It’s always a whirlwind week and last week was no different. Cheltenham is over for another year – let’s see what our tipsters thought of the week.
It certainly wasn’t the festival I, or many others expected. Having had 5 years of consecutive substantial profit at the Cheltenham Festival, I went into this years expecting no different. However, although it wasn’t a four days to remember, many shrewd judges I have known for years came out with significant losses and one punter even put it that “this was the least Cheltenham-like four days I have seen in 50 years”. That being said, looking back I certainly would have perhaps played a little differently in a few of the races, but no doubt misfortune played a part in this years approximate break even results. A number of 2nds and 3rds, with whom traded as low as 1.01 in running, could and should have gone our way. I am writing the below as honest as I can be and I have singled out areas where upon reflection it wasn’t good enough. I have reviewed the Festival in chronological order below.
I started the day fresh with optimism. The main reason for this was that I had spoken to Carl Llewelyn (assistant trainer to Nigel Twiston-Davies) who had told me that Ballyandy was a “10 out of 10” confidence bet, and Sam Twiston-Davies had told us it was his best ride of the week and if he didn’t win he would be extremely disappointed. The stable confidence was infectious and he had the form to boot, too. The race didn’t pan out in his favour. He was cut up early on in the race and was shuffled back early-doors. The race was ran at a snails-pace and his stamina could just not be seen to best effect. I have a feeling they are regretting not taking up the Neptune option. Labaik was a surprise winner whom you could seriously not be backing at 33-1. The Cheltenham crowd was silent already.
Henri Parry Morgan was travelling nicely in the Ultima but seemed to hit a fence and was struggling after. Perhaps Aintree will suit him better, but he is a horse that is very well handicapped now.
Buvuer D’Air was the star on day 1 after bolting up in the Champion Hurdle. I was convinced he was great value at 11/2 compared to Yanworth’s 5/2 who subsequently disappointed. Buvuer D’Air travelled with zest and put the race to bed turning in. The Supreme form from 2016 was one to follow for the rest of the festival, too. That provided us profit on the day no matter what happened in the 4 miler.
I was of the opinion that if Edwulf got around, he would win. Turning in he was there, travelling like the winner, and what happened next was obviously disappointing. He hit a fence quite badly and stopped quickly. The best news was of course that he was ok as I had feared the worst when he had stopped. Champers on Ice didn’t jump 1 fence and he looked like it was his first time around Cheltenham. Tiger Roll was a huge opportunity missed, to be completely honest. He was there to be backed and we missed it.
A day to forget. Neon Wolf was beaten by the narrowest of margins by a horse that would not have been passed. Neon Wolf is certainly the best long term prospect, but he was a “hype horse” of the highest order and I am surprised at myself for going with it.
The RSA saw Might Bite somehow get up that hill, with a huge amount of help from the loose horse that went past him as he had just started to hang violently towards the crowd. Acapella Borgeois couldn’t get his own way up front but was supremely keen pre-race that won’t have helped his chances.
The Coral Cup. A race that I have had huge success in in the past and I am convinced that with a change of ride here we are on the winner. Mister Miyagi travelled powerfully and jumped every hurdle effortlessly. He was making ground turning in up the inner but was badly hampered by our other selection Peregrine Run. He ultimately couldn’t recover. Supersundae won, whom finished behind Mister Miyagi in last years Supreme Novices’. Mister Miyagi is of huge interest moving forwards. Seeing Douvan get beat was a misery on what was a very misery-filled day.
My old favourite Cause of Causes then put me to shame backing Cantlow. Cantlow was well-backed of course so we had the value but the Cause is brilliant at this time of year. Another opportunity missed.
Divin Bere proceeded to get beat into 2nd by a big outsider despite travelling like he was 15lb well in. Western Ryder in the bumper was a huge fancy of mine and I can’t help but think he was better than the finishing position suggests. He was travelling nicely on the inside, none the worse for the frantic pace and turning in at the top of the hill he had a massive chance. He skipped through on the inside but just seemed to get impeded slightly by another horse on the inner, whereas Jamie Codd took the initiative to get his mount on the outside, which of course paid dividends. Western Ryder powered up the hill, and at one point looked like he was coming to win in a similar way that Ballyandy did last year, but he just had too much to do and was beaten just over a length.
The NAP of the festival went in, comfortably enough in the end. Yorkhill was given a beautiful ride from Ruby Walsh as he got his first winner of the week. He was just idling in front, as he does, but if he continues to settle and jump like he did there he will be a huge player in Gold Cup’s to come.
The Pertemps again saw us just miss out. Electric Concorde was given a huge amount to do as he only had a couple behind him going down the back straight, and he stayed on like a good horse to be beaten a nose into 6th. On strict formlines, he was around 12lb better off than Presenting Percy who somehow managed to win this off his huge handicap mark. I was in a box with Paddy Power where Ruby Walsh was talking pre-racing and interestingly he had said that this horse was a Grade horse running in a handicap (he had also said Yorkhill was his best ride of the week).
The Ryanair we left alone but of course Un De Sceaux won easily and was part of our yankee for the week. The Stayers was won by a horse that had been touch and go if he was to even make the festival this year. Nichols Canyon had been coaxed into the race by Ruby and grabbed the rail to win well. Unowhatimeanharry just wasn’t good enough on the day, no excuses. Jezki had looked like the winner turning in when travelling so powerfully but just didn’t stay.
In the Brown Advisory Plate, Starchitect had been hampered jumping the 2nd last by a faller and of course finished closely outside the places. No doubt he takes 3rd/4th if that doesn’t occur. Let’s Dance then proceeded to bolt up in the Mares’ Novices hurdle after another masterclass from Ruby Walsh. This mare was good enough to play a massive part in the Neptune and for me the price was huge.
The Kim Muir, again a race I have huge fondness of, is the one that I haven’t been able to watch since. Pendra, 16/1, is 4 lengths clear jumping the last after gliding his way around the course, and somehow gets beat on the line after hanging to his right. How this horse didn’t get home I do not know. All it would have taken was this one to go in and the whole complexion of the week changes. I am sure you can tell how I feel about this one…
As I mentioned in the write up, I had huge fondness for Defi De Seuil, but I just thought that 15/8 was very short. He subsequently drifts to 11/4 which was a backable price. One of those where the market gets it wrong with the drift. He was brilliant, and Charli Parcs was not.
Death Duty was awful, no doubt about it. He travelled ok, and to be fair he did get quite badly hampered 2 out, but he looked to me like he wasn’t going to stay, and it was another hype horse running below par. I would never have had Penhill at all – a keen going flat bred running over a gruelling 3 miles – but fair play to him he did it well.
The Gold Cup – Native River ran a cracker. He probably didn’t jump quite as well as he has done this year, but he ran very well nonetheless and wasn’t beaten far. I had let Sizing John go unbacked simply because I wasn’t sure how good that Irish Gold Cup form would be – Empire of Dirt certainly didn’t do it any favours in the Ryanair – but he ran a blinder. All the way round I was happy with Native River but I was seriously concerned with how well Sizing John was travelling, and to a lesser extent Djakadam.
Verni then ran a blinder at 25/1 to finish 2nd in the Martin Pipe – he ran a cracking race and I even backed him in running as he was travelling so strongly. He was beaten by a thorough stayer but 25/1 place money was well due. Dandridge finished the festival with more place money at 9/1 and I have no complaints there at all as he ran well under Davy Russell after being well backed.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it wasn’t at all a festival to remember, but it certainly could have been worse, with many shrewdies that I know well out there positing a loss for the week which for them is unheard of. Looking back, I do regret a couple of selections which is very much unlike me as I rarely believe my selections to be poor value. But with a bit more fortune in running and if a couple of selections had just got over the line half a nose in front rather than behind, then it would have all been so different.
Cheltenham is, and always will be one of my most profitable tracks. I am looking forward to setting this right next season.
What an eventful Cheltenham Festival it has been. Many ups and downs a long the way but we had good success on the Wednesday which I produced three tidy winners and two places for members.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
Firstly, WILLOUGHBY COURT advised (14/1) was my favourite moment of the whole festival. David bass was great in the saddle, both set out to make all the running and coming down the hill this giant horse would not surrender the lead. The much hyped NEON WOLF loomed up to mount a challenge and the whole crowd were on that horse except me. I believed WILLOUGHBY COURT could turn over the favourite, he battled gamely from the home bend and produced a fine leap at the last hurdle and kept finding and finding for pressure, pulling out more at the finish to land one the greatest races I’ve ever witnessed. Luckily, I selected this horse for members and it was a performance that many will never forget. WILLOUGHBY COURT showed heart and resolution to win the opener for myself and members.
SUPASUNDAE was another winner advised (16/1) given a super rider by Robbie Power and powered away up the hill to secure another huge winner on the same day. CAUSE OF CAUSES (4/1) was our third winner on the day, rounding off an incredible day with a fantastic performance and we also the secured the 1-2 as BLESS THE WINGS (14/1) followed him home. All these were selected and bagged a huge 19 points profit on the day. It was a day to never forget and lucky enough, I was there. A memory to last a lifetime.
There has been many shocks in racing but this was one that stands above the rest. The unbeatable superstar DOUVAN was beaten into 7th in the Champion Chase. He never jumped or travelled and everybody wondered what had happened. However, it was found to be that he suffered a stress fracture and that was the reason for him running well below par. I do believe he’s an unbelievable racehorse and that run is worth scratching. He defeated SIZING JOHN many times in the past and that horse won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so how good is this horse? We will wait and see for when he is due to make a comeback.
IRISH DOMINATED/SIZING HERO
The Irish horse dominated the meeting and I was mixed emotion when SIZING JOHN landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Many will know, I love this horse but I just didn’t believe he would stay 3m2f and it was the hardest result to take as if it was any other race, i would have chosen him but I clearly went on the form book. However, I was proven wrong and he landed the biggest prize of the meeting and produced a fantastic performance that will never be forgotten.
We had other each-way returns at the meeting as BAPAUME (14/1), ARPEGE DALENE (12/1), MESSIRE DES OBEAUX (11/1) and JURY DUTY (9/1) all reached the frame for us. We finished the meeting on a small loss but that Wednesday was the finest moment for me off the Cheltenham Festival and it’s those days that make it the best show on turf.
A year for the bookies to claim back some ground at Prestbury Park – and oh how us punters felt the pain. Eight placed finishes (six of them runners-up) rather summed up the story of a hugely frustrating week at the office on a personal level. Looking back, the writing was on the wall when Singlefarmpayment contrived to throw away the Ultima Handicap on day one (oh how it seems so long ago). When Whisper was then handed victory from the jaws of defeat – and somehow had it snatched away again on the line in Wednesday’s RSA – the tale of the week was being etched in stone. Taquin Du Seuil (20/1) and Pendra (16/1) were others that went so close to handicap glory at big prices – the latter finding a way to get me beaten by an even smaller margin as the week progressed.
It was, make no mistake, a week to endure from a punting perspective. But the spectacle was no less enjoyable and underlined exactly why we make the pilgrimage to Cheltenham for this most fabulous of sporting occasions. The crowning of Jessie Harrington as Queen of the Festival was a fitting end to what had been a week awaiting its fairtytale story. And although Cue Card couldn’t provide headline writers with their dream ending, the Harrington story was a more than welcome substitute. The victory of Sizing John yet further confirmation of Ireland’s dominance in a week where the British – punters and all – were left licking their wounds.
A Festival that, in many ways, threw up plenty questions and provided fewer answers. With many superstars absent, and other headline acts like Douvan and Unowhatimeanharry fluffing their lines, it was a week to be filed under the puzzling category. But as ever, the four days were engrossing from start to finish. Bring on 2018.
Not my finest week in all honesty. Tough from the word go with 2nd and 3rd in the Supreme, the week never really improved. It was nice to get a winner on the board in the form of Might Bite (although he nearly threw it away) and we also had a few nice Ante-post bets land however on the whole it was certainly a week to forget.
I seem to remember saying a similar statement last year however it is very true. A week does not define a year and evidentially we move away from Cheltenham with our favourite time of the year on the horizon. The flat season is just 11 days away and I for one cannot wait.