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Cheltenham Friday - 17th March 2017

Sir Puntalot

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Yeah a real shame about Many Clouds.....

Gold Cup looks more open now although secretly i was wanting Thistlecrack to be a monster. He still may win in March but he didnt look like he had many extra gears yesterday did he. And of course it gave a few clues to other trainers about how to beat him.

Maybe Mr Tizzard is too honest at the moment, he needs to be a bit cute like Nicholls used to be. He's new at this sort of game though and will learn. I just think both Cue Card in the past and now Thistlecrack have lost races they probably should have won or didnt need to be there in the first place. He got away with Native River in the Welsh National but wouldnt want to be on him at Cheltenham after two very hard races this season.

My photo of Many Clouds winning the Hennessy at Newbury;


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It might not do him any favors in this ruthless game but i love Mr Tizzard's honesty before and after a race, and i admire him for ''having a go''

You do make some very valid points BH and i don't think you sit alone on that feeling about wanting Thistlecrack to be a monster, maybe we are also just being a little bit harsh on him, who are we to say what would have happened yesterday had he a little more track, something he will have in March, if i was dishing out any criticism for yesterday i personally felt Tom Scu was trying to be a bit cute on him, i could be wrong but I'm just talking from being 22 times champion armchair jockey.

My daughter has been to the races a few times before with me and her Granpa but when i sent her some clips from Cheltenham she just said WOW!

When we head down on March 16th it's with a very open mind, BUT backing the winner of the Gold Cup would put more than the icing on the cake.

Not sure why, call it gut instinct, but something keeps returning me to a certain Mr Mullins, and what with the 17th being St Patrick's day the stage is being set for a roar the likes of Cheltenham has never heard before.

The funny thing is...............My first Cheltenham experience could be the best experience.

Time will tell, but they wont STOP me dreaming.

Ruby, Mullins, Djakadam


Edited by Jimmy2shoes
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Just read that both Native River (Denman Chase) and Cue Card (Ascot Chase) are having another run before the Gold Cup.

Personally i would take them straight to the Festival, they can always go to Aintree or Punchestown if they are still looking for races later. Surely the GC is the big one?


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54 minutes ago, BillyHills said:

Yeah, I love Tizzard, especially his interviews. He tries to make out he doesn't have a clue sometimes.

I'm sure you will be on Cue Card come the big day, must have a good E/W shout!:ok

Be rude not backing Cue Card G'

My daughter done me a moonpig card for Christmas that had all the Cheltenham info inside it, she had put 4 photo's on the front, Best Mate, Imperial Commander, Workforce and of course Cue Card.

Not sure why but Mr Tizzard always reminds me of Ralph from the Fast Show lol ..............Not in any bad way.

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On 1/11/2017, 3:14:16, arsenalfh said:

I thought the same after his reappearance but just look at how he absolutely destroyed Coneygree in the Betfair. For whatever reason he didn't run his race in the King George but the talk that Thistlecrack broke him is complete rubbish. From 4 to 3 out Thistlecrack only ran 4L quicker than 152 rated Might Bite despite the latter going considerably faster during the first part of the race. There's no way that is quick enough to ruin Cue Card's race and I believe he just wasn't right on the day causing him to run well below form. He's definitely a better horse at Haydock and Cheltenham too anyway.

The King George form is bad, the time was poor and Cue Card has an excuse. His Betfair Chase thrashing of Coneygree is the best form in the book and if he's anything like 16s or 20s when firms go NRNB that will be e/w bet of the century with the Lexus throwing up nothing of note.

Thistlecrack clearly stays well but from what I've seen over fences I think 2m 5f might be his optimum trip. Still doesn't jump exceptionally well and I think at this stage he's looking a little exposed over fences. His jumping is still iffy and since the Gold Cup was always the plan I'm sure they had him well schooled and forward at the start of the season. So although he's lightly raced I'm not sure if there's more improvement in him unless he drops in trip which is completely out of the question anyway.

All aboard the Cue Card train.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Have to disagree about Thistlecrack, he's a proper stayer in my eyes, just look at the way he destroyed decent horses last season over 3 miles.
No reason whatsoever he would want a shorter trip over the bigger obstacles and to say he is exposed is a little misguided.

Cue Card beat nothing at Ascot but he did it well, not a decent enough trial for the Gold Cup, wrong track, wrong trip and poor opposition. It was a good prep run but i was still more taken by Native River last week. That was a fine trial on the back of two of the toughest handicaps of the season, he looks a real danger to Thistlecrack.

The other thing is that we have Richard Johnson, Tom Scudamore and Paddy Brennan, i know which one i could trust on the big day in the Gold Cup!!



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Strange thing luck, really starting to think it might just be my Old Pal Cue Cards Gold Cup for the taking

Fell last year and gets beat in the King Geordie but Mr Tizzard reporting he returned home with a big fat leg

Could he ? Can he ? should he ? might he be ?

Lots to sit down and think about

I'll be there :loon



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My current ratings  for gold cup

Native river  99.33

Cue card  99.30

Sizing John   99,26

Outlander  99,24

Personally I think the gold cup will be won of these top two ...can't see anything else apart from sizing John improving enough ....Cue card is undoubtably talented but this race usually goes to the young pretender ..,the new kid on the block and native river fits that profile perfectly ....has been steadily rising the chasing ranks and the way he made the running last time suggests there's more to come if pushed but cue card won't go down easily ...I think this will be a battle royal but I'd expect the younger horse to just have more in the tank on the day ....currently you can get 7/2 on both !!....so that seems the strongest hand to play 

Cue card 20 pts win 7/2 sporting bet

Native river  20 pts win 7/2 totes

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2.10: County Hurdle

 Golden Spear EW 12/1 Betfair

One of the trickiest races of the whole meeting and it’s interesting that no horse rated over 140 has won in the last ten years. Another strong stat is that Irish trained runners have captured the prize seven times over the same period so you could do a lot worse that look at Golden Spear trained by the very shrewd Tony Martin. The 6yo was a good 4th at Ascot before Christmas and then was third at Leopardstown last time out, both in big field handicaps so he should go well here.

Of the others Harry Fry saddles Air Horse One who is going the right way and has now won his last three races including a handicap at Ascot last time out.

4.10: Foxhunters

Wonderful Charm 9/2 Skybet 

We have a very warm favourite for the Foxhunters once again this year with On The Fringe who is going for his third win in the race. The Irish have won this for the last six years so the signs are pretty good. On the downside he is now a 12yo and was beaten last time out by Foxrock so he might be worth taking on.

The highest rated horse in the field is Wonderful Charm trained by Paul Nicholls, he has won his last two without being hard pressed and is a superb traveller in his races. He jumps well and looks the best value to me in an intriguing contest.

4.50: Martin Pipe Cond' Jockeys

 No Comment 7/1 Bet365

This has gone to the top trainers over the last few years with both Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins winning it twice and further moere every winner since the race was established has carried more than 11st so that’s an obvious place to start in this puzzle of a handicap.
Phillip Hobbs saddles a nice improving novice in No Comment and he is on the ideal mark of 137. He has now won his last three and with two of those being at Plumpton he could be in line for a nice bonus that the track puts up each year. 
Owned by JP McManus who will be keen to capture this prize and his form last time out has received a boost when the second Minella Awards won at Sandown recently suggesting this is a very fair mark.
Willie Mullins has to be respected in a race he has won three times before and Battelford looks the pick of his entries and looks well weighted on a mark of 135.

5.30: Grand Annual

 Theinval EW 16/1 Hills

The final race of the Festival is the Grand Annual, a race trainer Nicky Henderson loves to win with it being named in the honour of his father. His best chance this season could be with Theinval who won at Plumpton last time out so will be in line for a bonus if he can win here. The class horse in the race is Dodging Bullets, a one time winner of the Champion Chase. Obviously he is not the force of old but still should be able to make his presence felt now back in a handicap. Kerry Lee runs Gino Trial who will blast out in front and could hang on for a place at a decent price.



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On 2/19/2017, 9:48:07, BillyHills said:

Have to disagree about Thistlecrack, he's a proper stayer in my eyes, just look at the way he destroyed decent horses last season over 3 miles.
No reason whatsoever he would want a shorter trip over the bigger obstacles and to say he is exposed is a little misguided.

Cue Card beat nothing at Ascot but he did it well, not a decent enough trial for the Gold Cup, wrong track, wrong trip and poor opposition. It was a good prep run but i was still more taken by Native River last week. That was a fine trial on the back of two of the toughest handicaps of the season, he looks a real danger to Thistlecrack.

The other thing is that we have Richard Johnson, Tom Scudamore and Paddy Brennan, i know which one i could trust on the big day in the Gold Cup!!

Thistlecrack was winning staying hurdles on the bridle putting the races to bed 2 furlongs out. Nothing was able to really test his stamina because the division is so poor.

If anything going chasing has made him more aggressive and exuberant. I didn't like the way he failed to extend when winning a sub par King George and I don't think Scudamore was holding onto a lot there to be honest. Again in the Cotswolds Chase he didn't find as much as you would think given the way he traveled through the race.

He clearly stays well but given the way he travels through his races I don't think it's outlandish to suggest he would be better over an intermediate trip. I'm not saying he should run in a Ryanair (if fit of course) because he clearly is an excellent staying chaser it's just I think he could run a few pounds better over shorter.

I don't think it's misguided to say he's a little exposed either. He's a 9 year old and the Gold Cup was the target before the season even started so I reckon they had him well forward. He won a weak King George and then was beaten by Many Clouds so I just never saw that much improvement in him going forward to Cheltenham (and beyond now).

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11 hours ago, richard-westwood said:

Grand annual 

Venetia Williams appears to be going to war here her garde forte and zamdy manmlook just the types she excels with and shes due a big prize so the prices onnoffer look huge 

Zamdy man 10pts win 24.0 betfair 

Garde forte 10pts win 33/1 coral 

Just adding croco bay to my team at 33/1 ...way overpriced so ill have 10pts 


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1.30: Triumph Hurdle

The home team has a strong hand in the race with the unbeaten Defi Du Seul and progressive Master Blueyes and French recruit Charli Parcs but I feel it’s the Irish that will take home the price.

If Bapaume would line up I’d be certainly interested in him but the market trend suggests he’s not going to be declared. So it’s left to the horse who has beaten him in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle last month: Mega Fortune.

I really do like the progression this good looking Soldier of Fortune son has made this season.He got closer and closer to the big guns in Graded races until eventually getting his head in front.

In the Leopardstown feature he jumped well but was most impressive once he put the foot on the gas pedal. He jumpedthe second last and wooosh off he went, in the end running strongly to the line.

I’ve got slight worries about the fast ground as he seemed to relish the juice in the ground the last time, but at given prices he’s a bit over here with only a handful of runners having a realistic chance to go close. Further progression must see him go close.

10pts Win – Mega Fortune @ 7/1 PP


2.10 County Hurdle

Gordon Elliott has a massive week so far and it might get even better because with Mick Jazz he has an exciting runner in the race. He won well on his first start for Elliott in October and was a fine runner-up behind Labaik, which looks brilliant form in hindsight.

He then went on to Fairyhouse Handicap where he travelled strongly behind a wall of horses but in the home straight then getting hampered twice, also making a mess of things at the second last, yet staying on strongly. Impressive!

After a break he produced another strong staying performance beating an odds-on Mullins horse at Punchestown. He looks the type ready made for Cheltenham. Even the ground is no worry. He could easily be better than his handicap mark.

Another one I really like to run big is Twiston Davise’s Crievehill. He’s probably getting in off a light weight. He’s progressive, his 3rd place behind Neon Wolf when last seen looks strong form and he might be still able to progress. The ground is a big worry as he never encountered anything less than soft, but at a big price he’s worth a punt.

10pts win – Mick Jazz @ 10/1 Bet365
5pts win – Crievehill @ 40/1 Betfair SB


2.50: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Death Duty may look like a good thing to many – but not to me. He could easily be too good, though at shortish odds I’m against him given he’s unproven on this ground and trip.

Two bigger prices are certainly of interest and seemingly underappreciated: there is the lightly raced Constantine Bay, who stepped up to 3m at Doncaster and produced a strong travelling yet incredibly game and tough performance in a ding dong finish, staying on very strongly. Traits you want to see in an Albert Bartlett contender.

Ami Desbois is the other one: Already  a seven year old, bit more experienced, he’s been improving this year, was only a lengths behind Wholestone over course and distance in December but the price difference in the betting would imply there is a whole world between the two.

I really like Wholestone, but if I do so, then I have to like Ami Desbois even more, given his progressive profile and much bigger price.

5pts win – Ami Desbois @ 33/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Constantine Bay @ 16/1 Bet365


3.30: Gold Cup Chase

Who’s the new champ? Native River most likely. Hard to be against him? He put in some big performances, is clearly on the up, has Cheltenham form and is only seven. Even if there is no rain arriving, the ground may not necessarily be too big an issue.

But at the given price I can’t have him. Plain and simple he’s got to prove it all now for the first time in Grade 1. He hasn’t done that before. This is the toughest test to date which he may pass with flying colours. But I have to see it to believe it.

The standard is set by Djakadam. Twice a runner-up in this race; seemingly enjoying a better preparation this time and the Mullins yard is bullish. Fact is he’s been here before and ran extremely well, but fact is also his win record is only average. He had a lot of hard races for a horse of his age, so I’m not convinced he is even able to run to his form of the last two years.

He may well, but again, price dictates that he’s not for me. Even at double the odds he’d not be my choice, I have to admit. And that might be unfair to the poor horse and he could easily prove me wrong. If he does: great for Willie Mullins and well deserved.

Looking elsewhere I cant have Cue Card either. The old boy seems to be nearly as good as ever. But does he truly stay the Gold Cup trip? I still have a few doubts. Another one who’d be a well deserved winner, don’t get me wrong. But there are good reasons to oppose him, at least at a shortish enough looking price.

Sizing John is an interesting case. He won’t see the backside of Douvan here, but will he actually have the stamina to get home? Big question mark in my book.

Lexus Chase winner Outlander is a serious horse, though one you never can be sure whether he’s on a good or a bad day. It concerns me that he has not been seen since Christmas. Maybe to keep him fresh. This quirky character is not for me.

Neither is More Of That, even if Jonjo is blullish. Maybe unlucky the last time when he fell in the Irish Gold Cup, but overall his form over fences is below the standard required to land a Gold Cup.

Brings me to the two I fancy – though as it is with each and everyone in this field, you can blow big holes into their form.

After landing the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock, Bristol De Mai was odds-on to land the Denman chase, where he was then a long way beaten by Native River. That form is not his true class and I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s clearly better than that.

Still only a six years old he could easily improve and develop into a top chaser. He may not, of course, that is also possible. At given prices I’m rather backing him to close the gap to the favourite.

Speaking of form that ties in with Native River: he was second at last years Festival behind Minella Rocco in the National Hunt Chase!  For Minella Rocco things did not go well since then. A decent comeback run followed by a fall and unseating his rider in his next two other starts this season.

Hard to know what to make of that. Confidence might be an issue. But if he can get his act together, which is more likely to happen at a place over a trip he has proven to be successful at, then he could be in the shake-up.

5pts win – Minella Rocco @ 25/1 WH
5pts win – Bristol De Mai @ 25/1 WH


.4.50: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap

There is no doubt that Battlefield ticks every box for me. Granted he gets in to the race, which looks rather likely (otherwise it’s money back anyway), he’ll be a big market mover come Friday I believe.

He had the perfect preparation in my mind, showed excellent form this year – his runner-up effort behind Monalee rates highly in my book. Most importantly he was here last year, finishing an agonisingly close second in the Champion Bumper.

Off a really nice mark he’s got a tremendous chance to win this race.

10pts win – Battlefield @ 8/1 Bet365


5.30: Grand Annual

Having fancied Le Prezien to have a chance to have a place chance in the Arkle and subsequently in the Brown Advisory, I have to fancy him for this, right?

The French recruit has had a good – albeit – light season so far, including a Grade 2 success here at Cheltenham. Hi seasonal reappearance when second behind Charbel looks increasingly strong form after his excellent performance in the Arkle on Tuesday.

Ground is a slight worry, but he looks potentially well in on handicap debut, so it’s the risk I take.

However there is another horse I even more fancy: that is Velvet Maker. I was incredibly keen on this lad last year in the very same race, where he bombed out. But he scoped badly- and had his issues in the aftermath, which meant he only made a reappearance last month.

That was an encouraging spin over hurdles where he travelled well and finished a nice third without getting a hard time. He should come on allot for the run – hopefully – with a 2lb lower mark than last year, fit and healthy this time around, I sense he’s a massive chance to lead from start to finish.

5pts win – Le Prezien @ 10/1 Bet365
10pts win – Velvet Maker @ 14/1 Bet365

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Here is my Foxhunter preview

Anseanachai Cliste – A horse I remember well from his time when owned by David Maxwell. I saw him run in a couple of points at Godstone under David and he didn’t look like a horse that wanted to know. He then ran in a hunter chase at Warwick when Will Biddick rode him and again he just wasn’t interested and pulled up. That was in 2015 and he went back to Ireland after that. He surprised me when finishing 5th at Leopardtown (in front of On The Fringe) last year and then he surprised me again when I saw how short he was in the betting for this. Following Leopardstown he went on to win 7 races on the bounce! I can’t quite believe it is the same horse I witnessed in 2015. Horses he beat include Valmy Baie and Quiet Account so the form isn’t bad. He hasn’t been seen since winning in June though and even though he clearly is a much better horse than he used to be, his form still looks below what is required to win this.

Ask The Weatherman – Been the big market mover for the race. He was going to be aimed at the Foxhunters last season, but he picked up an injury. He has won 8 of his 9 points and it is interesting watching his videos because he hasn't always looked visually impressive, but what does make you sit up and take notice are the times he has been clocking. Last season in his two runs he clocked the fastest time at Larkhill in soft ground when he won by 30L and it was the same story in even worse ground at Chipley. On his seasonal debut at Larkhill he recorded the fastest time by 7 seconds when beating Ceasar Milan by 15L and then he put in a very impressive performance when beating Rebel Rebellion on his Rules debut at Wincanton. I was impressed with his jumping that day and he looks to have all the qualities you need to win a Foxhunter. The problem is Rebel Rebellion disappointed at Leicester recently although you probably have to say he didn’t run his race. He won’t mind what the weather does, but if it does rain crucially we know he handles it. He looks like he stays all day and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he turned into a Grand National horse at some stage and Cappa Bleu who run the Foxhunter in 2009 went on to finish 4th and 2nd in the National.

Aupcharlie – Was 3rd in the 2011 Cheltenham Bumper and was only beaten just over 4L when 6th to On The Fringe in last year’s race. That was clearly a very good effort, but I just wonder if he was one of the suspect stayers to run well because of the way the race was run. Following the Cheltenham run he was a well beaten 7th to On The Fringe at Punchestown. This time around his season has been based on the Foxhunter. He was beaten in a point on February 11th and then bolted up at Fairyhouse on Saturday over 2m5f albeit it wasn’t a very strong hunter chase. That should have put him spot on for Cheltenham, but I still have my stamina concerns about him and although I can see him running well I don’t really see how he can reverse form with On The Fringe or Paint The Clouds. I suspect he will need a new jockey as well with Jamie Codd riding On The Fringe.

Balnaslow – Beat Foxrock in a point in December, but was a 9L 2nd to him at Down Royal on Boxing Day. Only 5th behind On His Own and 2nd to Home Farm in two starts since and that suggests he won’t be up to winning this. Was 4th in the 2014 Kim Muir.

Barel Of Laughs – A likeable horse who won the first hunter chase of the season at Taunton. Was 2nd over course and distance to Pearlysteps on hunter chase night here last April and as solid a run as that was it backs up the feeling he won’t be good enough to be involved in the finish here.

Black Thunder – Finished 7th behind The Druids Nephew at the 2015 Festival when he actually burst a blood vessel. Didn’t show a great deal after that, but proved himself more than up to hunter chase company when winning a hot race at Kelso. Given the 2 in behind have both won since it was a surprise he was beaten by Premier Portrait back at Kelso a couple of weeks ago. Now Premier Portrait is a decent pointer and is a horse I can see running a solid race in the Foxhunter, but even so it was disappointing he had little in the tank on the run-in. The closeness of the 3rd Wicklow Lad does little for the form either especially as that one was disappointing at Carlisle next time. Given his Dad owns it Sam Waley-Cohen has to ride him over Paint The Clouds, but I certainly think he is on the wrong horse.

Buckers Bridge – Well beaten 12th at last year’s Festival behind Empire Of Dirt and was 11th in the 2014 Grand National. Won a couple of open’s in Ireland including last time out, but overall form this season leaves him with something to find including 3rd in a Down Royal hunter chase to Foxrock.

Cottage Oak – Won his last two in points including on Sunday, but has no chance here.

Current Event – Was one of those non-stayers to benefit from the slower pace last year when finishing a close 4th. Was 4th at Aintree as well although beaten 25L then and he proved yet again he doesn’t stay this trip when a 35L to Pearlysteps over this course and distance on hunter chase night. Not run yet this season and his 3 riders to ride him in hunter chases are all booked on other mounts so it will be interesting to see who takes the ride this time around.

Dolatulo – Thought he benefitted from Grand Vision and Black Thunder racing from a long way out at Kelso and was possibly slightly flattered by that effort even though he should have won the race. Ran poorly at Warwick where the race came too soon after Kelso, but was back to form when bolting up Ffos Las in the Welsh Foxhunter. His jockey is very inexperienced and he wonders if he is ready for such a test as this. Has run at the last 3 Festivals and been well beaten on each occasion albeit he was a big price each time.

Grand Jesture – Given he has refused to race on his last three Rules starts he looks to be a pretty risky betting proposition. Has won a couple of Opens in Ireland this season, but was beaten at 1/2 on February 19th. The ability is there as he proves when 2nd to The Druids Nephew in the 2015 Festival, but he wouldn’t be for me given the large risk of him not starting.

Grand Vision – Was 4th in the 2015 Kim Muir and I thought he ran a really good race on his first run since when 3rd at Kelso, given how keen he was and he race Black Thunder from a long way out. Backed that up with a dominant performance at Warwick when beating Pearlysteps and then qualified for this when 2nd to Pacha Du Polder at Bangor over 2m4f. I suspect he can reverse that form over this trip and should be capable of running a good race. Was also 3rd to Brindisi Breeze in the 2012 Albert Barlett.

Lets Get Serious – Wouldn’t even win if he started now.

Mendip Express – 8th in this last year and then 3rd at Aintree and Punchestown. Was beaten at 2/9 on his seasonal debut at Ludlow last month, but Mr Mercurial is a good horse on his day and he should come on for that run. Even so it is hard to see how he can reverse form with On The Fringe and at most he has a place chance.

Minella For Value – Refused when returning to pointing in Ireland this season, but has won three of his next four including beating First Lieutenant. The other time he was 2nd to Sweet As A Nut though and I looks to have a fair bit to find based on that.

On The Fringe – One of the best (if not the best) hunter chasers we have ever seen and it was a fantastic achievement to land the treble for the 2nd time last season. No doubt will be bidding to land the treble treble this season and he proved at Leopardstown last time that he is in great form. He jumped really well and was just beaten by the match fit Foxrock. That was a big improvement from his run in that Leopardstown race last year and that can only bode well for his bid to land the hat-trick. I thought last year that the ride Nina gave him got him out of jail as I don’t think he was at his best, but that Leopardstown run suggests he is further forward this season. He sets a very tough standard for the newcomers to aim at. I am sure some of you reading this will have purchased the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide and ATR’s Kevin Blake has written a few banker or busts for the 4 days and one of his busts was On The Fringe. The main reason for this was because he feels the demands of this race don’t suit him. 2 years ago I pretty much wrote that and I think I may have even said they shouldn’t bother running him in this race and just focus on the Aintree version. Fortunately for me he still won at Aintree, but he bolted up at Cheltenham first. Now the soft ground was against Paint The Clouds and past him it wasn’t a strong race, so I can sort of see Kevin’s point about maybe that run isn’t as good as it looks visually. It is also true when Kevin points out he went on to produce better efforts last season than he did in this which he also did the other two times he has run at Cheltenham. However I think he has missed a crucial factor about the horse last season. He was injured which held him up and that clearly showed when he ran so poorly at Leopardstown. I think they were always playing catch up with him after that and he still wasn’t at his peak come March. As I mention above this year his run at Leopardstown proves he is much further forward and I would imagine he is ready to peak this time around.

Pacha Du Polder – Was obviously the talking horse of last year’s race when flying up the hill to finish 5th under Victoria Pendleton. Bryony Frost is set to take the ride this time around and his win at Bangor when beaten Grand Vision showed he is back in good form this season. I think he was flattered by last year’s run though because he had his stamina protected and they went a slow pace so it wasn’t a test of stamina. Was 3rd behind Paint The Clouds at Stratford and I don’t see how he can reverse form with him let alone win.

Paint The Clouds – Won the same Doncaster race for the 3rd year running last month and it was a good effort as including jockey’s claims he was giving 13lbs to the 2nd Ardea who is a decent hunter chaser in his own right. That effort should put him spot on for Cheltenham. The slow pace was against him last year and he just got going too late to overhaul Marito and On The Fringe on the run-in. The year before when he was also 3rd the ground went against him and if he gets decent ground and a fast pace he will have a major say yet again. Won the big race at Stratford for the 2nd time last year under Barry O’Neill who picks up the spare ride again here. As good as Sam is, I thought Barry gave him a hell of a ride to win that night and I think it is big plus to his chances that Barry is on again. That effort proved he was the best hunter chaser from these shores and he should be capable of going close once more.

Pentiffic – Won the Grand National Chase when he was trained in Australia and has won 3 hunter chases since turning to them in 2014. Usually runs on when the race is over, but ran as well as could

be expected when 2nd to Wonderful Charm in the Walrus last time. Probably capable of a mid field finish if he were to take his chance as he will keep going when others have cried enough.

Premier Portrait – Has been a winning machine in points over the last two years and caused a massive upset when beating the 1/8 Black Thunder at Kelso last time. I certainly think this test will suit as he can get himself outpaced, but as he showed when 3rd at Horseheath the time before as well as at Kelso, he can finish his races off well. The suspicion is though that Black Thunder underperformed and given Wicklow Lad, who finished a close 3rd, ran poorly at Carlisle last week that also puts a question mark over the form. What I can imagine happening though is him getting out paced and then staying on past beaten horses and as much as it probably won’t see him hitting the frame it should be enough for a top 10 finish.

Salsify – He looked along way below his best on his seasonal return at Thurles when falling heavily behind Foxrock. He ran much better behind the same horse at Leopardstown last time though which was good to see. Even so it is hard to see him adding to his two wins in the race on the form he has shown in the last couple of years.

Sweet As A Nut – Has even less experience than Ask The Weatherman having only had the 7 starts. He started off his season early when winning a winners of 2 race at Castletown, before running out on his next start. He was then 3rd in his first start in open company Dromahane behind Sydney Paget in November. He made his hunter chase debut over Christmas at Limerick and he couldn’t have been more impressive when bolting up by 15L although it was a pretty weak contest. He qualified for this when winning an open at Tallowlast month. Does look progressive, but he is going to have to improve a lot to win this. Would be some feat to win this as well given he only made his debut in December 2015 although the vibes have been fairly strong regarding his chances from the Irish.

Warden Hill – Fairly useful under Rules for Mick Channon and didn’t run too badly when 3rd over course and distance last April off 137. He fell on his pointing debut in December, but then won well in January before finishing 2nd at Fakenham to Carlton Ryan. He did get hampered at the last although it is unlikely he would have won and he will struggle here.

Wonderful Charm – Won a couple of Grade 2 chases in the past and currently has a BHA rating of 153. Has not had to be extended to win the Scottish Foxhunter at Musselburgh and The Walrus at Haydock and the win there means he has a chance of going for a £10k bonus. Beating Carlton Ryan as easily as he did was a superb effort as he is a useful hunter chaser himself. The problem I have is that Paul Nicholls has come out and said that the horse has had a few wind ops and that he still has an issue with his wind. He wears a tongue-tie in his races which backs that point up. Winning a Cheltenham Foxhunter is very different from beating lesser rivals on the bridle on a flat track and I just wonder how much he is going to find once he comes off the bridle. I’d be surprised if he can win this on the bridle and if his wind becomes an issue under pressure then he looks opposable to me. Katie Walsh is a decent jockey booking although she said her best bet of the meeting was On The Fringe at a recent Festival preview night. To put his hunter chase runs into context he has been given a loose-leaf (the pointing and hunter chase formbook) rating of 11-6 which is 1lb higher than Marito and Paint The Clouds achieved last season and 5lbs below On The Fringe. The final point to make is I have seen one tipster state that Wonderful Charm is well in with On The Fringe based on BHA ratings. However BHA ratings aren’t really worth looking at when it comes to hunter chases. If Wonderful Charm was capable of winning a handicap off 153 he would not be running in this and in my view he certainly isn’t any better than Foxrock and given I think a race fit On The Fringe would be capable of beating Foxrock, I think he can beat Wonderful Charm here.

Summary – There seem to be vibes in Ireland for the chances of Sweet As A Nut and Aupcharlie but neither massively appeal to me. The former is clearly progressive, but has to improve a fair bit on what he has shown us so far. Aupcharlie has been trained with this race in mind, but I can’t help thinking he was a bit flattered by his 6th in this last year as he benefitted by the slower than normal pace and I think he might struggle to stay in a truly run race. Wonderful Charm is respected and if his wind doesn’t stop him then he has the class to go close, but his wind issues are enough to put me off him. I backed Ask The Weatherman prior to the Wincanton run and was very pleased after the race, but it does concern me Rebel Rebellion wasn’t for whatever reason able to boost the form at Leicester. Even so I think he looks like a horse with a lot of potential and I can easily see him turning into a National type next season. He is proven on any ground so he won’t mind what the weather does and I believe he has the ability to go close. The one horse who I think is overpriced is Paint The Clouds as granted good ground he shouldn’t be a double figure price. He has been 3rd in the last two runnings and it is easy to see him hitting the frame again at the very least. I do however think On The Fringe is going to be very tough to beat. He is clearly further forward than last season and I suspect he can put in a better performance than he did in this race last year. If he does than it is hard to see him getting beat. His price is obviously reflective of his chances though, but as I suspected his price has gone back out a bit already and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets even bigger on Friday morning as the bookies start competing for business.

1st On The Fringe

2nd Paint The Clouds

3rd Ask The Weatherman

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Defi De Seoul  99.04

Mega fortune  99.01

Defi de seuil has won as he like last two races and proven himself at chelt ..,.seems there is still a lot more in the tank so will be hard to beat...mega fortune is improving fast and if takes another step further shoukd run a big race ..looks fab value ew around 10/1 !!

Defi De seuil 20pts win 9/4 bet365

10pts win mega fortune 10/1 betvic

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On 15/03/2017, 20:04:54, richard-westwood said:

County hurdle 

Air horse one and tell us more are improving types and thats just what you need for this big race ,.,16/1 on both looks a fab price 

Air horse one 10pts win 16/1 sb

Tell us more 10pts win 16/1 willh

Mick jazz looks a decent horse and Just the type to do well in this race and Elliot has had a fantastic meeting so far  so I'd expect a great run from this horse now 

Mick jazz 20pts win 8/1 bet365

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