Martin Malone

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Month: March 2015

Cheltenham day four selections

cheltenham 3All eyes will be on the skies on Friday morning with the current rain due to last until about 2.00 p.m.

Taking into account that Uxizandre ran a course record in the Ryanair the ground will obviously take a fair amount but there’s a real chance of soft ground which will not suit some of the main winter performers.

1.30 Triumph Hurdle

Hargam is one of those that would not relish soft ground. He was beaten by Golden Doyen on the old course last November but came back to win over the new course in December, beating Karezak and Stars Over The Sea. I’ve made a late decision to desert him and go with Petite Parisienne (10/1), purely on the strength of his impressive Grade 1 win on yielding ground at Leopardstown. I think that he can improve on that. Peace And Co has course and distance form on soft but I think that his facile win at Doncaster has led to him being hyped. Another to take into account is ante post favourite Kalkir at 20/1.

2.05 County Hurdle

Far more of Tony Martin’s short priced favourites fail than succeed so I’m against Quick Jack (15/2). I can’t have Hawk High (25/1), Princely Conn (14/1) or The Game Changer (10/1) so I’ve decided to stick with Cheltenian (20/1). This horse has run only nine times since winning the Champion Bumper in 2011 and recent form is much improved, particularly his second in the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month. In my view that was an ideal prep.

2.40 Albert Bartlett Hurdle

As I mentioned in last week’s post I think that Value At Risk is a serious contender for this at 11/1. Black Hercules is a deserving favourite and Tea For two could run another big one but I don’t think that there is a great deal of depth in this field.

3.20 Gold Cup

There are a number of runners that I can’t have in this – Bobs Worth, Boston Bob, Carlingford Lough, Holywell and Road To Riches among them. Many Clouds will benefit from the rain and could run well. Coneygree is respected but I think it’s down to Djakadam and Silviniaco Conti (9/2). When a horse has been a short priced favourite for a long time there is a temptation to pick holes with a view to working out why he might not win. However, I believe Paul Nicholls when he says that he wasn’t at his best last year, the uncharacteristic fall the year before happened when he looked all over the likely winner and, above all, the dominant win in the King George convinced me that he is the best staying chaser in training.

4.00 Foxhunters’ Chase

I mentioned last week that there is a widely held view that Paint The Clouds (9/2), unbeaten over fences, is a class apart from the competition. Sam Waley-Cohen has ridden the horse throughout his hunter chase career and I can’t make a case for any of the others. I expect the price of this one to plunge before the off.

4.40 Conditionals’ Hurdle

It’s back to the Mullins show in this one with my preference for Killultagh Vic (11/1) ahead of the current favourite Roi Des Francs. Le Mercurey is also respected.

5.15 Grand Annual Chase

Named this year after A P McCoy and he has a realistic chance on Ned Buntline, fourth in this race last year. I think that WP Mullins will round off his best ever Cheltenham with another Ricci horse ridden by Ruby, Blood Cotil (9/1). I can see Walsh and McCoy battling up the home straight for a fitting finish to an excellent Festival.

Cheltenham day three selections

Balder Succes winsAn unsurprisingly poor day yesterday apart from Special Tiara’s each way place in the Champion Chase. What a shame Champagne Fever didn’t run given the way it played out.

On to what I hope will be a more profitable day and here are the selections:

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase

4. Ptit Zig (11/2) **

2.05 Pertemps Final

15 Call The Cops (13/2) *

2.40 Ryanair Chase

1. Balder Succes (8/1) ***

3.20 World Hurdle

17. Zarkandar (15/2) **

4.00 The Plate

3. Caid Du Berlais (15/1) *

4.40 Kim Muir

17. Champagne James (17/2) **

 

 

Cheltenham day two selections

Cheltenham RacesAfter yesterday’s successes today is a much harder and mainly watching day for me.

Here are the quick selections:

1.30 Neptune

Beast of Burden (12/1) ***

2.05 RSA Chase

The Young Master (11/2) **

2.40 Coral Cup

Un Atout (14/1) *

3.20 Champion Chase (Champagne Fever is a non-runner)

Special Tiara (20/1 e/w) *

4.00 Cross Country

Toutancarmont (7/1) **

4.40 Fred Winter

no bet

5.15 Champion Bumper

Vigil (8/1) *

Cheltenham day one selections

cheltenham_crowdWell it all goes a bit crazy betting wise about now. Putting aside the bookies’ offers the Betfair exchange can be volatile to say the least. However it is still the most informative guide.

With that in mind, here goes.

1.30 Supreme Novices’

I think that Douvan is the riskiest of the big four for WP Mullins. Definitely not the first choice for this at the start of the season and, with form that you have to believe for what it is (and no more), What you have to do is believe the hype (unlike the proven Faugheen over his entire career). L’Ami Serge is the only serious opponent and I can’t have him.

Douvan 2.76 win ***

2.05 Arkle Chase

Why are people thinking that Un de Sceaux will fall? It’s a novices’ chase and all are uncertain in that regard. This is another two horse race (Vibrato Valtat is the other) and as many have said, if he doesn’t fall he wins. He won’t fall.

Un de Sceaux 1.8 win ***** (nap)

2.40 Ultima Chase 3m 1f Grade 3

The first big challenge of the day and to be avoided other than for the placepot. However, again there are few serious candidates. I can’t have Pendra or The Druids Nephew and I’m therefore looking at Mendip Express, second to my bet of the week Beast of Burden at Bangor last month, plus a super second in the Becher Chase, Ned Stark (seriously unexposed) and Gevrey Chambertin (a good each way option as well as Friday’s wine choice!).

Mendip Express 13 win *

Gevrey Chambertin ** 16 place *

3.20 Champion Hurdle

Faugheen the… Ruby’s chosen him against Hurricane Fly – not exactly a surprise but nonetheless significant. I definitively cannot have The New One – just not good enough. Jezki is the threat – winner of an inferior race last year but reportedly better than ever on his last workout before travelling. The others make up the numbers. I don’t see any reason why Faugheen won’t win this easily.

Faugheen (excellent value at) 2.2 win **** (next best)

4.00 Mares’ Hurdle

Now a Grade 1 and the two time Grade 1 winner is Annie Power. I’ve been a fan of this horse, primarily because of her running style and would have chosen her for last year’s Champion Hurdle (had she run). Her valiant 1 1/2 lengths defeat to More Of That over the wrong distance bottomed her. That is a problem. She is the second riskiest option for WP. We have to trust that he’s got her ready. The Punchestown win against massively inferior opposition last May proved nothing.

However, if she even 60% she beats the opposition, primarily Glens Melody, another WP horse. I won’t be in the least surprised if she hoses up or if she is pulled up. I suspect that it will be one or the other. Not a betting option for me (unless I’m desperate!).

Annie Power 1.73 * (at the price)

4.40 Toby Balding 4m Chase – Amateurs

It’s easy to think that this is a handicap but it’s not! It’s an amateurs’ race full of handicappers. That’s important to remember as is the distance. And that said, the field can be reduced to a few serious candidates. They are: Very Wood (5), Cause of Causes (8), Sego Success (6), The Job Is Right (8) and, as an outsider, Broadway Buffalo (22).

My choice is Cause Of Causes. Excellent jockey, campaigned against the best of the Irish and with good Cheltenham form (Kim Muir second). I know that they think highly of Very Wood (moved here from the RSA). He beat The Job Is Right and no others in a beginners’ chase and I think that people are carried away by the idea of his win in what was a very poor Albert Bartlett.

Cause Of Causes 9.4 ***

5.15 CHAPS Novices’ Chase 2m 4f+

Now, I can’t believe that Keltus has got in as joint bottom weight, even off 11st 4lb. This horse was fourth in last year’s Fred Winter (well ahead of Violet Dancer – see later in the week) and could have been in proper graded races but is ideally placed here. Thomas Crapper and Generous Ransom are respected but this is our tidy little winner to end the card on a high.

I’ll also keep an eye out for Horizontal Speed (Hobbs/Johnson), sired by Vertical Speed, who was also responsible for the best racing day of my life (even in defeat), Quatre Heures (Vertical Speed/Macyrienne).

Keltus 9.5 **

So, here they are for day one and, as usual, ready to be revisited at about 6.00 p.m. tomorrow.

I recommend this placepot:

1. L’Ami Serge

2. Un de Sceaux

3. Mendip Express, Gevrey Chambertin

4. Glens Melody

5. Cause of Causes

6. Thomas Crapper

I also think that, if ever there was a day, this is the one for a Lucky 15, but not the obvious one!

2.05 Cheltenham – Un de Sceaux

2.20 Sedgfield – Jennys Melody

3.15 Cheltenham – Faugheen

4.15 Sedgfield – Honourable Guest

Good luck!!!

 

days three and four

A couple of days ago I posted my provisional thoughts about the feature races on days one and two next week. Now it’s time to turn to Thursday and Friday, again provisionally. Before that we now know that we have 17 entries confirmed in the Supreme, 19 in the Arkle and just 8 in the Champion Hurdle. All the main contenders have made it so far. I’m not sure that I’m thrilled by the prospect of an eight runner Champion Hurdle (assuming that they all make it) but I’m all the more in favour of Faugheen who might reasonably be assumed to have seen off some of the remaining opposition.

So, on to Thursday and Friday.

Thursday

JLT Novices’ Chase (the Golden Miller)

I think that Vautour is a serious candidate (already broken the rule about not mentioning other horses) but I’m a big fan of Ptit Zig (7/2). I watched (on TV) this horse (already with Nicholls) in France winning the French Triumph Hurdle (Prix Renaud du Vivier) in November 2013, beating Le Grand Luce and the favourite Un Temps Pour Tout, then with François Nicolle. I’m not at all bothered about the fall last time out and this is one of my main bets of the week.

The Ryanair Chase

Anyone who has followed me over the last couple of years will know that I’m a huge fan of Balder Succes (Bawlder Sooksay), an outstanding 6/1 for this race over his ideal distance. For me, he’s one of my reliable favourites along with Silviniaco Conti (there’s a clue for later). Quite simply, if he’s on form, he’s a hardcore winner against top opposition and I can’t see him being beaten against the likely final field. I desperately hope that they choose this race.

The World Hurdle

I can’t have several of these. The ground is drying and I’m with another, French proven, hard top level performer in the shape of Zarkandar. This is a test which has seen contenders falling away and you need a top contender with a hardened finish. I respect Rock on Ruby but his best distance is 2m 4f rather than 3m on the galloping test of the New Course.

Friday

Triumph Hurdle

I love this race because it’s the usual home of the emergence of a new star (more so than the Supreme). It’s probably the one that I’ve paid most attention to, not least because it’s probably most difficult to find the winner of. Early in the season I thought that Kalkir (naming another horse against the rules) was nailed on. No more. There are currently 50 entries but my fairly confident choice is Hargam (6/1), particularly taking into account the ground forecast. Only the ground has beat him in the past and I was very impressed with his Musselburgh win on good ground. The win over Karezak at Cheltenham (course form) also demonstrates a willingness to win. Surely 6/1 is too generous!

Albert Bartlett (The Spa Hurdle)

The potato race – I always think of that when I buy Albert Bartlett potatoes (super roasters!) at the weekend. So, there’s an outstanding candidate in the shape of Value At Risk (a superb 10/1). Beaten by a short priced favourite (Ordo Ab Chao 11/10f) over the New Course, this Kayf Tara bay gelding on his eighth outing can deliver a Grade 1 win for Dan Skelton, in the face of limited opposition.

The Gold Cup

Well, anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Silviniaco Conti (3/1). I’ve followed this horse since his first UK outing at Bangor on Dee in 2010.  (1st of 10 in a 2m 1f novices’ hurdle at 2/1). I completely believe Nicholls’ explanation that he had ulcers when wandering around at the end of last year’s Gold Cup and I think that everyone thought he was the in running favourite when uncharacteristically falling the year before. If that wasn’t enough then the manner in which he won the King George was absolutely stunning. He will win!

The Foxhunters’ Chase

I wasn’t planning on including the amateurs’ Gold Cup but I’ve heard that the Warren Greatrex trained Paint The Clouds (4/1) is an absolute steal. Great to have a Cheltenham banker at a good price before the week starts.

Good luck everyone!Silviniaco_Conti

one week to go and here are my early thoughts concerning days one and two

RacecoursesignWhat are the odds of WP Mullins’ utter domination of day one of the Festival? Well, pretty good in my view. As usual I’ve done my best (not hard work!) to catch most of the main races of the season with a view to preparing a Cheltenham Festival shortlist and here is part one. I’ve avoided consideration of alternatives for now but they will follow. This is the hard list! I’ve avoided the “support races” because it’s too early to know whether some of the big ones will go.

Tuesday

Day one is therefore, in the early part, a favourites’ fiesta.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Douvan (7/4). Has been put forward as WP’s best shot although what to make of that is very debatable.  What is not in doubt are this horse’s credentials and the Racing Post has today reported that Mullins thinks that the ground will suit.

Arkle

Un de Sceaux (4/7). A single seal (in the legal sense) is the translation and this one must seal victory because he is, quite simply, miles ahead of the opposition and that is his running style. Prepared perfectly for this and unopposable. Avoided Cheltenham and beat the best in France (Gemix) last season.

Champion Hurdle

Faugheen (5/4). My view is simply this: why would he be beaten? A perfect record to date and it’s not just the form – it’s the manner of his victories. Proven at Cheltenham last year in the Neptune (admittedly not against the toughest opposition) but, critically, with the perfect mix of speed and stamina for the hill.

Mares’ Hurdle

Annie Power (4/7) would be a serious contender in the championship races but, because of the others in the yard / same ownership, she is the natural successor to Quevega. In my view she’s much better and running at her correct distance (assuming, fairly safely that she goes for this one).

Wednesday

Neptune

Here’s my first big odds call. I was very impressed by Beast of Burden (16/1) at Bangor just about a month ago. Rebecca Curtis’ horse has only had other outings (twice) at Ffos Las and once when second in a maiden hurdle at Newbury but I’m taking the view that this is a big improver who has been given his best distance and is a proper “dark horse”.

RSA Chase

I’m a big fan of The Young Master (7/1). If this horse was in a bigger yard he would be much shorter. Geraghty is booked and I think that he’ll have a dream ride on a horse that I bet some of the really big owners would love to have. Cheltenham winning form against decent opposition in an amateurs’ race over 3m 1f on the old course is a big plus.

Champion Chase

Oh, this is the big dilemma. Sticking to my rule I’m not going to mention the obvious contenders and the new pretender but I’m going against them all and sticking with Cheltenham specialist Champagne Fever (a generous 5/1). This horse will relish the likely ground (unlike his most recent but nonetheless winning outing at Gowran) and, in my view, his ideal distance. Don’t forget his outing in the Arkle last year – the moral winner.

Champion Bumper

This is always subject to the betting on the day. Ricci says that Bordini (7/1) is the choice but we’ll wait and see.

So, there they are. A decent mix of favourites on day one and longer odds on day two. I’ve not watched any previews so these selections are mine alone. If you’re not used to racing betting then I strongly suggest a few combination bets on day one and a few selective bets on day two. Good luck!

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