In my last post I rated Rubi Ball for the Gold Cup and, as is so often the case, that dream has been scuppered. He is one of the less high profile absentees from Cheltenham since, since then, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card are also out (the former a lesser surprise as I pointed out at the time).
We’ve also had a number of trials since then so it’s time to take stock of those that remain (after intervening trials?) and to look at those that are not Cheltenham bound. What is striking is that a number of trainers are looking at the “Festival season” and so they should given the money on offer. As an owner, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is super money on offer at Cheltenham. Not so. Aintree and Punchestown have for some years offered better money for “equivalent” races so there should be no surprise that the owners of, say, Balder Succes, (let alone suitable courses) are keen on other options (if that is what they are).
Perhaps the best example is Annie Power. If you owned her without any others in the race, would you run her in the Champion Hurdle? Of course you would! There is a real issue, probably more than the Fenton possible drugs issue, concerning which race this horse runs in. The only conceivable reason that she doesn’t run in the race is that WP wants to clear the way for Hurricane Fly. OK. I write a little blog so I don’t need to worry about who thinks about it and this might be her chance for greatness. If she isn’t entered and declared then I’m afraid that it will reflect badly on both the owner and trainer.
If WP thinks that Hurricane Fly is genuinely the best then he will allow Annie Power to run against him. If he doesn’t then Annie Power should be allowed to emerge as the best hurdler of the year, thereby undermining Hurricane Fly’s win. No-one should be under any illusion that WP is the best trainer in Ireland. I’ve had the undoubted pleasure of being a co-owner of a Supreme Novices’ entrant and Grade One winner with him but, if I was Rich Ricci (let’s face it – he’s a “challenging man” (note the quotes)), I would insist on this very good horse running in the best option. Having heard him speak to @MCYeeehaaa in a very open and impressive interview on the admirable Sunday Forum I take him as a good chap who loves Irish racing and has invested in it. If I was him I would insist that Annie Power runs in the Champion Hurdle.
I’m finally beginning to form initial views about Cheltenham after a quiet period (here) of watching more prep races than ever. There are many potentially informative races still to come but here’s my opener with a few random notes. There’s a strong Irish bias already!
I’m really interested in Rubi Ball, a top notch French campaigner that has moved to Willie Mullins this season. His run in the Lexus was a revelation.
Here’s Willie talking about him
Currently 7/2 for the Irish Hennessy, 25/1 for the World Hurdle and only 16/1 for the Gold Cup. An each way option for the latter.
I like Wicklow Brave for the Supreme Novices’ against all those currently ahead of him.
If Champagne Fever wins properly at the weekend then he’s the selection. If not, it’s Trifolium.
The Champion Hurdle could be one of the best races I’ve ever seen if all make it. My current choice is Hurricane Fly (I’ll elaborate on that versus Our Conor, The New One and My Tent Or Yours nearer the time) but, as everyone knows, the big question is whether Annie Power and who rides her. It’s hard to imagine that Ruby won’t ride Hurricane Fly but I’m not entirely ruling it out. If he does then my bet will go with him.
My picture selection provides a clue:
The RSA is far too early to call but Sam Winner is a horse that I’ve regained faith in.
For the Champion Chase it’s very interesting that hardly any bookies are offering Sprinter Sacre with a run. Bookies tend to be well ahead of the press so he can’t be considered for this outing. Without him there is no reason to oppose Sire de Grugy whose 2013-2014 campaign has been impeccable.
Love Rory did really well at the weekend and the connections know how to win this race. Many have taken the view that this is not a betting race but the last few years have shown that this is possibly one of the easier races! There is no obvious reason to oppose the favourite, Balthazar King who has excelled in this discipline. The owners have not balked at embracing some of the most challenging courses in Europe including the mad challenge at Craon where he won easily. Cheltenham is a doddle in comparison. Current 5/1 is reasonable value (will be much shorter).
The Ryanair is far too early to call and will remain so until the five day stage. I will merely observe that this is where Cue Card should be.
The World Hurdle is another that must wait. If Annie Power runs she wins (but I hope that she will have won the Champion Hurdle earlier in the week).
The (Daily Express) Triumph Hurdle is, bizarrely, the first race that brought my attention to Cheltenham and the first winner I can remember is Peter O’Sullevan’s Attivo who he called: “And it’s first Attivo, owned by, uh, Peter O’Sullevan… trained by Cyril Mitchell and ridden by Robert Hughes”! Incidentally I found when preparing this post that Sir Peter is of Irish descent, born in 1918, and his father, Colonel John O’Sullevan, was resident magistrate at Killarney. Obviously much depends on this weekend’s performance of Ivan Grozny but I’m very interested in Simon Munir’s Gitane du Berlais who, I think, has loads of improvement waiting to happen.
Everyone seems to want Kings Palace in the Albert Bartlett but not me. This is another race that has yet to develop.
Gold Cup (again!)
So, time for the Gold Cup and it’s time to pin my colours to the mast! I’ve opposed Bobs Worth time and again and I’m going to do so again. I think that Silviniaco Conti will win!
I loved this horse from the outset and I take a lot from last year’s race. He was ready to take on the leaders and I firmly believe that he will in 2014. He’s as short as 3/1 with Bet Victor so it’s one to wait for but bear in mind Rubi Ball each way!