Tom looks back at Cheltenham Trials weekend and some enlightening Irish action.
And there I was questioning Paisley Park.
The race fell apart last time, I thought. He’s a questionable favourite in this race, a better contest with weight to give away to half the field. Wrong. Way wrong.
He was scintillating and rightly heads the Stayers Hurdle betting at 4.0. Penhill is next in at 7.0 and, for all we’ve not seen him yet this year, this is what he and Willie Mullins do. Not just Penhill either, as he, Arctic Fire and Quevega are the only horses in the last decade to win at the Festival on their seasonal debut. The fresh approach from Closutton is not to be underestimated.
It’s very difficult to see anything from in behind Paisley Park at Cheltenham reversing that form. West Approach was again well held in second and his chase mark, sixteen pounds lower than that over hurdles is interesting. They may stay hurdling given this run but he’d have to be considered if rocking up in the Ultima handicap chase on day one of the festival.
It’s hard to find opposition to the top two in the stayers market in truth. I put up If The Cap Fits last month but it’s since emerged connections wish to have no runners at Cheltenham for the foreseeable. Great. He’s a horse for whom the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle at Aintree could be ideal. Most tempting at 26.0 is Bachasson who returned with a win over hurdles last month and Willie Mullins suggested he’d be kept over smaller obstacles. He fell early in the Gold Cup last year and unseated in the 2017 Albert Bartlett when probably a beaten fourth. That was his last start over hurdles before this season’s reappearance.
He still has a way to go to be considered a runner let alone winner but is worth keeping an eye on.
Frost and Frodon
Frodon was put up here for the Ryanair and, for all he’d have a proper chance in that, the Gold Cup now looks the likely target. And why not? He would have a lesser chance in that but there’s only one Gold Cup and I fully expect him to line up in it. And my goodness does Bryony get a tune out of him. He’ll unlikely be able to dominate in the manner which sees him to such good effect but, at the same time, he’ll give Native River something to think about.
With pace on and if we get a big field, I’m actually warming to the chance of West Approach doing a Synchronised. The stamina-sapping three and a quarter miles will be the least he wants and he’d be well served by ease in the ground. Not one to play at 31.0 just yet but he’s one to be on weather watch for. His chance will definitely be aided by rain.
Trouble is for all of the Gold Cup hopefuls, they have Presenting Percy to contend with. Shortened up to 4.0 off the back of his midweek hurdles win, the same race he won en route to RSA success last year, he’s a very worthy favourite. Davy Russel even had the cheek to say there’s always the stayers hurdle for him. Ha! No chance. This lad is Gold Cup bound.
On the same day at Gowran Park, we saw Invitation Only win a Thyestes and shorten to 41.0 for the Gold Cup. That’s big in my opinion and I’m half tempted. He stumbled after the downhill fence four from home in the JLT last year when not yet asked for an effort and that was game over. He got a lovely ride from Ruby in the Thyestes and his jumping was better than ever, something that has held him back in the past. He’s not yet up there class wise but deserves his place in the field and has a suitable second season chaser profile for the big one.
Not to be for Brewin
The final race to talk about is the Classic Novices’ Hurdle, a key trial for the Ballymore. I’ve said here before that winners often go up in trip to contest the Albert Bartlett (Wichita Lineman, At Fishers Cross, Bobs Worth, Santini), whilst those placed have a decent record in the Ballymore (The New One, Massini’s Maguire, Tidal Bay). However, the race usually takes place on more testing ground than was the case this year. Perhaps the likelihood of a proper stayer emerging from it is reduced given conditions.
To my mind, Brewin’Upastorm would have won if he’d have stayed up at the last. Barry Geraghty immediately said he was up against it before going on to say he had a bit left. Birchdale, however, has a nice profile for the Ballymore. A lightly raced, peak at the festival campaign, he’d make more appeal than Champ to my eye at the moment, certainly at the prices, but I have to wonder whether or not they’ll both go. And If I think Brewin’Upastorm would have won, it’s difficult not to take the likely bigger price about him than the winner. There were around eight points between them immediately after the race.
Jarvey’s plate was a big disappointment and can’t have given his running. He had a penalty but this was nothing like his performance here last time and he was beaten far too soon. I’d been positive about both the chances of Brewin’Upastorm and Jarveys Plate with regard to the Ballymore, dependant on what happened here. But in some ways am none the wiser now. I can’t say after I want to back either at this stage.
One the keep an eye on as a Ballymore possible is Tornado Flyer, who can be backed at a general 26.0. Now, we don’t know about his well-being as the last we saw of him, he was pulled up at Naas behind Battleoverdoyen, never having gone a yard. But we know Willie’s weren’t quite right at the time and they’re in better form now. He has an entry over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival and connections have mentioned he has plenty of speed.
I like that for a Ballymore and Willie is yet to really have one emerge for this race. I suspect it would have been Tornado Flyer had things gone to plan last time. He’s worth watching for where he does show up next but his trainer has a habit of getting horses to peak for the festival and he’s not one to write off just yet.
Blow, Glenloe and Disco
I thought Blow By Blow had looked a Kim Muir type if going down the handicap route but when Gordon tested the water with some trials day entries, he got a mark of 148. Three pounds too high for both the novices handicap and Kim Muir. Now, he pulled up on Sunday at Naas in a Grade 3 Novices Chase and that’s a worry. There’s a mark to pay for, yes, but this was very disappointing. His future mark is worth noting as if he’s fit and well and still over 145, the Plate at the festival, something Gordon has targeted with novices in the past, could be the answer. So too the Ultima.
Glenloe is another to mention here. Whether the Plate or Ultima is likely I’m not sure but it does look as though, after his two runs so far this season, he’ll go down the handicap route. Second in the Pertemps last year, a return to three miles could be on his agenda. If he gets 145 or below, he could be one for a drop in trip in the novices handicap chase. Either way, I’d be surprised if he’s not bound for one of the festival handicaps, for which he needs one more chase start.
Discorama may well have won the race mentioned above which saw Blow By Blow pull up. He looked to be seeing out the three miles well and is hopefully none the worse for his tumble. He could well be in for a mark sub 145 and the novice handicap chase, based upon his second on the Martin Pipe last year, is feasible. He does look as though three miles is needed now though and the Ultima may be the answer I like him very much but want to get a better idea of a likely target before playing.
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’.