All roads lead to Cheltenham this Friday & Saturday for yours truly, and there’s opportunities a plenty on what looks a cracking card:
Friday’s best bet comes in the Boylepoker.com H’Cap Chase (1.55pm) as Character Building returns to fences in a fascinating looking contest which features 2006 SunAlliance winner Star De Mohaison, this year’s National winner Comply Or Die, plus a host of quality horses.
We missed out on Hennessy Day when Character Building pulled out of his stable lame at breakfast time and failed to make the trip south, and judging by the disappointment in trainer John Quinn’s voice when he broke the news, he was expected to run a mighty race.
Now though, two weeks on, set to carry just 10st 9lb, he’s fit and well and ready to do himself justice at a decent price in his first run over the larger obstacles since finishing third to Denman in the 2007 Hennessy, so get on each way.
Also on Friday – the Cheltenham regulars love the intricacies of the Cross Country course, and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase over 3m 7f (1.20pm) is always worth an interest.
Garde Champetre was second in the equivalent race at the November meeting, and could very well go one better with Nina Carberry in the plate, but he has to shoulder 11st 12lb, and with his odds likely to be prohibitively short in the circumstances I prefer to look down the weights for something far less exposed.
The one that appeals to me is Tawnies, who’ll be any price you like with the bookmakers, but is sent over by Thomas O’Leary with a genuine each way chance.
At the time of writing the Cross Country track is heavy in places, and this fella wants mud up to his neck.
He’s unlikely to be found lacking for stamina, and made a fair impression when fourth to Drombeag at Punchestown on his first attempt at a banks course. Factor in that he sneaks in off a true weight of 10st, and you have a fair case for a small each way bet.
Saturday’s card is where I’ll be looking to do some real damage, and in the shape of Binocular we’ve got the horse to form the cornerstone of many a multiple bet in the Boylesports International (3.05pm).
Punters’ll be rowing in with Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle jolly (7/2 best at the time of writing), and with good reason. They absolutely rave about this animal at Seven Barrows.
Beaten only once since joining team Henderson (by Captain Cee Bee when second in the Supreme Novice), the four-year-old made a decent return to the track when winning an egg and spoon contest at long odds on, and at 6/4 (general) he can rubber stamp his Championship claims at the expense of Crack Away Jack, Katchit and Chomba Womba.
Earlier in the day the superstar that took the old Bula Hurdle three years in succession in 1997, ’98 & ’99, is commemorated in the Relkeel Hurdle at 1.20pm, a race which should go the way of another Henderson inmate Punchestowns.
The way he came readily clear when winning over 2m 5f under top weight on the Sunday of the Open Meeting in an intermediate hurdle means he is entitled to continue his progress here, and with the stable in such sparkling form he’s tough to oppose. ?
Starluck is already at least joint favourite in all but one firm’s list for the Triumph Hurdle, and he should be supported to continue his winning streak in the Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle at 12.15pm. His 18 length Fakenham romp was especially taking last time out.
To the delight of each way backers a quality field of 16 poll up for the Boylesports.com Gold Cup at 2.30pm, and I’m sweet on the chances of Finger Onthe Pulse making an impact with AP McCoy booked to do the steering.
The seven-year-old won the Jewson over a similar trip at the Festival, clearly relishes the track, and ran second to Noland at Down Royal last month, form that has been neatly franked by Noland Grade 1 win at Punchestown on Tuesday.
Plenty of pundits are understandably making a strong case for clear favourite Imperial Commander, but at 15/8 I prefer to look elsewhere since trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies’s horses are 1/26 in the last fortnight.
Instead snap up a slice of the 8/1 each way with William Hill, and hope trainer Tom Taaffe can secure the same prize his Dad Pat won as a jockey on Flyingbolt in 1965. It’s probably also worth knowing the sponsor’s have decent money back concession, if your selection finishes second you’ll get your money back.
Sunday’s action takes us far and wide, from the rural charm of County Meath to the urban delights of Sha Tin, and these horses should keep you glued to the action:
I was at Navan a fortnight ago to see Pandorama stroll enjoy little more than a canter around Navan’s scenic undulations, and Noel Meade’s son of Flemensfirth should step up to Grade 1 level with the minimum of fuss in the Barry & Sandra Kelly Memorial Novices’ Hurdle (1.20pm).
He faces a maximum of three opponents, including stablemate Donnas Palm (2nd to Hurricane Fly in the Royal Bond), and with the best experience of any of these it should be a bloodless task.
Sadly I won’t be at Sha Tin on Sunday, but fotunately Mike de Kock will, and his Eagle Mountain can finally land the Group 1 success he so richly deserves in the Hong Kong Cup. If any one horse deserves a Group 1 success it’s Eagle Mountain – he has Derby 2nd, a Champion Stakes 2nd and a Breeders’ Cup Turf second on his CV, and crucially is still on the upgrade.
Said to have acclimatized well since his time Stateside his jockey Kevin Shea is sweet on his chances, and he can deny home-team favourite Viva Pataca and land us a handsome return at 5/2 (general).
The locals could be in for more bad news in the Group 1 Sprint where Marchand D’Or can get the better of Apache Cat – take the 11/4 with Victor Chandler or Blue Square and watch Marchand D’Or prove he’s not just the best in Europe, but top of the pile worldwide.
Posted 9 years, 7 months ago