Plenty to discuss after a bumper weekend’s racing and an ante post play for the Ballymore…
With this article existing as a look ahead to Cheltenham, thoughts on Cyrname will be short and very sweet. He was majestic in his Ascot win, the performance of the weekend, and the Punchestown Gold Cup could well be his big end of season target. I do think he’s worth another go right-handed though and surely connections are tempted.
His trainer suggested the Ryanair will probably come too soon for him, and he’d need to be supplemented, but since the hood has come off he looks a different proposition.
The way he stamps his authority on a race, gets others in trouble with his pace and jumping (and a good field on Saturday it was too) means he could be a force going the other way around.
The Nicholls’s Clan
Paul Nicholls’s crazy Saturday saw another of his improving seven-year olds, Clan Des Obeaux, win the Denman Chance and he duly shortened to 7.0 for the Gold Cup. That’s now a solid 6.0. I’d written here after his Kempton win that double figures about and King George winner for Cheltenham was questionable, for all this right-handed success does nothing to alleviate Cheltenham concerns.
I put it to Harry Cobden after Kempton that he was considered better going right-handed and Harry suggested he’d prefer him that way round.
His trainer said he always preferred him right-handed as he can just pop a little that way, as he had at Haydock, but then affirmed it’s the experience which he needs, and has now, got, to be a live Gold Cup contender.
He has run at Cheltenham four times, only been out of the first two there when sixth in the 2016 Triumph (behind the likes of Apple’s Jade and Footpad, no less) and he did look the winner in the Dipper a few years ago where a mistake two from home may have just cost him. But the point surely is he’s a twenty-pound better horse now than when last tackling Cheltenham. Whilst I’m not keen to have a play I the Gold Cup market just now, I’m not fully satisfied that there’s two points in the betting between this rapidly improving seven-year-old and a horse we’ve seen just once this year and that was over hurdles (I’ll still tip Presenting Percy on the day chaps, all this reasoning can go hang).
Some joy for earlier readers of this column (you’re out there somewhere) if anyone took the price about Al Dancer when suggested. He’s now half a point favourite for the Supreme at 5.5 and rightly so. He isn’t entirely without his quirks, his cross noseband and hood tell you that, but connections have harnessed all of his ability and produced a professional and very talented animal.
Three former winners of this race have gone on to be second in the Supreme. Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Ballyandy went on to be fourth when favourite. And the race did produce a Champion Hurdle winner twenty odd years ago. Anyone contesting that this race doesn’t produce Cheltenham winners is effectively ignoring logic somewhat. For this is a good race as prep for a Supreme. Better this, in front of a big crowd, the nature of it being a handicap meaning horses will have had to race a few times prior to running here. The nature of it meaning they often go quicker than a novice potter elsewhere and in a decent sized field. Because the atmosphere on race one, day one at Cheltenham can catch a few out. And they’ll go quick.
This experience will have done the winner plenty of good with the Supreme in mind and we know he likes the track.
Trump for a handicap?
Getaway Trump was a live one in the Supreme market before the race but just pushed out a little off the back of this to 21.0. It will be hard to run him in the Supreme now and he’s actually shorter for the Ballymore. That makes sense given he looked to lack for speed from off the pace and he was placed over two and a half in Grade 1 company last time when again it was argued they didn’t go quick enough for him. I would definitely keep an eye on his handicap entries when they come out. He could be considered a Coral Cup horse but that is traditionally a poor race for novices. The County, however, could be just the thing, particularly if his rating of 142 goes unaltered.
Paul Nicholls has won that race with three novices – Desert Quest, American Trilogy and Lac Fontana. His other winner, Sporazene, was second season hurdler who’d won a Grade 1 juvenile the previous season. Nicholls talked of Getaway Trump needing pace and the climb form Swinley Bottom to get involved and surely the test provided by the new course at Cheltenham will only aid his cause. I’ll finish up by saying that Grand Sancy, a horse I was particularly interested in for the County, is now Supreme bound after his Kingwell win. Different owners but perhaps more weight in the Getaway Trump to a handicap argument. He’s a general 21.0 for the County.
Finally from the Ditcheat movers and shakers, Quel Destin romped home at Haydock and will head straight to the Triumph where he can be backed at 10.0. He may not have the profile or raw appeal of a Sir Eric (there’s something about that colt) but he does have experience and will not shirk a battle. He’s obviously not lacking in the talent department either. On his UK debut, Quel Destin was beaten giving weight to Montestrel, form he duly reversed at Cheltenham in November. Montestrel needs one more run to get into the Fred Winter (now the Boodles) and is entered at Taunton on Tuesday. This yard (not technically but essentially) saddled the Fred Winter winner two years ago and are a yard who do very well with their juveniles. I’m not sure they’ll look at this *chaser in the making klaxon* horse as a Triumph candidate and he’s very interesting for the juvenile handicap.
He is yet to feature in the betting.
Over in Ireland on Saturday, Monalee strengthened his Cheltenham claims with a win in the Red Mills Chase and he just looks such a natural at that intermediate trip. A welcome boost for the ante post selections on this column, all of which are tied-up below.
Henry De Bromhead said afterwards that all options were open and if I had a horse like Monalee of course I’d be tempted to run him in the God Cup but please for goodness sake lads run him in the Ryanair!
I think, ultimately, that’s what will happen and I’ve mentioned before his likeable credentials, including running style, for that race.
At Navan, Tiger Roll was a disgrace in laughing at the option over hurdles and over a trip which should have been on the sharp side. What a hose he is. And what a difficult horse he is to oppose for repeat success in the Cross Country next month for which he is an industry best 2.52 with Matchbook. Most interesting race ante post wise at Navan was the Ten Up won by Chris’s Dream, who has prices ranging from 13.0 to 26.0 for the RSA and so too for the JLT. He’s not in the National Hunt Chase but Champagne Classic is and can be backed at 11.5 for that which, according to his trainer, is his most likely destination. He lacks some chase experience for that contest but his Grade 1 hurdles win from Penhill tells us he’s very good. Both boosted the form of Ballyward who is a 6.2 second favourite for the amateur chase, his only Cheltenham entry.
But don’t forget Discorama, I hear you scream! No, don’t forget him, the horse who would’ve challenged Ballyward all the way up the run in but for falling at the last. One of Rory Delargy’s podcast horses to follow this year, he has entries for all three novice chases at the festival and is shortest for the furthest of them. Paul Nolan was very interesting in his comments on “having a mark of 145 in Ireland which would give him top weight in the novice handicap”. Interesting he even mentioned that race over two and a half miles, having previously stated the four-mile contest as his preference. All this leads me to think that keeping a close eye on his handicap entries and to what the British handicapper does is very worthwhile. The Ultima is a good race for novices and could be an ideal race for Discorama. He is not in the betting, yet.
A bet. On a form line with the very impressive Lisnagar Oscar, who shortened up to 10.0 for the Albert Bartlett after his impressive Haydock win. He is improving fast. Now, he comprehensively reversed form with the penalised Rockpoint, who was put up here for the race last month and drifted ever since (I mean, I know experience is good for an Albert Bartlett but I wonder how much these runs under a penalty are doing for his confidence). Perhaps he’s simply not good enough but Lisnagar Oscar’s credentials are firming up nicely. If he’s improving, then we can assume that Emitom, who beat him hands down over two and a half miles in November, has a little more to offer in better company.
We saw Emitom again at Lingfield when winning under a penalty and then didn’t get to see him in the Sidney Banks due to flu-gate. That race is one which Warren Greatrex targets with his best and has one in two of the last three years, having also saddled Western Ryder when second last year.
Not ideal, perhaps, for his festival plans that he missed said prep. I’ve mentioned on here before the nature of the Ballymore being a different race to that of the other novice hurdles at the festival. A race where experience doesn’t necessarily count for as much. Without getting too trends heavy and with the realisation that Emitom has yet to face much of the class he’ll have to if lining up on Wednesday morning at the festival, he looks a fair shout at 30.0. He’s shorter in some places for the Albert Bartlett and there’s an argument that’s the ‘easier race on paper’ but I can’t believe they’ll risk this horse in that on his likely third start over hurdles. His first beyond two and a half miles if going straight there. He won back at the minimum last time, after all. They might get him out beforehand but he has no entries at this stage and opportunities are running out. Either way, his form had a good boost at the weekend and he’s unbeaten and yet to come off the bridle over hurdles. Worth adding to the ante post book.
Cheltenham Ante-Post Bets
- Back Emitom for the Ballymore at 30.0
- Al Dancer for the Supreme at 21 (now 5.5)
- Thomas Darby for the Supreme at 29.0 (now 23.0)
- Frodon for the Ryanair at 15 (15.5 now and likely to run in the Gold Cup)
- Monalee for the Ryanair at 12 (now 7.0)
- If The Cap Fits for the Stayers at 21 (won’t run at Cheltenham)
- Santini for the RSA at 4.5 (now 4.0)
- Rockpoint for the Albert Bartlett at 22 (now 20.0)
Each week Tom is joined by guests such as Rory Delargy, Donn McClean, Sam Turner and Brendan Powell on Matchbook’s Horse Racing Podcast. Subscribe now to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, or on your preferred Podcast app by searching for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’.