Mustard-coloured corduroys and a muscular ladrador retriever immediately spring to mind when assessing the must have items for the average Cotswolds racegoer, but an annual membership to Cheltenham racecourse is also pretty high on the list, and they’ll be out in force at the home of National Hunt racing this weekend for two days of top level sport over the sticks.
Whisper it quietly, but you could argue that the line up for Saturday’s feature handicap prize – the £100,000 Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup (live on Ch4 at 2.25pm) – is actually a tad disappointing, given that a field of 14 may very well decrease by one after Champion Court’s gallant showing in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Thursday.
The remaining 13 does in fairness include the Paddy Power Gold Cup first, second and fourth Johns Spirit, Colour Squadron and Attaglance, but the winner is now on a towering mark of 148, while Attaglance is tough as old boots but might want three miles to iron out the odd blunder he tends to chuck in to keep things lively!
As for Colour Squadron, he may well win, but has there ever been so much hype about a horse who has achieved so little?
The one mighty positive is that AP McCoy has chosen him above the other McManus runner Cantlow, while his master trainer Philip Hobbs argues that: “A horse fell in front of him at the second last in the Paddy Power. I’m not saying he would have won but he got interfered with by the faller.”
That may well be, but the fact remains he is priced on reputation (and perhaps the JP factor) rather than achievement.
A record of one win from seven starts over hurdles and more damningly zero from five to date over fences wouldn’t have me rushing to back him at 5/1 in an open race.
What’s more, he hangs like a gate.
Perhaps it’ll be the day it all comes together for him, but at vastly bigger odds I’ll going to roll the dice with the locally-trained Double Ross.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies loves a winner at his local track, and six winners in the past fortnight suggests his string are in good nick.
Team Twiston have got a lot on their plate with Champion Hurdle favourite The New One also on display in front of the television cameras on Saturday afternoon, but but a famous big race double could be brewing neatly by the time he enters the paddock…
Only a seven year old, Double Ross was good enough to win over hurdles at the Paddy Power meeting in 2012, before returning in March to finish a solid third in the conditional jockeys’ race at the Festival.
That proves beyond doubt he loves the track, and this progressive sort has taken very well to fences, finishing out of the frame just once in five starts so far.
His win over the larger obstacles came at Perth, where he comfortably beat Attaglance at level weights, though the latter is four points shorter than him in the betting here!
Lightly weighted, progressive, from an in-form stable, proven on this specialists track, the day after Friday 13th it’s number 13 Double Ross who looks a decent shout at 12/1 each way in a wide open contest.
Prior to that there’s also a belter of a card to wade through on Friday afternoon, and I’ll be having three investments, kicking off with Nicky Henderson’s Lyvius in the 2m 1f handicap hurdle at 1.40pm.
The Venetia Williams-trained Uhlan Bute is nine pounds well in and tops the market for this, but it’s worth noting the stable have gone off the boil after some scorching early season form, with just one winner from the last 36 runners.
With that in mind, you might do worse than have a horse with less inspiring recent form figures…
Henderson has won this race twice in the last six years, and it’s worth remembering that Lyvius was an impressive winner of the Gerry Feilden at Newbury 12 months ago.
If ‘Hendo’ has him back in that sort of form then he could easily bounce back, while it was also fascinating to see Barry Geraghty opt for him over stablemate Fourth Estate (now a non runner).
Half an hour later I like the look of Duke Of Lucca in the extended 3m 1f handicap chase.
Favourite Theatre Guide may have had a very hard race in the Hennessy, while Knockara Beau is 0/14 at the track and also seems to play bridesmaid.
Prince Of Pirates hasn’t been seen since March, so instead try the Philip Hobbs-trained Milan eight-year-old Duke Of Lucca.
He gets weight from the principals, is proven on the track, loves Good ground and ran a cracker at Ascot last time.
He’s 8/1 each way with any of bet365, BetVictor, Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes or William Hill.
Lastly, I know the Cross Country is a proper love it or hate it ‘Marmite’ style race, but don’t let that prevent you from at least throwing an admiring glance in the direction of Martin Keighley’s Any Currency.
Like Twister he’s another local trainer who loves a winner at his local track, and what’s more he deserves a bit of good fortune after star horse Champion Court was the victim of a saddle slippage in the big race at Huntingdon on Thursday.
Any Currency ran a monster of a race over the banks course at the Open Meeting last month, getting within six lengths of the front two Balthazaar King and Uncle Junior.
Bear in mind he was 20 and 19 pounds wrong with that duo respectively and you begin to realise the scale of that achievement.
The handicapper left him unchanged on 127, and now he gets to run in a handicap.
A reproduction of that effort means he has to go close, so bag a bit of 4/1 with either bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, Paddy Power or Ladbrokes.
This weekend’s best bets at Cheltenham:
1.40 (Fri) – CF Roberts Electrical + Mechanical Services Handicap Hurdle – 2 Lyvius (each way) @ 15/2 (Coral)
2.10 (Fri) – Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase – 7 Duke Of Lucca (each way) @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes)
2.40 (Fri) – Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase – 5 Any Currency (win) @ 4/1 (Paddy Power)
2.25 (Sat) – Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup (Handicap) – 13 Double Ross (each way) @ 12/1 (Betfred)
Posted 3 years, 11 months ago