We returned from the jolly lunch to find a note from an old friend to say that she had found herself at a loose end and thus watched Cheltenham on the box. She who might weep in Othello for the pitiful Desdemona or for Mimi’s consumption wrote that she had been moved to tears by Constitution Hill’s victory and then – having been captivated – remained to watch Honeysuckle come home for Henry and Rachel. I watched the pictures later and was astonished by the many people who genuinely cared – even me. She won’t be a fan forever, but it doesn’t matter. Her father loved racing and owned a few decent runners, and that small ember she perhaps last saw as a child some 4o years ago, had the empowering whisper of a rekindled emotion blown over it.
And in that little flickering flame, I remember now why we love it all. So we can be clever and find winners, meet our mates, commiserate over our losses, and curse the powers that be for the way they run the sport. So we can share conversations and memories and tell tales of seeing Him and watching Her and all the were-you-there-when moments. But most of all because – just rarely and never twice in one day – you see greatness and the hand of God and the kindness of people and the sheer warmth that the human race can have when they share a common emotion, and we can forget the total tosh that occupies most of us.
Today was that day and to Rachel and Henry – you were right and I was wrong and consider my hat eaten. My deepest thanks to you both and to Nicky and Nico.
The Raceweb trends were pretty good today, highlighting a brace of winners and allowing us to swerve some horses that were placed – but didn’t win. Today’s Trends solutions can be found by CLICKING HERE which will open a separate PDF.
13:30 BALLYMORE NOV’ HDL RACE (G1) 2m abt 5f
The Raceweb trends, when handled in a cavalier “Get the behind me” fashion, are terribly empowering. All they have to do is be proved right. GAELIC WARRIOR is a lay on two counts – but the fact that he won at Leopardstown LTO as did GOOD LAND is a positive. However, I also think GAELIC WARRIOR is a lay because he took a long time to break his hurdles duck and he has a truly horrible tendency to jump right. It cost him a Festival victory last year and hadn’t been cured at Leopardstown when he won a DRF handicap hurdle. HO MY LORD is interesting as an unbeaten to date horse – but whose known form doesn’t suggest he should play a significant part. That has often been said of Mullins no-hopers, so whilst I feel I can ignore MARBLE SANDS and MASTER CHEWY I am whittling my short list to GOOD LAND – HERMES ALLEN – HO MY LORD – IMPAIR ET PASSE.
IMPAIR ET PASSE 4 pts Win – HO MY LORD 1½ pts e/w – 12 x ¼ pt CFC the Short List.
14:10 BROWN ADVISORY NOV’ CHS (G1) 3m abt ½ f
Thank heavens GERRI COLOMBE is in this race and joins two other trendsetters in the form of I AM MAXIMUS and THE REAL WHACKER. Now whilst I like GC a lot, 7/4 about a horse that might not get the distance and might not handle Cheltenham seems a bit skinny. We can probably discount AMIRITE and THUNDER ROCK, and I am not sure that SIR GERHARD has had the best of preparations and the chat is that he has been suffering from knee problems. He has never won over three miles and while he has Cheltenham winning form that was The Champion Bumper (2m) and The Ballymore (2m5f). Hobbs frightens me with his THYME HILL, but then I wonder whether his age might tell. THE REAL WHACKER hails from Patrick Neville’s yard and is 2/2 chases at Cheltenham, winning The Dipper and beating Monmiral into the bargain. We’re running out of sensible options – in other words I’m trying to find an alternative to “Gladiator”. He’s run perfectly respectably to date and none of Willies horses run to give the Owners a free badge.
GERRI COLOMBE 5 pts Win – I AM MAXIMUS 1 pt e/w – GERRI COLOMBE in 2 ½pt RFC with both IAM and TRW
14:50 CORAL CUP HDL (G3) 2m abt 5f
For the purpose of trying to get this, I am blindly knocking out all the recommended LAYS from the Raceweb trends. I am quietly pleased that my remaining runners include LANGER DAN, who was 2nd to Galopin De Champs in the 2021 Martin Pipe and fell early on in this last year when favourite. He went on to win at Aintree and started off the season rated 145, now down to 141. I say pleased – I’m only hoping the word Good appears in the going description by 2:30. RUN FOR OSCAR also has no form on Soft ground so again wait until you hear. SAN SALVADOR is also positive on the profile trends, and he beat CAPTAIN CONBY by just under 2l at Punchestown on NYE on S/Hvy ground. He might take to going left-handed, but he is 14lb over his last winning mark. A couple that keep catching my eye in terms of going, weight and race profile are HMS SEAHORSE and CAMPROND, although winning favourites are rarer than hens’ teeth (2/28). My three against the field are:
SA FUREUR – HMS SEAHORSE – BEACON EDGE 2 pts e/w each (Skybet is going 8 places Many are going 7)
15:30 BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHS (G1) Abt 2m
So here we go EDWARDSTONE – ENERGUMENE – EDITOR DU GITE. Seven runners and anyone betting on anything outside those three is secretly (the same that dare not speak its name) betting on a mishap. The last three runnings have all seen the odds-on favourite beaten, and Douvan lost at 9/2 on in 2017. We know the form lines, and we know the players. So what’s to be done? Simply put I suggest backing last year’s winner and, purely on price, having a tiny saver on NUBE NEGRA, whose Cheltenham form is R6-W3-P2
EDWARDSTONE 6 pts win – NUBE NEGRA ½ pt e/w
16:10 GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHS 3m 6f
FOXY JACKS has got decent XC form when he jumps properly, and you might well be able to get 5 places on the day – currently 4. If the ground had been good or even good/soft – and double check this on the day, because as I write, it ain’t – I would have been all over GALVIN for whom there has been nothing but positive vibes, and he has a tremendous course record over the past few years. Gordon Elliott has targeted it perfectly with decent types, but given the ground and the principals’ lack of course familiarity, I’m going to add DIESEL D’ALLIER into my selections, having won XCs here twice before and been 4th in the Festival XC twice. Ignore his January run and help yourself to the 33/1
DIESEL D’ALLIER – FOXY JACKS 2 x 1 pt e/w
16:50 JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL HCAP CHS CHALLENGE CUP (G3) 2m abt ½f
I can’t believe the price is going to last on Tizzard’s ELIXIR DE NUTZ, currently 16/1 with Bet365 and Skybet. Fitting cheekpieces has been the making of him. He beat subsequent Warwick winner Galahad Quest at Wincanton in January, and then dropping back to 2m in the Game Spirit he separated Champion Chasers Funambule Sivola and Greaneteen. Quite why the favourite ANDY DUFRESNE is single figures is baffling. LTO, he was 8th of 11, then 7 of 7, and he fell over in a 5-runner race. Agreed he has been 2nd in this before but please – look at the form. I suspect this race is full of plot horses and one whose light isn’t entirely hidden by a bushel is COUER SUBLIME, who I guess will go off about 10s. One of the horses talked up in the Cheltenham Preview nights was SIZING POTTSIE, who has reportedly been laid out for this and will benefit from first-time cheek pieces.
ELIXIR DE NUTZ 3 pts e/w – COEUR SUBLIME 4 pts e/w – SIZING POTTSIE 2 pts/ew
17.30 WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (G1) 2m abt ½f
The ground will favour FACT TO FILE, and any more rain will only shorten his price. FAVOUR AND FORTUNE is too big. QUEEN’S GAMBLE Is considered decent.
FAVOUR AND FORTUNE 2 pts e/w