Tom Stanley reflects on a cracking weekend at Cheltenham, highlighted by Bryony Frost win on Frodon and shares some fond memories of The New One. Tom also casts his eye ahead to March with some Cheltenham Ante Post recommendations.
It’s rare I watch Cheltenham on the box and don’t wish I was there. But the weather at Prestbury Park on Saturday?
Eesh, I wasn’t too envious of those gloved, hatted and everything else, freezing in the cold and wet! That was, until about ten minutes after the finish of the International Hurdle. Then, I’d have been there in shorts and a t-shirt to applaud off an old warrior.
As The New One was paraded around the Cheltenham paddock one last time, racegoers came out from the warm to say their goodbyes. To thank him. What a horse to have won fifty percent of his forty races. Six of those at the venue where he said farewell. Over a million in prize money. There’s not many that can boast such statistics.
The relationship between racing fan and horse with a record like The New One’s is often founded on one moment.
I loved The New One. My moment with him came at The Cheltenham Festival in 2013. This horse was a certainty!
My Dad and I (he doesn’t bet) had pinned our festival hopes on Nigel’s then five-year-old, had spent all season talking about him. Doesn’t get beaten in the Neptune, you just wait.
As he swung around the home turn and powered up the Cheltenham hill, we were jumping about before he crossed the line. Perhaps that Twiston-Davies family factor added to the emotion. One father-son cheering their trainer-jockey success. The other, among many I’m sure, celebrating like idiots on the hill. That was one of my all-time favourite Festival moments.
All horses deserve their happy retirement. But to think what he gave to the sport and to those that followed him. A very special animal indeed and we’re lucky to have had him. I’m remembering now that he’d beaten My Tent Or Yours in the Aintree bumper the previous season to his Neptune win. Both warriors recently retired. The end of an era.
Brain Power’s back
And so to Brain Power. He’ll go Champion Hurdle route now.
It took some brain power on the part of connections to switch back to hurdles and he looked a far happier horse.
Getting weight from all but one of his rivals in a race where a few, notably Summerville Boy, didn’t run to form, I can see why there’s 26.0 available on the Matchbook exchange.
That said, if he gets there fit and healthy, I’ll be surprised if he’s as big as that. He went off 7.5 for the race two years ago and he’ll be kept apart from the current favourite in any engagements en route to March. He also has the ability, apparently, to out-work Buveur D’Air at home, for all it’s the (very different) result on the track which counts.
Novice by name
Staying over hurdles, I want to mention Rockpoint. Not because I think he’s a world beater, but because he has the ideal profile for his likely spring target.
The Albert Bartlett is a race with a litany of experienced winners. Novices who have had plenty of hurdles engagements. Rather than the unexposed improver we often look for in these races, the staying novice hurdle at Cheltenham tends to require a battle-hardened sort. Berties Dream won in 2010 on his fifteenth hurdles start. At Fishers Cross on his seventh start. Martello Tower seventh. Unowhatimenaharry sixteenth. Penhill eighth.
Rockpoint was winning on Saturday on his tenth start over hurdles and immediate prices of 26.0 were, I thought, very fair (a theme throughout the day at Cheltenham). We know that’s his aim, he’s unexposed over the trip and has the experience box ticked.
Happy Christmas, Carroll
The Triumph Trial saw the well-backed Nelson River win pretty comfortably in the end, for all it took him a while to get going up the straight. He looks a horse who will get further, as his winning form over a mile and a half on the flat would suggest, and certainly looks a better prospect over hurdles.
Initial quotes of 41.0 (you see the developing theme) looked generous, for all his mark may dictate whether he heads to the Triumph or a Fred Winter. He was well on top and impressive in his victory, which still suggested he’s far from the finished article. I’ll be keeping a close eye both on the winner and on what the handicapper makes of him.
Hugely impressed with Al Dancer on Friday. Bolting up off a mark of 129, he’ll be high 130’s after this and the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury looks a likely target on the way to something at Cheltenham. That’s not to say the interim is a formality! But his trainer has won it twice in the last five years (Splash Of Ginge, Ballyandy) with horses who went on to run in the Supreme.
The current 21.0 about him for that is interesting. I like that he has won at the track but, more importantly, in the heat of a biggish field handicap. Sometimes the novice races at this time of year are slowly run affairs and then a horse gets to the Festival where races are run at a completely different tempo. In fact, this buzzy horse who had the hood on again is best served by a decent pace to aim at.
Really like him for the remainder of the season.
The last word goes to Frodon and Bryony in the Caspian Caviar.
After the race, Jonathan Neesom said on Racing UK, “for the last ten minutes I haven’t felt cold”. Talk of getting the blood pumping. That’s what this sport does. That’s what this pair did. Transported us into their race with a bold, front-running display, fearless, brave, and under all that weight. It was magnificent.
No mistake, this was one of the performances of the season so far. To win that off a mark of 164. Back to Grade 1’s they go. The favourite for the King George is rated 172 and Frodon won’t be far off that when reassessed. But it’s Cheltenham which brings out the best in him. And Bryony Frost. 2130121 are their form figures together. Two of those wins coming at the new course and that’s just as important.
The extra emphasis on stamina is crucial, as seen in his staying on effort on the old course last time.
Paul Nicholls said after the race they’d train him for the Ryanair, for which he is currently around a 15.0 poke. His new rating will see him with little to find with betting leader, Min (who may again go Champion Chase) and with last year’s second, Un De Sceaux. Now, Frodon ran in the race last year but that was a different horse.
A six-year-old who’d had a hard race at Ascot less than a month previously and perhaps left much of his chance there. He’ll be trained specifically for Cheltenham now. The Ascot Chase was again mentioned but that was his sixth start of last season.
I imagine we’ll not see him until Ascot now.
A year older, at least half a stone better, and with the rider who gets the best out of him, he’s one to add to the Cheltenham portfolio.
Recommended Cheltenham Ante Post Bets
- Back Al Dancer for the Supreme at 21.0
- Back Frodon for the Ryanair at 15.0
Each week Tom hosts the Matchbook Betting Horse Racing Podcast as he is joined by guests such as Rory Delargy, Donn McClean, Sam Turner and Brendan Powell. Subscribe now to the Matchbook Betting Podcast on your preferred Podcast app and get involved in the conversation on our twitter page @matchbookpod