Gold Cup Day – Cheltenham
I thought I might work this backwards given the connection. The next Friday the 13th is next month, which will be Gold Cup day and the final day of that which is known simply as “The Festival”.
As I said yesterday, it is now about that time, namely to take a view or two. Given that there is 4 days of quality racing with over 20 races to assess it’s not going to happen in one blog entry (not with meaning and sincerity anyway) so I will give a brief overview as I see it for the big one. For the last five years I have managed to form an accurate view of this race but this year I will admit that the picture is not as clear as I would like. If push came to shove right now I would go for Kauto Star but…
Neptune Collonges (3rd last year) advertised his wellbeing at Leopardstown yesterday with a facile win in their Hennessy. His stablemates, Denman and Kauto Star, if they were watching would have seen nothing however to unduly worry them although I am particularly worried about the former. Known as “The Tank” Denman’s reappearance at a hastily reconvened right-handed Kempton last weekend was not all that his fans could have hoped for. Even with all the negatives about the track for Denman and the possibility that his conqueror Madison du Berlais had improved significantly, Denman’s run did not really cement his chances of scoring for the second year on his return to Cleeve Hill. In fact the bookies eased him out (polite) or pushed him out (less) in favour of his next-door-neighbour and last year’s runner up, Kauto Star.
So what are the chances of another Nicholls 1-2-3 and with the same horses as 2008? I expect you would not get fancy odds about that tricast. Personally, I do not think Denman is going to rediscover himself by March 13th and although I am a great fan I think he is going to struggle to place. Have I really said that??? Yes, although the temptation to delete it is quite strong! My reasoning is this. The horse has had problems, the horse who hitherto was a good-doer (i.e. found it easy to keep condition (weight) on) lost an awful lot of weight and whatever the scales may say does not appear to have put as much muscle on as this time last year. Added to that lack of rear drive horsepower, he had a hard race in last year’s Gold Cup and though some may not find the idea entirely savoury I am convinced hard races do leave a mark on some horses. This can be psychological. In Denman’s case it might be both.
There are a couple of other horses still in the race who are worth consideration at prices. At the moment I would be paying close attention to the following, whether they remain in is beyond my control. Exotic Dancer will be freshened nicely for this and the string at Jackdaws stable seems to be hitting top gear right about now. The Pipe yard have both Denman’s conqueror, Madison du Berlais, and Our Vic in and although it is a bit of a stretch to have them winning I would certainly be interested in the latter each-way. The problem with Our Vic is twofold, he needs Timmy Murphy on board to kid him into being interested and he is not getting any younger at 11. if we assume Tom Scudamore takes the ride on MdB then Murphy could well be on OV but I would imagine Pond House fancy the younger horse.
We have 3 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in the entries, apart from Kauto and Denman we also have War of Attrition who won in 2006 and has been nursed backed patiently from injury by Mouse Morris. His form since his comeback this season has been unspectacular and short of his old best, but with this the target all along he deserves some consideration at least, if only to then be discounted.
Lastly there is a proper bonny little sort in State of Play. He ran in the race in 07 but did not get the clearest of passages. That said he was not impeded from winning, but, as a former Hennessy winner with a fresh pair of legs I can confidently predict I will have a hard time not backing him each-way although the leap of imagination to get him in the winner’s enclosure is wider than even I can make at this point.
So in summary – the talk and hype around the Nicholls contenders and the potential for an historic second 1-2-3 means that a few worthy sorts are maybe going to get overlooked and therefore with GOOD in the going description I would be looking to see Kauto win, with an old reliable like Exotic Dancer place along with perhaps one of the unmentioned up and coming chasers. On going that has SOFT in the description Neptune Collonges must be nailed on for a place at the very least, could he turn over Kauto? I think he could.
Overall I have to say I am not looking forward to this year’s renewal that much. To my mind there are too many fine reputations and records to be dented and not enough possibilities to offset the damage that might be done.