We’re back in action. Racing is back in Brexitland and all is right with the world!
Just when we thought the season couldn’t get any more laborious after a freakishly warm winter, horse racing is hit by Equine Influenza.
Somebody, somewhere in racing has done something terrible and karma is really taking it out on the sport of kings. This is the only logical explanation for what has unfolded over these past few months.
All is not lost though, we have only had to forego a week of national hunt action and we can get back on the Path to Prestbury now!
With next to no top-quality racing to review, this week I ponder through a few overpriced novices to get stuck into for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Supreme Novices Hurdle
Let’s get this out of the way first, I am a big fan of Angel’s Breath. He really blew me away on his debut.
We should get to see him over the upcoming weekend, but as I type I must admit 4/1 about a horse who has jumped only four hurdles in public is fairly flimsy.
He could well be something special, and I’ve a feeling by Nicky Henderson’s glowing rhetoric that he is, but it’s still a price I’m happy to shirk this far out.
As always, there’s an each way angle into this contest.
The likes of Fakir D’Oudairies, Mister Fisher & Al Dancer are all interesting propositions, but I think Vision D’honneur might be overpriced at 20/1 for the opening race of the festival.
He’s one horse who I think it’s clear that the good ground has been getting in his way all season. On this logic, I think what he has achieved this season is impressive really.
He will improve a tonne for some give underfoot.
Yes, he has been comprehensively beaten twice now by Klassical Dream, but I think it’s been plain to see by his exaggerated knee action that he’s just not been comfortable on the ground.
This is particularly clear on his last showing, when hating it on fast ground at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Klassical Dream and Aramon enjoyed conditions last time, he did not.
Vision D’Honneur won emphatically in a bumper race in France (on heavy) before moving to Gordon Elliott at a cost of 350k. He’s a big, burly type who will really come into his own with some juice in the ground.
With the way Cheltenham operates, the ground will be watered if these dry conditions continue and the ground will be at it’s softest for the first day.
He’s overpriced at 20/1 off the back of one poor run, especially when there’s excuses for that tame finish.
Ballymore Novices Hurdle
One of the biggest travesties of this season was how poorly Gigginstown treated Mouse Morris.
To take his string from him and have him pre-training for the outfit is almost sacrilegious in its disrespect. Simply put, he deserved much better.
Here is a man who delivered them countless success in his tenure as a Gigginstown trainer, including those two emotional Grand Nationals back in 2016 – less than three short years ago.
Mouse is not one to complain however, and he has a potentially really nice type on his hands in the form of Sam’s Profile.
First time out this season, on his debut over hurdles (two miles), he rather comfortably saw off Eclair De Beaufeu at Cork. This race has worked out well with the second going on to win twice since and he finished fourth off 130 behind Off You Go at the Dublin Racing Festival in a major handicap that is sure to work out well.
On his second run, Sam’s Profile went up to three miles in a Grade Three and ran very well in second.
I felt inexperience rather caught him out that day as after being held up early he made a few novicey mistakes and found himself always chasing the front pack, before plugging on valiantly for second behind Derrinross.
The winner has franked that form since when following up in a Grade Two at Christmas and the third Pleasure Dome was less than a length behind Derrinross in that same Grade Two affair.
The Big Dog (a distance back in fourth) has also won since and the fifth Robin De Carlow went off 7/2 before finishing fourth behind Honeysuckle.
It’s quite decent form.
His last effort was when he really grabbed my attention when second to the much vaunted Battleoverdoyen.
The winner was very impressive, but Sam’s Profile had a horror trip around and still managed to get within three lengths of the winner.
Sam’s Profile hit the fourth last hurdle quite badly, was then hampered turning in and Bryan Cooper had to manoeuvre his charge out to the extreme right of the entire field to get a run coming to the last.
He came home with a wet sail, but the winner had already flown.
Sam’s Profile clearly has plenty of improvement left in him, the five-year-old will have been brought along very slowly with a big target like this in mind and he doesn’t have all that much to find with Battleoverdoyen.
Gordon Elliott’s charge is 5/1 for this contest, and Sam’s Profile is 25/1. It doesn’t make much sense to me when he has less than three lengths to find with that challenger.
Naturally the big concern is that he might not even go to Cheltenham, or he could end up in the Albert Bartlett – albeit Mouse Morris did mention the terrible record five-year-olds have in that contest.
I think the trainer will look after him and send him here, and 25/1 is just too big.
Wouldn’t it be some scenes were Mouse Morris and Bryan Cooper able to swoop here and take the Ballymore ahead of the O’Leary’s with Sam’s Profile?
It’s another potential plotline at Prestbury Park in little over four weeks…
National Hunt Chase
Speaking of Bryan Cooper, he has been on somewhat of the comeback trail this season, mainly with the help of the also rejuvenated Paul Nolan stable.
Discorama has been key to this and I feel he is decent price for the “four-miler”.
I was very enthused to hear that Paul Nolan is favouring a crack at the four-mile National Hunt Novices’ Chase with Discorama, as my fear was they would go for something like the RSA.
This horse is all about staying.
So far this season he won a novice chase in emphatic fashion, was a decent fifth to many people’s RSA fancy Delta Work and last time suffered a fall at the last when battling for the lead.
As mentioned, this six-year-old was a faller at the last when upsides the winner Ballyward at Naas, and after the race Paul Nolan stressed how he thought the step up in trip may bring about even more improvement.
Even though the front two at Naas were so close at the last – Ballyward is now 5/1, and Discorama is 16/1.
Another price that just seems too big.
Discorama also boasts crucial Cheltenham festival form over hurdles last season, when he finished second to Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap.
He doesn’t have to improve all that much to be competitive in this.
This a race that so many of us continually get wrong. I find, with the obvious exceptions, that the best horse often does not win this race.
The bigger stables tend to bring their better novices along slowly, giving them only a few runs over hurdles to look after their charge’s future over fences.
This naturally is the right call long term, but this race is a war of attrition and tends to favour the tougher, battle hardened competitors.
As punters we are naturally drawn towards the sexier horses with bags of potential, leading to the solid options going off at big odds, and often winning.
Rockpoint fits the bill for me here, representing last year’s winning connections.
He has plenty of experience with eleven runs under his belt and has won over this course and distance already when emphatically seeing out every inch of this trip beating Lisnagar Oscar.
He is exactly the kind of tough horse you need to win a race like this.
Last time out he was weak in the market when a well beaten fourth behind the talented Beakstown and will improve again for that run. That effort will put him spot on for this and it’s worth noting that last year’s winner Kilbricken Storm enjoyed a very similar preparation.
I am happy to stick with the experience angle here and side with the Tizzards to bring home the Albert Bartlett once again at 20/1.
0.50 Pts E/W Espoir D’allen 20/1 (Champion Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Saldier 20/1 (Champion Hurdle)
2 Pts Win Penhill 5/1 (Stayers Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Black Op 14/1 (Stayers Hurdle)
0.50 Pts E/W Al Boum Photo 14/1 (Gold Cup)
0.50 Pts E/W Vision D’Honneur 20/1 (Supreme)
0.50 Pts E/W Sam’s Profile 25/1 (Ballymore)
0.50 Pts E/W Discorama 16/1 (National Hunt Chase)
0.50 Pts E/W Rockpoint 20/1 (Albert Bartlett)
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.