Westerner Point was run out of it in the closing stages at Clonmel, finishing third just over half a length behind a faster finisher, whilst Getaday laboured to be placed seventh of fourteen.
Friday is almost upon us and Horses for Courses is the free feature, whilst the free racecards are for the fallowing half dozen contests...
- 12.18 Newcastle
- 1.23 Newcastle
- 1.50 Cheltenham
- 4.05 Cheltenham
- 5.00 Dundalk
- 8.15 Wolverhampton
And I'm going to take a look at the first of the two at HQ, the 1.50 Cheltenham, a 9-runner, Class 2, Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m on Good to Soft ground worth £22,522 to the winner, but who will that be? As ever, our opening clues come from the racecard...
...where Fanion D'Estruval tops the Geegeez ratings and his form figures catch the eye, although that's tempered by his 322 day absence from the track. Beat The Judge has been in decent nick and On The Slopes also ended last season on a high. Magic Saint hails from the red-hot Nicholls yard who have been firing in winners, so maybe he could defy top weight.
On the flip side, both Eamon An Cnoic and Full Glass are returning from lengthy breaks away from UK racecourses, whilst the former's form has been patchy at best and the same could be said for Azzuri. Perhaps they've not had optimal conditions of late and we'll see if Friday's conditions might suit them better by looking at the Instant Expert tab...
...after looking at those place records in chases, Beat The Judge and On The Slopes catch the eye with a full row of green, whilst at this point, I start to whittle down the field by getting rid of Born Survivor and Full Glass from my process. I then click the win button and I see...
...which is pretty self explanatory. For me, the field size is the least important of the six columns above (still important, but not massively so on a wide track like Cheltenham where there's plenty of room) and as they only score green on field size, it's now time to say goodbye to Ballywood and Azzuri ahead of our assessment on the pace make-up of the race...
...which suggests that On The Slopes and Magic Saint would be best suited by following their normal tactics, as 25 of the 33 races (75.8%) represented above have been won by those who have led or raced prominently with 59 of the 87 placers (67.8%) following that plan too.
Based on the cards, Instant Expert and now the pace, I'm going to discard both Eamon An Cnoic and Fanion D'Estruval from my considerations, as I just feel they might both need a run before hitting any kind of form. I'm very aware that Fanion was a machine in France and will probably have a great career here in the UK, but his jumping wasn't quite spot on in two outings on these shores last season and I think he'll need to blow the cobwebs away after a long break.
All of which leaves me with a trio of possibles, Beat The Judge, Magic Saint and On The Slopes, so let's take a quick look at each before (hopefully) coming to some form of conclusion.
Beat The Judge : was a decent if unspectacular hurdler, but has really come into his own as a chaser finishing 3113 to date, including landing a Class 2 handicap at Fontwell by nine lengths two starts ago before finishing third ahead of On The Slopes (fifth) and Ballywood (sixth) here over course and distance at the October Meeting. If he keeps up with the pace early on (did dawdle a little LTO), he could well be a player late on, as he does tend to finish well. I'd expect him to be around the 5/1 mark.
Magic Saint : all his best work has come at this shorter trip and he drops back half a mile again after a reasonably promising return at Aintree in the Grade 2 Old Roan last month. Considering he hadn't raced for 10 months and the trip was too long for him, he did pretty well to only be beaten by nine lengths having faded late on.
Down in class and trip here to more favoured situations, he should come on for the run (also won second time out last November) and Bryan Carver's 5lb jockey claim effectively puts him on the same mark as last November's win at this grade at Newbury. A major contender here for me and should probably be around the 11/4 mark.
On The Slopes : as mentioned above, a couple of places (and 1.25 lengths) behind Beat The Judge over course and distance three weeks but now re-opposes 1lb better off, which should make it a little closer. Prior to that run here last month, he had been off the track for 223 days, so he's another who can be forgiven for not quite being at this best last time out. He had ended last season on a high, winning back to back contests on Good to Soft at Kempton in February and March.
His form on Good to Soft is decent at 2311, whilst he has won 2 of 3 at trips of 2m2f and shorter. I wouldn't write this one off easily either and I'd expect him to be around the 7/2 to 4/1 mark.
Having gone through the card and arriving at a shortlist of three, I probably won't have a proper bet here after all. I was hoping that my research/analysis would lead me to a standout selection, but it hasn't. I should stress that this is perfectly fine.
I now look at the market, in case one of my possibles appears to offer enough value for a small action bet and I was a little surprised to see On The Slopes shorter in price than Magic Saint. don't get me wrong, both have a great chance, but I though the latter would (a) be the one to beat and (b) be the more popular.
Beat The Judge looks to be the value pick at 6/1 and drifting slightly. Who knows, it might even drift enough to be worth an E/W or 20/80 punt.
So, my conclusion is sadly inconclusive. You could back none, one, two or all three here with justification. Sometimes that's how it is and it's OK for it to be like that!