Twice in ten days, I have found myself in London town, and again a young person has drunk a Fernet Branca in my presence. It only happened because I thought a chum’s son needed some stiffening, in order to reject a ghastly offer to appear in STD Island or somesuch. Having heard of the drink’s popularity, I offered one to Charlie, who as it turns out, has more sense than I thought – and judged it foul. Why is this drink even allowed to be sold? It smells like an ointment for piles yet, and I might have mentioned this before, I have been told by the au courant, that it is the absolute rage in BA. Sadly in the Argentine at the moment, they are about to have an election, so getting hammered is probably the best temporary solution to their never-ending problems. Even sadder, with inflation running at 50%, it’s perhaps wise to pop down to the local Aldi and stock up before sobriety becomes the only option.
At lunch, there was some discussion about the opening of the National Hunt season. My fellow-lunch companions told me that TRUESHAN might win the 3:25 at Newbury. I pointed out this meeting lacked hurdles, fences or even a bit of bumping and hardly counted as a Jumps tip. Wrong, I was told, Alan King trains it! Like the charms of Argentinian cocktails, this left me stumped. It appears, therefore, plus ca change, that you must rely on my dross to see you through the opening exchanges at Cheltenham where £82,538 is up for grabs.
2.00 Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Class 2, 2m5½f, £12512, 4yo+, 8 runners)
I’m expecting NTD’s GUY to show some improvement, after his second in a Perth bumper in April, to a more experienced rival. The yard’s going well, and he might make the frame at around 10/1. BRAID BLUE is going the right way for Gordon Elliott, but I think the price should be closer to 4s. However, my eye was taken by L’AIR DU VENT‘s Bangor bumper on his stable debut. Ok, it was relatively modest pace, but he cruised home and skipped clear looking for all the world like he could go around again. He fell three out in his sole Irish point 139 days beforehand and was bought privately by Brocade Racing, who owned Native River. Trust me when I tell you, this is a horse who is at least as good. He is a striking, physically imposing animal with bags of scope. If there is a question, it will be whether he can handle this ground, especially if, as I fear, it gets softer during the day.
2.35 squareintheair.com Novices Chase (Class 2, 2m, £15640, 4yo+, 4 runners)
Surely this is between GETAWAY TRUMP and AL DANCER? Al Dancer skipped Aintree and Punchestown after Chelty and was given the time to fill out a bit over the summer. NTD said in December: “He’s a beautiful mover, a lovely, proper racehorse. I’m sure he’s a stayer in the future, but he’s quite buzzy in his races. As long as he learns to settle, he’ll be going two and a half to three miles in the future.” I think this is a good sighting run to see how he manages the fences, and just to remind him that he’s here to work. The same applies to GETAWAY TRUMP who Paul Nicholls considers a very progressive horse and an exciting prospect novice chasing. If either shines in this, review him for your Arkle ante-post list – and I’m edging slightly for the Getaway.
3.10 Two Farmers Crisps Handicap Hurdle (Class 3, 2m5½f, £10007, 3yo+, 19 runners)
VAZIANI e/w – DUKE STREET e/w
3.45 Matchbook Most Trusted Betting Exchange Novices Chase (Class 2, 3m1f, £15640, 5yo+, 8 runners)
DINONS is the obvious favourite, but the value bet looks to me to be BOYHOOD.
4.20 Foundation Developments Ltd Maiden Hurdle (Class 3, 2m½f £9384, 4yo+, 12 runners)
Paul Nicholls bought CAP DU MATHAN after two decent hurdling runs from the Chaille-Chaille yard, for The Stewart Family. He’s bred well, has shown promise, filled out well over the summer, and both Minty and Bromley (who if I was rich would be responsible for all my bloodstock purchases), rate this horse very highly. STOLEN SILVER might be e/w value
4.55 Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Riders Handicap Chase (C3, 3m1½f, £9608, 4yo+ 13 runners)
I like the look of COBOLOBO, who was a short-head second to Kilbricken Storm at Ffos Las. He was making good progress when unseating in the Devon National on only his third chasing start back in February. He goes well fresh and sits on a dangerous mark, which makes him an attractive proposition today. Neil Mulholland’s THE WICKET CHICKEN ran a solid race over the Cheltenham fences last April, finishing 2nd in a mares’ handicap, and Jamie Codd ensures a decent ride attempt. Those of you who know She Whose Wishes Must Be Obeyed, will understand that I must also include PLANTAGENET with Gina Andrews in the saddle, who as an exemplary Cheltenham record. Plantagenet will be sharper for his run at Fontwell at the start of the month, and he’s a stone better off with the winner that day Doing Fine. PETITE POWER finished 4th two years ago and is now 8lb lighter and with a further 7lb claim might offer value at around 20s.
5.30 Matchbook Betting Exchange Podcast Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle (C3, 2m½f, £9747, 3yo+, 13 runners)
OAKLEY and STORM RISING e/w