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Road to the Cheltenham Festival Hunter Chase 2022


Darran
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If you are new to reading this thread then a couple of years ago I decided to do a Road to the Cheltenham Foxhunter thread given all the various Cheltenham pieces never mention the contest. It has proved popular and it is back again as we build up to the race. It is later than usual this season for a couple of reasons. First of all bookies have been very slow to price the race up and secondly not too much has happened especially this side of the Irish sea.

To start with I have written about every horse who has been priced up so far and added a couple that aren’t, but that are being targeted at the race. Hopefully you will find this useful and as always I will update as and when.

Billaway – Not surprisingly the current favourite to finally get his head in front at Cheltenham and I have a feeling at this stage he might just well do it. Having said that his current price is no value and his nonappearance so far this season is a concern. He was entered in the opening Irish hunter chase of the season at Fairyhouse, but didn’t run and then didn’t even get an entry at Down Royal on Boxing Day. Both those things make me think he is injured at the moment or at the very least recovering from an injury. As always with horses being aimed at this race we rarely hear anything about their well being and until we see him on a racecourse I wouldn’t be backing him.

Bob And Co – Obviously wont be seen until hunter chases start up in this country and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he followed the same route as last season when he won at Haydock prior to going to Cheltenham.

Porlock Bay – Last year’s winner wasn’t seen again after that success and he made his seasonal reappearance at Chaddesley Corbett over Christmas. He finished 2nd to Premier Magic that day beaten a length in the end, but Will Biddick said after the race that he left plenty to work on and that he was working back from Cheltenham. The fact he was beaten doesn’t make me think that he couldn’t hold on to his crown in March as I do think he will improve a lot for race. Reading between the lines of what Will said after the race he clearly thought Porlock Bay would beat Premier Magic should they take each other on again and I agree with him. I wouldn’t want to back him yet, but at the same time I would have him in single figures rather than the 12/1 he is with Bet365. He looks set to run again this month in either a hunter chase or a point as his final prep for Cheltenham. Premier Magic isn’t priced up yet, but it did sound like he would be going to Cheltenham as well. He’s a good horse and Bradley Gibbs mentioned he had improved from last season. I do think he was the fitter horse at Chaddesley rather than being the better horse.

Latenightpass – As short as 8/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair, but connections have said they will skip Cheltenham and aim him at Aintree instead which seems sensible and they have two other horses to target at the race anyway.

Staker Wallace – 4th and 3rd in the last two runnings and could still have improvement to come. Has yet to be seen so far this season. Paddy Power and Betfair go 7s which is closer to the price I would have him at rather than the 20/1 Unibet have put him in at.

Mighty Stowaway – Already run 7 times between October and the end of December and he’s won 2 points and head heated in another. He was 3rd behind Vaucelet at Fairyhouse in November and it is hard to see on what he has shown so far this season how he is going to improve on his well beaten 6th at Cheltenham last year.

Lord Schnitzel – Was pulled up at the 2020 Festival in the Novice Handicap Chase off 139 and didn’t so a great deal after that. He change trainers last summer and started off by finishing 5th in a Kilbeggan maiden hurdle, before finishing 2nd in his 1st point in September. Since then he has thrived as he won 3 points on the bounce before trouncing his rivals in a maiden hunter chase at Limerick over Christmas. That was an impressive performance and it will be interesting to see what he does in a stronger race, but his trainer said after the race that they may skip Cheltenham and go to Aintree instead.

Winged Leader – Surprised to see him in the beating to be honest as I’d be surprised if he ran, but dead heated with Mighty Stowaway in his only run so far this season. Just struggle to see how he would find the improvement needed to play a part if he did travel.

It Came To Pass – Was a well beaten 7th last year after beating Billaway by 10L in 2020. Has run in 3 points this season so far and after being stuffed in the first of them finished a close 2nd next time before beating Killultagh Vic by a couple of lengths on Sunday. For a novice riders race it was a decent heat, but at this stage I find it hard to see him getting close to his 2020 effort.

Killultagh Vic – Speaking of Killultagh Vic he is also priced up and it was back in 2015 that he landed the Martin Pipe. Obviously has the back class, but he’s now 13 and given he’s been beaten in 2 points this season as well as one last season he will probably do well to qualify for the race let alone win it.

Cloudy Tuesday – Is unexposed and easily won a hunter chase at Thurles last March, before pulling up at Fairyhouse. This season he beat It Came To Pass first up, but was then 2nd to Mighty Stowaway last month and he would need to find improvement to play a part at Cheltenham.

Another Venture – Nicky Henderson doesn’t send too many hunter chasing, but he mentioned that this horse had been purchased to go hunter chasing under his assistant George Daly. George rode him at Cheltenham at the November meeting and ran well enough to finish 3rd albeit 16L behind the winner. In all honestly I think the only reason he has been priced up is because of who he is trained by as his previous rules form wouldn’t be good enough to win this, but he does look capable of winning hunter chases during the season.

Vaucelet – Had Premier Magic and Fumet d’Oudairies behind him win when landing the John Corbet Cup at Stratford last season and he did it will that day on only his 5th start. He returned this term to win a point by 30L before landing the first hunter chase of the season at Fairyhouse. I thought he still looked green that day and it made me think that this season’s Cheltenham Festival might be a year to soon for him. He then went to Down Royal on Boxing Day in a race he really ought to have been good enough to win, but he was only 3rd in the end. He was making hard work of it, but coming to 2 out I thought he was going to win given how well he stays. I was disappointed that he didn’t keep finding at that point and that he faded into 3rd. Some might say that the trip was too short, but for me the trip didn’t get him beat. It will be interesting to see what he does next time, but if he were mine I wouldn’t send him to Cheltenham this season and I think they would be better allowing him some more time. Dorking Cock won that Down Royal contest and he got up to a rating of 129 when trained over here by Tom Lacey. He was a surprise winner at Down Royal and he wouldn’t be good enough for this based on what he had done previously, but he’s only had 17 starts so maybe there is more to come. He’s not in the betting at the moment, but the 2nd home Er Dancer is. He had won a couple of points prior to Down Royal and it does seem like he’s found some improvement this season. He ran like he needed further and could possibly be interesting if the improvement continues.

Fumet d’Oudairies – An incredible buy at just £800 given he is 5 from 6 in points and he has won a couple of hunter chases. I thought he was impressive at Leicester and Cheltenham although they were over 2m4f and 2m respectively and he was only 2nd to Vaucelet at Stratford and that would lead me to think he might struggle to stay in this. He returned on New Years Eve where he had a very easy task at Horseheath under his new jockey Gina Andrews as her brother has now gone pro. I’d want to see him prove he can stay this far under rules and Gina is likely to have a tricky choice to make as the yard have another contender.

Dubai Quest – That other horse is Dubai Quest and at this stage I would favour him over his stablemate. Apart from when he fell on his debut for the yard he has won his other 6 starts for them including bolting up in a hunter chase at Fakenham last February. His only other start last season was a point win at Maisemore. This season he returned in what will probably be the hottest Ladies Open we see all season at Chaddesley Corbett which he won well beating Tango de Juilley and Red Indian. I think it’s seriously good form and connections suggested the hunter chase at Wetherby next month would be used as his Cheltenham prep. He’s not priced up yet, but he ought to be.

Highway Jewel – You may remember that I tipped her up at 66/1 last year only for the trainer to forget to enter her! She has been put in the betting at 20/1 with Bet365 this time around and she has yet to run this season. I think she is better than her stablemate Premier Magic and she would be my pick of the Gibbs runners. I can’t wait to see her back in action.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for the 2nd update for the season and the obvious place to start is with the Thurles hunter chase which saw Billaway make his seasonal debut. I wondered if he'd had a setback in the opening post and I was right to think that with Willie Mullins confirming in his Sporting Life column that the horse would need the run after having suffered a setback. When you add into the fact that he doesn't have a great first time out record then I think the run was perfectly respectable. It's not unusual for him to come off the bridle so that doesn't bother me and his jumping isn't always foot perfect either so again that wasn't a huge surprise. Once he couldn't win the race Patrick wasn't overly hard on him and just made sure that he finished 2nd. He was pushed out to 6/1 after the race which surprised me as I reckon we will see a much improved performance next time out now he has got this opening run under his belt.

Winged Leader was the winner of the race and he has been cut from 20/1 into 8/1 2nd favourite for Cheltenham. It was a good front running performance and his trainer said he would be entered for Cheltenham although he thinks he might be more one for Aintree. In my first piece I rubbished his chances for Cheltenham, but regardless of the 2nd needing the run it was clearly an improved performance from his previous form. At this stage though I still don't rate him as a possible winner of this race and I would back Billaway to reverse the form as he clearly had a fitness edge over him on Sunday. Its All Guesswork and Stand Up And Fight were 3rd and 4th and are in some bookies prices, but neither look likely winners.

I shall stay in Ireland and look at another Willie Mullins horse called Good Bye Sam. When I was looking through the odds I thought who on earth is this horse at 20/1 in the betting as I had never heard of him. Turns out he had a few runs in France without winning the last of which was in October 2020. Since then he has gone to the Mullins yard and on the 15th January he finished 2nd in a maiden point. Clearly someone must have asked around for a price because otherwise the bookies wouldn't have priced him up. I know he's a great trainer, but it would be some feat to even get him qualified for Cheltenham let alone for him to be a possible winner of the race.

At Turtulla on January 16th Aloneamongmillions made a winning seasonal debut. He was quite high in the betting for this race last year before finishing 3rd at Down Royal and then disappointing at Naas a year ago. This was his first run since and it was good to see him get back to winning ways. He's not in the betting at the moment and I don't know if this is the target, but he ought to be in the betting. He had Er Dancer 3L back in 2nd and Killultagh Vic was well beaten in 4th. Both of those 2 are in the betting, but the latter has little chance of qualifying now.

With hunter chases starting back up this side of the Irish Sea we will start to see who the leading candidates will be for the British although I doubt anything from the first two will trouble the judge at Cheltenham and that is even if they run. Hogan's Height won well at Ludlow under a good Gina Andrews ride, but his trainer didn't sound like this race was the target although if he qualified his owners might well fancy a runner at the Festival. He is 33/1 and to me that represents the sort of chance he would have.

At Warwick we saw some disappointing efforts especially from Kimberlite Candy, but Reikers Island was a good winner under a superb front running ride. He has been put in at 25/1, but his trainer has said that Aintree is his target as his owner wants to ride him over the National fences.

On Sunday Highway Jewel made a winning seasonal appearance at Chipley Park in a Mixed Open. It was only a 3 runner race, but her two opponents had already both won this season so she wasn't beating no hopers and they both had race fitness on their side. She made all and put the race to bed in impressive style at 3 out. Understandably she got a bit tired on the run-in, but she clocked by far the quickest time on the card despite being eased off late on. If she had won under Rules then her price would have shortened, but because it was a point she was unchanged at a general 20/1. I wouldn't mind seeing her get some more experience in a Hunter Chase pre Cheltenham, but she certainly looks in good nick at the price is a fair one.

Last year's winner Porlock Bay has a hunter chase entry at Hereford on Monday and a point entry at Milborne St Andrew the day before so it looks like we might well see him in action in the next few days.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Time for the latest round up and I will start with the Hunter Chase at Wetherby on Saturday which saw Dubai Quest continue the picket fence and make it 7 on the bounce. He's beaten a decent field and I think Le Breuil is a solid yardstick back in 2nd. We also are able to do a time comparison with Ahoy Senor with both races over the same distance. Not surprisingly Dubai Quest was slower, but it was only 9 seconds and Dubai Quest was carrying 12-2 compared with Ahoy Senor who carried just 11-5. For me that is suggests Dubai Quest has put in a very good performance. What he didn't always do though was jump well and that is obviously a concern regarding Cheltenham as he is unlikely to get away with a similar jumping display their. What I will say though is he seemed to jump better at the business end of the race and maybe he will be better in a race run at a strong gallop. At this stage though he is on my shortlist of possible winners. He was as big as 25/1 before Wetherby and is now as short as 10/1, but Bet365 are biggest at 16/1. I thought Le Breuil ran a perfectly good race in 2nd, but quite why 365 also have him at 16/1 I don't know as I can't see him reversing the form. He also isn't qualified yet and would need to finish 1st or 2nd in another hunter chase by the end of the month and I can see him turning up at Fontwell for the final chance to qualify. Law Of Gold was a big disappointment and was never travelling. Connections said they wouldn't run him at Cheltenham again after he ran poorly in the race last year and unless they have had a change of heart I can't see him lining up. Also if they were considering it Saturday might have put them off. He is 50/1 with 365.

365 have also stuck Solider Of Love in the betting at 33/1 but he was another Nicholls horse to disappoint of late and he would have to improve massively to be a realistic contender here. What it did at least do is give him one of his qualifying runs for the race. Nicholls' Alcala also disappointed at Wincanton when West Approach won the match race. He is 16/1 with Coral and Ladbrokes and still needs to qualify, but you would imagine connections will be looking to do so to give Freddie a ride in the race. He would be an unlikely winner for me at this stage though and it is hard to know how much he actually achieved at Wincanton given his rival didn't run his race. It did though look an improvement on his Warwick effort.

The previous Saturday the Ellis team had another Cheltenham contender win in the shape of Fumet d'Oudairies at Horseheath. There were only 3 runners and only one other horse finished, but he made hard work of winning the race and the time wasn't anything special. I would be very surprised if Gina didn't chose Dubai Quest over him at Cheltenham and he looks too short at 12/1-16/1. The day after that last year's 4th Latenightpass ran at Alnwick and fell at the last when still a length in front. As mentioned in the first post though the Ellis team are set to send him just to Aintree this season and his one horse near the head of the market who you can more than likely say wont run. Red Indian won the race in the end and it was a decent effort as was his 3rd to Dubai Quest 1st up. He's not in the betting, but he might well run in the race.

Another yard who might have more than one runner is the Gibbs stable and Premier Magic won his 2nd race of the season just over a week ago at Milborne St Andrew. The final time was slow, but the final circuit time was quick and although he didn't have much to beat he did do it impressively. Connections weren't saying much about Cheltenham plans after the race so it is hard to know if they will run both him and Highway Jewel or not. His price ranges from 12/1-16/1 and although I would fancy his stablemate more at this stage I do think he has improved this season.

On Sunday in Ireland Lord Schnitzel was back in action in a point, but he was beaten by 12yo Na Trachtalia Abu and that form is nowhere near good enough for this.

I missed Mighty Stowaway winning on the 16th January in my previous update and he bolted up in an impressive performance. Even so it still hasn't changed my mind on him doing well to improve on his 6th in this last year. 

Speaking of Mighty Stowaway he is one of 10 entered in the main prep hunter chase in Ireland at Naas on Saturday. Billaway, Cloudy Tuesday, Er Dancer and Good Bye Same are also entered.

Porlock Bay has been entered all over the place in the last couple of weeks and could go at Bangor on Friday.

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It was good to see Salvatore bounce back to form at Bangor on Friday and he travelled and jump the best he has for a year. I thought he was given a good ride by Darren and he used his incitive to get the ride in the first place when he phoned up the trainer on Tuesday night when he realised Will would be riding Porlock Bay. He clearly loves testing ground as well and I suggest connections keep him to that now. He might have half a chance at Cheltenham if it did come up testing, but even then I am not sure Unibet's quote of 12/1 makes any appeal. I suspect he would only go if it was soft or worse anyway and William Hill go a best price of 20/1. Not surprisingly Porlock Bay was pushed out for Cheltenham after finishing 2nd. Now he was giving weight to the winner and clearly Will has left a bit to work on, but for me it was a disappointing effort. I think it was a worse run than his Chaddesley effort so it means he has gone backwards since then. I know he was beaten at Wincanton last year, but he should have won that and the front two pulled miles clear of the rest that day so I think it was a better run. His price ranges from 8/1 to 16/1 with Bet365 and whilst I probably wouldn't go as big as 16s at the moment I really think he has a question mark over his Cheltenham chances now. Will really needs to hope he has left a lot to work on. The thing that worries me about the strength of the form is the closeness of the 3rd Dieu Vivant because he was proven himself to be a pretty average horse who struggles to get his head in front. Another Venture looks unlikely to qualify for Cheltenham now and although he wasn't given the best of rides here it was still a lesser effort than his Ludlow one.
 
Whilst Porlock Bay was beaten Billaway looked really impressive at Naas yesterday. Apart from one mistake at 5 out he's jumped really well and he has also travelled equally as well and didn't hit the flat spot he can sometimes do. It was hard not to be impressed although I will add that you would expect him to beat that field in the way that he did. He shortened up at the head of the market for Cheltenham and 7/2 with Betfair and Betfred is the best on offer at the moment. I certainly think he is the right favourite at the moment although we should get to see what Bob And Co has to offer this week as he is entered at Kelso and no doubt will be entered at Haydock on Saturday as well. He beat his stablemate Good Bye Sam into 2nd and that is one of his qualifying runs for Cheltenham ticked off, but surely he is just going to look to win a maiden next time rather than bid to qualify for Cheltenham. He is still as short as 10/1 with Paddy Power and as big as 20/1, but I still don't see how he even lines up in the race and he clearly isn't as good as Billaway at the moment. Cloudy Tuesday is still in the betting with some bookies, but he was well beaten here.
 
If the weather allows then Bob And Co will either be heading to Kelso or more likely Haydock later on in the week. West Approach will be looking to qualify at Lingfield on Tuesday. Pure Vision has also been entered at Haydock so he could be looking to qualify there.
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A quick update. Mighty Stowaway ran in a point on Sunday and pulled up which was obviously very disappointing and clearly he still looks like an unlikely winner to me. 

At Lingfield on Tuesday Dolphin Square won his 2nd hunter chase. He was already qualified for this after his hunter chase runs last season, but given Maxwell will be riding Bob And Co he's surely only going to run if something happens to Bob And Co. I know Bet365 are NRMB so at least those who have backed him with them have that get out clause, but the 7s they go looks very short to me. It was an easy enough win, but I don't think the form is very strong and I still wonder if he is a better hurdler than chaser. West Approach didn't finish in the first 2 so unless he turns up at Doncaster or Fontwell next week he wont be qualified for the race.

Speaking of qualification it looks like Hogan's Height isn't going to Cheltenham as he's running at Sandown on Thursday. I find it hard to believe they will run him again next week unless he departs early doors so he will not have qualified. As I thought at the time of his Ludlow win if he was going to go anywhere it would be Aintree.

Finally I read Derek O'Connor's article in the Racing Post on Wednesday and he thinks the Irish are seriously lacking in depth in the race this year and I certainly agree with him. He doesn't think it will be 3rd time lucky for Billaway and thinks Winged Leader will give a good account of himself. The only other one he mentions is Aloneamongmillions and he could be the forgotten horse if he gets an entry. 

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Clearly a plan was hatched by Cousin Pascal's connections to not make the running and because of that they went very slowly which played right into Cousin Pascal's hands. Bob And Co and Overworkdunderpaid should have been looking to make it a stiff test of stamina which would have suited them and not the winner, but instead they just crawled until late on and turned it into a sprint. I can imagine that Paul Nicholls might have said to Maxwell not to give him a hard race with Cheltenham in mind and so Maxwell didn't want to go any quicker, but it didn't help his chances at all. Nicholls is happy with him after the race having left a bit to work on with Cheltenham in mind and he still looks a leading player at Cheltenham. He was pushed out to 12/1 with Bet365 and was 10/1 with Paddy's and Betfair but that was taken and he's only 8s with them two now. Overworkdunderpaid clearly ran very well as well and clearly would also prefer a stiffer test of stamina. The jockey's experience would be a concern at Cheltenham and he would have been fitter than Bob And Co, but I think the performance gave hope that he could run well at Cheltenham. He is as big as 33s and as short as 20s for the race next month. 

After the race the winner's trainer said he would be going back to Aintree and wouldn't be going to Cheltenham, but the owner in Monday's Racing Post mentioned that he might actually go to Cheltenham. He was cut from 25/1 to 12/1 with Bet365 after the win and is as low as 10s. I can see why his owner is tempted by the Festival, but I can't see him winning at Cheltenham and they would be better off just focusing on Aintree.

There was some interesting quotes from Will Biddick a couple of days ago when he said that he had been disappointed with Porlock Bay at Bangor and that he felt like he didn't stay. Due to that he was considering missing Cheltenham and going to Aintree. Now given he won the race last year it seemed a slightly odd thing to say, but it could just be a sign that he's not in the same form as last season at this stage. Funnily enough last season I said that they should skip Cheltenham and go to Aintree with him because it would suit him better. Clearly I got that wrong, but as I said after the Bangor race it was a step backwards form wise for me and waiting for Aintree could be the sensible option.

Cat Tiger who is in the betting with 3 bookies is going for the Kim Muir.

Meanwhile Jett being aimed at this race took me by surprise after he won at Kelso last week. I thought he would just be going to Aintree, but Sam said after the race that they would try to qualify him for Cheltenham first. He had a very simple task at Kelso, but he potentially could be a big player in the race. Bet365 have him at 10/1 and he is set to run at Doncaster on Wednesday where I am guessing Le Breuil will also be trying to qualify. Dolphin Square is also set to run at Doncaster and he is shorter than Bob And Co in some places for Cheltenham despite the fact his owner will be riding the latter. 

Jett is also in at Fontwell on Sunday in case something goes wrong at Doncaster no doubt although Pure Vision is likely to try and qualify in the last hunter chase before entries close.

Meanwhile in what has to be one of the most bizarre additions to any betting market I have ever seen the Luke Harvey trained Spanish Jump has been added by a few bookies. Luckily they are mainly NRNB because he only won a maiden last time and I have just as much chance of running in this race as he does!

Also we have still to see Staker Wallace this season who is as short as 8/1 for the race. He has been a hard horse to keep sound so maybe he could turn up on his seasonal debut, but he would look doubtful at this stage. He hasn't been entered in any of the Irish points this weekend and neither has Good Bye Sam so he wont be qualified to run.

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Billaway looking rock solid, can't see it being 10/3 on the day. 

Any more thoughts on Jett? Will he be suited by this test? He got a RPR of 152 back in December suggesting he retains lots of his ability and would put him right there. Might be worth a saver.

Can't have Bob and Co with Maxwell riding, probably had his chance last year.

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9 hours ago, yossa6133 said:

Billaway looking rock solid, can't see it being 10/3 on the day. 

Any more thoughts on Jett? Will he be suited by this test? He got a RPR of 152 back in December suggesting he retains lots of his ability and would put him right there. Might be worth a saver.

Can't have Bob and Co with Maxwell riding, probably had his chance last year.

The problem is if Billaway is actually any value even at the current price. He's the right favourite and I think he will reverse the form with Winged Leader, but just wonder if the value might lay elsewhere. Bob And Co beat him with Maxwell up at Punchestown and he's riding much better this year than he was last year don't let him riding put you off. We need to see Jett in a race, but that Doncaster run was huge for me and the form looks strong. Very unusual I haven't had a bet yet and I can't see me having one before the day now.

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One of Highway Jewels owners has confirmed to me that she misses the race as she has had a little setback. A real shame after she missed it last year as well, but will mean Premier Magic will be the trainers super sub.

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So final update before the entries close today. Dolphin Square was cut in the betting after he won at Doncaster, but he wont be running at Cheltenham. They ended up skipping Doncaster with Jett and instead head to Fontwell for an easier task. Whilst he did qualify for Cheltenham you have to say he was rather disappointing. Shantou Flyer is clearly a good horse still and capable of performing to a high level. Whilst I'm sure Sam didn't want to give Jett too hard a race with Cheltenham in mind, but he just look very laboured in finishing 2nd. He hit the front and I thought he was going to go on and win the race, but he seemed to not really want to go through with his effort and it allowed the winner to go back in front. I had Jett on my shortlist prior to Fontwell as that Doncaster effort looked really good, but it's hard to fancy him for the race after Sunday. Meanwhile Shantou Flyer will get a Cheltenham entry as a super sub in case something happens to Bob And Co. Certainly not a bad horse to have in reserve especially as he loves Cheltenham and if he did end up running in the race he would surely have place claims, but as for winning it I can't really see it. For me he's had better chances of winning this in the past and I don't see where the improvement would come from for him to go and win it.

Slightly surprisingly Pure Vision skipped Fontwell and instead runs at Leicester today, but that means he won't be going to Cheltenham in a couple of weeks as he isn't qualified. Maybe we will see him at Aintree instead.

Usually we don't see the entries until the day after they close so I will post them on here as soon as I see them.

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It has been confirmed that Porlock Bay is going to miss Cheltenham and hasn't been entered. He was found to have a lung condition after a scope and wont be ready for Cheltenham but should be ready for Aintree. At least we now know why he ran below par at Bangor.

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Surprisingly I have seen the entries already. There are 31 of them and no surprise that Stake Wallace isn't entered, but a surprise to see Highway Jewel and Cat Tiger among them.

Back Bar

Billaway
Bob And Co
Cat Tiger
Cousin Pascal
Desire de Joie
Don Bersy
Dubai Quest
Fumet d'Oudairies
Highway Jewel
I'm Wiser Now
It Came To Pass
Its All Guesswork
Jett
Latenightpass
Lord Schnitzel
Mighty Stowaway
Monbeg Chit Chat
Moratorium
Overworkdunderpaid
Point The Way
Poli Roi
Pont Aven
Premier Magic
Rewritetherules
Senor Lombardy
Shantou Flyer
Tango de Juilley
Vaucelet
Winged Leader
Zamparelli
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12 hours ago, Darran said:

So final update before the entries close today. Dolphin Square was cut in the betting after he won at Doncaster, but he wont be running at Cheltenham. They ended up skipping Doncaster with Jett and instead head to Fontwell for an easier task. Whilst he did qualify for Cheltenham you have to say he was rather disappointing. Shantou Flyer is clearly a good horse still and capable of performing to a high level. Whilst I'm sure Sam didn't want to give Jett too hard a race with Cheltenham in mind, but he just look very laboured in finishing 2nd. He hit the front and I thought he was going to go on and win the race, but he seemed to not really want to go through with his effort and it allowed the winner to go back in front. I had Jett on my shortlist prior to Fontwell as that Doncaster effort looked really good, but it's hard to fancy him for the race after Sunday. Meanwhile Shantou Flyer will get a Cheltenham entry as a super sub in case something happens to Bob And Co. Certainly not a bad horse to have in reserve especially as he loves Cheltenham and if he did end up running in the race he would surely have place claims, but as for winning it I can't really see it. For me he's had better chances of winning this in the past and I don't see where the improvement would come from for him to go and win it.

Slightly surprisingly Pure Vision skipped Fontwell and instead runs at Leicester today, but that means he won't be going to Cheltenham in a couple of weeks as he isn't qualified. Maybe we will see him at Aintree instead.

Usually we don't see the entries until the day after they close so I will post them on here as soon as I see them.

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1 hour ago, PBN said:

Fontwell is obviously a very sharp track. Does that provide an excuse for Jett?

Not for me it doesn't as I don't think it was the track that got him beat. Ultimately though it was job done in that he qualified for Cheltenham so at least he's got into the race. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
23 horses are still in the Cheltenham Hunters Chase at the 6 day stage and here are my thoughts on all the runners. I am going to hold off on putting any bets up at the moment as I think it is worth waiting until after the final decs as there will be extra places on offer for e/w bets. 
 
Back Bar - Managed to beat Cousin Pascal in a point at Charing on his seasonal return which on the face of it is obviously a strong piece of form, but Cousin Pascal didn't give his true running that day. He followed that up by pulling up on his next start at Ampton and then was 2nd at Milborne St Andrew. He did manage to win a hunter chase at Leicester last time, but it wasn't a strong affair especially in the context of this race and it is hard to see him being anywhere near good enough.
 
Billaway - Will be a big surprise if he doesn't go off favourite for the 3rd year running, but will he finish 2nd for the 3rd year running? He was a bit unfortunate to bump into Porlock Bay last year because the pair finished well clear of the rest and after not really enjoying Aintree he then bounced back to push Bob and Co all the way to the line at Punchestown. This season he had an early season setback and we didn't see him until January where his trainer said he would need the run and he certainly ran like it finishing a 12L 2nd to Winged Leader. He was much better last time at Naas though when won with ease jumping well apart from one error. He wore cheekpieces for the first time and he did seem to travel much better in them. The big problem is he essentially beat little as his stablemate Good Bye Sam is still a maiden and was beaten in a very weak Maiden Hunters' Chase last week at long odds on. In recent years you have wanted to be 10 or 11 to win this race and he is now 10. A repeat of last year's run might well be good enough, but does he really deserve to be such a short priced favourite given Bob And Co beat him at Punchestown and he hasn't actually achieved a great deal in either of his runs this season? I don't think so personally and whilst I can obviously see him being good enough to win, I just couldn't be backing him at the price he is
 
Bob And Co - David Maxwell wasn't able to ride in this race last year and he ended up unseating Sean Bowen at 3 out when he was still going very well. Obviously it is impossible to know where he would have finished, but I think he would have been in the first 3 given how he travelled and obviously the fact he won at Punchestown proves he has the ability to win this. If you were following my hunter chase previews last season then you will know that opposing David Maxwell horses was a great way to make money as he was riding poorly. He got injured in a fall which meant he didn't ride for a while and then Covid rules stopped him from riding. To start with he didn't look fit enough and then his decision making was shocking and he was getting beaten on horses that really should have been winning. Indeed he only rode 3 winners one of which was Bob And Co beating trees at Hexham, one was Dolphin Square winning a match at Kelso and the other was Bob And Co at Punchestown. This current jumps season though he has been riding as well as he ever has and he might not get a better chance of winning this race than he will this year. I know Bob And Co got beat at Haydock, but they went a crawl in very bad ground and Cousin Pascal was just able to do the him and the 3rd for speed. Paul Nicholls said before and after the race that he was being trained to peak for Cheltenham and he would come on for the run at Haydock. I also think that the reason Maxwell didn't make it more of a stamina test was because he knew the horse needed the run and I reckon Paul would have told him to mind him in the bad ground so he didn't leave his race behind. If there is one negative about him then his jumping isn't always foot perfect, as he showed a year ago, but otherwise I don't see how he wont be involved in the finish.
 
Cousin Pascal - A slightly surprising runner as all the vibes were he was going to go to Aintree to try and hold onto his crown there. Connections though have decided to come here first and I don't really blame them for having a go given they have already won at Aintree they may as well try and win this. As his trainer said in an article last week the owner might never get a horse good enough to go to Cheltenham again. He has had two disappointing runs since coming to this country one was at Alnwick last season and the other at Charing this season when he was only 2nd to Back Bar. His trainer has mentioned that he travels badly and that is why he disappointed on those occasions and you would have that in the back of your mind here as it wouldn't be a really close journey for him. After Charing he was 2nd to Wagner at Hereford in a race which has worked out very well given Wagner won at Wincanton, albeit in fortunate circumstances and the 3rd has also won since. His trainer thought he idled that day and the reason he got beat was because Marcle Ridge wasn't able to take him further into the race. I'm not really buying that though because he didn't look to me as if he idled at Aintree. Joe also said he idled at Haydock, but Bob And Co and Overworkdunderpaid seemed to close up on him without being ridden all that hard. He certainly had fitness on his side over Bob And Co and I think the form will be reversed especially over a much stiffer stamina test. As I said above they went a crawl and that played into James Kings hands as he had more speed than the others. If they had made it more of a stamina test I reckon you might have got a different result and I'm not sure 3m2f round Cheltenham run in a race likely to be run at a strong pace is going to play to his strengths. What he does have on his side is one of the best jockey's in the race and he's clearly a very good horse so if he did happen to stay then he probably won't be far away.
 
Desire De Joie - Won a very weak Mens Open at Charing on his debut for new connections, but did manage to follow that up with a superb performance at Doncaster when just getting caught by Dolphin Square late on. He beat Le Breuil by further than Dubai Quest did at Wetherby so on the Doncaster run you have to give him some sort of chance, but that effort does stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his form and I would be a bit surprised if he was capable of reaching the frame.
 
Don Bersy - In 2020 he refused to race in a point and then at Ludlow. He then went back pointing and did win on his first start, but then he was reluctant to race and downed tools at the 2nd. He's not been seen this season and even if he did decide to go with the others I couldn't fancy him at all.
 
Dubai Quest - Won 7 on the bounce in points and hunter chases after falling at Larkhill on his first start over here for the Ellis'. He is a very progressive horse and clearly you have to have something about you to win 7 straight. He's had two starts this season to get him prepped for this. I was at Chaddesley Corbett over Christmas to see him win a Ladies Open and it was a very strong contest and will probably be the hottest Ladies Open we see all season. He beat Tango De Juilley that day and some people reckon if you swapped the jockeys around you would have had a different result and it's certainly true that Gina was more vigorous in the finish than the inexperienced jockey on the 2nd, but the 2nd had set a strong gallop and I'm not sure he would have had too much left anyway. Whichever side of the fence you are on it was still a very good return. He then went to Wetherby where he again showed off the engine he has by winning well from Le Breuil. Obviously you would have like that horse to have done better at Doncaster next time to frank the form, but he looked to have plenty in hand at the finish. I think he has a really good chance of giving Gina a first win in the race, but I have one big issue and that is his jumping. When he won at Fakenham last season he made a really bad mistake which caused Gina's sister Bridget to lose her irons. He wasn't completely foot perfect at Chaddesley and although he never looked like falling at Wetherby I thought his jumping left a lot to be desired at times. I'd be amazed if he gets round Cheltenham without making errors so then it boils down to how much those mistakes harm his chances. I think he's good enough to win, but if he was mine I would have given him more experience over rules fences in preparation for this and I just wonder if his jumping will stop him from winning.
 
Fumet D'Oudaires - Both the Ellis runners are around the same price, but for me this horse is very much the second string. Don't get me wrong he has been one of the best buys in a long time given they paid just £800 for him and he's won 8 out of 10 starts including 2 hunter chases at Leicester and Cheltenham. The Cheltenham win came over 2m at the hunter chase night and he then went to Stratford for the John Corbet Cup where he was beaten nearly 3L by Vaucelet. My feeling was he was outstayed that night and if you have enough pace to win over 2m round here I also have doubts about having enough stamina to win this. He's had a couple of runs at Horseheath this season and won both although he made hard work of beating one other finisher last time. I certainly don't blame connections for having a go at this contest, but he could have a better chance in future years as he might stay better then.
 
It Came To Pass - The impressive 2020 winner was a well beaten 7th last year although he did have a bit of a rushed preparation so you can understand why he wasn't at the same level. He was a well beaten 5th behind Bob And Co at Punchestown after that. This season he's just been kept pointing having had 4 starts winning his penultimate one. He was well beaten though when falling last time and I'd be slightly surprised if he was able to beat last year's 7th let alone regain his crown.
 
Lord Schnitzel - He ran at the Festival in 2020 in the handicap novices' chase which doesn't exist anymore and he didn't jump well when pulling up. What he has been though is in good form since going pointing this season. He was 2nd in his first point, but then won 3 before landing a Maiden Hunter Chase in very easy style at Limerick over Christmas. He was then surprisingly beaten in a point at the start of February at 1/2 before winning at the end of the month at 1/8. We don't know if he is going to stay and this will easily be the toughest race he has been in for some time. The other concern is the ground as his best form has been on testing ground. His trainer mentioned he might go for Aintree rather than Cheltenham and that would look to be the better option for me.
 
Mighty Stowaway - Was 6th in this last year and then 10th at Aintree. This season he dead heated with Winged Leader on his seasonal return in November, but I don't think he's shown as much progression as that horse since then. He's been kept busy as well as he's had 5 more starts. He did manage to win a couple, but last time he was very disappointing when pulling up. He's not really looked good enough to be capable of winning this and nothing he has done this season has changed my mind on that front.
 
Monbeg Chit Chat - The bare form of his two wins in points this season is nothing to write home about at all. The winning time at Alnwick last time was good, but the 2nd has been stuffed twice since and was well behind Overworkdunderpaid the time before. On the plus side he won over course and distance on hunter chase night last season and he then went on to finish a very respectable 3rd in the Stratford Foxhunters. He got better as the season went on last year so there is hope that he will improve again here. It's hard to see him being good enough to win, but he does look capable of a very respectable effort.
 
Overworkdunderpaid - On ratings he has little chance in this given the highest mark he won off when under rules before was 113, but based on his pointing and hunter chase run at Haydock he looks an improved horse. He unseated on his first start at Charing, but then was really impressive at Alnwick in December clocking a very fast time and a high pace rating in point to point form book. Given then fact he was carrying 12-10 it was even more impressive that the time was so good. He won at the same venue in January again doing it well. I've no idea why his jockey didn't make it more of a stamina test at Haydock because he clearly stays very well and Cousin Pascal did him for pace whilst Bob And Co just pipped him on the line for 2nd. 3m2f looks much more suitable especially given it is likely to be a decent pace. Kelly Morgan trained him in points, but he has gone back to Laura for hunter chases and the yard have obviously been doing very well in recent weeks. The one issue with him is he does seem to be at his best on testing ground and it doesn't look like he is going to get that on Friday. Even so for me he makes the most appeal of those at big prices.
 
Point The Way - Won a couple of hunter chases at Perth and Kelso last season although they weren't exactly strong affairs. He was a 20L 4th to Overworkdunderpaid on his seasonal return, but he has won both races since including over 3m4f at Charm Park last weekend. He can probably run well enough, but he looks unlikely to have the class to trouble the judge here.
 
Pont Aven - Connections paid £30k for him last year after he left Willie Mullins and after falling on his seasonal debut he was had two very comfortable success' since then. His jockey thought he would have won at Horseheath, but I thought his fall looked a bit of a tired one and I wasn't as certain as his jockey was. After that he has bolted up in an easy race at Higham and won just as easily at Ludlow in a hunter chase. Neither event was particularly strong but he couldn't have been more impressive. There are two concerns for me though. The first has to be the trip. I know he won over 3m in his younger days, but Mullins kept him to 2m4f and shorter after that so he obviously thought that was his best trip. You can't get two flatter tracks than Higham and Ludlow so this test will be totally different. Horseheath is actually more like Cheltenham so if he had stayed on his feet there it would have told us more. Speaking of staying on his feet his jumping has to be a concern as well. He often made mistakes in Ireland and he wasn't always great at Ludlow. He clearly has an engine, but will that engine see him stay 3m2f round Cheltenham? I'm not so sure myself.
 
Premier Magic - The Bradley Gibbs super-sub as he was due to miss Cheltenham and head to Aintree whilst his stablemate Highway Jewel was set to run here, but she has had a setback so plans have been reversed. He was 3rd behind two of these in the John Corbet Cup, but I don't think he was suited by the slow pace round a sharp track and this test ought to be more suitable. I do think he has also improved this season and he beat Porlock Bay on his seasonal return at Chaddesley Corbett over Christmas. Now I suspect Premier Magic might have been nearer peak fitness, but his trainer did say after the race that he thought he had improved since last season. He ran at Milborne St Andrew last time and had a very easy success. The main concern is probably the fact that he wasn't originally going to be running in the race, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of a big run and I certainly think he will do the best of the John Corbett Cup trio.
 
Rewritetherules - Has shown very little in two starts for his new connections having been a useful enough horse in Ireland. Impossible to fancy.
 
Senor Lombardy - Was trained by Brian Harding last season, but is now running in his wife's name Kelly. The 2nd to The Galloping Bear at Carlisle last March is obviously looking a very strong piece of form although I wouldn't want to be taking that at face value as The Galloping Bear has improved since then. This year he's been kept pointing and was impressive in his two wins at Alnwick whilst finishing 2nd at 4/9 in between them. He is certainly capable of winning a hunter chase, but I think this is more about giving connections a day and anything better than mid-division would be a very good effort.
 
Winged Leader - Given he is only 8 he has had a lot of racing and has already run in 14 hunter chases. He was 2nd in the 2019 John Corbett Cup and won his first hunter chase 2 years ago at Down Royal. He then couldn't get his head in front under rules. He was behind Billaway three times last season and then fell at Thurles when in with a winning chance at the last. There were a couple of 2nds before he finally won again at Tramore in April. He followed that up with a win at Listowel in June. He's found winning points easier and he's 9 from 15 there which includes a dead heat with Mighty Stowaway on his seasonal return. His only other run this season was the 12L victory over Billaway at Thurles which he fully deserved on the day, but as we know the 2nd wasn't fully fit. The big question is has he really improved enough to be a better horse than Billway and thus have a chance of winning this, or was it just a case of he benefitted by a weakened rival the last day because the rest of his form wouldn't be good enough to win this. My feeling is the latter and as much as I could understand if you do think the former and thus think he is value to beat him again, for me I have to take him on.
 
Zamparelli - Won a Ludlow hunter chase last season, but after a promising enough effort on his return at Larkhill he was well beaten back at Ludlow the next time. He was 2nd to Southfield Theatre last time back at Larkhill which was a step back in the right direction, but is easily opposed in a race like this.
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Verdict - I think Bob And Co has to be the bet. I was of the belief last year that he was the horse that should have been favourite in the race and I still think he looks the classiest horse in the contest. Obviously he has to get round safely, but it was a slightly unfortunate unseat last year so I am confident he will do so. With Maxwell riding much better this season I'm not so worried about him being on top. Clearly he is no James King or Gina Andrews, but if the horse is good enough then he can get the job done. At the prices and the enhanced place terms he looks a cracking e/w bet. I want some coverage on Dubai Quest because I think he is the most progressive horse in the race. Yes I am concerned about his jumping and that might stop him from winning, but a stronger gallop might actually help on that front and he has a serious engine. Overworkdunderpaid looks the best of those at big odds. The way the race was run at Haydock didn't suit him at all as he is all about stamina. The rain on Wednesday was exactly what he wanted as he is at his best in testing conditions and whilst it will dry out a bit by race time it should still be ideal for him. He looks an improved horse this season based on his pointing and Haydock runs. Clearly Billaway is going to be a leading contender again, but I can let him win at the price he is as he's way too short for me. If Pont Aven stays then he might well be involved in the finish, but for me that's a fairly big if and I'm not sure Winged Leader can uphold the Thurles form with Billaway let alone win.
 
Bob And Co 2pts e/w @ 7/1 with Paddy Power, Betfair, BetVictor and Betfred all to 4 places. Bet365 are 13/2 to 5 places (take up to 5/1 e/w and then 2.5pts win up to 7/2)
Dubai Quest 1pt e/w @ 14/1 with Paddy Power, Betfair, BetVictor and Betfred all to 4 places. Ladbrokes and Coral are 11/1 for 5 places (take up to 8/1)
Overworkdunderpaid 1pt e/w @ 33/1 with Coral and Ladbrokes to 5 places and Betfred to 4 places (take up to 16/1)
 
Fakenham preview
 
I am not surprised at all to see Not That Fuisse become favourite over Actival. I thought he ran really well in his first hunter chase at Ludlow when staying on well to finish 3rd behind Hogans Height. He came from behind and I think they rode him to get the trip which given the way he finished his race off wasn't an issue in the end. Last time at Ludlow he was just creeping into contention when unfortunately a horse fell right in front of him and he had nowhere to go. Pont Aven won very easily in the end so I doubt he would have won, but I like to think he would have at least finished 2nd. He is at his best on decent ground and whilst the rain on Wednesday wouldn't have helped, Fakenham rarely gets testing and two drying days since then should mean the ground will be fine and it was soft when he was 3rd at Ludlow anyway. I can only see him getting shorter in the betting and he looks to have an excellent chance.
 
When Actival ran ahead of Southwell last week I wrote that his pointing form so far this season left him with a lot to find with the other leading fancies in the race. It was probably a personal best so far this season when finishing 2nd, but that race fell apart big time. Global Racing went at the first and Salvatore clearly didn't run his race. The fact that serial loser Deau Vivant ended up winning the race says a lot for me about the form going forward. I certainly would have backed Not That Fuisse to have won that Southwell contest and with Amy being by far the worse jockey out of the 3 leading contenders I think he will need something to happen at least to Not That Fuisse and probably Peacocks Secret as well if he is going to win.
 
Peacocks Secret is a course and distance winner which is always a big plus round here after he won here last March. That race fell apart a bit as well, but he followed that up with a very good 3rd at Cheltenham. The 3rd at Duncombe Park on his seasonal debut was a fair effort and I thought he ran well enough at Leicester last time with 2 good horses in front of him. He handles any ground so that doesn't matter and he is likely to make the running under his very good jockey. I think he is certainly capable of beating Actival and if something happens to the favourite he can take advantage.
 
I'm really confident about the chances of Not That Fuisse here as I think he is currently running to a higher level of form than Actival. Given I don't fancy Actival at all I thought it was worth having a saver on Peacocks Secret as he is also over priced and he could well get an time of things out in front. Dale is very good at judging the pace so that does make him dangerous. If Actival wins then I have either got very unlucky or I have got the race badly wrong!
 
Not That Fuisse 4pts @ Evs with Bet365, William Hill, BetVictor and Betfred (take up to 8/11) Peacock Secret 1pt @ 5/1 with most firms (take up to 3/1)
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I only had Billaway in an acca but the clerk of the course ruined that for me and Shishkin! Think Billaway will win but not keen on 11/4 when I could have taken 7/2. Gone for a small forecast Billaway to bt Cousin Pascal at 38/1 (Bet365) in the hope that the latter stays.

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I am not surprised at all to see Not That Fuisse become favourite over Actival. I thought he ran really well in his first hunter chase at Ludlow when staying on well to finish 3rd behind Hogans Height. He came from behind and I think they rode him to get the trip which given the way he finished his race off wasn't an issue in the end. Last time at Ludlow he was just creeping into contention when unfortunately a horse fell right in front of him and he had nowhere to go. Pont Aven won very easily in the end so I doubt he would have won, but I like to think he would have at least finished 2nd. He is at his best on decent ground and whilst the rain on Wednesday wouldn't have helped, Fakenham rarely gets testing and two drying days since then should mean the ground will be fine and it was soft when he was 3rd at Ludlow anyway. I can only see him getting shorter in the betting and he looks to have an excellent chance.
 
When Actival ran ahead of Southwell last week I wrote that his pointing form so far this season left him with a lot to find with the other leading fancies in the race. It was probably a personal best so far this season when finishing 2nd, but that race fell apart big time. Global Racing went at the first and Salvatore clearly didn't run his race. The fact that serial loser Deau Vivant ended up winning the race says a lot for me about the form going forward. I certainly would have backed Not That Fuisse to have won that Southwell contest and with Amy being by far the worse jockey out of the 3 leading contenders I think he will need something to happen at least to Not That Fuisse and probably Peacocks Secret as well if he is going to win.
 
Peacocks Secret is a course and distance winner which is always a big plus round here after he won here last March. That race fell apart a bit as well, but he followed that up with a very good 3rd at Cheltenham. The 3rd at Duncombe Park on his seasonal debut was a fair effort and I thought he ran well enough at Leicester last time with 2 good horses in front of him. He handles any ground so that doesn't matter and he is likely to make the running under his very good jockey. I think he is certainly capable of beating Actival and if something happens to the favourite he can take advantage.
 
I'm really confident about the chances of Not That Fuisse here as I think he is currently running to a higher level of form than Actival. Given I don't fancy Actival at all I thought it was worth having a saver on Peacocks Secret as he is also over priced and he could well get an time of things out in front. Dale is very good at judging the pace so that does make him dangerous. If Actival wins then I have either got very unlucky or I have got the race badly wrong!
 
Not That Fuisse 4pts @ Evs with Bet365, William Hill, BetVictor and Betfred (take up to 8/11) Peacock Secret 1pt @ 5/1 with most firms (take up to 3/1)
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Final post on this thread for another year is my review of the race.

The 2022 Cheltenham Hunters Chase was a punishing event given only 6 horses got round and all but one of those who failed to compete ended up pulling up. Given we were racing on good to soft ground I was amazed so few got round, but I think it helped strengthen the pre-race view that there wasn't much strength in depth in the contest and some of those who appeared to have a chance were very disappointing. 
 
I don't think you will hear too many arguments against the case that the best horse finished 2nd. Winged Leader put in a superb performance near the head of affairs and if it wasn't for Jamie Codd on Mighty Stowaway he would have won. They got into a battle after 3 out and although Winged Leader won that one with time to spare it meant he didn't have quite enough in the tank to repel the fast finishing Billaway. He has been entered at Aintree and I can really see him taking to that test should he go there, but if he doesn't it isn't hard to think he will turn up back here in a year's time with a leading chance. 
 
Apart from Aintree last year I'm not sure I have ever seen Billaway travel or jump so badly. I know his jumping isn't always foot perfect and he can hit a flat spot, but he barely travelled on the bridle at all and put in some horrific jumping errors. Fair play to the horse for keeping going under pressure though and I can't believe he only touched 21 in running because until the final half furlong he didn't look like he was going to win at all. You can't say it wasn't a deserved success given the last two year's, but you have to wonder if he will be good enough to follow up next year.
 
I was surprised by Mighty Stowaway's 3rd as connections didn't seem to be expecting a great deal, but turning for home he looked like he would put up a serious challenge to the winner before dropping away. It was a personal best hunter chase effort, but he's 11 now and he's unlikely to be improving.
 
Dubai Quest landed the e/w money for us in 4th and it's a shame the race wasn't on Wednesday as he would have a much better chance on soft ground. He just found things happening a bit too quickly for him and Gina was always having to niggle at him to keep him in contention. What was pleasing to see though was he jumped so much better than he did at Wetherby. He was the best of the British runners and he should have more improvement to come being only 9. I can see him being a player next year especially if the rain came.
 
Senor Lombardy ran a hell of a race to finish just behind him in 5th. I hope he hasn't left his season behind here, and I've seen plenty of beaten horses regress after Cheltenham, as he more than backed up my thoughts that he was a hunter chase winner in waiting. I wonder if connections might consider Stratford with him now as that would look a good target for him.
 
Pont Aven was a long way behind him in 6th, but he never looked like a possible winner. He did at least get round, but my thoughts that this test was unsuitable for him was borne out in the race. He's been entered at Aintree and although that would suit him much better his jumping would be a concern for me.
 
Now to look at those who didn't finish and we have to start with Bob And Co. This time he departed way too early to even guess as to where he would have finished, but it was so frustrating. On both ITV and RTV pictures his fall was obscured, but it looks like he just sprawled on landing which is the first time he's made a mistake like that. It looks like he could be off to Aintree next although again whilst it looks like a suitable test for him you would have to worry about his jumping.
 
Cousin Pascal tried to lead and couldn't and then after hitting the 7th he continued to struggle badly. On the face of it you wouldn't fancy him for Aintree on the back of this effort, but as we know he has bounced back from poor runs in the past although his jockey could have probably pulled him up earlier with Aintree in mind.
 
Premier Magic and Fumet D'oudairies both ran really poorly and I think they just found it all happening much too quick for them. Part of that was because Don Bersy after actually consenting to run he pulled his way too the front and set a fast gallop which seemed to get plenty of these out of their comfort zones. Overworkdunderpaid was certainly one of those as well although the bad stumble at the 1st didn't help his chance at all. The ground had dried up too much for him though and he would have done so much better if the race had been on Wednesday. I'd actually consider running him in the 4m race on hunter chase night.
 
The only other one to mention is Lord Schnitzel who travelled really well despite making the odd mistake, but he just didn't stay. His trainer must be wishing he had kept him for Aintree and I can only think he now thinks that race will come too soon as he hasn't even been entered. My guess is next season he will have his season centred around Aintree and he wont even go to Cheltenham.
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