Frazzled previews Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham and his bets include Let's Dance in the Triumph Hurdle and Blue Hell / John Constable in the County Hurdle.
This looks a very difficult to solve Triumph Hurdle this year, with certainly no outstanding candidate leaping off the page. Many of the trials, as usual have been run on heavy ground and the Irish form in particular looks a bit of a muddle with the contenders here nearly all holding verdicts over one another at some stage during the winter.
Clan Des Obeaux looked a future star when winning at Newbury in December, but Triumph Hurdle prices that were seized by punters quickly seemed less appealing when Paul Nicholls ruled him out of the Triumph in the event of fast ground. He was beaten at this venue last time, but he did go for home a little early and might have set the race up for the closer. Nevertheless the dry sunny weather is bound to quicken the course again and even if he does take part now, it might just all happen a bit quickly for him and he is now reluctantly passed over.
Ruby Walsh selects Footpad, but despite that we will side with Paul Townend on Let's Dance. The last time Ruby choose against a Ricci horse in this contest, he fell at the second on Abyssial and brought down Townend in the process, so we would hope that an accidental Senna/ Prost type incident does not happen again. Let's Dance is a maiden after 3 starts over hurdles, but after a really eye catching Fontainebleu debut, she has shown bundles of promise for Willie Mullins. She was beaten by Ivanovich Gorbatov on her Irish debut at Christmas and then was 3rd to Footpad in February at Leopardstown. However she was involved in a duel with Jers Girl from a long way out and they were sitting ducks on the ground for those coming from behind. After being headed she battled back and was staying on well again at the finish. It was not the best ride ever by Ruby and maybe he was trying to draw the sting out of Ivanovich Gorbatov after being done for toe previously.
That race should have brought Let's Dance on a bundle and this strong pace should really suit her. Hopefully Townend can settle her in midfield and bring her through in the closing stages. The 7lb allowance that she receives is generous and she should run a big race, despite appearing to be the stable number 2 or possibly 3.
The English horses make limited appeal, as the form of the Zubayr Kempton win could be questionable and Alan King's trio might all be a little but below what is needed here. Sceau Royal may have won at this venue in the past, but he strikes us as wanting more of a speed test than the end to end gallop that the Triumph provides.
1 point each way Let's Dance at 14/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds 4 places)
As usual the County Hurdle looks an absolute nightmare to try and solve. It looked that way last year and we ended up seeing one of the easiest winner of the festival in the shape of Wicklow Brave, who won with a ton in hand. Is there any horse in the race this year that could prove to be a good bit ahead of the handicapper now that the ground has come good?
John Constable is a horse that has his quirks but he is a very talented performer and there is every chance that he could be quite some way better than his 139 rating. He is a full brother to St Leger winner Leading Light and was a very decent handicapper on the flat for Aidan O'Brien, even th0ugh it took him 6 starts to lose his maiden tag and then he never won again for Ballydoyle. He did however easily justify his rating of 93 in handicaps and ran some fine races in defeat. Since being switched to hurdles, he has won two novice hurdles on ground softer than ideal and then ran a blinder behind Sternrubin on his only other start, in a handicap hurdle on soft ground at Newbury off a mark of 137. He was put away after that, presumably because he is more effective on better ground and he is the sort of horse that should love sitting off a strong pace and coming with a run between the last two hurdles. The form of that Newbury run is decent with Sternrubin (12lb worse here) running so well in an Ascot handicap next time and the 3rd Chit'bello pushing Altior all the way previously. He does have his quirks, but there is plenty of ability there and after surprisingly making the cut for this race, he is worth an interest each way at 14/1 with Bet365.
Blue Hell was a terrific spot by Ceebee back in January at 20/1 for this contest. His early thoughts can be read HERE. He predicted that he would be single figures on the day and it looked likely on Thursday. He has drifted a little but it would be no surprise to see him well backed in the lead up to the race. Last time out he travelled like a dream at Fairyhouse, coasted into the lead and came away to beat Diamond King by a comfortable 3 lengths. He was 19lb for that to a mark of 143 and then was allocated 146 by the UK handicapper. It might have seemed harsh, although the ease of his victory merited a hefty rise, but when Diamond King (who was considered to have been singled out for harsh treatment by Phil Smith) bolted up in the Coral Cup on Wednesday, it gave a real boost to the form and highlighted that Blue Hell could be a well handicapped horse. He is also likely to really enjoy the fast pace of this contest, given how well he travels and in these conditions, we could see another big leap forward from him. He could be the medium of a gamble tomorrow, especially if support for Great Field is not there and it is very much the advice to take the guaranteed 10/1 now.
1 point each way John Constable at 14/1 with Bet365 (1/4 odds 5 places)
1.5 points each way Blue Hell at 10/1 with BetVictor, Paddy Power and Skybet (1/4 odds 5 places)
Rest of The Card:
Time to go and enjoy a few pints after a busy week so brief thoughts on the rest of the card.
Shantou Village probably stepped up again last time when beaten by Yanworth and once again he powered clear from Champers on Ice. He should be fine on this better ground and should be suited by the step up to 3 miles. This could be run at a very strong gallop, but Richard Johnson is likely to be patient on Shantou Village and pick his way through the field with a view to trying to join the leaders coming to the last. If they have been softened by a duel for the lead they could be in trouble and no matter what way the race pans out, it is hard to see Shantou Village not involved in the finish. Gangster is all the rage from the Mullins yard after great reports about his homework, but maybe Long Dog is the pick of the Closutton team. He shapes like he will stay, but this is quite a severe test and the 12/1 that was available 2 days ago is gone now.
I am not sure this Gold Cup is the brilliant renewal that everyone says, even though it is a high class and very competitive race. Cue Card is actually not running that much better than his great displays a couple of years ago, when on softer ground he would have won the King George.
Djakadam will be hard to beat but has now fallen twice in 3 starts at Cheltenham and Don Cossack is simply not a horse I want to be with around here and the prices of 5/2 make no appeal whatsoever.
Don Poli looks a little underrated now and the booking of Davy Russell is a big plus compared to Cooper. However given that Djakadam was only 6 last year when he ran so well and is a big horse that should still be improving, he is the pick now that he is drifting in the wake of the Don Cossack support. Faller insurance could be considered but I would rather have the guaranteed 4/1.
Marito has run very well here in the past and could have won the JLT (Jewson as it was then) a few years ago but for falling at the second last. He could run a huge race here but his stamina is a concern. He would be a strong bet at Aintree over the shorter distance, especially if kept fresh but such is his class, he is worth a small interest.
However On The Fringe also has to be backed. He danced in last year before winning at Aintree and Punchestown and his poor effort last time on ground he would have hated is not something that really concerns me. He should be spot on for today, the ground is fine and he is by some way the classiest horse in the field.
After not being a fan for most of his time under rules, I have come around to thinking that this could be the ideal race for Childrens List. He has run some excellent races in defeat this season including when beaten by Prince of Stars at Navan off 129 and then when edged out last time by Golan Lodge off 130 at Leopardstown.
This shorter trip of 2.5 miles is always a severe test over the distance and should suit him very well given that he stays 3 miles. He should really appreciate the better ground and he has the booking of the best conditional jockey in the business at the moment (in my opinion). He is nicely weighted off 139 here and he looks a very good each way bet in a race that Willie Mullins continually targets. He might be as good a bet as there is today, although we might give that nod to Blue Hell even though these are really competitive races.
I never have any luck in this race and could be on pint number 5-7 at this stage.
No bet (nap)
1 point win Shantou Village - 2:50 Cheltenham at 4/1 with Paddy Power, Stan James, William Hill and others
1 point win Djakadam - 3:30 Cheltenham at 4/1 with Bet365, Coral, Paddy Power and Stan James
2.5 points win On The Fringe 4:10 Cheltenham at 11/4 with Betfred, BetVictor and Bet365
1 point each way Marito - 4:10 Cheltenham at 7/1 (w/o On The Fringe) with BetVictor (1/4 odds 4 places)
1.5 points each way Childrens List - 4:50 Cheltenham at 12/1 with Bet365 (1/4 odds 5 places)