Having worked my proverbial butt off on various interviews for your delight over the past week or so I have taken the liberty of saving the last one to use as the majority of my weekly article – I think I deserve it even if you don’t!
Before then my commiserations go out to the connections of Imperial Commander who will now miss the Gold Cup and head straight to the Grand National, and to Choc Thornton who misses the festival and almost certainly the rest of the season, a potent reminder of what a risky job they have and all for our entertainment – get well soon everyone, horse and jockey alike.
Last week I was lucky enough to be invited (thanks Mark Popham and Racenews), to the Donald McCain yard and after a long old drive from my Southern base, I arrived tired but intrigued. Donald has a lot of horses in his care these days and has had more runners this season with 588 as I write, than either Paul Nicholls (422) or Nicky Henderson (368), so he really is up with the big boys these days, is a regular in third place in the trainers Championship and looking to push on. Luckily for me we did not go through all of his horses (or I would still be there), but we did a bit of cherry picking and this is what we came up with in no particular order.
Peddlers Cross – despite a long time begging they have decided to go for the World Hurdle and not the Champion leaving my 50/1 antepost slip screwed up and heading for the bin. He was a class act over hurdles before failing to reach those standards over fences and connections have bitten the bullet and reverted to the smaller obstacles. His last run when scrambling home at Musselburgh isn’t as bad as it may seem at first glance as I am told he idles once he hits the front and Donald told me he expects him to be swinging away on the bridle two out after which we will all see if he really stays three miles or not.
Overturn – what can you say about a horse that has achieved most things in the game at all levels and all codes? After winning a Sandown maiden in 2006 his career on the flat included a win in the Chester Cup while his hurdling exploits include finishing runner up to Rock On Ruby in last year’s Champion hurdle, ahead of Hurricane Fly and Binocular to name but two. This season they have sent him over fences to complete the hat trick and he has not let anyone down with three runs and three wins with an average winning margin of close to 23 lengths so he seems pretty adept at this discipline as well! We all know taking on Simonsig in the Arkle is no easy task, but on hurdles form he was probably a bit better than his odds on rival and as they both like to make all we could be in for some contest. They clearly like him but know what he is up against but I cannot argue against his chances either, so up to you?
Son Of Flicka – not one I would have picked out to be fair, but they think the nine year old has chances so I need to report their thoughts. He loves Cheltenham (form figures of 3201) and will appreciate the drying ground and at odds from 16/1 to 20/1 (depending on which race he shows up in); there are worse each way chances out there.
Super Duty – not to put too fine a point on it, they think an awful lot of this son of Shantou who hasn’t had his ground all season yet still ran some cracking races including in defeat. He is admirably consistent for all you each way thieves and will probably head to the RSA where the likes of Dynaste will ensure he goes off at an each way price and if he does improve for the ground, you never know?
She Ranks Me – everyone likes an outsider with a chance and this is the one Donald seemed sweetest on. She has won a couple already this season and may even head to take on Quevega, but if they see sense and go for the Neptune instead, her mares’ allowance could see her run a massive race, and maybe a place as a reward.
Our Mick – they expect a really big run from the grey who badly needed the run last time out at Cheltenham in a race best ignored after ten months off the track. He was described as “still improving and still going the right way” which has to be a positive reaction and the vibe I got was that they feel he has as good a chance as any of their team this season.
Cinders And Ashes – One of the forgotten horses of the Champion hurdle and deliberately saved until last. We have not, apparently, seen the real Cinders And Ashes this season as he is another who needs decent going to be seen at his best, which he has a lot more chance of getting at Cheltenham than he has so far this season. They have not lost faith in him one iota and told me he has “a massive each way chance”, so expect to see a different horse next week to the one we have seen all season– assuming the rains stay away of course!
My idea of a McCain bet next week at Cheltenham
Peddlers Cross World Hurdle 10/1
Our Mick JLT Chase 6/1
Overturn Arkle Chase 11/4
Three win doubles and a win treble
Other than that, I do not have a lot to report – Frankel has his first mare confirmed in foal so that’s a long term project to look forward to, Rosie’s Lady heads to Cheltenham next Thursday (see you there), and the racing between now and then isn’t worth too much effort – all I can add is I will be earlier next week with my Cheltenham thoughts and suggested bets – though remember the old adage – the only way to leave Cheltenham with a small fortune is to start with a large fortune so do be careful!