We’re only three weeks away from the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and I don’t think I’m prepared.
It’s been a funny few months in that regard, the jumps haven’t really got going and yet here we are now facing into the festival.
Hopefully all our collective frustration about the stop/start nature of the season will subside when those four glorious days of racing begin on the hallowed turf at Prestbury Park.
You can keep your World Cups; the Cheltenham Festival is the mecca.
After Equine Influenza ruled out racing for a week, we enjoyed a very informative weekend of racing wherein a plethora of horses laid down some serious markers.
Clan Des Obeaux
It’s probably finally time to start giving this horse the respect he deserves after his victory in the Denman Chase. It was a red-letter day for his trainer Paul Nicholls, who landed a 45,863-1 eight-timer on the day.
Not a bad day’s work for the yard.
Of course, Clan Des Obeaux is going to have to improve to be a force in the Gold Cup, as clearly this renewal of the Denman Chase wasn’t exactly a challenge similar to what he’ll face at Prestbury Park.
It just struck me as a very strong performance, nonetheless.
I think it was the perfect blend of precision and aggression of his jumping, the change of pace he showed coming to the last and how mature he looked in easily getting the job done that earmarks this horse as an ideal Gold Cup contender.
The fact also stands that Terrefort is rated 159, was getting three pounds from Paul Nicholls’ charge and was utterly outclassed.
Presenting Percy missed his intended target at Gowran Park and it must now be reasonable to say that on this season’s form alone, Clan Des Obeaux is the horse to beat in the division.
He deserves to be where he is in the market.
Paul Nicholls has been slowly putting together a yard to try and get back to where he was in the old days and he might be getting there. He’s amassing a very strong stable to go to war with.
His comparison between this challenger and the great Kauto Star will be music to the seven-year olds supporters’ ears.
“Kauto was seven when he won his first Gold Cup and he’s just where we want to be. I won’t need to give him any racecourse gallops, he’s mega-fit and we’ll go to Cheltenham full of confidence.”
I’m still concerned with his Cheltenham record though. Clan Des Obeaux has trudged onto the Cheltenham turf four times and has still yet to win there.
Only time will tell whether he has just improved beyond recognition this season, or whether he might not act at Prestbury Park.
He can always go down the Silviniaco Conti route in any case and win the Aintree Bowl instead!
“Horses for Courses” is a common adage, but one that fits in beautifully here.
Bristol De Mai has Haydock and now Cyrname owns Ascot.
He is simply different gear at this venue and this was one of the best performances you will ever see.
For the second time in as many starts at Ascot, Cyrname recklessly bound off into a lead and never came back to his competitors. On Saturday he stepped up from handicap level to a Grade One but achieved the same result. He absolutely obliterated them.
The performance was truly devastating, with seventeen lengths back to the second, last year’s winner no less, in Waiting Patiently. The talented Fox Norton and Politilogue were unable to land a blow in third and fourth.
He turned a competitive looking affair into a procession.
It’s such a pity he doesn’t seem as effective going left handed and trainer Paul Nicholls alluded to the same after the race.
I’m not giving up on the second Waiting Patiently either. He hated the ground, and if the heavens do eventually open again, we’ll see the best of him once again.
Unfortunately, this season has just transpired against him.
Back to the winner, whilst we more than likely won’t see Cyrname at Cheltenham, he does add further spice to the King George at Kempton in December later this year.
Thinking a bit ahead, I know…
Al Dancer backed up short odds at Newbury for a classy victory in a very competitive handicap. In the end, he made it look rather easy.
This victory will perfectly tee up the Dai Walters-owned winner for the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The three-and-three-quarter-length win, from Magic Dancer and Blu Cavalier, was not representative of how easily he actually won the race. Al Dancer could’ve won by much further if he was needed to.
I’m always wary of these winners though, as it won’t be the first time a winner of this race gets over-punted for a Supreme and ultimately finds one too good. Ballyandy, My Tent Or Yours and Kalashnikov can all vouch for this theory.
He was also very keen in the opening part of this race. He won’t get away with that in a Supreme.
Al Dancer nonetheless has delivered a further level of intrigue to what I’ve a feeling will be a very good Supreme. It can’t be much worse than last year’s renewal anyway!
Monalee further enhanced his Ryanair claims in the Red Mills Chase and looks a solid proposition going forward over this trip. Connections might hopefully give up the dream of him being a Gold Cup horse, as he just doesn’t stay well enough to ever be a factor over staying trips.
I do understand them persevering though, nobody spends good money on a young horse dreaming of one day winning a Ryanair.
As well as the above, Tiger Roll confirmed he’s a near certainty for the Cross-Country chase, Grand Sancy has his part to play in the Supreme and Kalashnikov once again advertised how poor a renewal of the Supreme we had in 2018.
It was a very good weekend of racing and it needed to be after missing a week of action.
Fred Winter Fancy
As we edge closer to the festival, it’s about now I seriously begin to look at the handicaps. The weights are out in two weeks, so you can possibly beat the odds by trying to spot one who might end up being “well in” beforehand.
Surin looks a prime example of this at 14/1.
She has been given a rating of 130 here in Ireland, which she obviously won’t be allowed to run off by the English Handicapper at the Cheltenham Festival. Last year all Irish juveniles were given a mark six pounds higher than what they were allotted In Ireland and hopefully this would be the case again.
136 would be a very fair mark for her.
She was purchased by Gordon Elliott from Mario Hofer after a victory in a Market Rasen 3-year-old bumper and has gone from strength to strength in the meantime.
Finishing second on debut to Gardens Of Babylon, she then overturned that form at Fairyhouse to prevail by a nose. Surin was understandably no match for the brilliant Sir Erec last time but ran a gallant race to be third on the day all the same.
Gardens Of Babylon (rated 139) had his excuses and I think he’ll get closer to Sir Erec next time in a truer run affair.
If you take that onboard, then Surin would be very well treated running in a Fred Winter.
I firmly believe that Ireland’s juveniles are much better than their English counterparts, and with Gordon Elliott confirming that this was her aim on a Q&A on Twitter, Surin looks a big price a 14/1 for the 2019 running of the Fred Winter.
0.50 Pts E/W Espoir D’allen 20/1 (Champion Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Saldier 20/1 (Champion Hurdle)
2 Pts Win Penhill 5/1 (Stayers Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Black Op 14/1 (Stayers Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Al Boum Photo 14/1 (Gold Cup)
0.50 Pts E/W Vision D’Honneur 20/1 (Supreme)
0.50 Pts E/W Sam’s Profile 25/1 (Ballymore)
0.50 Pts E/W Discorama 16/1 (National Hunt Chase)
0.50 Pts E/W Rockpoint 20/1 (Albert Bartlett)
0.50 Pts E/W Surin 14/1 (Albert Bartlett)
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
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