Douvan is the headline lay on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, and he should be treated as one who could blow out completely, making a heavy place lay the most appealing option.
Douvan hasn’t raced since picking up an injury in this race last year, and his anticipated return has been postponed more than once. He apparently did an exceptional piece of work earlier in the season but was lame the following day and Willie Mullins has had to treat him with kid gloves since then, afraid that a serious gallop could set him back again.
That, in short, is a terrible preparation for a race like the Champion Chase, and I don’t think even Willie knows whether he will perform on the day. Horses who, like him, suffer pelvic injuries tend to recover well enough, but are often compromised by the injury, and a big horse like Douvan can put great stress on his limbs given the remarkable length of his stride.
Ruby Walsh could hardly have deserted him, but will be the first to ease off if anything seems amiss, and I reckon he’s odds on for a DNF (did not finish). There is a possibility that he will cry off at the last minute, of course, but even if he’s given the nod to take part, he looks a terrible bet, and quite how he was shorter in the betting than Min yesterday is a mystery.
I’m not a fan of backing Samcro at depressed odds in the Ballymore, but it’s easier to oppose him by backing a couple of solid opponents each way than simply laying him at market price, and he is undoubtedly the biggest talent in the race.
The RSA looks a slightly better race for our purposes, and I’m keen to oppose Black Corton on the ground. Black Corton and Bryony Frost have been one of the highlights of a rather dull season, but he’s had a lot of racing, which must be a worry, and while he copes with most ground, the heavyish ground is no help to his jumping, which is an asset, but one which won’t be seen to best effect in a slog.
His win here in November came in a virtual match with Ballyoptic, who was closing when a last-fence blunder put paid to his chance. Trying to dominate in this bigger field on even softer ground will be too much I fear, and I quite fancy Ballyoptic to reverse the form.
The success of Black Corton this season suggests the British staying novices may not be a great bunch, so the likes of Presenting Percy, Monalee and Al Boum Photo could all be too much to handle.
The confidence levels are not on a par with the Douvan bet, but a modest place lay looks the order of the day on balance.
The Cross-Country has been made out to be a match between Tiger Roll and Cause of Causes in certain quarters, but neither will appreciate conditions. Cause of Causes had a fair record on heavy ground as a young hurdler, but more recent runs on ground described as soft or worse have been much less encouraging. Tiger Roll is a confirmed good-ground performer who has no experience in this discipline.
I’m tempted to lay Cause of Causes, but he does at least have a few ticks in the right boxes, whereas Tiger Roll doesn’t check of those boxes at all, and looks a decent place lay in a contest with much more depth than is perceived.
- 14.10 Place Lay Black Corton @ 2.75 or shorter
- 15.30 Place Lay Douvan @ 1.80 or shorter
- 16.10 Place Lay Tiger Roll @ 2.85 or shorter