There’s some interesting racing this week with some decent all-weather action, a Grade 3 Chase at Navan, and Sandown’s two-day Imperial Cup Meeting featuring the Grand Military Gold Cup on the Friday and the Imperial Cup on the Saturday. However, most punters and pundits just can’t stop talking about Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Festival News
The Cheltenham Festival is just over a week away and targets are being finalised for many of the big horses. Last year’s Gold Cup winner Sizing John was reported in rude health by trainer Jessica Harrington this week, who also confirmed that Robbie Power will again ride him in preference to stablemate Our Duke. Meanwhile, there wasn’t much change in the other Championship races.
There was a blow for Simon Munir and Isaac Souede as Sceaux Royal had to be scratched from his intended date in the Arkle, but the pair still have the favourite Footpad to go to war with. However, even he has been on the drift this week out to 6/4 as Petit Mouchoir continues to be backed in as connections looks to confirm placings with Footpad from last year’s Champion Hurdle.
Betfair Hurdle winning trainer Amy Murphy was also popular this week as journalists flocked to see whether she thought Kalashnikov could give Getabird a race in the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle. She exuded confidence, despite stating her doubts as to whether the undulations of Cheltenham will be ideal, saying he was even stronger than before his Betfair Hurdle demolition.
Meanwhile, Henry de Bromhead said that Monalee is most likely to take on Presenting Percy and others in the RSA rather than take in the JLT in which Terrefort and Finnian’s Oscar are reportedly being targeted.
There was also quite a lot of money around for Davy Russell to be the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival as punters took the view that Ruby Walsh could be vulnerable having not ridden in a race in 2018, especially as the Willie Mullins stable doesn’t have as many obvious bankers as in recent seasons. You could still have 10/1 about Russell at the time of writing. Ireland have also shortened in the betting for the Prestbury Park Cup and are now into as short as 4/6 with many bookies. However, the best odds are 4/5 Ireland (188bet), 7/4 Great Britain (Sunbets) and 8/1 the draw (Bet365, William Hill).
Meanwhile, the Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer betting is also interesting as Willie Mullins is 6/4 (Skybet), whilst Nicky Henderson is 9/4 (Ladbrokes), and Gordon Elliott is 11/4 (Betfair). Elliott looks a big-price to me considering he has two odds-on favourites in Samcro and Apple’s Jade, as well as saying this week that he will have between 30 and 40 runners at the Festival.
Be sure to keep an eye on our Cheltenham Festival blogs
Kempton Wednesday 7 March
There’s over £15,000 to the winner of this 32Red Class 2 Handicap over 1 mile 1 furlong and 219 yards and its attracted a decent field. Pactolus, Fire Fighting, Fight Of Fantasy, and Intrepidly are all course winners, however it could be significant that Ryan Moore has turned down the ride on Jeremy Noseda’s Intrepidly to ride Star Archer for Hugo Palmer. The 4-year-old has won both his starts on the all-weather and could easily be rated much higher than 96 in the near future. Dark Red and Kyllachy Gala make up the field.
However, it’s the “Road To The Kentucky Derby” Conditions Stakes that offers the biggest prize of the night of over £31,000. The race was re-opened after last week’s cancellation, but there was plenty of money around for the Jeremy Noseda trained Gronkowski before the meeting was abandoned. Ryan Moore is again absent from the saddle through as he instead teams up with the WIlliam Haggas trained Three Weeks. There was also each-way money around for Bobby Biscuit last week, and it will be interesting to see if the money arrives again with just 7 runners in the field.
Navan Thursday 8 March
The Flying Bolt Novices Chase was first run at Navan in 2003 and continues to be run here over 2 miles and 1 furlong. It’s been won by a wide variety of trainers, but it’s Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins who have won the last two renewals. The pair are once more locked in battle for the Irish National Trainers Title and Elliott has five entries and Mullins four. Elliott can call upon the likes of The Storyteller, Tombstone, and Tycoon Prince, whilst Mullins may run Saturnas, Montalbino, and Demi Sang. That sextet is rated within 4lb of each other.
Sandown Friday 9 March
The Grand Military Gold Cup was first run in 1949 and has given amateur jockeys who have served in the army a chance to shine on one of Britain’s iconic national hunt racecourses. The race takes place over a trip of 3 miles and 37 yards and it was won last year by the David Pipe trained Rathlin Rose with Guy Disney in the saddle. This combination has also won the last two Royal Artillery Gold Cups which is run at Sandown in February. They could be favourites as they bid for a fourth success, however there looks to be plenty of potential opposition in the form of More Bucks, Baden, Knockanrawley, Relax, and Winter Lion.
Sandown 10 March
The Imperial Cup was first run in 1907 and was considered England’s premier hurdle race until the Champion Hurdle was created in 1927. It is now a Grade 3 Handicap run over 1 mile 7 furlongs and 216 yards, and last year’s winner London Bridge (11-2) stopped a winning run of 12-years by horses carrying less than 11-0. Nicky Henderson has two horses entered and it will be interesting to see if course winner Call Me Lord is asked to give lots of weight all-round, especially to his better fancied stablemate Whatswrongwithyou who beat subsequent impressive winner OK Corral earlier in the season.
Wolverhampton 10 March
All-weather fans also get a taste of decent action with the Lincoln Trial Handicap over 1 mile 142 yards. There are some interesting contenders too with the likes of Big Country, Constantino, Dragon Mall, and Third Time Lucky all entered.
There’s also the class 1 Lady Wulfruna Stakes over 7 furlongs and 36 yards. Interesting contenders for this include Early Morning, Mr Scaramanga, Mutawathea, Salateen, Second Thought, and Udontdodou.
Kelso 11 March
Other races that are being rescheduled this week are Kelso’s Premier Chase and Premier Hurdle, which are both set to take place on Sunday back at Kelso. The likes of Paul Nicholls, Sue Smith, Nigel Twiston-Davis, and Sandy Thomson gave all said they will support the meeting which will have £103,000 of prize money on offer. Sandy Thomson is especially keen for the meeting to go ahead as he needs Seeyouatmidnight to get have a run to qualify him for a run in the Grand National.