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Cheltenham all the way this weekend, each way options – and info straight from the trainers!

Cheltenham racesWell the podcast was a lot more profitable than my article last week but these things happen and with Cheltenham this weekend, I am really looking forward to a load of winners. Firstly though, I need to sort of apologise for the fact that the horses here are a repeat (in part) of this week’s podcast which is only sensible when you think about it as they are the horses I fancy the most – you know it makes sense!

Saturday seems as good a place to start as any (which is pretty handy as I would have suggested the well beaten Standing Ovation on Friday!), though I am unwilling to take a risk in the opener where everyone else tells me Royal Irish Hussar is a banker yet I have a sneaking suspicion of a good run from Art Mauresque who has his first run for Paul Nicholls having been brought in France for an undisclosed but I suspect pretty large sum. He does have the edge on experience and could cause a shock and is a big enough danger for me to be cowardly, and swerve the race from a punting perspective.

Only six runners are due to go to post for the novice chase at 1.15pm but I suspect we may learn an awful lot with African Gold the one I want to be on. I was lucky enough to visit the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard on Tuesday and although it is not exactly the trainer’s way to be bullish about any of his runners, he is reported to have schooled as well as anything and I got the feeling he is seen as the long term successor to Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander which is high praise indeed.

Ignore the next race (though I hope for a big run from Burton Port), and move straight on to the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase. What a competitive renewal (I say that every year). Finian’s Rainbow could pick these up and carry them at his very best but that was a long time ago to be honest, and I prefer the chances of Champion Court who has been well supported all week and whose trainer Martin Keighley seems particularly confident. I was also at his yard Tuesday morning, ex base of “The Duke” (David Nicholson) and steeped in racing history. Martin seems an amicable enough chap and was happy to tell us assembled hacks that Champion Court is back to his best (the 2012 King George Chase took a lot out of him on heavy ground and explains below par performances since), but that leaves him on a mark of 157 here which connections feel is a good few pounds lower than his actual abilities. He is certainly looking in rude health at home (I watched him gallop in the morning sunshine, if there is a better sight do please tell me where?), and they think he is as well as he has ever been. Although 8/1 or so isn’t much of a price, he ought to prove very difficult to keep out of the first four here granted a clear round.

Bumpers may not be Ron’s cup of tea but the same trainer clearly thinks the world of Flementime who reappears in the mares only bumper due off at 4.05pm. The five year old daughter of Flemensfirth won first time out at Plumpton before finishing mid division at Aintree but has been given over a year off since and is reported to have strengthened up nicely since, while she works with Champion Court at home and is anything but disgraced. Her form gives her chances here but her trainer seemed a lot more confident than that (considering how many quality opponents she has), and at a forecast 14/1, she is one of those bets where I feel my arm has been twisted behind my back to make me have a bet.

Sunday cannot be ignored this week as the Cheltenham meeting comes to a close (booooo), and I have two horses to mention but only the one serious (sensible?) bet. I ought to at least pass on that Nigel Twiston-Davies seemed to think Big Casino was well handicapped for the 1.00pm (I can’t agree with him there to be honest but would love to be proved wrong I assure you), but the one for me has to be Sire De Grugy for my old friend Gary Moore and jockey son Jamie. He won as he pleased at Chepstow despite looking as if he badly needed the run (the betting agreed with me on that one), and with normal improvement he looks to have been found an excellent opportunity to add to that success while still avoiding the likes of Sprinter Sacre!

Selections this week

African Gold 1.15pm Cheltenham Saturday

Champion Court (each way) 2.30pm Cheltenham Saturday

Flementime (each way) 4.05pm Cheltenham Saturday

Sire De Grugy 2.40pm Cheltenham Sunday

Horses to follow: (please note –  runners tomorrow and Sunday)

New look shaken up horses to follow list (new addition below)!


Opera Og – hopefully well handicapped off a rating of 117 (when last seen), the seven year old looked all over the winner at Bangor before fading badly to finish third. The lack of a run was clearly his undoing and with that run under his belt he should win next time out provided connections keep their sites lowered to a sensible level.

***Entered at Wincanton and Chepstow 21st November***

Champagne Fever – on target at home for the Arkle Chase, held in the highest regard and schooling well for Willie Mullins, likely to have Ruby Walsh in the saddle, what more can a punter ask for?

***Makes his chasing debut at Punchestown tomorrow 16th November***

Sire De Grugy – won as he pleased on his return and sure to improve considerably for the race for Sussex trainer and ex jockey Gary Moore.

***Entered at Cheltenham Sunday 17th November ***

Big Casino – now with Nigel Twiston-Davies and looks well handicapped over hurdles – will be even better long term over fences.

***Entered at Cheltenham Sunday 17th November ***


Mutakayyef – trained by William Haggas I had a quandary this week – do I or don’t I back the son of Sea The Stars? As with all the stable juveniles he was a shoe in to improve for the run but he is spoken of in glowing terms by gallop watchers in Newmarket. Fact is he ran as expected – slowly away, green as grass, and hampered as well, he will learn plenty from the experience and can be ignored at your peril.

***No current entries***

Freemason – a once raced juvenile owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing – Harbinger (a posh syndicate), he cost a whopping 150,000 Guineas so ought to be half decent – word is he is all that and more, so one to stay on the right side of.

***No current entries (unless you include the 2014 Derby!***

Idea – once raced two year old trained by Sir Michael Stoute and said to be flying on the gallops. Won after a poor run at Windsor when last seen looking as green as grass and very much one to keep on the right side of – originally nominated by a post racing reader!

***No current entries***

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