As like every year me and a number of friends attend preview evenings below is one that we attended:
CHELTENHAM PREVIEW EVENING at BANGOR-ON-DEE RACECOURSE
the panel consisted of leading local trainer Donald McCain (DM), commentator and broadcaster, Stewart Machin (SM), Jumping Prospects author, John Morris (JM), Form and Speed Figures analyst Andy Holding (AH) and Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide author Paul Jones (PJ). The M.C. was Darren Owen.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
DM: I don’t think the British are keeping up with Willie Mullins. Good luck to him, he has a system and it works. Douvan all the way. I think Jollyallan should be running in the Neptune.
SM: Of Willie Mullins’ four short-priced favourites on Day 1, Douvan is the one I would look to try and get beat. L’Ami Serge makes most appeal against him. I was really struck by Nicky Henderson’s demeanour after he won the Tolworth. L’Ami Serge is my pick at the prices.
AH: Douvan ticks the boxes on my speed figures for both his starts. He must be a hell of a horse to beat Sizing John by 12l on the bridle. He is a big unit but I think he can be even better of faster ground. L’Ami Serge has also been impressive visually and on the clock and I make it between the pair. Jollyallan has no chance of beating L’Ami Serge on the times they clocked on the same day at Newbury.
JM: Douvan could be exceptional but I don’t like backing shorties. Tell Us More looks a big each-way price at 25/1 as it could be this step back to 2m is what he needs right now. It might be a blessing disguise he was beaten over 2m4f last time. Jollyallan doesn’t jump fast enough.
PJ: We know Douvan will be well backed and it will be McCoy this and McCoy that in the build up so I see Jollyallan also being well backed as well so something has to give and it’s likely to be L’Ami Serge. Given Henderson has had nine top-four finishers in the last eight runnings and he looks the best of the Brits so you would like to think he will be thereabouts again so he is interesting each-way near off time as I think that is when he will be at his biggest price. If Tell Us More runs here, he is the only horse at a double figure price that would interest me.
DM: Un De Sceaux will be exciting. It might not be pretty though as I don’t think he’s that good over a fence. He is not bomb proof and he has had freebies in Ireland. Vibrato Valtat has been classed as quirky so he knows how to mind himself and that’s no bad thing in the Arkle. The way the race is run should suit and he travels strongly. Josses Hill jumped well at Doncaster when the gun was put to his head so I see him enjoying the strong pace too.
SM: Un De Sceaux is not my kind of price at 4/7. Vibrato Valtat has impressed me more and more as the season progressed and it looked effortless for him at Warwick to go by a 150-rated rival in Top Gamble.
AH: Un De Sceaux was spectacular on the clock at Leopardstown. He should be favourite for the Champion Chase if he was running there. He jumped well last time but he can be a bit hit or miss and the pace he will be going he’ll have to meet everything on the right stride. Vibrato Valtat is the obvious main danger and has Cheltenham chase experience on his side.
JM: Un De Sceaux jumps a bit flat which is my worry. Sgt Reckless is my little dark one. He has only had one chase start but jumped very well and he has some class about him. Henrietta Knight would be overseeing his schooling.
PJ: I am waiting for firms to bet without the favourite and, taking the view the British are not up to a lot, I fancy an Irish 1-2 and looking at Clarcam in this market. He may not have a 5yo allowance but he is a dependable jumper and very professional. I can see Vibrato Valtat chasing Un De Sceaux from 3 out and Clarcam picking up the pieces. Hopefully that’s the way he will ridden as it didn’t work trying to go after Un De Sceaux last time and being ridden for a place and hope to get lucky might be their plan. He will be hard to kick out of the first three.
DM: The New One should have done it a lot better at Haydock. I have been a big fan of Hurricane Fly but he can’t go on forever and Jezki beat him last year so the door is wide open for Faugheen.
SM: I think Faugheen will win. I was talking with Walsh at Royal Ascot last year and he was telling me he is some machine and jumps so fast. I thought he meant Vautour at first but he was talking about Faugheen. The New One has to put himself right at his hurdles which is a worry.
AH: I timed The New One from the moment he was hampered in last year’s Champion Hurdle and Faugheen from the same point, albeit 24 hours later, and Faugheen was quicker so I have to say he is a faster horse. The New One only won at Haydock as Bertimont raced in the swamp against the far rail. To say Faugheen has beaten nothing is wrong as Blue Heron looked a good winner of the Kingwell. Faugheen is the closest I’ve seen to Istrabraq in that he floats along and also has the power. Jezki each-way is the obvious alternative though I would prefer Geraghty to McCoy on him being 5-5 when he has ridden him.
JM: Faugheen is some tool and can keep on improving. He should win with no mistakes and Arctic Fire is the best each-way value.
PJ: I fancy Jezki to be more of a threat to Faugheen than The New One who is a better horse on the New Course and doesn’t make ground at his hurdles like a Champion Hurdler should. Jezki is much quicker over a flight and looks an obvious each-way bet at 6/1.
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
DM: No real view but I would have run Jollyallan here and not run Beast Of Burden as he should be in the Albert Bartlett.
SM: Not a race I have a strong opinion on but I’m not sure whether Parlour Games will cut it. Windsor Park would be my tentative selection.
AH: Outlander beat a good field but not in a good time last time out. I’ve not seen too many holes in Nichols Canyon and he won the best trial in a good time. He is a professional and tough off the bridle so I like his attitude. Parlour Games is the best of the British but Challow winners have a bad record. He was very impressive before that off a slow pace but showed he can also slog it at Newbury.
JM: This always goes to a fancied horse. I was really taken by Beast Of Burden when he won here (Bangor) and when I saw him in the summer. Rebecca Curtis likes him a lot.
PJ: Parlour Games won the Challow and all 14 winners to run here were beaten but most get beaten as they find the faster ground compared to Newbury at Christmas too much, but he is a Flat horse so I wouldn’t be put off by that stat if you like him. I just think the Irish are miles better. I fancy Windsor Park can reverse Deloitte form with Nichols Canyon over a longer trip and being put into the race, which he wasn’t at Leopardstown until it was all over.
DM: I’d run Coneygree here rather than the Gold Cup. He makes it very uncomfortable for other novices but he won’t be able to do that to top class professionals. I don’t think Mullins will get his way with Gigginstown so expect Don Poli to run here. I’ve been mightily impressed with Kings Palace and think he will improve for better ground. I’ll go with him.
SM: If Coneygree and Kings Palace run it will be like an RSA of old as they just gallop. I think it would be madness to run Coneygree in the Gold Cup. The tempo of race is just different to novice races.
AH: Don Poli all the way if he runs on the speed figures and the strength of his form when he won the Topaz.
JM: Kings Palace’s jumping worries me at the pace they will go. I will go for Coneygree if pressed if he runs as this looks his ideal race.
PJ: Don Poli has plenty of stats to defy if he is to win; 6yo, not run since Christmas, less than three chase starts. But then again the other leading hopes also aren’t perfect on trends. I will back Valseur Lido wherever he turns up but, as we don’t know yet where he, Don Poli, Coneygree or The Young Master will run, I don’t want to commit to the race yet.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
DM: The way Gary Moore has campaigned Sire De Grugy has been fantastic. They are not scared of trying anything different. Sprinter Sacre was drunk after he won at Punchestown and running at all three spring Festivals looks to have taken its toll on him.
SM: Sire De Grugy won a proper race last time and handicap form is so much more informative than beating three rivals at long odds-on in a pattern race. I was impressed by the way he did it. I couldn’t back Sprinter Sacre though wouldn’t be surprised if he won. Dodging Bullets doesn’t catch my imagination. The Newbury race Mr Mole won fell apart though he would have probably won anyway.
AH: The race of the meeting. I am very strong on Hidden Cyclone who is a massive price at 14/1. He committed too early when second in the Ryanair last year and again at Leopardstown at Christmas and a fast run 2m will be perfect for him if restrained more. However, Sire De Grugy did impress me last time or otherwise I would be even more confident.
JM: I like Hidden Cyclone for a bit of each-way value.
PJ: I think it’s between Champagne Fever and Sire De Grugy though accept that Hidden Cyclone is in a very good place right now. I’m not bothered that Champagne Fever would probably have been beaten by Don Cossack when he fell as I think he will hack up in the Ryanair so that’s top class form. I can’t wait to get stuck into Sire De Grugy to beat Sprinter Sacre at odds against when firms offer match betting. I have doubts that Ascot form is that great anyway and sense Nicholls prefers Mr Mole of his pair.
JLT Novices’ Chase
Skimmed through it as first half went on longer than planned.
SM: Splash Of Ginge each-way value.
AH: Apache Stronghold – I’m keen to oppose Vautour.
JM: Vautour – he’s on my front page cover so have to!
PJ: I will back Valseur Lido wherever he runs. He travels and jumps like a real class act and can reverse with Apache Stronghold as he wasn’t fully tuned up in the Flogas.
DM: I just called Gordon Elliott and asked for what he fancies at the meeting. He gave me two and neither were Don Cossack which means it’s a certainty!!!
SM: I wouldn’t be with Cue Card and Balder Succes has yet to do it at Cheltenham. Don Cossack is priced up right and is the most likely winner. Eduard has been at the satellite yard at Newmarket and would have won the Peterborough Chase but for a mistake. That form is some way removed from this but I can see him running well.
AH: Don Cossack at 4/1 is a good price. I see him starting much shorter. He has come of age this season having been frail off the bridle but he looks really strong in the latter stages now. The time of his win last time was tremendous being over 9 seconds faster than Vroum Vroum Mag who won a Grade 2 which is ridiculous. I am looking for reasons not to back Don Cossack but can’t find any.
JM: Don Cossack is my map of the meeting. He has got it all together now.
PJ: Don Cossack for a clean sweep as I can’t have Cue Card on this season’s performances. His form compared to that of his likely rivals this season is on a different level. Module is the each-way value at 40/1, he’s been crying out for this trip so ignore his two runs before the New Year and he has run well at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.
DM: Rock On Ruby is probably best at 2m4f. I think Cole Harden has had his wind done since his last run.
SM: I don’t know if Rock On Ruby will stay so I can’t back him. I don’t know how good Saphir Du Rheu is but I do know the price differential between him and Un Temps Pour Tout on Cleeve form is too big.
AH: I could short list half a dozen and still not find the winner it’s that competitive so I’ve chanced a couple each-way at bigger prices in Jetson and Monksland. Jetson’s defeat of Quevega last year was no fluke and he has run well both starts this season which were runs to get him ready for the spring.
JM: Zarkandar is my fancy. He was fourth last year and Nicholls told me in the summer he will be a better horse for this season. Cole Harden could be the each-way value if returning to the form of his Wetherby win.
PJ: I like Zarkandar. He’s a different horse this season in the way he travels and jumps since his wind operation, he loves this New Course and deep down and I fancy Nicholls prefers him to the chasing-type, Saphir Du Rheu. Only beaten 8l last year in a better race off the back of a poor season last year, this is weaker and he is in far better form.
DM: I ran Starchitect against Peace And Co and he annihilated us. Then I ran him against Hargam and he was not as impressive but beat us well in a nice relaxed fashion so he might be the one better suited to the demands of the Festival.
SM: I was very impressed with Top Notch’s hurdling at Haydock. The stiffer track and extra furlong worries for me for Beltor who pulled at Kempton. He will be hard to beat at Aintree.
AH: Nothing impressed on the clock until Petite Parisienne won at Leopardstown in a race that has featured the last three Triumph winners. I’ve backed Hargam and I can see his form lines being franked in the Fred Winter. I like the fact he has twice run at Cheltenham and he put up a better time than The New One overall and on the sectionals there in December.
JM: I was impressed by Beltor at Ludlow and that form has been franked and was impressed again with him at Kempton. Dicosimo took off in the final furlong on his debut for Mullins and looks the best of the Irish.
PJ: Like everyone else I was very impressed by Peace And Co at Doncaster but the more I think about it, he is a short price for a buzzy horse, especially on Gold Cup Day where the atmosphere will be at its height during the week. Karezak is the type to place again but I am warming to Top Notch who just looks like the ultra professional for 4yos and the longer trip will be in his favour.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Again, this was skimmed through sharpish.
DM: Beast Of Burden should be running here, not the Neptune.
SM: Value At Risk has solid form and should relish the step up in trip.
AH: It’s been a while since we saw Black Hercules which is unlike Mullins.
JM: No real view
PJ: Value At Risk is bred to really improve for the step up in trip and 12/1 represents excellent each-way value.
DM: I would love to see Many Clouds win and he has his chance. McCoy couldn’t wait to me at Kelso he was impressed with Holywell which is unlike him. He doesn’t say these things for nothing. I think he was very taken with him.
SM: I am still unconvinced Silviniaco Conti will come up the hill even if he is a better horse this season. My two against the field are Djakadam, who this might come a year too early but has so much potential, and The Giant Bolster each-way. There is no reason why he can’t place again.
AH: Holywell has the best profile. He is 2/2 at the Festival, comes alive in the spring and when fitted with blinkers and his Aintree form from last season is the best in the race. If McCoy had the choice I think he would ride him and not Carlingford Lough.
JM: Road To Riches and Holywell are my two against the field. Road To Riches is improving and consistent so just give him the edge. This has never quite been Silviniaco Conti’s course and that worries me.
PJ: Boston Bob is too big at 25/1 and worth an each-way bet. He’s a stayer who has never run over the Gold Cup trip so I am expecting him to improve for that and he is a spring horse to boot who will enjoy faster ground. Don’t forget he might have beaten Lord Windermere when he fell at the last when leading the RSA. Looking for a back up selection, if the ground is on the easy side then Many Clouds is a hard horse to pass as he really wants it and it if was good ground, then I would favour Holywell.
DM: The Young Master (if runs in NH Chase)
SM: Faugheen (Champion Hurdle)
AH: Hidden Cyclone (Champion Chase)
JM: Don Cossack (Ryanair)
PJ: Ned Stark (Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase)