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Cheltenham update 11/03/17

The news that came through today regarding MOON RACER going for the Champion Hurdle in preference to the Supreme Novices’ wasn’t wholly unexpected given what had been said in recent weeks.

David Pipe said: “We discussed all the options open to Moon Racer with the horse’s connections as he had entries in the Supreme and Champion on the opening day. It has been decided that we will go for the Champion Hurdle.” 

The winner of a Grade 2 at Cheltenham’s November meeting when last seen, Moon Racer will now go to hurdling’s top table for an open Champion Hurdle for which his price now ranges from 8-1 to 10-1.

Part-owner Bryan Drew added: “We’re going to have a go at the Champion Hurdle. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t think I’ll get a better chance of winning it.”

It proves how poor a Champion hurdle it is this tear that they have opted to run. As pipe says himself, if FAUGHEEN had been here, they would not have done this.

Last year’s Neptune runner-up Yanworth heads the Champion HUrdle betting at 3-1, with the switched from novice chasing Buveur D’Air – who like Yanworth is owned by JP McManus – next at 9-2 with Petit Mouchoir at 7-1 and Brain Power at 15-2 the only other runners shorter in the betting than Moon Racer.

I’m still very much against YANWORTH as he doesn’t fly his hurdles, he skies them. He’ll still be landing as the speedier hurdlers are already on the next stride.

What it does do though is give Harry Fry more reason to go for the shorter race with NEON WOLF.

The feeling is that ideally the Neptune would be the race for this horse but having looked at the weather forecast I believe they might well decide to race on the day the ground is slowest, which will most definitely be Tuesday.

We also had the news come through though that FINIANS OSCAR will miss the Festival because of a bruised foot. That then makes the Neptune an easier target for NEON WOLF….I wonder what Harry will do? Listening to the answers given by both trainer and jockey after they had enjoyed a winner for the same owners today, it did sound like the Neptune was their preferred but I also know Harry will not run the horse if the word soft is not in the going description. It could be genuine good ground when the tapes go up on Tuesday, let alone any later during the week.

I’m thinking that’s another lay missing if I’m honest. The form of the Tolworth is very poor if you take the next outings of the second and third to mean anything. Both CAPITAINE and  CHALONNIAL means anything.

Harry Fry trains the last named and I’d be thinking he’d have been happy taking on the Tizzard horse with NEON WOLF.

ZABANA is another who will not be there for the Ryanair. He produced a dirty scope and he was well fancied to run a big race. Cheltenham has not been kind to that horse so far….he was the one that had his jockey ripped off his back at the start of the JLT last season, when Davy Russell got caught in the tapes.

Drying ground would also be very much against NATIVE RIVER in the Gold Cup. However, the only rain due to fall is set for Friday….Gold Cup day so, if they water and it rains, it helps him enormously.

I’m finding, reading that lot back, that I’ve still as many questions as answers really.

One of the two Elliott runners I mentioned in my last Newsletter will also miss the Festival. THE STORYTELLER pulled a muscle whilst at exercise this morning and that is that. Praise be for NRNB!

My guess is we’ll see a few more do something similar and with Cheltenham now within sniffing distance it’ll be a great shame if one or other of those good things doesn’t line up.

This is why they hold multiple entries, right up to the time they have to decide. Trainers can then look to reshuffle their decks and whilst it’s annoying for us ante-post players I get it.

However, if all those good horses were not in so few yards, we could play as we used to do.

The latest from the track reading the ground etc reads:

“Conditions remained unchanged at Cheltenham on Saturday as only a little rain has been forecast ahead of the four-day Festival that starts on Tuesday. 

The question of watering has not yet come up, with clerk of the course Simon Claisse at this stage looking mainly towards the beginning of the meeting.

“I’m leaving the old and new courses as good to soft, and the cross-country course is still good to soft, good in places,” said Claisse.

“The outlook remains mostly dry, although we might get a little light rain.

“Watering is not in our current thinking.

“We are only looking to the beginning of the week.”

The bookmakers are suggesting CUE CARD has been the best backed horse this week but that the “hot money” is for DJAKADAM. The rumour mill has been sending out seriously upbeat messages about that one but I just keep thinking, “FLORIDA PEARL”.

You also have the knowledge that of the 11 steeplechase winners Mullins has had at Cheltenham, 10 of them have been novices. Can he not get them to do the same thing second season over fences at the Festival? Do they not have longevity? Something that requires further research me thinks, with an eye on laying his.

I’ll pass over some really interesting facts tomorrow night and invite you to do a bit of your own homework!

Have a great evening.

Kindest regards


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