Well again yesterday’s shortlist for each race told you all you needed to know – with the winner of each of the Grade 1’s yesterday highlighted in my shortlist, plus the placed horses in most races, in fact all three in the Champion Bumper 🙂 It is a dutcher’s dream, narrowing the field down like this 🙂 We are now +25pts in profit for the Festival at the halfway point, with three solid bets for today already placed 🙂 Please find below my shortlist for the two big Grade 1 Races Today – the Ryanair Chase and the World Hurdle.
2:40 Ryanair Chase – 2m 5f
The common theme has been that all 7 winners, so far, have Cheltenham winning experience behind them and 6 of the 7 were in the Top 3 in the betting. However, looking at this year’s race, it is a decent quality field.
Riverside Theatre (8 yo) – Nicky Henderson has won the race once and he has a strong chance this year with Riverside Theatre, especially on his last run. He came 5th in the 2010 Arkle, so does not have the winning Cheltenham form. However, he came 2nd to Long Run in the King George VI at Kempton last year, ahead of Kauto Star over 3m. He also won at Ascot over 2m 5f in the Betfair Chase in 2011 and then again last month after a 12 month absence from the track, due to a hairline fracture in his pelvis. The main concerns have got to be his poor performance last time he ran at Cheltenham and that he has fully recovered from his injury.
Somersby (8yo) – a horse who has failed to win at Cheltenham in four attempts, although his 2nd to to Sizing Europe in the Arkle in 2010, when he finished strongest of all, but just failed to catch the winner, was an impressive display. He was a good 7 lengths ahead of Riverside Theatre that day. However in the 2m Queen Mother Chase last year he was found out a bit and made some jumping errors. He has looked far more comfortable since stepping up in trip, although on his last run at Ascot in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase over 2m 1f he beat Finian’s Rainbow to win. A difficult one to trust.
Noble Prince (8yo) – the winner of the Jewson Novices Chase last year at the festival, he is one of the top Irish hopes in the race this year, although he has been questionable in his Grade 2 chases recently and particularly as they are over shorter distances – which was also the tactic last year before the Jewson, however he is against a far higher standard of horses this year but the step back up to 2m 5f makes him a strong contender.
Medermit (8 yo) – he finished 4th to Captain Chris in last years Arkle, he then won a Grade 2 at Exeter in November, although this was due to Captain Chris unseating Richard Johnson. He then ran again at Ascot in the Grade 2 Amlin Chase, finishing 3rd behind Somersby and Masterminded before returning to Cheltenham in December to finish 2nd behind Quantativeeasing. He chased home Riverside Theatre at Ascot in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase over 2m 5f. Another with a decent chance but difficult to see him winning.
Alberta’s Run (11 yo) – winner of the Ryan Air in 2010 and 2011, also won the RSA Chase in 2008 and stepped up to the Gold Cup in 2009, however it was a step too far and the drop back into the Ryan Air the following year was perfect. Clearly loves Cheltenham and must have a chance, although age is now against him. But as Kauto Star has shown – age is just a number J
Rubi Light (7 yo) – another Irish hope he was 3rd last year to Alberta’s Run in the Ryanair by only 3 lengths and has to have a stronger chance this year for the experience, as he was only a 6yo then, but he finished a good 4 lengths ahead of Poquelin. He has been super consistent apart from falling at Gowran Park in October, at the last fence when beating Sizing Europe. Since then he has won a Grade 1 at Punchestown, came 2nd in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown and won last month back at Gowran Park in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase. Only questionmark would be the going – he would not want it too quick.
The rest of the field have doubts in one area or another with the likes of Great Endeavour, Captain Chris and Poquelin just being too inconsistent to trust.
3:20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle – 3m
A race that has been dominated by Big Buck’s for the past 3 years. The last 10 winners have all come from the Top 4 in the market. All 12 previous winners were in the top 2 last time out which is a negative for Thousand Stars plus the fact that no Irish runner has won for 17 years. So in reality that leaves us with Big Buck’s, Oscar Whisky and Dynaste.
Big Buck’s (9 yo) – came over from France in 2008 and was initially tried as a chaser, finishing 7th in the 2008 Jewson Chase at Cheltenham. He then switched to staying hurdles to devastating effect, beating the future Grand National Winner, Don’t Push It at Cheltenham on his 3m hurdles debut. He has now had 14 runs and 14 wins. So it is hard to see anything beating him.
Thousand Stars (8yo) is a good horse who has won here at Cheltenham over 2m 1f and finished 4th last year in the Champion Hurdle behind Oscar Whisky and Hurricane Fly but he has not really inspired confidence with his latest two runs and it would be a real surprise to see him reverse form with Oscar Whisky, let alone Big Buck’s.
Oscar Whisky (7 yo) – came 4th behind Menorah in the 2010 Supreme Novices, came back to take on Hurricane Fly in last year’s Champion Hurdlefinishing in 3rd behind Peddler’s Cross. He has won both of his recent Cheltenham runs in December and January and had a freshener over 2m on the all weather at Kempton last month, winning comfortably. The question mark has got to be this step up to 3m at a strongly run pace. He will need to show real improvement to test Big Buck’s.
Dynaste (6 yo) – similar to Big Buck’s in that he is a French bred, which is a major plus. He has been a real progressive type who is improving with every run. He won nicely at Haydock in a Grade 3 over 3m in good / soft conditions by 8 lengths. He then went to Ascot for the Long Walk over 3m 1f and he was positively ridden, leading the race until the final couple of fences when he was overtaken and faded back to 4th. He then returned to re-oppose Big Buck’s at Cheltenham in the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of January and he quickened away from the 2nd last, although again he was reeled in by Big Buck’s and settled for 2nd place, he finished a good 10 lengths ahead of Mourad in 3rd.
Of the others, I cannot see Mourad reversing the places with Dynaste. Let alone challenging Big Buck’s.
Have a great day and talk tomorrow on Gold Cup day 🙂