Monday, March 09, 2020

Cheltenham Day 1: It may seem frivolous but...

In these dark days,  as the apocalypse approaches, it may seem frivolous but I am looking forward to Day 1 of Cheltenham. Isolated and wind-blown in my rural fastness in extreme Connemara I am comforted by the presence of my dog, a most reliable WiFi signal, and the prospect of four days of the best race meeting in the universe. I was dreading a postponement but as of now (19.40 on Monday) we’re certainly going to get Day 1 and that’s always my favourite day. I become sated, or sometimes broke, as the week progresses.

We start with the Supreme Novices Hurdle - a race that’s been very good to me over the years and I will feel mightily affronted if it fails to deliver this year. But it’s complicated. My old classmate Joe Donnelly has the first and second favourites, Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge. The first trained by Nicky Henderson and the other by Willie Mullins. How to separate them? I think I’ll back them both and do them in a reverse forecast - so if you see those black and yellow colours heading towards the last together don’t say I didn’t tell you. For those who like an each way bet at good odds I like the look of Captain Guinness at 16-1. He’s trained by Henry de Bromhead whose runners always exceed themselves at Cheltenham.

The Arkle at 2.10 could go to De Bromhead’s Notebook but I don’t like backing horses in chases at short odds so while I may include him in multiples I’ll eschew a big bet. De Bromhead also has an outsider here Put the Kettle on that may run into a place.

The Ultima at 2.50 is a handicap chase that I shall steer clear of except for a nibble on Discorama on the horses for course theory - although his form since last spring has been disappointing.

The Champion Hurdle at 3.30 is one of the weakest in terms of quality that I can remember. And that makes it very interesting. Pentland Hills could be the new Harchibald (finds nothing late on after looking all over the winner) but I think he has the class to beat this lot. We all know Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae is a two and half mile horse but with a poor field and a stiff finish you never know.

The Mare’s Hurdle is a two horse race between Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. We all know Benie was unbeatable last year - until he fell at the last. I think that Honeysuckle will do him this year. The latter was being considered for the Champion Hurdle and his trainer (De Bromhead again) sees this as more winnable.

The last two races are novice chases and I shall be avoiding them like I’m avoiding Covid 19 on the road between Clifden and Claddaghduff..