Frazzled previews Cheltenham Festival Day 2 and looks at the Neptune battle and an exciting RSA Chase.
The Neptune Novices Hurdle has very often been the race that produces the star novice hurdler at the festival and we can recall brilliant displays by the likes of Monsignor, French Holly and Barton all around the same era. In recent years we have had electric displays from Faugheen and Simonsig, but rarely has a clash been as anticipated as the one between Yanworth and Yorkhill. Well we have had a day or so to anticipate given the uncertainty as to the Yorkhill target.
Yanworth has had a flawless novice season so far and his form has been franked since then. His dismissal of Charbel at Ascot looks solid after the run of Charbel in the Supreme and he produced a brilliant display to beat Shantou Village last time over just shy of this distance. It seemed inconceivable only last week that we would see 6/4 about him and even less conceivable that we would think of opposing him at the prices.
However Yorkhill is an opponent that of the highest class and he was extremely impressive in winning the Tolworth Hurdle last time, where he travelled very well through the race and swept to the front, only to idle on the run in. The form had been handsomely franked since with Agrapart, who was beaten over 10 lengths into 3rd place, hacking up in the Betfair Hurdle last time off a mark of 137. Yorkhill also has form on better ground and he is by Presenting out of a mare that is a half sister to the likes of The Listener and Fork Lightning (who was a Festival winner).
We then have A Toi Phil, who is improving rapidly now that he knows how to start his races and he has been impressive on his last two starts. A quieter campaign could have resulted in him being a banker in the Martin Pipe, but he has ended up here and it looks a little too much for him at this stage.
Thomas Hobson is yet another from the Mullins yard,who is improving fast, but he would have made more appeal on softer ground and against weaker opposition.
This is a race to savour we think, although in a battle like this we could see fortunes from both sides of the Irish Sea for their hopeful. However Yorkhill is the bigger price and we are sure that the Willie Mullins yard is flying, while Alan King is a yard that generally goes through a quiet spell at some stage each season and it might be occurring at the wrong time. Yorkhill does not want to be in front too long, but hopefully he can be carried into the race and be delivered at the final hurdle to go and win his race. The 7/2 that was available on Sunday night would really have appealed each way with 1/4 odds available and now at the reduced prices we are faced with taking 9/4 or taking the 6/5 with BetVictor without the favourite. The latter looks a safer bet and it is really hard to see any other horse troubling him, so we will recommend a good bet on him at 6/5.
3 points win Yorkhill (w/o Yanworth) at 6/5 with BetVictor
This is billed as the clash of More of That and No More Heroes and reminds me of the Banjo v Harcon clash in 1995, when Brief Gale beat both of them. It is unlikely that we have a horse in here as talented as the Josh Gifford mare, but there are some grounds to oppose the favourites.
No More Heroes was beaten here last year when a little unlucky, but the ground will be a lot faster today and he is unproven on it. He has been impressive on all chase starts and is by Presenting but he still has to do it on this surface. More of That has won both chase starts and should really appreciate the extra distance today. If he runs like the horse that beat Annie Power two years ago, he will be very hard to beat.
I will look at the markets outside of the win and while Seeyouatmidnight could run a blinder, he could be taken on for the lead here by No More Heroes, or at least pressed for it on the second circuit and it will be very hard to make all the running.
The horse that is of interest is Vyta Du Roc. He has solid form this year including the Reynoldstown win last time, but he could improve a lot on the better surface. His best hurdles run by a long way was when he was 4th to Windsor Park in the Neptune here last year and he could have been very close to the winner but for his blunder at the ;last flight. He will not get involved in any pace at the front and will try and be played late. like More Of That. It is hard to see him winning if the front two run to their best, but in the each way without More of That, we can eliminate the Jonjo horse, get a little more than our money back if No More Heroes runs like he has the potential to, but we can get a nice payout of the Irish star does disappoint, provided Vyta can run as well as we hope.
1 point each way Vyta Du Roc at 11/2 each way (w/o More of That) with Paddy Power
As ever this is a ferociously competitive handicap, but one we recall fondly after landing Aux Ptits Soins last year and Whipser the year before. Whether we can make it 3 in a row is very debatable, but we will dispense with betting without favourites here and have a few against the field.
Politologue looked a potentially high class horse when winning at Auteuil and after a big money change of ownership, he looked set to win on his debut for Paul Nicholls at Cheltenham in December, only to jink right and dislodge Sam Twiston Davies. He then ran in the Challow Hurdle where he travelled supremely well for most of the race, but just got tired in the ground and was comprehensively outstayed by Barters Hill. Since then he won an egg and spoon race at Exeter and after receiving his rating of 142, Nicholls clearly felt that he had a well handicapped horse on his hands and he did not intend to blow the mark by running in better races before the Festival. He is a very strong traveller which is a big asset in this field and he could prove to be a high class chaser next season. In the mean time he looks well in off 142 and should go very close to winning the race in the same colours as Aux Ptits Soins.
Blazer and Arbre De Vie are very interesting runners for Willie Mullins, especially the latter who ran so well here last year, but the second pick in this race is the Dan Skelton trained Long House Hall. He was formerly trained in Ireland by Paul Duggan and won at Kilbeggan for his former trainer, but he was transformed by the switch to the Skelton yard and easily won on his debut for the new yard off a mark of 119 at Market Rasen lastApril. He then went to Cheltenham's April meeting and danced in over just shy of this distance, off a mark of 126. He was raised 14lb for that effort and his trainer sent him chasing. Whether he felt he was now harshly handicapped over hurdles is uncertain and maybe he saw him as an exciting chaser, which he looked when winning at Bangor in May. However he fell on his only subsequent start when a very well backed favourite at the Showcase meeting here and has been off the track since. He now reverts to hurdles and back on a sound surface in a race that will be run at a fast pace, he looks set to go very well. He is not the most straightforward and wears a hood and a tongue tie, but he can travel well and from near the bottom of the weights he looks to have a major squeak at 16/1.
Coral is the only place to bet on these two horses as they are Top price and paying 6 places each way.
1.5 points each way Politologue at 10/1 each way with Coral
1 point each way Long House Hall at 16/1 each way with Coral.
This should be a sensational race given that we have the last 3 winners of the Champion Chase taking on the Arkle winner from last year's Festival, but it may not live up to a billing like that.
Sprinter Sacre is not the horse he was, as if he was at his very best, he would win this without really turning a hair. However after looking like he might never be any sort of force again, he has come back this year to hack up at Cheltenham in November and then was all out to beat Sire De Grugy last time at Kempton. He has wisely been given plenty of time off since then and he could run a very big race if his issues do not resurface and he is even close to the star of a few years ago.
Sure De Grugy has also had problems and is not as good as he was. He was nothing like as good as Sprinter anyway but is an admirable sort and could run a big race.
Dodging Bullets probably won the worst Champion Chase in the 3o odd years I am watching the Festival, given that Sire De Grugy was well below his best and even if he had a clear run at this, he would make little appeal. Hopefully there will be no reason for Frankie Dettori to try and steal the limelight again and he will not be mapped if the principles perform.
Un De Sceaux had always struck me as overrated, but he looks hard to beat here. If he jumps as well as he can, then he will be hard to reel in on this better ground, but he makes little appeal at odds on, especially with Special Tiara likely to harry him for the lead.
Sizing Granite could run a huge race. This is Colm Murphy's big chance to remind everyone what he can do with a race horse after he got Sizing Granite during the season from Henry De Bromhead in what seemed a bizarre move. Murphy was not getting horses to the 1 day Festivals in Ireland (called Sunday racing) over the past 18 months but has seen a little bit of a revival recently with the likes of Empire of Dirt and Marlbrook. He could also ready a good horse for Cheltenham and he has inherited a horse that was able to beat the 160 rated God's Own at Aintree last year. He looks up against it but could run a huge race and is worth an each way interest at 16/1 with Ladbrokes in the without Un De Sceaux market, with 3 places paid each way (1/5 odds).
1 point each way Sizing Granite at 16/1 each way (w/o Un De Sceaux) with Ladbrokes