The Augustinian, German theologian Martin Luther was known for his well-meant interference in early 16th-century religious beliefs, and his fanatical hatred of Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, and all the other names on his very long list. He rewrote most of the published Catholic liturgical works in the vernacular, all of the Bible and even the Qu’ran. His work led to schism and a depth of bloodshed that was hard to imagine by the church at Wittenburg. He established an entire church, (I regard the word religion as giving this excommunicant too much leg-room), and somewhere in the maelstrom of his life, he married a nun, one of twelve, he had rescued from a nunnery, by smuggling them out in Herring barrels. Given he had no electricity, Android, Apple, or Microsoft support, air travel, cars or even a reliable postal service, Martin Luther would appear to have managed his time pretty well.
He had cracked the puzzle – that period of time between the preparation for an event and the actual event – where absolutely nothing seems to get done, because of all the other things.
This weekend is much like that. There is still so much to do. Festival review, trainers’ opinions, trends checking, fact-checking, yet we still have Saturday racing. We have 75% of the five-day declarations, we can ponder why The Jockey Club has changed the race times, we can puzzle over the politics of the sponsorships, we can be cross over the ludicrous amateur rules; we can be sad for horses that aren’t well enough and jockeys that have struggled to get fit. Yet still, we have to work out Saturday. Every part of The Cheltenham Festival puzzle has something of the clock impacting its progress and part of that impact is bloody Saturday.
All in all Martin Luther had it right on the subject.
There are two days in my calendar: This day and that Day.
Talking of this day, here are today’s tips. That day will follow soon.
1:50 SANDOWN EBF Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hcap Hurdle Final (G3) Cl1 (4-7yo) 2m4f
18 runners will at least ensure that should be able to get 6 places in most places without much of a fight. On the trends, I can narrow it down to a half dozen and of those the Henderson pair both make the cut. Given that he has always used this race as a sighter for Aintree and beyond, his figures of 2w-3p-20r are hardly surprising The market says CAPTAIN MORGS, although Nico has chosen PATROCLUS. However, the reason for the shortening is the 9½l victory today at Sandown of Gericault Roque who was 3rd at Fakenham LTO, almost 10l adrift of CAPTAIN MORGS 2nd possie to Shan Tang. This suggests the Captain’s mark is wrong! Talking of trainer form in this race, although his runner the 11/2 fav KARL PHILIPPE didn’t make my list, Fergal O’Brien might very treat this race as a funder for his Cheltenham entertainment bill, with 1w-2p-4r over the past decade. I don’t think he’ll like the ground, which will be the quickest he’s ever encountered. One who I don’t believe will mind it, is SOMETIMES ALWAYS who maintains his winning partnership with Charlie Todd. Yes this is more difficult, yes he’s not won going right-handed before, but I like the price!
CAPTAIN MORGS* Win – SOMETIMES ALWAYS e/w
*I’ve taken 9/1 e/w for 5 places with Betfair. I will be surprised if he is longer on the day.
2:05 WOLVERHAMPTON (AW) Bombardier Lady Wulfruna Stakes Cl1 (4yo+) 7f
Trying to see past DOCUMENTING who was 2nd in this last year. Next best is HIGHLAND DRESS for Archie Watson. A dickie bird told me that the old crones who live in the hollows down by Dingly Dell were whispering the name of OSTILIO. He has left the Crisfords now and is with Paul Midgeley. A resurgence was muttered. Make of that what you will. Have a pop at 14s e/w perhaps.
DOCUMENTING Win – OSTILIO e/w only at 14s
2:25 SANDOWN Paddy Power Imperial Cup Hcap Hurdle (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m
Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this twice in the last four years and runs ONE TRUE KING. He makes my trends shortlist of five and is only 1lb shy of his last winning mark. Ignoring his Lanzarote performance, he has the ability to take this. His Cheltenham form back in October and November, suggests he wants a pacey 2m. I also have LANGER DAN on my list who is almost value at 5s. This is his second run since an improving wind-op and with Harry to help he must surely make the frame.
Sadly in selection terms, I also have the favourite NATURAL HISTORY on my shortlist. He was second in Newbury’s Simon Stakes (Gp 3) when with Andrew Balding, and frankly, his current mark makes him look well-in. However this is too competitive a race for us to be backing favourites, and the last two on my list are MISS HERITAGE and HASANABAD. I think the former needs a tight track and more cut than she’ll get today, but 25s is tempting. See what price she is nearer the off. HASANABAD has looked like he’s been waiting for the dry ground to arrive and I suspect Ian Williams has had enough messing about. He ran perfectly well at Newbury LTO getting what appears to be a lenient mark for a horse that might be better than seen to date.
ONE TRUE KING Win – HASANABAD e/w
2:40 WOLVERHAMPTON (AW) Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Lincoln Trial Hcap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-105) 1m½f
ZWAYYAN won this race in 2019 and is 4lb lower now. A 7lb claimer makes him attractive although statistically, his age counts against him. 12s is an acceptable price. I also think Richard Fahey could take this with TADLEEL who gets a handy 5lbs from the jockey.
TADLEEL Win – ZWAYYAN e/w
3:00 SANDOWN British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Bumper Cl1 (4-6yo) 2m
Crumbs – I really don’t know. Paul Nicholls has RAINDAY WOMAN as favourite and it is being backed hard. TWEED SKIRT would make the frame based on progression from her last debut where she went into a number of notebooks. My concern is she is only aged 4. CODE NAME LISE still looked green in her second race, winning an Ascot bumper LTO. Her debut was decent given she was running against boys, and at around 14s is an attractive e/w price.
CODE NAME LISE e/w
3:15 WOLVERHAMPTON (AW) Betway Hcap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-105) 6f
SUMMERGHAND is being backed, but he is 9lbs shy of his last winning mark and is too skinny at around 3s. REPARTEE is a decent horse placed in the Gimcrack, won a Windsor Listed last year and has not been since Goodwood last July, where I suspect he got knocked about. He’s been gelded since, and providing he has not lost his spirit, and knowing that he goes well fresh, he’s worth a small nibble at prices around 6s.
3:35 SANDOWN Paddy’s Rewards Club Novices’ Hcap Chase Cl1 (5yo+ 0-145) 2m4f
ADMIRAL BARRATRY must come into the reckoning as he was conceding 21lbs LTO to the winner, who beat him by ¾l. The pair were 23¾l ahead of 3rd. The race has since prodiced a winner and 3 seconds. UP THE HEIGHTS is giving hints that he could be as good as his hurdle career promised. He was 3½l behind the winner of last weekend’s Greatwood Gold Cup, Umbrigado, at Fontwell in January off level weights. Umbrigado won off 144 so he could actually be well treated here.
ADMIRAL BARRATRY Win – UP THE HEIGHTS e/w