Martin Malone

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Tag: Footpad

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**** 

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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*****

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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**

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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)

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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

 

 

 

 

Cheltenham – The Grade 1 Races

This is the last update with selections before the declarations. Thank goodness we have 48-hour decs this year so we can have a good look at the fields rather than wondering which horse will take its place where. Of course there is still the possibility of double decs but, overall, it should be much better all round.

The first considerations are the weather and the ground. According to the BBC website rain is forecast every single day from this Friday until Gold Cup day. Today (Tuesday) the ground is soft, good to soft in places. I’m expecting soft ground all round on Tuesday (11/8) and soft, heavy in places by Gold Cup day. According to Accuweather extended rain is expected this Saturday, followed by next Thursday and particularly on Friday.

I’m going to confine my views to the Grade 1 races and the Cross Country today because there are too many multiple entries in the main handicaps.

Later in the week I hope to post videos of the main contenders. For now, here’s an example of Footpad’s spectacular jumping performance at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting:

Tuesday

1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,188)

Kalashnikov**** (15/2 > 6/1 > 11/2)

There are 53 entries but it’s 10/1 bar Getabird and Kalashnikov without NRNB. It’s a “pick ’em”. It’s easy to think of Getabird being another Melon (i.e. a beaten hotpot). His form is impeccable and he has winning form over 2m 4f on heavy so softish ground shouldn’t be a problem. He easily beat Mengli Khan and Carter McKay in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown on soft to heavy last time out in January and may well improve.

If you disregard Kalashnikov’s second to Summerville Boy in the Grade 1 Tolworth on proper heavy ground (and I think that you can) his profile is also impeccable and his victory in the the Betfair Hurdle (formerly the Schweppes) was a mighty performance for a novice. Another horse to have progressed from this race was Make A Stand in 1997 (having improved 50lbs in the course of the season), except he went on to win the Champion Hurdle at 7/1. Kalashnikov has shown his resolution and speed in a cavalry charge on soft ground and he is a confident four stars selection.

2.10 Arkle Novices’ Chase (winner £99,663)

Footpad***** (7/4 ->11/8 > 11/8 > 6/4)

Regular readers will know that I’ve been a fan of Footpad for years and he’s moved up to top gear by chasing. I’ve already said that I see this one as a future Champion Chaser. He took a drift in the market last weekend but it now seems that this may have resulted from confusion with the Munir horses (Sceau Royal is out), as noted by Ruby Walsh:

“Footpad is 100 per cent and we don’t know why he was in the news over the weekend.

“Maybe someone had the wrong information about a Simon Munir horse or something, we know Sceaux Royal went missing on Monday, but Footpad is 100 per cent and there was never an issue with him, but you get those rumours at this time of the year.”

I can’t split Footpad and Apple’s Shakira as my nap of the week. They are both five star selections and the current prices for both are staggering value.

I agree with the Racing UK pundits that Brain Power has no chance and although Saint Calvados was impressive in the Kingmaker at Warwick he didn’t really beat that much. He was sixth of 10 behind last weekend’s star De Bon Coeur last April at Auteuil. As an aside De Bon Coeur looks like France’s next Questarabad after his latest demolition job of the opposition at Auteuil on Sunday (winning a race also won won by Questarabad at a similar stage). It would be great to see that horse taking on the best from the UK and Ireland but, if I was the owner, I’d hold on to him and sweep up all the extremely valuable prizes in France for years to come (form 111111-F111).

3.30 Champion Hurdle (winner £256,275)

Buveur d’Air***** (4/6 -> 1/2 > 8/15)

None have emerged to prevent Buveur d’Air from retaining his crown. The only reason why he’s not my nap is the price. I’m therefore looking at the place options. As previously noted Elgin should be supplemented (for £20,000) and take his chance (currently 16/1) and Wicklow Brave could well run into a place at 12/1.

4.10 Mares’ Hurdle (winner £67,524)

Apple’s Jade**** (8/11 -> 4/6 > 4/6)

W P Mullins appears to be firing his best available against his former charge Apple’s Jade but none of them should be able to see her off. This is easily Gordon Elliott’s best chance of the day and probably the week. I might have a small interest on La Bague Au Roi for a place at 14/1 if she turns up here.

Wednesday

1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,187)

Samcro**** (9/4 -> 8/11 > 4/5)

There appears to be a consensus that this one is the Irish banker of the week. The price is certainly very attractive but, in reality, there are better options (albeit at shorter prices). His win at the Dublin Racing Festival was mightily impressive and there is no good reason to look beyond him. He’s unbeaten and this is his graduation day.

2.10 RSA Novices’ Chase (winner £99,662)

Black Corton*** (10/1 > 8/1)

I’ve been with Black Corton from the start of these previews and I’m not going to change now. The only concern is if Monalee turns up here but I think that he’ll show up in the JLT. Don’t worry about the progression from a summer horse to a Cheltenham Grade 1 candidate. As I mentioned above Make A Stand improved 50lb in one season before winning the Champion Hurdle. His victory in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase, followed by the Grade 2 Reynoldstown, proves his class beyond doubt and, with Bryony Frost on board, I can already see her smile and raised arm on board the winner making the front pages of the newspapers.

3.30 Champion Chase (winner £227,800)

Altior***** (11/8 -> 8/11 > 8/11)

Altior is the chasing equivalent of Buveur d’Air in the Champion Hurdle and should ensure that Nicky Henderson bags both 2m prizes. A curve ball in this one (for a place) is Great Field for Willie Mullins after 321 days off but on a five timer (into 10/1 from 16/1 in the last few days).

4.10 Cross Country Chase (winner £40,235)

Cause of Causes** (4/1 -> 7/2 > 11/4)

There’s not much to add to my earlier views. Cause of Causes is a fair bet for this one but no more than that.

Thursday

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase (winner £85,425)

Monalee** (14/1 > 13/2)

I do hope that Monalee turns up here and, if he does, he should win. One to watch is the Munir/Henderson highly rated recruit Terrefort at 13/2.

2.50 Ryanair Chase (winner £199.325)

Un de Sceaux**** (9/2 -> 3/1 > 2/1)

Unusually, I’ve put up the prize money in the titles of the races in this preview, particularly with this race in mind. The Ryanair is often seen as the poor relation of the other championship races but that prize to the winner of nearly £200,000 is not to be sniffed at. The ground prediction reinforces my view that this is Un de Sceaux’s for the taking. Waiting Patiently would be interesting if he turns up but I don’t think that he will. If the decs go as they might, this might be 7/1 bar the fav in which case the advice must be to get on now.

3.30 Stayers’ Hurdle (winner £185,088)

Sam Spinner** (4/1 -> 11/2 > 5/1)

Let’s get two out of the way to start with. Neither Supasundae nor Yanworth are my ideas of the winner. Both have had good days but are not champions here. This is a wide open race and that is why I think that it’s a perfect opportunity for the highly progressive Sam Spinner who, like Kalashnikov, has shown tenacity in his prep races.

Friday

1.30 Triumph Hurdle (winner £71,187)

Apples Shakira***** (4/1 -> 3/1 > 3/1)

I’m going to repeat myself – Apples Shakira is a very, very good horse. She gets half a stone from the geldings and arguably wouldn’t need it to win. That is a very significant advantage and all her wins in the UK have been on soft (she also beat 10 on her debut in France on trés souple) and this could be run on very soft ground. Unbeaten, she is all over my idea of the winner of this. Of the others Saldier (12/1) and Stormy Ireland (9/1) are candidates for a place, both at decent prices.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,187)

Next Destination* (8/1 -> 6/1 > 7/1 (as low as 4/1 in places))

This is by some margin the weakest of the Grade 1s and Next Destination is the weakest of my current selections. Santini is the current 4/1 favourite and if Chef des Obeaux (11/2) turns up here I’ll be switching to him (particularly on soft ground).

3.30 The Gold Cup (winner £355,937)

Native River*** (6/1 > 6/1)

Well, bring on that properly soft ground for my selection! If it does turn up that way on properly churned ground (after two days on the new course) I can see this one grinding on and on for an old fashioned win over 3m 2 1/2f. I can see some of the the Irish horses repeating their Christmas flops and, as I’ve already said, I can’t see Might Bite winning and all the more so on trying ground. I think that Ruby will ride Total Recall and he’s excellent value for a place at the current 16/1.

Combinations

It seems this way at this time every year but this year in particular I think that there are horses to place in multiples and they are:

Footpad

Buveur d’Air

Apple’s Jade

Samcro

Altior

Un de Sceaux

Take them all (including NRNB) for a realistic 50/1. I have.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

…and here’s my Cheltenham selection Footpad showing how good he is!

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