Martin Malone

my home on the web

Tag: Apple’s Jade

Cheltenham 2019 – Tuesday

Here we are at last! The Festival is about 40 hours away as I’m writing and, as ever, I can’t wait for the feast of racing that will keep me fully occupied for the next five days (including Cheltenham Eve!).

First things first – the weather. As I mentioned in my post at the end of February, the ground is a massive factor and Accuweather pretty much nailed it in terms of the forecast. Clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, is currently predicting soft ground for day one and, based on the hailstorm that I’m watching as I’m typing this, I’m expecting that it will be nearer soft to heavy rather than good to soft. That makes a massive difference. For a normal Cheltenham you need horses that stay, because of the pace of the races and the hill. On soft ground that is even more to the fore and, with a major storm and 50mph winds forecast for Wednesday, could be even more important later in the week (Un De Sceaux and Native River immediately spring to mind). It’s a time to be cautious about graduates from the flat, and to favour National Hunt bred horses and particularly those from France, which conveniently suits my favoured profile!

Returning to my preview post, I’m pleased that my initial selections for day one are unchanged (that will not be the case for the rest of the week!). So, on to the races themselves and, once again, thank goodness for the 48 hour declarations

13.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Embed from Getty Images

5/1 the field is an appetising starter for the first of 28 races and here are my views about the leading candidates.

Al Dancer (5/1 jf)

Yet to be beaten over hurdles, he was an impressive winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Ascot on 16 February, but he didn’t beat much. This is good handicap form and he might be seen as following in the line of Kalashnikov, a similar handicap winner before going close in this one last year. His previous outing was in a Class 3 on the new course at Cheltenham (old course this time) and, again, he didn’t beat much. He’s been declared without a hood (which he’s worn on his previous outings) and, when asked today about it, jockey Sam Twiston-Davies said that they’re going for ear plugs instead. An odd selection for the hubbub of the Festival. Not for me.

Angels Breath (5/1 jf)

This is definitively not one for me. Much hyped (no doubt because of the trainer/owner combination – Henderson/Dai Walters), his much delayed follow up to the Grade 2 Kennel Gate at Ascot in December (when four of the eight hurdles were omitted) was when he was beaten by unheralded Southfield Stone in the Dovecote at Kempton on 23 February. Some have said that he was unsuited by the good ground and fast track but I think that’s more about wanting to believe rather than analysing the cold facts.

Klassical Dream (6/1)

Currently attracting support, this winner of a maiden hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting followed up with a victory by a head over my selection of the day Aramon at the Dublin Racing Festival on 3 February. I was there and felt that this one is not top class. To be fair, much vaunted Vision D’honneur was third but I’m not convinced that soft ground at Cheltenham will suit.

Fakir D’oudairies (13/2)

An impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle Trial on the new course on good to soft ground at Cheltenham on 26 January, again not beating too many good ones (second was 25/1), I thought that this one would be one of my Festival favourites. However, it’s pretty obvious that this 4-y-o (no 4-y-o has won this race for 20 years) is turning up here because another JP horse (and possibly most backed of the week), Sir Erec, is the favourite for the Triumph. Could run a screamer but I doubt it.

Elixir De Nutz (8/1) – selection

And now on to my selection, the well-campaigned and highly exciting Elixir De Nutz. I’ve followed him throughout the season to date. Beaten on his seasonal outing in a Class 3 over the course by Thomas Darby, he’s not looked back since. Won the Supreme Trial on the old course on 18 November, followed up (on the old course) on 14 December and won a good Tolworth on soft at Sandown on 5 January. Hard as nails and will win.

Grand Sancy (12/1)

A good French horse but beaten by Elixir De Nutz. Subsequently won the Kingwell at Wincanton but I don’t see him reversing the form with my selection, particularly on the ground.

14:10 Arkle Novices’ Chase

Embed from Getty Images

This is much more open than recent renewals but, again, I have a firm selection.

Glen Forsa (9/2f) – selection

This is exceptional value. Sometimes (quite rarely) you see one horse break another’s heart and that is exactly what I saw when this one beat 1/4f Kalashnikov at the relocated Kingmaker at Sandown on soft on 15 February. Admittedly it was a three horse race and the third made up the numbers but this was a majestic jumping performance for a novice, in a style very reminiscent of Footpad last year. Put simply, he is this year’s Footpad and my bet of the day.

Lalor (4/1)

It’s easy to be heart over head with this horse. He won well over this course in the Grade 2 Arkle Trial (Defi Du Seuil was last) on good ground but his run in the Henry VIII at Sandown in December on soft was desperately disappointing. I would want to have seen him redeem that outing in the meantime before I could support him in this one

Hardline (6/1)

This one has stormed up the betting since being highlighted in several Cheltenham previews. I think that he’s the best of a moderate Irish bunch and being put up precisely for that reason. I watched him being comprehensively beaten by La Bague Au Roi in Dublin on 3 February and I just don’t get the hype.

14:50 Ultima Handicap Steeplechase

Embed from Getty Images

Unlike the first two, I don’t have a strong view about this race. Current favourite Give Me A Copper (11/2) for Paul Nicholls was well beaten last time out on soft ground at Sandown. Minella Rocco (8/1) will never be a selection for me. Mister Whitaker (also 8/1) won the Close Bros Novices last year and I think that is the only reason why he is towards the head of the betting. I’m going to rely on what I’ve heard in the preview nights (and from Barry Orr today) and have an each way on Lake View Lad at an appealing 20/1. Other each way options are Beware The Bear (20/1) and Royal Vacation (soft ground stayer – 25/1).

15:30 Champion Hurdle

Embed from Getty Images

This is the best Champion Hurdle for years and is between the first three, with one notable outsider.

Apple’s Jade (2/1f) – selection

Ignore her run in the Mares’ Hurdle last year – she was in season and obviously didn’t run to form. She will not be in season this year (I have no idea how or why that is the case but that’s what I’ve heard!) and her form, that run aside, is impeccable.

Buveur D’air (9/4)

Looking for a third consecutive Champion Hurdle, whether you like him or not, I agree with Matt Chapman that the last two were by no means classics. He only beat Melon by a neck last year and the defeat at the hands of Paloma Blue in the Christmas Hurdle in December was significant. This one is often mentioned in the same breath as the other Henderson star Altior but the Champion Chaser is a significantly better horse.

Laurina (4/1)

Unbeaten since transferring from Guillaume Macaire to Willie Mullins in November 2017 and with (mares only) winning form on soft and heavy, she could be a very good horse. However, I’m inclined to attach an awful lot of weight to jockey Ruby Walsh’s one line assessment of her, that “she’ll need to improve”.

Espoir D’allen (20/1)

Although I don’t see this one as a winner, the profile is great (unbeaten this season in three Grade 3s including the Limestone Lad last time out) and I could easily see him running into a place in what is currently a 10 runner race.

16:10 Mares’ Hurdle

Embed from Getty Images

I see this as a head to head between Benie Des Dieux (5/6) and Lady Buttons (9/1). In the absence of the main challengers (Apple’s Jade and Laurina) this is an easily winnable race. I selected Benie Des Dieux last month and I see no reason to change. She won this last year and the form of Lady Buttons is just not quite good enough. I was a big fan of Stormy Ireland last year but she didn’t live up to expectations. One for a place at 50/1 is Alletrix.

16:50 Close Brothers Novices’ Chase

I have no interest in this race whatsoever, but will mention that in the preview nights there was support for Tower Bridge (8/1) for J P O’Brien.

17:30 National Hunt Amateurs’ Novices’ Chase (the four miler)

Although trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Derek O’Connor, I really don’t like current favourite Ok Corral (3/1). The form is at best dubious, although I realise that could be a plot. I have been reluctantly convinced by several pundits at Cheltenham preview nights that there is perhaps a better plot in the shape of Discorama (7/1) . The difference with this one is that he ran into a good fifth in the Grade 1 Drinmore (beaten by among others Delta Work and Le Richebourg) and has never run over anything like this distance. He also has form on yielding, soft and (to a lesser extent) heavy.

Summary

So the leading selections are:

  • Supreme – Elixir De Nutz
  • Arkle – Glen Forsa
  • Champion – Apple’s Jade
  • Mares’ – Benie Des Dieux

An accumulator will deliver 221/1 and the Lucky 15 £622 so a £2 accumulator and £15 Lucky 15 delivers a potential maximum of £1067. Good luck!!

Cheltenham Tuesday

Well, here we are, under 24 hours from the Cheltenham roar as the Supreme gets under way. The ground in my garden is squelchy and the rain is set in for the day. It’s scheduled to be the same at Cheltenham until 11.00 p.m. so we can now safely say that the going will be heavy all round. It’s hard to overestimate the effect that this will have on racing, particularly up the hill. Expect horses with a turn of foot to find nothing at the finish and horses with a decent lead at the home turn fading badly. The last time the Festival started with proper soft ground was in 2013 and the week included winners at 28/1, three at 25/1, 33/1 and 50/1 and just eight favourites won. The last time we had soft/heavy ground was as long ago as 1995 when the Supreme was won by Willie Mullins’ Tourist Attraction at 25/1.

Simon Claisse has reported this morning that “there isn’t much standing water around” which, of course, means that there is some. Expect significant non-runners on the day.

The news as I write is that Altior is lame this morning with pus in his foot (although might still run) and We Have A Dream is unlikely to run in the Triumph. Douvan has been declared for the Champion Chase, scotching suggestions that he might be diverted to the Ryanair.

The ground has put paid to any but the most obvious multiple selections. Winners will be harder than usual to come by.

Of course there are lots of bookie offers but one of note is with Paddy Power who are offering money back as a free bet on all losers if the SP favourite wins on all day one races.

1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Kalashnikov**** 

Embed from Getty Images

The top seven in the betting have all shortened with Getabird current favourite at 2/1, followed by Kalashnikov  at 5/1, Summerville Boy and First Flow 11/1, Mengli Khan and Paloma Blue 14/1 and Claimantakinforgan 16/1  (22/1 bar). I’ve already said that I think that this is a two horse race between the leading two in the market. I think that Getabird is a false price because of its connections and I’m firmly with Kalashnikov to follow up on his ideal prep with a mud-spattered victory in the most valuable handicap hurdle of the year at Newbury last month. He’s the form selection and certainly in with as good a chance as the favourite so the price of the selection appeals.

Here’s Amy Murphy talking about Kalashnikov’s chance:

Getabird has won on soft and heavy ground and over 2m 4f and therefore should not be inconvenienced by the going. He should improve on his runs to date but Ruby Walsh thinks that he’s “short enough”.

Of the others First Flow has won on heavy on his last two outings at Haydock and Newbury and can fill the frame.

2.10 Arkle Chase

Footpad***** (nap)

Embed from Getty Images

A small field for the Arkle is not unusual but just five runners (as matters stand) is disappointing. This is one of the races that was (very unusually for the Festival) re-opened on Sunday.

Robinshill (125/1) has no chance and I was already strongly against Brain Power (12/1) (form 1UF) before the ground turned against him. That leaves Footpad, Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados. I’ve heard so many people say in previews that Petit Mouchoir’s hurdles form is better than Footpad’s but it’s a chase and the latter has well and truly come into his own over fences. Petit Mouchoir (100/30) has been overtaken by Saint Calvados (3/1) as second favourite and that makes sense given the conditions.

Saint Calvados has sprung to prominence on the strength of one, albeit very impressive, win in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on soft ground.

Footpad’s price of 5/4 is a steal. I would have him at 4/6. I’ve already pointed out that his Auteuil experience is a big asset and his form there – 112 – on soft, very soft and heavy reinforces that view. This is no tougher assignment than his win in the Irish Arkle last month.

Here he is winning the Prix Alain du Breuil on Auteuil soft in 2016:

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase

Beware The Bear* (e/w) / Vintage Clouds* (e/w)

Embed from Getty Images

This is a race that could well produce a long odds winner. Having said that, there are several candidates with good form on soft and heavy who are worthy of consideration.

On the contrary, long time ante-post favourite Gold Present has not run on soft ground since November 2015 when he was pulled up at Bangor.

I try to avoid favourites where possible but I completely get why Coo Star Sivola is now 5/1 favourite. He was an easy winner of his last outing over three miles on soft ground at Exeter, albeit that he didn’t beat that much. However, I think that his price is too short. He was very nearly my selection and, unlikely though it is, any drift in the price would see me backing him. An entirely plausible winner.

Regular readers will know that I don’t have any time for Singlefarmpayment (6/1) who has consistently failed to deliver.

Beware the Bear (14/1) is a fine horse. He was pulled up in the Welsh National after a couple of mistakes but was a fine winner of the Rehearsal Chase on soft at Newcastle last December (beating Yala Enki and Wakanda among others). He has winning form on heavy ground. He’ll need to jump better than he does sometimes and, if he does, I can see him (one of the few) staying well up the hill.

Vintage Clouds (8/1) is another reliable stayer on soft ground. He began his season with a win at Aintree and followed up with a second to Clan des Obeaux at Haydock on heavy ground. He kept on for a commendable staying on fourth in the Welsh National (again on heavy ground) and was second (yet again on heavy) in the Towton Chase at Wetherby last month. As such he represents excellent each way value.

By the way, there are no Irish runners in this race.

3.30 Champion Hurdle

Buveur d’Air***** (n.b.) / Wicklow Brave* (e/w)

Embed from Getty Images

I’m interested to see that connections have declared my former favourite Charli Parcs in this day one highlight. I’m afraid that the current 100/1 is fair. He’s assumed to be here as a pacemaker for the favourite.

The ground should not inconvenience Buveur d’Air (8/15) whose last three wins have been on soft and who also has winning form on heavy (Sandown in February 2017 when, according to the in-running comments he “cruised into the lead”). He is head and shoulders above the opposition and the ground may only to serve to extend the margin of victory. I expect a shorter price at the off.

Here’s Buveur d’Air winning last year:

For a dual purpose horse Wicklow Brave (14/1), winner of the 2015 County Hurdle, has surprisingly good form on heavy ground. He’s a bit in and out but could just turn in a good one here. He can be fussy at the start so that’s another factor to take into account.

Faugheen is currently 6/1 second favourite and this has to be all about what was rather than what is. I saw him in the parade ring at Dublin last month and he looked majestic. However, I’m afraid that coming second to Supasundae is simply not good enough.

Yorkhill has form on heavy ground but that’s not his problem. This is an afterthought and there can be no confidence in him turning it round here.

Elgin has an each way shout with his win on soft over course and distance in the Greatwood last November but most of his decent form is on good/good to soft.

4.10 Mares’ Hurdle

Apples’ Jade*****

Embed from Getty Images

This one is short and sweet. I don’t see any serious opposition to Apple’s Jade who is on a six-timer, including this race last year. She has winning form on heavy.

Here’s Apple’s Jade toughing it out in this race last year:

Second favourite Benie des Dieux has been chasing in her last three races so it is hard to see that this was the target.

La Bague Au Roi is a fine mare but not in the same league as the favourite.

4.50 National Hunt Amateurs’ Novices’ Chase

Ms Parfois**

Embed from Getty Images

Jury Duty is a fair favourite with the redoubtable Coddfather on board. However, my selection is the very progressive, soft ground stayer Ms Parfois at an appealing 7/1.

Over four miles this race will be attritional and I see no more than a handful of finishers, one of whom could be Rathvinden, although the 13/2 is too short for my liking.

5.30 Close Brothers Novices’ Chase

Testify* (e/w)

Embed from Getty Images

De Plotting Shed is a well handicapped favourite.

I don’t have any strong views in this race but, of the others, I like Testify each way at 12/1. He won well over the same distance in a Grade 2 on heavy at Haydock last time out and should have no problem staying on when others have given up the ghost.

Good luck!

My bets placed for the day

1.30 Kalashnikov** win 5.2/1

2.10 Footpad****** win 1.04/1

2.50 Beware The Bear* 13.5/1 e/w

3.30 Wicklow Brave* w/o fav 5/1

4.10 Apples’s Jade*** win 4/6

4.50 Ms Parfois** win 7/1

5.30 Testify* win 9.5/1

Footpad/Apple’s Jade double** 2/1

 

 

 

 

© 2019 Martin Malone

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑