Onto Day 2 we go, and with Day 1 being more of a bookies day this year, let’s hope Day 2 belongs to the punters. It was a small loss on the day yesterday, but no real damage done. Apple’s Jade was our only winner, what a wonderfully tough mare she is.
1.30 – Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 5f 26y
Unlike most of the races yesterday where I was a bit indecisive on who to go for, the Neptune looks on paper an easier puzzle to solve. It’s all about the wolf. In my opinion he put up the best novice hurdling performance of the season (pre-Supreme of course) when winning the Grade 2 at Haydock in January. His hurdling was incredibly slick, and he won as he liked. You could call him the winner practically from the off. He is also the highest rated in the race despite having just the 2 starts over hurdles. And whilst the majority of his rivals have a fair bit more experience than him, he seems to have a bit of star quality about him. That is something I don’t think can be said for anything else in the race. Second in the betting is Bacardys, who comes here on the back of his win in the Deloitte, getting up from Bunk Off Early close home. That was over 2m 2f, and the step up to 2m 5f here is sure to suit. There’s no doubt about him staying, as he looks like he’ll need further still. But whilst the step up will suit, I’m a big believer that you need pace to win a Neptune. They often don’t go that quick, meaning you’ve got to have some speed to win this, which I’m not sure Bacardys possesses. I know a fair few people that like Messire Des Obeaux for this, but I can’t have him. Yes he beat Ballyandy, before going on to win the Challow, but there didn’t look to be anything special in that Challow and I’d fancy Baltazar D’Allier to be the best horse out of that race long term. He looks a bit slow to me as well, clearly not something that will aid him here, and he’d have been better suited to the Albert Bartlett. But of course the owners have Wholestone in there, so he has to run here. I’m surprised to see Consul De Thaix declared. I thought they’d have exploited his handicap mark, but they’ve chosen to run him here instead so perhaps Henderson is expecting a big run. Willoughby Court was very impressive at Warwick in January, and the form of that entitles him to be bang there, but you’d have to be worried about the better ground with him. So an easy decision for me here, Neon Wolf to start the day with a winner.
Selection: Neon Wolf 15/8 (SkyBet offer)
2.10 – RSA Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – 3m 80y
In here we have the lay of the meeting in Might Bite. I cannot have him at all. He’s been here 3 times, scraping home in a novice hurdle, before 2 poor runs in a novice chase and a handicap hurdle. I’m confident in saying he doesn’t like the place. He’s a flat track bully, which he proved when running away with the Feltham on Boxing Day before his X-rated fall at the last. Some say he was unlucky, but there’s nothing ‘unlucky’ about clattering the last. If you don’t jump them, you can’t win. Being by Scorpion, it is no surprise he’s a tricky customer, and Nico de Boinville is going to have a very tough task here to keep him under control. Second in the betting is the one I fancy, Alpha Des Obeaux. He was last seen when pulled up at Leopardstown over the Christmas period when bursting a blood vessel. Now that would usually put me off backing a horse, but I’ve read that his burst was caused by an underlying condition which has been treated, so there’s no danger of him bursting here. Or so we’re told. He’s only run here once, and that was when 2nd to Thistlecrack in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle, so we know he likes the place. He’s not been back at that level of form so far this season, but he’s not had his conditions either. He’s been racing at a trip short of his optimum, and mostly on ground that does not suit. Back up to 3m and on good ground here, I fancy him to run a very good race. You know Mouse will have him spot on too. Whisper is one I’d give a chance to also. He beat the well touted Clan Des Obeaux here on New Years Day, and is a proper battler. With Davy Russell up, I don’t think he’ll be too far away. However, he is 9. Since 1992, 31 horses aged 9+ have tried to win this. All have been beaten. Acapella Bourgeois won the Ten Up in remarkable fashion last month, going from the front and just extending the gap all the way to the line. You could argue the others let him get away, but the fact of the matter is the gap back to the rest was only getting bigger. If he reproduces that form, I think he’d be very tough to beat. But you just wonder whether the ground is soft enough for him, as soft ground is essential to his chances. I’ll give a small mention to Bellshill, who fell in the Flogas won by Disko last month. He was very disappointing that day and was well beaten by the time he fell at the last in what was a very tired fall. He did disappoint at that same meeting last year, before coming here and disappointing again, as he had done previously too. Despite running in races that clearly wouldn’t suit him (bumper and Supreme), he ran so badly each time that you’ve got to question whether he likes the place or not and I think he’s one for Punchestown rather than here.
Selection: Alpha Des Obeaux EW (6/1 Ladbrokes, 1/4 odds 3 places)
2.50 – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 2m 5f 26y
With it being a handicap, I’ve gone down the trends route again. With 26 runners, it wasn’t easy. The first stat I used was that 13 of the last 14 winners had previously won a race that season. So I took out Hargam, Mister Miyagi, Sure Reef, Allblak Des Places, Hawk High, Morello Royale, Thomas Hobson and Leoncavallo. 18 left. 7 of the last 8 winners were rated 139+. So take out Scoir Mear, Bravissimo, Carrig Cathal and Robinshill. No winner since 2004 had previously won a graded race. Take out Tin Soldier, Tombstone (who I actually don’t think is that well in on a line through Rashaan), Peregrine Run, Taquin Du Seuil, Old Guard, Who Dares Wins and Monksland. And only 1 British runner aged 10+ have ever placed, so I removed The Romford Pele. Of the 6 left, ill be splitting my stake EW on Automated and Modus. Automated collared Scoir Mear close home LTO and the stable is clearly flying. As for Modus, the step up in trip clearly suited in the Lanzarote (the only time I hadn’t backed him this season!), and is only up 6lb for that after Sheppard’s claim is taken into account.
Selections: Automated EW (14/1 Paddy Power, 1/5 odds 6 places) and Modus EW (16/1 Paddy Power, 1/5 odds 6 places)
3.30 – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) – 1m 7f 199y
Here we shall see in my opinion the best horse in training. We are in for treat here when the aeroplane that is Douvan simply takes off. I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s a freak of nature. Yet these self-proclaimed experts still try and crab him. Why? He’s not beaten anything they say. Not like he’s beaten Irish Gold Cup winner Sizing John or anything. And he’s beaten him 7 times. Actually he hasn’t beaten him 7 times, he’s smashed him 7 times. By an aggregate of 81 1/2 lengths. The same Sizing John that’s now a best priced 10/1 to win the Gold Cup, and in my opinion goes there with a proper chance. People need to just sit back and enjoy watching an absolute superstar, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the all time greats, rather than look to try and find something against him. It’s pathetic. Douvan will win this with no fuss (barring an accident of course), so like the Arkle yesterday, we’ll have to dip into the W/O market for a bet. I might be missing something here, but I think this one is just so obvious; I cannot see past Fox Norton. The only real danger I can see is Gods Own, but even with him you’re relying on him showing his usual spring return to form, for all that he was much better in the Tingle Creek than he was at both Aintree and Ascot earlier in the season. But I just wonder whether he’ll be one for Aintree and Punchestown like last season, rather than being A1 for this. Special Tiara is gone at the game. The rest simply aren’t good enough. Fox Norton on the other hand we know likes it here, having won a handicap here in October, and also the Shloer in November. He was entitled to need the run when very easily brushed aside by Altior in the Game Spirit last month, but given he had to give Altior 5lb that day, I think every horse in here bar Douvan would’ve been beaten further to be perfectly honest. That will have put him spot on for this, and I cannot see him being beaten by any other than Douvan of course.
Selection: Fox Norton W/O Douvan (11/4 BetVictor)
4.10 – Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase) – 3m 6f 37y
Now you’ve got to start here with the Enda Bolger runners. The guy has an incredible record over these fences and runs 4 here; Cantlow, Auvergnat, Quantitativeeasing and Colour Squadron. Cantlow is the fav, and deservedly so. He won here in December, before just failing to give 15lb to Urgent De Gregaine in a handicap here on Trials Day. This is off level weights and he is a complete natural over the course. But I put him up at 8/1 earlier in the season, so there’s no need for me to go back in. Auvergnat was going really well on Trials Day before unseating before scoring at Punchestown a week later, but he has a hell of a lot to find on ratings and I don’t fancy him. Quantitativeeasing was 4th (3rd after Any Currency’s DQ) in this last year, but has a long break to overcome and I’d be surprised if he was good enough. His final runner Colour Squadron was having his first cross country run in the race won by Auvergnat, but he didn’t take to it that well and may just need a bit of time to get used to this unique test. The other 2 major contenders I’m going to look at are the 2 Gordon Elliott representatives, who had a cracking start to his Festival with 3 opening day winners. The first one is the 2nd fav, Cause of Causes. I love this horse. He’s a festival winner twice, and attempts to make it a hat-trick here on only his 2nd cross country start. He was 5th here on Trials Day, but like a few of the others he didn’t take to it that well. He’ll have schooled plenty since, but is too short for me. I’ve backed him for the National at 40s, so hopefully this will put him spot on for that! Gordon’s other representative is my pick, Bless The Wings. He was 9 lengths behind Cantlow here in December, but was attempting to give Cantlow 10lb that day. At today’s weights, he comes out best and I think he’s a bit of value at the price. Any Currency would be a very popular winner but I don’t think he’s the same horse anymore. The rest either won’t take to it, or have plenty to find.
Selection: Bless The Wings EW (14/1 Coral, 1/4 odds 3 places)
4.50 – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 2m 87y
Now the stats didn’t work here, and I didn’t really have a strong opinion on it anyway. So the write up will be brief and stakes low. I’ve taken a chance on Linger at a big price. It is nothing more than a chance, I’m not expecting him to win but if he does it’s a bonus. He seems to be making rapid steps forward, and whilst he’ll need to improve significantly again, he’s been given a good word by a few at preview nights, and he’s my dart.
Selection: Linger EW (33/1 Bet365 and Betway, 1/4 odds 4 places)
5.30 – Weatherby’s Champion Bumper (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Grade 1) – 2m 87y
I’m going to start here with the favourite, Carter McKay for Willie Mullins. I’d backed another of his, Ballyward, at a nice price antepost but he pulled a muscle and doesn’t make it, leaving Carter McKay the clear stable first string. On first impressions, he wasn’t very impressive on debut at Leopardstown, but the 2nd (Bakmaj, who also runs here) has won since, so the form clearly stacks up. He then went and won at Naas, where he was visually very impressive in beating West Coast Time. However, I don’t think West Coast Time ran to form that day and Patrick Mullins won’t be able to dictate the pace here like he did that day. A couple of small field crawls is about as far away at you can get from a Champion Bumper. He may well handle the big field and win easily, but I’ll be taking him on. Now as I’m running out of time, I’m just going to cut straight to my pick, Fayonagh for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd. She won a Listed bumper at Fairyhouse by an absolute mile (20 lengths to be exact), and Codd has been talking up her chances at various preview nights, so that clearly has to be respected. She of course gets the 7lb Mares’ allowance, and I think she can go very well.
Selection: Fayonagh EW (11/1 Bet365, 1/4 odds 4 places)