I will begin this week’s column with a look at last weekend’s big horse racing action and then have a brief look at a couple of horses that I have backed for Cheltenham and are worth having onside come March.
Weekend Review: Mullins Machine’s Dominate!
Willie Mullins dominated the action this weekend with his runners taking big races both sides of the Irish Sea to enhance their already strong credentials for the Cheltenham Festival.
On Saturday at Ascot It was Vroum Vroum Mag and Un De Sceaux that stole the show. Vroum Vroum Mag a high class mare over fences showed here she is as good over hurdles as she gave jockey Ruby Walsh pretty much an armchair ride whilst galloping away with the Grade 2 Mares Hurdle over three miles. Her performance made most bookmakers make her second favourite for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, as low as 3/1 with the sponsors. Even in a year like this one those odds look skinny to me, as she still needs to improve on the form she has showed so far and also she has yet o race on ground better than soft. The Mares Hurdle could also be a target if for any reason Annie Power doesn’t make that race.
Un De Sceaux a faller on his seasonal reappearance for the second year running bounced back with a clear round to win the Grade Clarence House Chase. He cemented his place as strong favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with a fairly comfortable win over Sire De Grugy. This was a career best by 8 year old according to Racing Post Ratings (RPR’S) 174 and its hard to envisage last years Arkle winner being beaten at this years Festival as long as he stays on his feet.
It might be worth keeping an eye on the third home Traffic Fluide, like Sire De Grugy trained by Gary Moore. The six year old was having his first start since April and although he wasn’t really put into the heat of the race he was stayimg steadily and almost grabbed second from his stablemate. Now three from seven over fences, last year his trainer had described him as “a special horse”. He should come on well for this run with a race next month at Newbury being pencilled in as his next race before he heads to the Champion Chase. Coral make him a 14/1 shot for that race but he can still be backed at 20/1 with BetVictor which does make some each way appeal.
On Sunday the action moved over the Irish Sea and to Leopardstown and runs of Douvan and Faugheen.
Douvan won the Grade 1 Arkle Novice’s Chase beating just three rivals a 1/14. He had frightened off plenty of runners and won as expected. He travelled and jumped superbly throughout the race and made it three from three over fences. Clearly he is a worthy ante post favourite and looks the one to beat in the Arkle Novices Chase at Cheltenham. Indeed I could be said that he jumped so well that he would take plenty of beating in this year’s Champion Chase too.
Faugheen faced only five rivals but two of them were the second and third favourites for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Last years Champion Hurdle hero jumped quickly and accurately throughout the race and easily beat Arctic Fire & Nichols Canyon. The latter won’t finish ahead of Faugheen at Cheltenham and the former looks set for the places again. The “machine is back” and will be hard to beat in the Champion Hurdle.
As I mentioned last week here I will look at horses that have gone into my Cheltenham notebook. I will start by looking at a couple of horses running in the World Hurdle and the RSA Novices Chase.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle – Alpha Des Obeaux – Won the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last week. He jumped really well through the race and stayed on to well for his rivals and showed he stays three miles well. I backed him ante post at 20/1 and he is now a best priced 10/1 for the race. The ground at Gowran Park was heavy but connections are confident that he will be better horse on nicer ground. Continues to progress and should go well at Cheltenham.
RSA Novices Chase – Seeyouatmidnight – Have taken 16/1 about his chances for the RSA Novice Chase. If he came from one of the bigger yards he wouldn’t have been that sort of price after his recent win at Cheltenham. Granted he is 5/7 on soft or heavy going but trainer Sandy Thomson doesn’t see the eight year old as “just a soft-ground slogger” so hopefully he can perform as well on better going come March. Can still be backed at 14/1 which looks fair value to me given he is guaranteed to go for the race, fitness permitting of course.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
I have got just four eyecatchers this week for you but if you’re with the Eyecatcher Pro software I have added a couple of horses from Meydan that look capable of winning handicaps at the Dubai Winter Carnival in the coming weeks.
Sunday 17th January
Bishopslough – Alan Fleming – The eight year old ran a race full of promise for the spring with a never nearer 11 length 7th in the valuable Coral Handicap Hurdle. Having his first run since July he was held up at the back but was making steady headway when he didn’t’ get the best of runs two out. He wouldn’t’ have won with a clear run but would have been closer. Better ground would probably help him but on the evidence of this run he does look on a decent handicap mark and can land a valuable handicap hurdle or a decent chase in the spring.
Monday 18th January
Dream Spirit – Jamie Osborne – Two pound higher than when winning over a mile at Lingfield on his first run for his new trainer. The five year old did best of hose held up in a Class 3 handicap and didn’t get the best of runs a furlong out and had to settle for a 2 ¾ fourth at he finish. Still on a good mark based on his three year old days with former trainer William Haggas and can be placed to win another handicap on the synthetics, especially if he gets a good pace to chase.
Thursday 21st January
Mountain Rescue – Roger Charlton – The four year old was having his first start since the end of October. Was a bit keen in the early stages of the race and had to be switched when making his effort a furlong out. Was finishing well and was only beaten ½ length at the finish. Interesting that his trainer has kept him for his four year old career and his mark of 77 looks very workable. Lightly raced for his age, this was only his 7th start, and I would be surprised if he can’t win handicap or two on the all weather in the coming weeks. Has so far only had one start on turf. Will be interesting if his trainer doesn’t try the gelding in some headgear!
Saturday 23rd January
Royal Regatta – Philip Hobbs – The eight year old was attemping to follow up his recent Graduation Chase win over C&D when he beat subsequent Thyestes Handicap Chase 2nd Mala Beach. Was taken on for the lead here which probably compromised his chances of another win here. The ground would have been plenty soft enough for the gelding, who is 4/9 on good to soft. He is 3/6 when running between 16 & 30 days of his last run and even more interestingly is 5/9 when running in field sizes of seven or less runners. If he can get an uncontested lead there could be a nice handicap in the horse. Is 0/3 at Cheltenham but has won at Aintree in the past so he could be suited by a flatter track.
Good luck with your betting this week and as ever if you have any questions or comments about the notebook horses leave a message and I will reply to them when time allows.