Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cheltenham – Day 2 – Post-Mortem

Again on Day 2 there are a couple of foregone conclusion races where my interest will be Platonic – Altior should win the Queen Mother Chase and Samcro should confirm his reputation in the Ballymore, both at restricted odds. I’m more interested for betting purposes in the handicap hurdle races: the Coral Cup and the Fred Winter. And I have a fancy for one in the final race the Bumper.

Overall Post-Mortem:  A good day for those who stuck to the championship races and followed form. Alterior, Samcro, and Presenting Percy were all eminently predictable. You can enjoy the quality in those races but where’s the betting fun in following favourites. A disappointing betting day for me with only a few placed horses. Alterior’s win gave me an ante-post double with Footpad which provided a little balm for my wounds.

Ballymore Novices Hurdle

Samcro has been touted as the biggest certainty at the meeting – and a future great. We shall see – his biggest danger is Mullins’ Next Destination and it’ll be a surprise if they’re not first and second. My eye is drawn to the 80-1 on offer for Mind’s Eye. He has been hammered by Samcro and ran a stinker when favourite at Leopardstown in early February. However that race was too short for him and his novice jockey made too much use of him. Henry de Bromhead always does well at Cheltenham and unless he’s in as a pace maker for Samcro (both owned by Michael O’Leary) he might sneak a place.

Post-Mortem: Samcro won as predicted with Next Destination third. His win, however, was more workmanlike than brilliant. Maybe the going was a factor. Mind’s Eye plugged on into 10th and having lurked at the back of the field throughout was clearly not a pacemaker.

RSA Chase

Two Irish horses dominate the betting for this, Presenting Percy and Monalee – the former has formidable course form and should be thereabouts. My old school-friend Joe Donnelly runs Al Boum Photo who could make up for his disappointment at Melon’s narrow defeat yesterday. However, I’m going to look beyond my compatriots to Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton at 9-1. He’s won twice at Cheltenham and is ultra game. I suspect he’s slightly below Grade 1 class but hope that his proven courage will get him up the hill in front.

Post-Mortem:  This was dominated by Presenting Percy and Monalee as the betting suggested. Presenting Percy was very impressive and we’ll be hearing more about him. Black Corton jumped poorly throughout and on this show is just not in this class.

Coral Cup Handicap

I do like a good handicap hurdle I do. And I am inevitably drawn to Nicky Henderson’s horses who always seem to do well in the big ones. (Call Me Lord was beaten a whisker in the Betfair last Saturday causing me much financial distress). William Henry at 8-1 is the obvious choice but I prefer Burbank further down the weights. He tried chasing unsuccessfully and made a promising return to hurdling in January. Based on last years novice form he has a good ew chance at 16-1.

Post-Mortem:  The Henderson horses finished 4th and 7th and at least gave me a run for my money in a field of 27. The winner was a Mullins outsider who could not have been predicted apart from the fact that he was trained by Mullins whose horses are always trying.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Nobody likes a short-priced favourite that is reported as being lame a few days before the race. Alterior reportedly had a hoof infection which necessitated some pus being extracted. We’re told he’s fine now but I notice he’s drifted out to 11/10 from odds on. He’s a Cheltenham specialist and if fit should win. Otherwise Douvan is waiting in the wings. No bet in this.

Post-Mortem:  Alterior’s win was the highlight of the day. I had him in an ante-post double with Footpad so at least I made a few bob. He wasn’t at his best in the going but his fabulous jumping and gameness saw him through.

Cross-Country Chase

The novelty event (over banks and bushes) is normally won by an Enda Bolger horse or a Gordon Elliot one – Bolger particularly has had any number of course specialists over the years. Causes of Causes trained by Gordon Elliot will be everyone’s fancy but I’ll take a punt on The Last Samuri at 13-2. He’s a guaranteed stayer having come second in the Grand National and if he takes to the eccentric course shouldn’t be far away. A small bet only.

Post-Mortem: The Last Samuri was backed down from 13-2 to 11/4 favourite but could only manage third. One of Gordon Elliot’s did the business. No excuses apart from a lack of course familiarity.

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

Another juicy handicap hurdle. My Cheltenham has been rescued a number of times by decent priced Nicholls’ hurdlers and being sentimental I fancy Grand Sancy at 16-1. He has the profile of an improving horse. He’s got a low weight, will love the ground, and has been chosen by the stable jockey – Sam Twiston-Davies. This race can be very rough so luck in running is the sine qua non.

Post-Mortem: This was won by Veneer of Charm at 33-1. No study of form would have elicited him as a possible winner. That’s handicaps for you – and Irish-trained horses. Grand Sancy ran a stinker and was pulled up. Maybe he’s sick the poor pet.

Champion Bumper

This is frequently won by Irish-trained horses especially Willie Mullins – he has the 5-1 favourite Blackbow. However I’m going to go for Acey Milan (13-2) trained by the up and coming English trainer Anthony Honeyball. He has course form on heavy going and has been very impressive in his last two runs. He’s being burdened with my best bet of the day.

Post-Mortem:  Sometimes I should listen to myself. Mullins, predictably, had the winner (Relegate at 25-1) and indeed four of the first five home. My selection interrupted a clean sweep by finishing 4th and earning place money.