As I write this it’s just 15 days to the start of the Cheltenham Festival and four of the best days horse racing you will see either flat or jumps in anywhere in the world. I am sure like me you have started your form study for Cheltenham and mines coming along well and I have managed to uncover some eye-catching statistics.
As I mentioned last week this week’s article is shorter than usual but still contains the following:
• Look at the some of the best performances and eye-catchers from the weekend;
• Last week’s horses for your trackers.
Next week’s article will be my last before the Festival begins and I will be looking once again at my Cheltenham ante-post betting portfolio and I will look at the last race in my Cheltenham Ante Post Briefing series.
No doubting the performance of the weekend for me. It has to be Mysteree in taking the 4 mile Eider handicap Chase in almost bottomless ground. He saw off all his rivals in a race where more than half of the field didn’t even complete the race. Knockanrawley has always been highly regarded by his trainer Kim Bailey and he was a very gallant runner up as he was the only horse to push the winner over final four fences. The 9 year old deserves to land a decent pot. Back to the winner who advertised the training skills of Michael Scudamore, who also won the Devon National on Friday with Kingswell Theatre, after the race the Scottish Grand National at Ayr was talked about as a possible target for the horse although I think he would want the going there to be soft or heavy as those conditions are when he is at his most effective.
The other performance to catch my eye on Saturday came from the Alan King trained Master Blueeyes when winning the Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton. Most punter eyes would have been on the hot favourite Charli Parcs who had beaten the Alan King horse when they last met at Kempton. Sadly Charli Parcs came to grief at the second last when upsides the winner. Master Blueeyes seemed to be going better than Charli Parcs at the time and I think he would have beaten the favourite even if that one had stayed on his feet. The winner was a decent handicapper last summer on the flat and is very much on an upward curve. I think he can land one of the juvenile hurdles either at Cheltenham or Aintree with the former race now very much on the cards for the four year old. It’s a race his trainer has done well in the past. Since 1997 he is 2 winners from 20 runners 6 places in the Triumph Hurdle. I haven’t added him to my festival portfolio as yet but he will certainly be one I will be looking at with interest. He is now a best priced 8/1 for the race after Saturday’s win.
I have a couple of horses for the tracker from Saturday’s racing at Newcastle and Kempton outside the big races:
Ballybolley – Nigel Twiston –Davies – The 8 year old was having his first start since the middle of November and was a little keen in the early stages of the race but the top weight still travelled well into the race and was looking the likely winner coming to three out. He made a mistake at that fence which put him on the back foot and that in combination with the really heavy ground did for him as he eventually finished a tired 3rd at the line. He is more effective on better ground; all 8 of his career wins have come on good or good to soft going, and is now 0 wins from 7 runs on soft or heavy going. Now 6lb higher than for his last win in handicap company but he still looks on a handy mark to win another race when he faces good ground again.
Expedite – Ben Pauling – The six year old ran well to finish a six length 4th at the line. Had been well supported on his previous start at Leicester but got bogged down in the heavy ground he faced on that occasion. He was still in with a chance coming too two out but couldn’t go with the eventual winner and runner up but he was only run out of 3rd place in the final few strides. His last win came on good ground at Exeter and the return to a sound surface was in his favour here. The form of this race look like it could be decent as the winner and the runner up are both are progressive 5 year olds. It may pay also to keep an eye on the 3rd home, Wishing and Hoping, trained by Alan King who also saddled the winner of the race. The 7 year old was given a nice patient ride on his return to hurdles, after two falls over fences, and was staying on nicely after the last to grab 3rd from Expedite on the line. He was never really in contention for the win but this was his first run since the middle of December and should come on for it fitness wise. Had looked on a handy mark, before the race, for his handicap hurdle debut and so it proved.
Last Weeks Eyecatchers
Thursday 23rd February
Spirit of Rome – James Bethall – The filly was making her handicap debut here and was noted staying on nicely at the finish to take 3rd. All three of her runs as a two year old came at 7f & 1m and given her breeding its not surprising that she improved for the step up to 1m 4f. This was a class 6 handicap but at least the three year old showed she has some ability and can progressive a bit further now.
Friday 24th February
Fire Tree – Charlie Fellowes – The four year old was having his first run for the trainer after his move from David Wachman stable and his first start since finishing 3rd in a Ballinrobe handicap in July, just 5 lengths behind the subsequent Irish Cesarewitch winner Laws of Spin (now rated 96). Was racing off a mark of 70 here and the market support that came in for the horse before the race suggests he is on a competitive mark, he was only beaten 1 ½ lengths into 3rd at the finish here and with normal improvement from this first run shouldn’t be far away next time. He can certainly add to his sole Dundalk juvenile win in coming months.
All that’s left is to wish you all a profitable weeks betting.