Well a quiter day yesterday for us with just Medermit finishing 3rd at 8/1 in the Ryanair – and battled all the way to the line to give himself every chance. Again the shortlist held all the answers though with Bob’s Worth and Big Bucks highlighted for the two big Grade 1 races. So we arrive at the big day, Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham, always a special occasion in the racing year. Below you will find the shortlist for the three big Grade 1 races today in the Triumph Hurdle, The Albert Bartlett and The Gold Cup. Can Long Run and Kauto battle it out or is there another pretender waiting in the wings to take advantage ?
I hope you have enjoyed my shortlists through the week and they have given you some great winners, as they have to us. Look forward to seeing you at Aintree
1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle – 2m 1f
A competitive race this year with the Top 4 all having strong lines of form against one another and again I would expect the winner to come from these four on what has been shown so far at Cheltenham, although Balder Success is the unknown who could spring a surprise. The last 7 winners have come from the Top 4 in the market, so the market is a good solid guide. We are looking for strong recent form and 16 of the past 18 winners have all won on their previous start. Again French bred horses are strong in this race with the last 3 winners all being such. This is the one race at the festival where flat form is still an advantage and horses rated 80 in that sphere and campaigned over 1m 4f transfer well to this race.
Sadler’s Risk – was a decent flat horse, rated 95 on the flat. Won at Leicester over 1m 4f and campaigned over that trip before switching to hurdles in January, winning at Kempton on debut and then following up with a 2nd to Baby Mix at Kempton in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle last month, the front two finished 14 lengths ahead of the 3rd that day. 5 of the last 6 winners have come from the Adonis. Cheltenham could suit his running style more than Kempton.
Baby Mix – French bred he joined Tom George last year, making his debut here at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle trial in December and beating the short priced 4/7f Hinterland back into 2nd place by 7 lengths. He then returned to Cheltenham in January where he really disappointed finishing last of the 6 runners and fading very quickly. However, he returned to make amends by beating Sadler’s Risk in the Adonis at Kempton. Hard to know which horse will turn up – can’t be trusted to be consistent.
Grumeti – another useful flat horse who rated 84 on the flat, although only campaigned around the 1m 2f mark. However, he made an impressive debut at Taunton at the end of December, when he beat the talented Ted Spread to win over 2m 1f. He then fell at Newbury in January but came back to win at Cheltenham beating Baby Mix and Pearl Swan, although Pearl Swan was first past the post – the places were reversed due to contact between the two on the run in.
Pearl Swan – the Paul Nicholls entry was disqualified when beating Grumeti here at Cheltenham at the end of January. He is another French bred flat horse and has plenty to like about him. He has been compared to Zarkandar by the yard for his turn of foot and he fits the profile of a Triumph Hurdle winner, only having his first run over hurdles at Taunton in January which he won nicely before the Cheltenham at the end of January. A genuine contender for the Triumph Hurdle.
Balder Success – another French bred of Alan King’s, although he only raced once over hurdles in France, he won nicely before moving to the King stable in November. He made his debut at Plumpton at the start of January and won convincingly. He then went to Ascot at the end of January and in February, winning both races again to put him in contention for this race. It is hard to call him Alan King’s 2nd string. Although he is unproven at Cheltenham where the top four have the course experience, which is important. But that is not to say he could not excel here.
Of the others, the top Irish hope would be Darroun for Willie Mullins who finished 2nd to Shadow Catcher at Punchestown on debut and then went on to win at Leopardstown in January beating Dermott Weld’s Hisaabaat.
Hisaabaat then went on to win the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, beating Shadow Catcher and Country Wide Flame. So the form line through those 3 /4 horses is very similar, and maybe not of the level of the front 4 in the betting.
2:40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – 3m
A similar trend has formed with the Albert Bartlett in that 6 of the past 7 winners were in the Top 5 in the betting and now Boston Bob has been declared in this race, I have no doubt that trend will continue. We are looking for horse 7yo+ who have previous Cheltenham form and must have contested 3m race previously.
Boston Bob (7 yo) – Willie Mullins could not speak highly enough of this horse, coming from a point to point background he won a bumper at Hexham before going over hurdles winning in November at Navan, then December at Navan before heading to Leopardstwon in January to win again over 2m 4f on heavy ground. The only question mark has got to be will he get the 3m around Cheltenham ? I thought he would have gone for the Neptune Novices Hurdle over 2m 5f, however the yard clearly feel he will be fine with the trip and ground conditions.
Mount Benbulben (7 yo) – another Irish entry who comes from a point to point background, won two bumpers before stepping up to hurdles, where he slipped on debut at Galway in October but soon came back to win at Thurles and then in a grade 2 at Navan at the end of November over 2m 4f. He then took on Boston Bob back at Navan in December, coming 2nd by 4 lengths. He has not been out since or raced over 3m before – so again questions must be asked about stamina.
Rocky Creek (6 yo) – another ex-point to pointer, now with Paul Nicholls, was a slight disappointment on debut at Exter in November when coming 2nd over 2m 5f. The step up to 3m at Doncaster in a grade 2 at the end of January was just what he needed and he won nicely. May not have the quality of the front two in the market.
Sea of Thunder (7 yo) – was a quality point to pointer winning 2 of his 3 races in that sphere before moving to hurdles where he took time to settle but has now progressed nicely to this level, winning at Thurles in October, finishing runner up to Hazy Tom at Wetherby in November before heading to Cheltenham in December for the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over 3m where he showed his true quality to draw clear of the field only to fall at the last hurdle. He was dropped back to 2m 4f at the end of January at Leopardstown and although off the pace he looked to have his confidence back and jumped well. If he can find that December form he could win this.
Brindisi Breeze (6 yo) – another ex-irish point to pointer who moved to Lucinda Russell in November last year. He made his bumper debut at Musselburgh, coming 2nd by a head before making his hurdles debut at kelso over 2m 6f at the end of December, he kept on nicely at the end of the race to win. He was then stepped up to 3m at Newcastle in a Class 4 which he won by 13 lengths at the end of January. He was then sent to Haydock to compete in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle last month and he again excelled, despite a couple of jumping errors and won by 12 lengths. Again this was on heavy ground – so the question has got to be how he will handle quicker ground.
Of the others there is Ipsos Du Berlais of Noel Meade who has decent form up to 2m 6f, came 3rd to Boston Bob and Mount Belbulben in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle in December and Benefficient of Tony Martin who won the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle last month at Leopardstown over 2m 2f but again is untested at 3m and was a surprise winner that day, may not be the most consistent performer.
3.20 Betfred Gold Cup Chase
The last 11 winners of the race have come from the Top 3 in the betting. Now Grand Crus has headed for the RSA Chase we are left with Long Run and Kauto Star dominating the market. No horse older than 10yrs old has won the race since 1969.
Long Run (7 yo) – Won the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton last year before winning the Gold Cup at last years festival, beating Kauto Star by 11 lengths.The biggest concern has got to be his jumping which is still prone to mistakes. Kauto Star then beat him at haydock in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase in a race again littered with jumping errors. Again on Boxing Day at Kempton in the King George VI Chase Kauto Star beat him after jumping errors. Finally last month Long Run won at Newbury beating stablemate Burton Port into 2nd. Must be question marks over his jumping again and hard to be confident.
Kauto Star (12 yo) – After falling in 2010, last year’s 3rd and then being pulled up at Punchestown in the following race it looked like age had finally caught up with Kauto. Although he has beaten Long Run at Haydock and Kempton since, the stamina sapping Cheltenham may be too much for him and despite him being at the top of the betting I can’t be having him at his age to come back and re-write history again.
Burton Port (8 yo) – finished 2nd in the RSA Chase in 2010 before heading to Aintree and winning the Mildmay Novices Chase, he then went to the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase and finished 2nd to Diamond Harry, ahead of Denman in 3rd – even though he crashed through a fence which would have taken many horses down. He was then off the track injured until he reappeared last month at Newbury to just fail to beat Long Run. He has got to have every chance to put it to the front two in the market who both have question marks over them.
Weird Al (9yo) – finished 3rd behind Long Run and Kauto Star at Haydock last time out in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase. This followed a decent win over Time for Rupert at Wetherby in October. He has been deliberately saved for the Gold Cup by the shrewd McCain yard and they feel he has the potential to cause an upset on his day.
Synchronised (9 yo) – winner of the Welsh National at Chepstow in January 2011, he has plenty of stamina but had not won a Grade 1 Chase until the end of December when he went to Leopardstown and won the Lexus Chase over 3m beating Rubi Light and Quito De La Roque. Does not have the consistency to be a genuine contender to win the Gold Cup. But could spring a surprise on his day.
Midnight Chase (10 yo) – a multiple Cheltenham winner, including beating Diamond harry, Time for Rupert and Tidal Bay in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at the end of January. He came 5th last year in the Gold Cup and has strong place credentials this year – but it would be a surprise to see him win. He has never won a Grade 1 chase in his career to date.
I cannot see a winner coming from outside these 6 in the market and it will probably be the front two who dominate but there have to be questions against each of them and at the prices better value may be found elsewhere in the market.