When Ron and I recorded the Podcast this afternoon (Friday), I did promise a passing mention for the Cheltenham Festival Bumper and having seen the nonsense on the Racing Post website I simply cannot resist. Now I do decry my journalistic colleagues, and I am as aware as anyone that the runners are not known for this popular race just yet, but a look at their racecard is frankly hilarious, if likely to be a fair bit wide of the mark. I was looking at it yesterday for an article I was writing and noted that they described their list as Possible Entries (which I read as “cop out”), but you have to see it to believe it. They kindly list a total of 22 potential runners which may seem fair enough, and we all know that the ones Willie Mullins runs will be of particular interest to punters around the racing World – all fifteen of them! Seriously, they attribute close to 70% of all the runners to the one handler, with one each for Donald McCain, David Pipe, Andrew Balding, Dermot Weld, Philip Hobbs, and Alan King (plus Jeweloftheocean, who isn’t allocated a trainer), though my point is that this will be nothing like the make up of the final field and I wonder if whoever put that up on their website was still celebrating way after everyone else’s Christmas Festivities?
My other podcast promise involved a horse I expect to see winning on the flat very shortly, be that all-weather or turf, England or France, and her name is Happy Valentine. She may be an unknown over here but she was out of the top drawer in her native South Africa, winning at both Clairwood when hacking up in her maiden first, and then at Scotsville in a Group One, before failing to see out the seventh furlong in the Golden Slipper at Greyville. Moved to Europe and the acre of Alain De Royer-Dupre by Team Valor, she made her return after eighteen months off at Kempton last Sunday when runner up to Hallelujah but looked as though she would improve considerably for the run, and as a champion of International racing, I really hope she goes on to make her mark in much better company over the months ahead, especially when finally returned to the turf.
Looking ahead and I admit the racing scares me more than a little at this time of the season, with the age-old questions of fitness and ratings rearing their ugly heads. Some will be out to try and take the first prize for the money, others to get their rating increased for a Cheltenham Festival handicap run, but many will be getting an exercise in public ahead of attacking a sweeter prize at Prestbury park in March – and the fact is, none of us really know which are which. Naturally, I do not like to let you down so I will come up with a couple but as I am still smarting after last week (a second and a donkey!), may I politely suggest stakes are limited between now and the big ones in March? If you read the rest of the racing media then it appears that Dynaste only needs to show up at Cheltenham Saturday afternoon to take the BetBright Cup Chase at 1.50pm but they seem to be discounting the three and a quarter mile trip which could be pushing him to the very limits on soft going in decent class. Yes he has won over the distance but that was in 2013 in a novice event and he does look opposable here at the prices. Black Thunder is an option in my view and may have the most stamina while his win at Sandown was pretty impressive even if the handicapper decided to leave him on a mark of 155. He has no chance based on that rating but Paul Nicholls is nobody’s fool and if he thinks it is worth sending the eight year old here I am willing to risk a small amount at 8/1, just in case he knows something I don’t?
My second bet looks safer (famous last words), when Maries Des Anges attempts to shrug off a seven-pound penalty in the 3.25pm at Uttoxeter after a very easy win at Exeter. That really seems unlikely to be enough to stop her doubling up to be honest with her amateur rider hopefully good value for his seven pound claim (he has ridden in nine races under rules and won once at Kempton), though I freely admit, his skills from the saddle are my main concern in this race, as I am convinced the horse is more than good enough.
Good luck one and all…..
Selections this week:
Black Thunder 1.50pm Cheltenham Saturday
Maries Des Anges 3.25pm Uttoxeter Saturday
Horses to follow: (Creepy deleted – enough is enough):
Camlann – only sixth on his bumper debut at Cheltenham on New Years Day, the son of Cape Cross was very well supported in the market before being sent off the 7/2 favourite. Racing well enough in behind the leaders he failed to quicken up when asked before finishing sixth but it would be fair to say Barry Geraghty threw everything but the kitchen sink at the four year old, all be it to no avail. He must be better than that and could well need the two miles (one of those silly mile and three quarter bumpers here), and ought to win a bumper or two before going hurdling, possibly in lower class at a less fashionable venue?
***No current entries***
Broxbourne – used to be well above average on the flat when trained by Mark Johnston and looked like a machine when winning at lowly Fakenham for Nicky Henderson this week. More of a confidence booster than a real race he is entitled to improve for his first run in over a year and he could be pretty decent over two and a half miles or further over hurdles and seems sure to add to that victory.
*** No current entries until the Cheltenham Festival***
Ballyallia Man – Tom George is off to a flyer and this nine year old returned to action with little more than an exercise canter to win at Wincanton by a long looking six lengths. This was his first run for seven months or so and he is entitled to strip a little bit fitter next time out, so as long as the handicapper isn’t too punitive he ought to score next time out as well, after which he may be in the grips and can be removed with profit made!
*** No Current Entries***
Hargam – an unlucky runner up on his hurdling debut the three year old was travelling as if it was a matter of how far not if at Cheltenham before fading up the infamous hill. With that run behind him he is surely a shoe in to win next time out and could win a few more if sensibly entered.
***No current entries until the Cheltenham Festival***
Happy Valentine – a beautiful looking daughter of Silvano out of a National Assembly mare, connections have bravely thrown away a year or so on quarantine and travel to see how she gets on here in Europe. She looked a class act back at home and also showed plenty of promise on her European debut at Kempton but should be better suited to the turf long term and may well be one of the top female sprinters by season’s end.
***No current entries***