Normally a reliable barometer of Festival prospects, dear reader, this past weekend's Cheltenham Open meeting will, I suspect, be no more than a provider of pesky red herrings with regards to events at the same place next March.
The ground contrived against many of the runners, and with sense and sensibility aforethought, most jocks ambled around the track at a pace somewhere between slow and stop.
There were many visually impressive performances but, if the clock is anything to go by, only Imperial Commander's imperious display in the Paddy Power merited adjectives of swash and buckle. Indeed, the Commander clearly got in off a light weight here and continued the run of former Cheltenham winners to score in this race. It's pretty much a prerequisite for a PP Gold Cup winner these days.
Elsewhere, the apparently silken smooth processions enjoyed by Nicky Henderson's progressive 'town' hurdlers, Andytown and Punchestowns, were easier on the eye than the watch, and they are likely to be overly penalised for these runs. Assuming both are upped in grade and sent off at relatively short prices next time, I'd be taking them on, for all their optical illusory superiority.
The ground did for many a fancied runner, and my trends selections sunk without trace in the quag. Although officially soft, most commentators agree that this was a heavy ground meeting, and may offer more pointers to such as the Welsh National meeting rather than the Cheltenham Festival.
Talking of which, about my only winner of the weekend, Joe Lively, is to be directed towards Chepstow over the Christmas holiday and, weights dependent, he must have a fine chance. He jumps and stays and won't mind the ground however it manifests itself. He could well end up at the Festival in one of the chase handicaps and may go close (his Cheltenham record now reads 3 wins, a 2nd and a 3rd from just six starts - the other run a very respectable 6th in this year's Sun Alliance Chase).
Elsewhere, and perhaps the ridiculous hype surrounding inferior Champion Hurdle 'prospect', Jered, will now dissipate - at least temporarily - after octogenarian celebrity Hardy Eustace proved that he is still hardly useless by winning the Grade 1 Maplewood Hurdle.
Sizing Europe came there cruising - again - but found nought. Generous viewers will tell you that he blew up on his seasonal bow, and I hope that they're right. However, he looked to stop in a stride, just like in the Champion in March, and I want to see him do it all the way to the line before I invest in this one again.
Despite hitting a wall, Europe still had too much for Jered, who wants it on the soft side and doesn't have too many excuses here, aside from just not being good enough. The Racing Post commentary says this was a tactical race, which is only true up to a point, as the time was far better than any other hurdle race at the two day meeting, furlong for furlong (as one might expect).
Regular readers will know of my opposition to Jered and, is always the case when one takes a strong stance on a fancied runner, I stand to be ridiculed on March 17th. However, I stand by my previous comments that Jered has no more chance of winning the Champion Hurdle than... well than a horse two stone out of the handicap proper.
Today is a Monday and Mondays are almost always 'no bet' days for me. The class of racing rarely justifies wallet opening and it's good discipline to have a least one 'no bet' day in your week.
That said, Norman The Great should give reckless each way punters a run for small money, in the 3.50 at Leicester; and the Novice Chase at 2.20 looks worth a watch if not a punt, as it features three promising novices in Shatabdi, Kalahari King and Crocodiles Rock. No bet however remains the call for yours truly.
Onto other matters, and I've received numerous emails about the trading system I mentioned so favourably last week. There were a couple of questions that featured highly in those emails, so let me address them here:
Q. The LS Trader website has only been registered since 21st October. How can this service be legitimate?
A. Although the LSTrader.com site has indeed only been in existence a short time, the service was previously hosted on a site call IGTrader.com. In order to avoid problems with IG Index, it was considered prudent to move it to a less controversial web address. Moreover, the service itself has been running for over a year as an email only private subscription, and I have copies of most of the weekly emails sent out, which testify both to the accuracy and the quality of the service.
Q. Matt, it's not your style to recommend a product without thoroughly testing it. What's different here?
A. You're absolutely right. And, to be honest, I was a little nervous in going ahead. But I'd based my recommendation on seeing a lot of previous content from the service provider, Robert Stewart, and after asking and having answered numerous questions.
Q. Will you be trialling the service on the blog?
A. Yes, sort of. It's not the kind of service that has daily advice. Rather, you will receive two clear emails on a Sunday telling you exactly what trades to place, and how much of your bank to engage. I mentioned last week that the trades were pork bellies (!) and 5 Year T Note, and both of these positions are currently nicely in profit.
This week's advices are shorting (selling, or betting on a downturn) natural gas and platinum.
Q. How long will you be tracking the service for?
A. I have added this to my own portfolio and will therefore be tracking it ongoing. From a public perspective, I obviously have an obligation to protect the information, so can only continue to share the trades for the next few weeks (i.e. to end November).
Q. What if I have further questions?
A. There is an FAQ section on the website that may answer some of your questions. You can see this at www.LSTrader.com. If your question is not answered there, do please email Robert with any questions you might have. You can get him at info AT LSTrader.com (where AT is replaced by @ to create a traditional email address - presented this way to avoid spam). Alternatively, there is a 'Contact Us' link at the bottom of the web page.