Firstly an apology for my absence yesterday. I have been to London on the sort of “official business” that No 10 habitues are familiar with – namely two days of lunching and one day of dining, over Thursday and Friday. This marked the opening salvo of National Ethanol Toxicity Fortnight, and I had a marvellous time in the company of many old friends. When I say Dinner in the singular, I mean Dining Out as opposed to being in one’s aparthotel, over refreshed from lunch, and getting the munchies. It was a shame that none of the common sense of my friends rubbed off on me on Thursday night, chums whose sagacity suggests that after an 8-hour lunch, it is [A] unwise to experiment with the Internet on the subject of Home Delivery systems and [B] to order a “Greek Wrap” from a company called Justfingaroo or some such. When it arrived, the “thing” contained meat that might once have been related to lamb, in much the same way as the Hippo is related to Shergar. It was not hot in temperature, but contained a sauce of such ferocity that it blistered my gum and, having dropped some by accident on a shirt cuff rendered the garment unwearable instantly. Later it woke me at about 3 am and kept me awake until at about 9 am I could venture out into Pimlico to find the Immodium Survival Centre.
I am back from the blighted capital, and despite seeing a huge number of very clever and well-connected racing people I have learned nothing – other than to never get food from a shop you can’t see. Therefore on a drear, early spring afternoon, and with a horrid sense of the unrelenting alarm and despondency emanating from the East, I thought I should give you my very early thoughts on the first day of Cheltenham. The vital thing to remember this week is the name of the price comparison website Oddschecker.com and also to keep an eye on the market regularly. At the moment most prices offered are for 3 places – at the 48-hour stage, you might well get 4 or 5 places. Also ONLY bet Non-Runner – No Bet, or NRNB so that when Willie or Gordon have made their minds up, you don’t lose your ante-post wedge. At the moment my current notebook is as laid out below and shows some of the early work and ideas.
TUESDAY 15th MARCH – DAY ONE
1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
THE WEEK BEFORE: I LIKE TO MOVE IT 33/1 NRNB 2nd in The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury LTO. Of his 5 victories to date 4 have been left-handed. He won’t win it but he won’t be 33/1 on the day either.
2.10 Sporting Life Arkle Chase
SELECTION: EDWARDSTONE – THIRD TIME LUCKI will both be looked at nearer the time.
THE WEEK BEFORE: COEUR SUBLIME is the wrong price. He meets many of the trends (Age – graded winning hurdle form – top 3 chase finishes) and has given decent types a run for their money. 14/1 PIED PIPER and MIGHTY POTTER would all be on my short-list.
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
THE WEEK BEFORE: LOST IN TRANSLATION, BRAESIDE and ZANZA are currently on my short list. BRAESIDE also has my attention with his “lucky last” entry which with NRNB holds no fears.
3.30 Unibet Champion Hurdle
HONEYSUCKLE aside, this looks wide open. 2nd Fav APPRECIATE IT still hasn’t been seen, and I have TOMMY’S OSCAR within 2lbs of him.
SELECTION: Unbackable HONEYSUCKLE.
THE WEEK BEFORE: TOMMYS OSCAR 25/1 won the G2 Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock. He’s real value if you can get 4 places in the 48 hours before. Timing on getting the value is everything in this race.
4.10 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
SELECTION: STORMY IRELAND and CONCERTISTA probably have this between them.
THE WEEK BEFORE: FINEST EVERMORE is still young but heading in the right direction. If she appears here, it’s because Willie M could see the percentages after her 6l 4th in a G3 Leopardstown Mares where she beat 3 of his. 22/1 with Bet365 – 14s everywhere else. Looks value
4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
SELECTION: THE TIDE TURNS looks value at 11/2 to win at this moment in time and yes he was beaten out of sight by Teahupoo who is a stone better but is also in the Champion Hurdle.
THE WEEK BEFORE: SEA SESSIONS was eye-catching at Donny LTO under a penalty, and went down by a short-head to JPO’B’s SIX FEET APART who has entries for the Mares Novice and the Triumph. Before that, she beat Calvados by 2¼l at Aintree in December. She is 25/1 in many places but is 16/1 with Bet365.
5.30 National Hunt Chase
SELECTION: THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE looks backable and again go with Bet365 is 12s compared to a general 7s. They still haven’t got to the bottom of him and he was 6th in the Albert Bartlett last year. He hasn’t been out of the top 2 chasing, which I think he might maintain.
THE WEEK BEFORE: BRAESIDE 20/1 in a place 14s generally. He needs (an honest) Soft in the going description so hold on – or take a punt on the long-term weather forecast