We’re in the eye of Storm Dressdown, the calm epicentre of the surrounding torrent of hot-air and clashing reputations, where we have most of the Cheltenham decs; where we also have a decent idea of what the Festival ground will be (Soft, as I suggested earlier this week) and some small inkling of where our money might go. We also know that none of us can afford to get smashed on Guinness (£7.50 a pint), and the wise ones will eat their hotel breakfasts until just before the off and stuff their pockets with bangers and bread. We might reasonably assume that the newly introduced Guinness and Lager auto-pours that promise a maximum wait of 30 secs for a pint, will cause ructions and have broken down before Wednesday.
We also know that we must leave an extra 90 minutes of journey time because the board at Cheltenham consider themselves not only the arbiters of dress sense but also have a science degree in Traffic management, allowing them to close all Gloucestershire’s roads willy-nilly. Inevitably they’re pretty poor at the concept of dressing for the occasion – but truly frightening when it comes to cocking up the traffic.
(Special download for all Raceweb traffic planners – these are the planned road closures).
In a sleepless moment the other night, I considered creating a new TV programme where the Cheltenham Board of Directors run Clarkson’s Farm. The locals would be delighted because nobody would ever go again – thanks to the traffic management, which had become so bad nobody could find the farm. Even if they could, the farm produce didn’t sell because it had become so uninteresting. I fell asleep again when I realised it was probably a bad dream.
Back at Cheltenham, you still have the handicaps, and then you start having second thoughts, and then you hear the rumours on soshalmeejer about Energumene’s right foot and Constitution Hill’s left eye. As doubts creep in, you seek ever-increasing reams of information. Luckily the racing papers have the answers designed to bring clarity and get you through punting hell and into wise investment nirvana. “Cannot Be Beaten in Gold Cup”, states top Irish trainer. “I’ll win this for sure,” says the Irish top Trainer of Gold Cup fancy. “I’m pretty confident that he’s as good as I can get him and that he’ll run a decent race in The Gold Cup and won’t disgrace himself,” says a leading self-effacing English trainer. “Our top tipsters give you their selections for every race – you’ll be surprised at their selections in The Gold Cup,” says the top racing newspaper. Of course, the only certainty is that each media outlet will be screaming this time next week, “We told you so!”
Talking of which – we came parlous close with our first-round bet in The Players – if you ignore the six or seven above our selections. However, our bet on the Winner of The Players Championship went green quite early on – even as I write, we could close the position and still make a c15% profit.
Fingers crossed – but this may yet be an object lesson for next week. “Nobody…“, as my first broker at Moy Davies Smith and Vandervell taught me,”…ever went broke taking a profit.” It was true of Poseidon Mining and Polly Peck in the old two-week accounting period (aah the giddy days of proper punting) and remains true when looking at The Players Championship. However, I’m nothing if not sporty, so we’ll let it run a bit further.
Fingers crossed for Sandown tomorrow, where overnight temperatures of -4 won’t work with the standing water, and they inspect at 8:00 am. The televised tips are shown below – but more importantly, above is the scrolling BORED OF FAME, a never-ending, always-on Thank You to those who make a small contribution to Raceweb’s upkeep.
13:50 Betfair EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final G3 2m 4 1/2f
Applying the key trends gives us a shortlist of five, and surely the winner is on that list: CUTHBERT DIBBLE – CRAMBO – CREBILLY – HENRI THE SECOND – HUGO’S NEW HORSE.. Quite possibly but I also think that ETALON looks tremendously well-treated and the Skeltons are a wily bunch when it comes to pot hunting. I also think that TWIN POWER is the Nicholls runners’ better value than HENRI THE SECOND. CRAMBO has every chance, but I’m swerving him.
ETALON 3pts e/w – TWIN POWER 2 pts e/w
14:25 Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle G3 2m
This is so open, and again, the trends say one thing and my instincts another. My trends shortlist is DJELO – MONVIEL – PUNCTUATION – FINE CASTING. Gary Moore runs GIVEGA, who won impressively over C&D last month, and his OR of 133 may underestimate him. DJELO looked decent on his last appearance here when coming 3rd and I also fancy PUNCTUATION. He has flat form on the going and was disappointing 4th of 15 LTO beaten less than 5l. However, I couldn’t help noticing that both he and ROYAL MARGAUX have had mid-season wind-ops and I am assuming it is because both trainers think it will work in time for this. If it makes any improvement his current price is way too big.
GIVEGA 4 pts win – PUNCTUATION 2 pts e/w – ¼ pt CFC the pair with DJELO and ROYAL MARGAUX.
15:00 British Stallion Studs EBF National Hunt Flat Race Listed 2m
LARCHMONTLASS was a solid third against the boys in her debut bumper at Ascot last November, and might have won had Edmond not hampered her at Wincanton LTO losing her impetus and still managing to to lose by under a length. The winner that day GOODTIMECREW will not beat her this time.
LARCHMONT LASS 2 pts win – ½ pt RFC with GOODTIMECREW
15:35 Betfair Novices’ Handicap Chase G3 2m 4f
I’m sure this was the old 2½m Close Brothers (and before that Jewsons) Novice Handicap Chase which was swapped for The Mares Chase. This was a race once won by A Plus Tard – a race that used to attract a field of 20 runners – and now like some child’s forgotten clutch rag, it is cast aside here for a half-dozen horses to fight over. Gary Moore runs the bottom weight HUDSON DE GRUGY who ran OKish on fast ground and sporting a hood and has an 8lb higher hurdle mark. This will be easier. EASY AS THAT is looking to give Venetia Williams a hat-trick, and he has looked fluent and confident the last twice. VW won this in 2021 with Farinet.
EASY AS THAT 3 pts win
13:30 BetUK Handicap 6f
DUBAI STATION has recently joined Stuart Williams, and his first race was only eye-catching for the way he remained at the back of the field, waiting for the new tongue tie to make a difference. I thought the run at the time looked to be from horse-in-waiting. After that, I’d happily back either of the two Karl Burke runners. On draw alone I’d suggest…
EXALTED ANGEL 2 pts Win
14:05 Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial Handicap 1m 1/2f
Hannon’s TACARIB BAY may be better suited to Newcastle’s straight mile – but I still think he’ll give a good account of himself here. John Gosden runs the favourite UNFORGOTTEN, who pre-season had been widely discussed as a Lincoln type prior to what looked quite a lacklustre winning seasonal debut albeit after a 659-day absence. His performance LTO was considerably more determined. Again I wonder whether he’s better on a straight mile. No I think I’m going for a repeat win from last year’s winner…
NOTRE BELLE BETE 2 pts Win
14:40 Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes Listed 7f
If 8 runners remain I’d back JUMP THE GUN who has some decent recent Listed form and gets on with his pilot. Otherwise, ANGEL BLEU oozes class and is priced as the winner.
If only 7 runners ANGEL BLEU 3 pts Win OR if 8 runners JUMP THE GUN 2 pts e/w