I cannot believe that I am already writing a preview for the last day of Cheltenham – am I the only one who feels so empty after the last race is run and who struggles to get overly excited about the racing for the next week or so? Life goes on as we all know too well but this one week a year makes it all worthwhile (even if I invariably make a loss – note to self, must interview Willie Mullins pre meeting next season!), but will I go out with a bang- or more of a whimper?
First things first and Paul Nicholls told me that Far West works as well as or better than Champion Hurdle fourth Zarkandar, and if that is accurate then surely the Triumph Hurdle is his for the taking with Irish raider Our Conor as the one for the forecast (and how brave is that?). The Vincent O’Brien Handicap Hurdle is worth a mention if only to remind is of the late great trainer himself, but a 28-runner handicap is akin to punting suicide in my book (cue Ron and his ratings). No selections for me in this one but it is noteworthy that Willie Mullins has three declared overnight yet Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Ranjaan for Paul Nicholls. Personally, I may have a little each way on Punjabi at a big price – if he has lost all his old ability then I have lost my money but he is rated a massive 26 pounds lower than at his very best, and representing the Henderson/Geraghty combination I still wonder if the 33/1 is worth a small bet?
The Albert Bartlett at 2.40pm looks intriguing with the form of At Fishers Cross franked big time with the run away win of The New One on Wednesday. African Gold is the apple of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ eye and is seen as the long term successor to Imperial Commander though does that imply he will be better over jumps, while O’Faolains Boy was given to us by Ron as one to follow and has since rolled off three wins on the bounce. Chicken as I am, I advise a watching brief with Ballycasey the other I would add in to the mix for those insistent on playing.
The Gold Cup is, for many fans, THE race of the week and this year there is no real standout contender. Long Run has been working well at the Henderson yard but interestingly there is no sign of the cheek pieces they were considering here – is that an error by the Racing press or have they concluded they added nothing to his efforts? Fact is he makes a mistake every race which has to be a concern, leading me to stick a line through his name again this year. Ron fancies Sir Des Champs but he also puts in a bad jump now and again, leading me to Silviniaco Conti, even if I do have to double check the spelling every time I type his name! Paul Nicholls was a lot more confident than his words implied when we met at his yard and he feels he has instantly found one to follow on from Denman and Kauto Star – surely even his yard cannot be that lucky?
Amateur riders are a whole lot better than they used to be but I still struggle to get too excited over the Foxhunters – a spectacle yes, but a betting proposition, I am not so sure? Chapoturgeon is the best horse in the race according to the official handicapper and thus the most likely winner – but whether odds of 4/1 is sensible is another question, and if I had a charity bet, it would go on Backstage who rarely runs a bad race and is better value at 10/1.
Two twenty-four runner handicap end the card, as if to make sure every punter leaves the track potless, with Gevrey Chambertin my idea of the winner of the 4.40pm. Unsurprisingly, David Pipe would love to win the race named after his father (Martin Pipe) and had a list of early entries here as long as your arm, so it must be a clue that he now relies on just the one runner. Sadly the majority of the yard’s horses so far have failed to live up to stable hopes which has to be a concern, but at odds of 7/2 he could yet prove to be a steal (though do shop around). In a similar vein, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase that ends the Festival is named after Nicky Henderson’s father and is a race he invariably targets. This year he has no less than six of the twenty-four overnight declarations, so has a pretty decent chance but I am still not totally convinced. French Opera is presumably the stable number one with Barry Geraghty in the saddle, but I will be backing Oh Crick, again each way to small stakes. Now a ten year old, Joshua Newman takes seven pounds off his back here leaving him with a featherweight of ten stone three here and as he has won at Cheltenham twice and invariably runs well here, and the Alan King team seem in great form, the 33/1 is just a tad too tempting.
Friday – Day Four
Sean’s silly bets Friday:
All each way
Far West 1.30pm Cheltenham
Punjabi 2.05pm Cheltenham
Silviniaco Conti 3.20pm Cheltenham
Gevrey Chambertin 4.40pm Cheltenham