Enough of war analogies, dear reader, today was more akin to the fairground roller coaster. I've rarely experienced more highs and lows in a few short hours.
Before I consider tomorrow's action, these are my notes from today (as is now customary, feel free to skip down to the *******'s if you just want to know what to back / swerve on Gold Cup Day).
1.30 Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase
The day started on the dodgems, as the aim of the game was to avoid the bad jumpers. In fairness, most of them jumped very well, with a couple of exceptions (including my Exmoor Ranger). The winner, Chapoturgeon, was a strong trends horse, except that as a 5yo I didn't think he'd be mature enough. Yet another French import proves that wrong.
Pancake in 7th was the best I could do on the placepot, so it was my second early bath of the week. Perhaps this alternation means I'll cop the 'pot again tomorrow. Hmm, hope springs eternal.
2.05 Pertemps Final
A race in which a win last time out has been a strong pointer. Only three could boast that today, and one of them won at 16/1 (available at much bigger earlier in the day).
A tenner on the winner at 34.something set me up nicely for the rest of the day... and I could have had the trifecta from my placepot perm (but didn't of course).
£300 odd quid up (actually £200 odd quid after errant placepot), and bring on the next race.
2.40 Ryanair Chase
I'd never previously backed the winner of this race, and I have still never backed the winner of this race. Which is curious considering the longest priced winner was today's 6/1 second favourite.
Imperial Commander traveled supremely well, and readily saw off all-comers. Voy Por was arguably disappointing, but he has done that a few times now. I was glad to swerve at the 4/5 on offer.
In behind, Schindler's Hunt has run some fine races at the Festival, and Tidal Bay ran a very odd race - totally outpaced before staying on with some fortitude into a never nearer 4th.
Our Vic was poor, and Gwanako will be stronger next year. This should revert to being a Grade 2 in my opinion.
3.20 World Hurdle
My bet of the meeting, Kasbah Bliss, was uneasy in the morning and had drifted out to 11/8 in a place. Come the pre-race market though, and he was smashed in to, eventually sent off the 10/11 favourite. Thankfully, I only lost £300 on the horse.
According to the recorded bets, there were plenty of £10,000's lost, and one £20k up in smoke. The full tale of punting woe is below:
£7500-£6000 £5000-£4000 £3500-£2000 £6000-£5000 (x3) £3600-£3000 £2400-£2000 £1200-£1000 (x2) £11000-£10000 £4400-£4000 £2200-£2000 (x2) £1650-£1500 (x2) £1000-£1100 (x3) £20000-£20000 £10000-£10000 (x2) £8000-£8000 £5000-£5000 (x11) £3500-£3500 £2500-£2500 £2000-£2000 (x8) £1500-£1500 £1380-£1380 £1200-£1200 £1000-£1000 (x20) £10000-£11000 £5000-£5500 £2000-£2200
On the back of Voy Por's failure in the previous race, the smell of singed digits must be all over Gloucestershire tonight.
Big Buck's was a worthy winner (and an apt one for the bookies, who attracted just that); Punchestowns ran his race; Powerstation ran a gallant but distant third, and the French will return to Paris to contemplate.
4.00 Freddie Williams Festival Plate
After a real downer - every time I put multiple hundreds on a horse, it gets beaten (and I mean, literally, every time I've done it) - I need something to get me back on track. And frankly two 20+ runner handicap chases did not fill me with the much needed confidence I was after...
But it's a funny old game, as Greavsie would say, and every race gives us a chance to find a winner (and many more chances to find losers).
Gavin had put a horse up as his strongest handicap fancy of the week, and the trends for it were strong. He had said:
We here at Nag3 HQ strongly fancy Something Wells today in the 4.00. Ladbrokes go 33/1 about
the Venetia Williams trained 8-y-o and he is recommended as our best handicap each way bet of the
Wow! Now that's tipping! Ok, so the Nag blog didn't find a 50/1 winner this year (yet!), but it's banged in a 33/1 poke.
I really hope some of you got to yell that thing home like I did (and Gavin did). I only had a little tickle, but Gavin fancied it strongly and backed it accordingly. I swear I heard him cheering it from Wales!
Well played buddy - top drawer tipping.
This punter only had £7.50 at 55, but that still paid for the bungled Gallic raid that preceded it.
Incidentally, Le Burf was going very nicely when coming down four out and, though Gavin won't thank me for saying it, he might have given the winner a race. I had a £1 e/w double from Kayf Aramis running onto that fella (but not Something Wells, alas), which would have paid nicely enough. No matter.
4.40 Kim Muir Handicap Chase
A clear winner in Character Building, despite the apparent short distances between the first eight home. Character Building was way too good for them, and cruised home virtually on the bridle.
Bowleaze in fourth repaid my place wager, though not my win wager, and I finished the day in front by around £400 despite taking a big kick in the plums earlier on. A (very) good result, all things considered.
To tomorrow, the climax of the week. Not in a porn star kind of way, but rather a symphonic ascent to the very zenith of the sport (I wonder if the words 'porn', 'symphonic' and 'zenith' have ever been used in a sentence before... well they have now - twice!)
Gold Cup day is upon us, and whither will the Geegeez cash be flung?
Before I share my thoughts, I need to tell you that Night Orbit makes his debut over hurdles tomorrow in the 5.30 at Fakenham. He's schooled well apparently, but I'm not expecting too much (and nor should you if you choose to follow me in!). Back to business:
1.30 Triumph Hurdle
Not exactly an easy start to the day, but then there never is at Cheltenham. Let's get trending!
I'm looking for a winner last time out, who has also won at least one more race, and run at least three times over hurdles. This gets rid of both Zaynar and Master of Arts at the top of the market, as well as many other less fancied runners. In fact, it leaves just six of the eighteen starters.
Form over at least 1m4f is required for this fair test of stamina, and (a bit of) class from the flat transfers pretty well in this contest.
The two that best fit the bill are Starluck and Walkon. Slight preference is for the latter. Although Silk Drum has a bit to find, he's overpriced at 60 on betfair.
Selection: Walkon, Silk Drum (e.w)
Placepot: Walkon, Starluck, Jumbo Rio
2.05 County Hurdle
Traditionally, the last act. And last year, Silver Jaro had us cheering from the rooftops at 50/1. Nigh on impossible to top, or even replicate that, but let's have a crack anyway!
Stats were upheld last year, so I'm going to use the same rationale again:
5-9yo; 11-01 or less in weight; 4+ runs this season; placed last time out.
The shortlist thus is: Fisher Bridge, Farringdon, Sunnyhill Boy, Bedlam Boy, Nortonthorpe Lad.
On form, Dave's Dream will win. And if he's not knackered from his win in the Imperial Cup on Saturday, that's probably what will happen (netting connections a healthy bonus cheque in the process).
If he is knackered, things are altogether more difficult. Despite the 50/1 winner last season, it normally pays to side with a horse somewhat more fancied in the market (the other nine winners this decade were 16/1 or shorter, with four favourites - or joint fav's - obliging).
This brings in AP McCoy and his Sunnyhillboy. Although it may be heresy to say it, McCoy nearly messed it up last time at Sandown, when just getting home by a short margin. He won't exaggerate the deferral so much this time, and he looks primed for a very strong run. The 'boy galloped relentlessly up the Sandown hill, and I can see him doing the self same thing up the Cheltenham hill. He's quite a strong fancy.
Selection: Sunnyhillboy, Farringdon (e.w)
Placepot: Sunnyhillboy, Fisher Bridge, Farringdon
2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
One of the new races, but we're definitely looking for a horse who has stamina, class and won or was 2nd last time out.
The three that catch my eye are Alpha Ridge, Pride of Dulcote and Weapon's Amnesty (after I tried to get rid of the war theme!). Paul Nicholls' horse is too short for my tastes, though he may win, so I'll take the other two each way.
Selection: Alpha Ridge (e.w), Weapon's Amnesty (e.w)
Placepot: Alpha Ridge, Weapon's Amnesty, Pride of Dulcote
3.20 Cheltenham Gold Cup
The main event. This is what it's all about. A fiendishly difficult race this year, with question marks again every single contender:
Is Kauto Star back to his best, and will he stay again? (quite possibly)
Will Neptune Collonges stay, and jump? (No, and maybe)
Is Denman 80% of the horse he was? (I hope so, I suspect not)
Can Exotic Dancer bridge the class gap required to win? (I doubt it)
Can Madison du Berlais improve again? (Possibly, but front running to win a Gold Cup?!)
Is Barbers Shop anywhere near good enough? (I wouldn't have thought so)
Will the real Alberta's Run please stand up? (He'll probably stand up, but he might not be good enough)
Are any of the rest of them good enough to cause a shock? (Doubtful, but not impossible).
I've reviewed this race elsewhere, and honestly I think it's a nightmare. It wouldn't surprise me if any of them won it (with the exception of Cerium), and we could be looking at a Norton's Coin-type shocker. Equally, Kauto Star could jump properly and give his connections a week to remember.
The ground is right for Kauto, and he has undoubted class. It is only history and statistics that he has to defy. The most likely winner for sure, but the actual winner?
I just don't know who will win this race. As such, I'm going to prey my ante post vouchers perform with a modicum of merit, and give me the chance of a cheer...
Selection: Albertas Run (but only because it will give me a very nice payout if it obliges)
Placepot: Kauto Star, Albertas Run, Madison du Berlais
4.00 Foxhunter Challenge Chase
Not so difficult a race as you might think to find the winner in, despite the presence of 20/1 (twice) and 33/1 winners in the last three seasons.
We're looking for a horse aged 9 or younger, who won last time out; and lightly raced (less than three runs this season) please.
Taking these things into account, and preparing for egg on face, my four against the field (at 33/1 or bigger!), are:
Baby Run, Chief Oscar, Robbers Glen (unluckily brought down when going like the winner last time), and You Do The Math.
I think Charlie Longsdon is a very good trainer, and - gun to head - his You Do The Math would be my pick of the four.
Selection: Baby Run, Chief Oscar, Robbers Glen, You Do The Math (all e.w, look for a bookie paying 4th place)
Placepot: Chief Oscar, Robbers Glen, You Do The Math, Amicelli, Royal Auclair
4.40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
A new race, with nothing to go on. Suffice it to say that David Pipe will want to win this!
Looking generally at Festival handicap hurdles, it pays to side with a horse that won last time out and has less than eleven stone to lug. Alas, they all carry eleven stone or more here!
In what is a fiendishly tough end to a murderously challenging placepot riddle, Big Eared Fran must run well for the Pipes. Mamlook has the look of a job horse, but Buena Vista - if running again tomorrow - could also run well.
I'll not be betting in this race. Instead, I'll be hoping I've got something in the placepot to cheer. But, honestly, I could pick ten in here and not be confident of finding the winner.
Selection: ask Mystic Meg!
Placepot: Penn Da Benn, Presenting Copper, Hangover (a most appropriate winner!!!), Big Eared Fran
1620 x 10p = my biggest placepot perm ever at £162, but hell, it should be worth winning!
5.20 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase
We might be preying for the final whistle, or a ceasefire, or an end to any of the other analogies I've used this week by now. Assuming we're not, let's look for some comfort in the 'lucky last' (excluding our tickle on Night Orbit in the 5.30 at Fakenham of course!!)
A brilliant stat from Paul Jones over at attheraces is that horses officially rated 130-134 have finished 1st and 2nd in this race in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008 (last year). Blimey, there's only three in the race: Jigsaw Dancer, Tramantano, and Valain.
Let's dig deeper and revert to this in due course, as necessary. No winner has lugged more than 10-11 to win in more than a decade. Indeed, five of those winners carried either 10-00 or 10-01. The Irish have a good record in the race, with four wins (40%) from far less runners than that.
Eight of the last ten winners have been sent off at single figure odds, so it's not a bad race for the 'getting out stakes'.
Valain is a seriously interesting contender. A novice, he's won two of his four starts over fences, was 2nd on another occasion, and pulled up once. His prep race was on the all-weather at Dundalk, where he was 2nd to high class hurdler Al Eile.
He has all the right boxes ticked, and looks to me like a plunge horse tomorrow. (I might be completely wrong of course!).
Selection: Valain (e.w)
It's been getting progressibly tougher as the week has worn on, and tomorrow may be a bridge too far, after Kayf Aramis and Something Wells today.
Whatever you're on, good luck.
No post from me tomorrow. As I have been slaving over this all week, I hope you'll forgive me a glass or eight of the black stuff to celebrate another stunningly brilliant four days racing on Cleeve Hill.