Updated 9.32 - all selections online.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it the weirdest of weeks, Cheltenham continuing as the world is in turmoil, punters and fans reminded that the sport is the great triviality. And I mean that in both senses of the term; racing is so enjoyable, rarely moreso than at the Festival, but utterly meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Anyway, enough rambling. It’s Magners Gold Cup Day and the big race at 3:30 is as intriguing as ever. Al Boum Photo has a leading chance of a repeat win but that is reflected in his price and we are not all that far removed from a time when he was a faller waiting to happen; I still worry about his jumping.
Santini was my pick for the race a few weeks back and the cheekpieces are no negative with him judging on Nicky Henderson’s recent record with them; in the last five seasons, he is 15 from 54 (27.8%) with 25 places for a small level-stakes profit of 2.69 points and an actual over expected of 1.65 when using them first time.
Soft ground is a big help to his claims but Delta Work – with whom his form ties in – has a good chance himself, arriving here off a recent run unlike in the 2019 RSA Chase when he had been off since Christmas.
The result of the Fred Winter on Wednesday suggests there is a fair chance of an Irish-trained winner in the JCB Triumph Hurdle (1:30); seven of the first ten home were handicapped on Irish form, the fifth Clemencia having only recently moved to the Tim Vaughn.
Events in the Ballymore – an Irish one-two-three, clear of the UK rivals – would also point that way in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at 2:50. Preference here is for Latest Exhibition who has improved with each gradual step up in trip, Abacadabras the only horse to beat him over hurdles and that over two miles, but his price is no giveaway.
On the topic of Irish middle-distance novice hurdlers, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (5:30) is full of them, a few of which are likely better than they have shown to this point.
Front View looks the most likely winner after an eye-catching effort in the Michael Purcell when returning from a mid-season break but I hadn’t really expected the winner of that contest FIVE O’CLOCK to run here (was entered in graded races at the meeting) and now that he has been declared, he is worth getting on side.
He was in danger of to becoming disappointing on this first two starts for Willie Mullins, beaten at 1/5 at Tramore in December and only winning narrowly at Limerick the following month, but those tight tracks may not have suited and he looked a different horse last time at Thurles, powering clear in the straight in the manner of one on a sharp upward curve, looking suited by the strong gallop.
The time of the race was good and while he must carry top-weight here there are only 9lb covering the field. His trainer has already won the race three times in its 11-year history and he may be the one to put it up to Front View, for all that there are plenty of other potentially well-treated runners.
Posted Thursday morning
Instead, I am going to get my speak in early for Friday’s Randox Health-sponsored County Hurdle (2:10). Of the two main handicap hurdles run in the UK and Ireland this year, I suspect the Betfair Hurdle is stronger than the Ladbrokes even though it was a messy race.
Ciel De Neige is a big player here and looked to be in front too soon at Newbury while he has also run well at the meeting before but the eighth-placed STOLEN SILVER might be more overpriced.
He had plenty go wrong there, getting caught behind at the start and repeatedly meeting bits of trouble as he tried to make up ground, and after finding himself near last entering the straight ran on very well to be beaten just over six lengths; with a clearer run, he would likely have been in the frame at least.
That big-field handicap experience shouldn’t be lost on him now while he remains unexposed; he won the Rossington Main on his previous start, shaping a bit better than the result as he had to wait for a run, but perhaps the key form-line is his second to the Supreme third Chantry House at this track in December while conceding 6lb, not looking suited by making his own running at a slow pace.
This 26-runner field with a likely strong gallop should be much more to his liking and he is worth an each-way play.
Tony Keenan’s next tipping column will be on Sunday, March 15th.
Tony's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
5.30 CHELTENHAM, FRIDAY - MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE
1pt win FIVE O’CLOCK (8-1 Betfair Sportsbook, Bet Victor, bet365, Paddy Power, 15-2 William Hill, 7-1 general)
RANDOX HEALTH COUNTY HURDLE
0.5pt each-way STOLEN SILVER (16-1)
MAGNERS GOLD CUP
1pt win SANTINI (13-2)
MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS’ HANDICAP HURDLE
1pt win FRONT VIEW (7-1)