses who finished behind the coming out and being there or there about in their races, but she seems a tad too short. Mr Mullins has a huge hand to play here and a potentially dark horse is Turcagua who’s been off the track for a while, over two years to be more specific, and thus hasn’t been able to show us enough to side with. Another that hasn’t run for some time but does seem of interest is Very Much So, as this horse ticks a lot of important boxes – bred from the lines of Scorpion, stays the distance and has won the most prize money. This hipster follows the trends that we all live and die by; 7 of the last 9 being Irish champs and every winner of this race scoring on their last time out.
You could spend days looking into this race as there really is very little to go by. It isn’t a race that we will be going mad in but horses that we have been hearing whispers about may well get the of bit of money thrown at them. A horse that has been talked up in a number of very interesting places and has been recently purchased by leading owners Mr and Mrs Potts, is New To This Town. His form has worked out well and being by Milan, you’d expect that he could even come on abit for the likely better ground
With 4 places being offered it’s a race you can definitely go double handed in. We may not be putting huge sums on these horses but with the prices it isn’t a time when you need to be. Both selections seem like smart prospects and hopefully we can finish Day 2 off with a bang.