Day 4 write up

1:30 The Triumph Hurdle

In searching for statistical pointers that may govern this specialist race, there is one that holds strong in recent times; the winner will likely come from a large commercial stable in the UK. In the last eight years this race has been shared by Henderson, Nicholls, King and Hobbs, each winning it twice.

This is perhaps not surprising; in my experience smaller stables tend to bring their horses on more slowly and tenderly, and the same may be true of the bigger Irish stables. Whatever the case it may be a statistic worth following.

Five of the twenty horses in this year’s line up come from the four above stables; four of those five are in the top five in the betting. The fifth, lesser fancied animal is my selection, partly on the basis of value but also because I like his progressive profile.

Dodging Bullets was a cheap purchase as a yearling and took time to make his mark on the track, but he has been a steady improver and is now at the all powerful Paul Nicholls stable. He was well beaten by the favourite in this race, Grumeti, on his first run over hurdles and he was receiving 7lb as well. On the basis of that form Grumeti should beat him again, but he would have needed that run and may improve significantly.

Paul Nicholls is no fool – he must think he has a chance at this level. Dodging Bullets is my sporting selection.

2:05 The County Handicap Hurdle

28 runners in this handicap and with no clear favourite this is something of a pinstickers guide. The winner will be running significantly better than his handicap mark, and that might play into the hands of the younger horses who may still be improving and who the handicapper has not had that much time to assess.

In the last eight years this race has been won five times by a five year old. Only 8 of the 28 horses are five year olds – this may be the richest seam to be mining.

There are three I like;

Sailor’s Warn is trained by Cheltenham maestro Eddie O’Grady – he has plenty of races under his belt and will handle the ground. Ingleby Spirit is trained by flat trainer Richard Fahey, and he comes in on a low weight. I’ll have savers on these two.

The bet for me is Ted Spread, once again trained by Paul Nicholls but this time ridden by Ruby Walsh. This was a serious horse on the level but gets in here close to bottom weight – he ran on Saturday but finished down the field. Nicholls knows what he is about and wouldn’t bring the horse back so quickly after a disappointment if he was concerned about him.

In these big Cheltenham fields the pace is always on and this can favour the classiest animals on the flat. Teddy might be the boy.

2:40 The Albert Bartlett

Our first race with a clear cut favourite, and he’s a very decent animal. Boston Bob has done everything that has been asked of him, and has excellent credentials to score in this race.

I have a problem because I part own a runner in the race (along with several well known faces from the Betfair executive). Big Occasion was a quality animal on the flat, has taken to hurdles like a duck to water and has stamina in spades. The ground is a possible concern but I think he’ll be fine on it. He could be a lot better than he has shown so far.

Boston Bob will be hard to beat, and Willie Mullins has a habit of landing the odds with his fancied runners. He will probably win, but I will oppose him and hope our horse lives up to his name. It may not be the Pipe dream it appears.

3:20 The Gold Cup

The big one, and for many a match between Long Run and Kauto Star.

I don’t know what to make of this race. Long Run is ridden by an amateur jockey, and although he pulled it off last year I can’t get comfortable with a bet on him at such a short price. Kauto Star is perhaps the best chaser of my adult lifetime, but he’s had an injury and he isn’t getting any younger. There is a lot of guesswork here.

It isn’t the most exciting of bets, but the value for me is in the place market and I’m going for Weird Al, place only, in the hope that he will run on into third. He’s probably more of a National horse than a Gold Cup horse, but he’ll stay all day and Jason Maguire won’t bottom him by trying to keep tabs with the front two. He’ll go at his own pace and will be doing his best work at the end of the race when others will be going backwards.

I have a sister called Al and she is extremely weird – this is surely significant. McCain trains.

4:00 The Foxhunters

Not a race I generally spend much time on, but there is one I like this year.

The race has a distinctly hairdressy feel to it – of the principals one is trained by R Barber and ridden by J Barber, one is trained by R Sweeney and ridden by C Sweeney, one is called On The Fringe and one is called Barber’s Shop. It would be a good race to have a perm, or perhaps be a layer. I’ll get my coat…

The one I like is Cloudy Lane, trained by McCain. This is a nice animal trained by a man in form – I spent a while chatting to the McCains on Wednesday and they were positive about his chances.

4:40 Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle

It’s nice to see the joint favourite owned by the Timeform Betfair Racing Club (and M Taylor), and this is a horse I liked on the flat. It may be that a star is Bourne – McCain again trains.

The interesting one for me however is Changing Times, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies and ridden by his son. This 20-1 shot feels like a horse who may have slipped the net – he’s having his first run for NTD and could easily have improved significantly for the move from Ireland. Going is a concern, but there’s nothing in the pedigree I can see that suggests he won’t go on this ground. I’ll take my chances.

5:15 The Grand Annual

This is a funny race. The two previous races are not for professional jockeys, and the biggest names may feel their work is done by the time the Gold Cup is over. It’s a long hard four days.

Nicky Henderson has six entries, and my speculative selection is Anquetta. He’s had a couple of disappointing runs but if you can forgive those he has a great chance at a fighting weight. He is Andrew Tinkler’s only ride of the day, and he’s won this race before on a Henderson trained outsider. Feels like a respectable punt in a tricky race.

Good luck !!