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Countdown to Cheltenham

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Post by sportform on Mon 10 Feb 2014, 1:15 am

With the Cheltenham Festival just four weeks away, I thought I would put up this thread for the latest news, views and reviews on the season so far, the lead upto Cheltenham and a look at some of the runners and riders.

I have added some notes here about the top races so far this National Hunt season and will try to put up the latest news each day over the next few weeks. I will also look to highlight the form of some of the runners from all of the races. Anyone feel free to add their own news, notes, tips or just general chat.

You can find plenty of information on the following websites:-
http://cheltenham.racingpost.com/
http://www.attheraces.com/cheltenham/
http://www.cheltenham.co.uk/fixtures/the-festival/

Annie Power - Ascot Hurdle 23/11/2013
The Willie Mullins-trained mare made her mark in British with a 5l win over Zarkandar. Has since added two more impressive wins at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and Doncaster to extend her unbeaten run to 10 races. Is currently 3/1 for the World Hurdle but also holds entries in the Champion Hurdle and Mares' Hurdle. Willie Mullins already has Hurricane Fly and Quevega for those later two races so despite Annie Power not having runner over 3m so far the World Hurdle could be her most likely option.

Cue Card - Betfair Chase 23/11/2013
Joe and Colin Tizzard teamed up to land the first major chase race of the season with Cue Card. The 8YO Ryanair Chase winner, led from the fourth last fence and ran on well in the final 100 yards to beat Dynaste in 2nd and Silviniaco Conti in 3rd. Cue Card has had one run since in the King George finishing 2nd behind Silviniaco Conti after looking all out the winner. That raise question marks over his stamina despite winning the Betfair Chase well over 3m1f. Possible excuses for his Boxing Day run are he goes better left-hand than on a right-hand track. He does seem to run much better at Cheltenham than Kempton and a virus in the Tizzard stable.

Celestial Halo - Long Distance Hurdle 30/11/2013
Finished 2l behind Solwhit in last year's World Hurdle won his only start this season in this race at Newbury at the end of November. The Paul Nicholls horse won by 17l under Daryl Jacob and beat Reve de Sivola and At Fishers Cross. Daryl Jacob has since passed on the opportunity to ride Big Buck's and may prefer this as the best staying horse. Celestial Halo missed his last intended outing with a foot infection and is currently 16/1 for the World Hurdle.

My Tent Or Yours - Fighting Fifth Hurdle 30/11/2013
Was 2nd behind Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Looked to be one of the leading Champion Hurdle runners this season when landing this race at Newcastle at the end of November. Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by AP McCoy he ran on to win this quite comfortably from Cockney Sparrow. My Tent Or Yours continued his winning for in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton when gamely beating The New One in an epic battle over Christmas. He is currently best priced 5/1 for the Champion Hurdle.

Sire De Grugy - Tingle Creek Chase 07/12/2013
Sire De Grugy started to cement his place as top 2m chaser this season, in the absence of the all-conquering Sprinter Sacre, in this Sandown Park race. The Gary Moore-trained horse tracked the leader before driving clear near the finish to win by 4l from Somersby. He has since won the Desert Orchird Chase at Kempton over Christmas and the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot last month. Sire De Grugy is currently 5/2 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre is still odds on favourite (with a run) despite pulling up in his only run this season in that same Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
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Post by sportform on Wed 12 Feb 2014, 2:16 am

Double Ross - Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup 14/12/2013
This Nigel Twiston-Davies trained horse has had a steady novice chase season so far and landed his biggest win in this race at Cheltenham in mid-December. He jumped clear at the last but idled under pressure in the run-in. He has since finished 1st and 2nd in two Grade 3 events both at Cheltenham. Currently trading at 33/1 for the RSA Chase but he may have a better change in the novice handicap on day one of the festival.

Silviniaco Conti - King George VI Chase 26/12/2013
The Paul Nicholls-trained horse landing his biggest win so far when landing this race at Kempton on Boxing Day. He stayed on impressively after the second last fence and was driven out by Noel Fehily in the final few yards to beat Cue Card by 3 1/2l. He is now 7/2 for the Gold Cup despite having question marks about whether or not he can handle the track at Cheltenham.
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Post by sportform on Sat 15 Feb 2014, 12:36 am

Dodging Bullets - Wayward Lad Novices Chase 27/12/2013
Dodging Bullets confirmed himself as the best novice two miler in the UK with a 10l victory over Grandouet at Kempton. The Paul Nicholls-trained horse had won the Arkle Trophy Trial at Cheltenham and has since been a narrow second to Module in the Game Spirit Chase at Ascot. He was giving weight away to his more experienced rival on that day. He is currently 6/1 to land the Arkle at the Festival.

Bobs Worth - Lexus Chase 28/12/2013
Last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner bounced back to winning form in Ireland when staying on well in the final 100 yards to beat First Lieutenant. The Nicky Henderson horse had previously disappointed on his seasonal debut in the Betfair Chase behind Cue Card. Bobs Worth is unbeaten in five races at Cheltenham is the 7/4 favourite for this year's renewal.
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Post by sportform on Mon 17 Feb 2014, 4:10 pm

Oscar Whisky - The Dipper Novices Chase 01/01/2014
The former top class staying hurdler has made a good start to his chasing career. He was beaten a neck by Tanquin Du Seuil on his chase debut before beating Wonderful Charm at Cheltenham last December. He then won this Grade 2 race again at Cheltenham this time getting the better of Tanquin Du Seuil. The Nicky Henderson-trained horse has since won the Scilly Isles Novice Chase at Sandown. He is entered for the JLT Novices Chase over 2m4f at the Cheltenham Festival.

Red Sherlock - The Classic Novices' Hurdle 25/01/2014
Red Sherlock beat Rathvinden by 2 1/2l to take his winning streak to six races unbeaten under rules. He is three from three over hurdles this season. This horse is well bred for hurdling out of very useful hurdling mare Lady Cricket and by multiple Group 1 winner flat horse Shirocco. He is currently 6/1 second favourite for the Neptunes Investment Management Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Big Bucks - Cleeve Hurdle 25/01/2014
Big Bucks didn't win this race but did leave a very good impression on his first run for over a year. He followed leader round, took the lead three fences from home, seemed to tire near the end on heavy ground and finished third. He looked as if he needed the race at the end and should improve for that run.
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Post by sportform on Mon 17 Feb 2014, 4:27 pm

Smad Place - IJF 50th Anniversary Novices' Chase 08/02/2014
Another former top class staying hurdle who has took very well to chasing. He has won two of his three races nicely over 3m and his only defeat came in his first race over fences when he upseated his ride when 12l in front of the rest. He had very good hurdles form last year finishing close to Solwhit in both the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree and looks like becoming a very nice chaser for Alan King. He is currently around 7/1 for the RSA Chase.
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Post by sportform on Sun 23 Feb 2014, 7:10 pm

Last year's top rated jumps horse and Champion Chase favourite has been ruled out of next month's Cheltenham Festival.

http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd?event_id=1134576&category=0
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Post by sportform on Tue 25 Feb 2014, 5:18 pm

After Sunday's disappointing news that Sprinter Sacre was to miss the Festival another leading chaser, Betfair Chase winner Cue Card has been ruled out because of injury.

http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd?event_id=1134827&category=0
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Post by racingnut on Wed 26 Feb 2014, 9:03 am

Sprinter Sacres withdrawal from the Queen Mother leaves a much bigger void in that event than Cue Cards exit from the Gold Cup.The two mile Blue Riband looks a very open affair,i for one do not jump on the Sire de Grugy band wagon,imo he needs a flatter track than Cheltenham and more importantly,soft ground.His actual form in the book does not equate to him being a 7/4 shot,theres no value in him whatsoever and I find him easy to pass over.If I was into the "laying" part of racing then he would be my lay of the meeting,yes he might win but at those carmped odds you really can afford to miss him.Al Ferof at 7/1 nrnb is a steal,if he runs in this rather than the Ryanair he will be nearer 7/2 than 7/1.
Cue Cards defection whilst a blow for connections doesn't really alter the outcome of the festival showpiece,he was the one horse towards the top of the market who couldn't win it.He has some excellent form to his name,on differing tracks,on differing going over numerous different trips but only up to 3m1 and there in lies the overwhelming reason as to why he wouldn't have won it if allowed to run,he just wouldn't get 3m2 around here.He fell in a hole after forcing it around Kempton and I don't buy that line about him going away from them at Haydock at the end of the Betfair,watch the race again,the second and third both tire badly in the last 150 yds and you get a false impression.  Ive  already backed Silviniaco Conti at 8s but if the ground dries and we all know how quick it can dry at Cheltenham,then Bobs Worth must go close to retaining his crown,although hes no value at 2s or less.
I don't have any definitive views on all the races yet as its still too far away,too much can happen,as the last 4 or 5 days has proved,the ground conditions can change dramatically and runners can be switched from one target to another at very short notice.Closer to the date I will post my views,forthright as usual but always backed up by black and white form.

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Post by sportform on Sun 02 Mar 2014, 9:04 pm

Annie Power, the unbeaten mare for Willie Mullins, will take on Big Buck's in the World Hurdle.

http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd?event_id=1136311&category=0
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Post by racingnut on Thu 06 Mar 2014, 10:05 am

Not for one minute am I saying that Willie Mullins doesn't know his job,hes forgotten more about horses than I'll ever know but I do find the decision to run this star mare in a race which I for one don't think that she can win very strange.She just doesn't strike me as one who will improve for the step up in trip,she has form at shorter that is worthy of a place in the Champion Hurdle,her form at 2m4 and the manner of her run style and victories doesn't suggest,to me at least,that she is the heir apparent to Big Bucks.I do think that the stables untold riches have had their say in that he wouldn't want the obvious apple of his eye,The Fly,been vanquished by another inmate but if Annie Power was trained by any other establishment then the Champion it would be.

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Post by Eyetoldyouso on Thu 06 Mar 2014, 3:34 pm

racingnut
Whilst I understand your reasoning, there is an alternative view. Perhaps Willie Mullins believes that Annie Power hasn't a hope of beating Hurricane Fly and just as likely won't even be placed (The New One, MTOY, Our Conor also beat her). In which case he runs her in a race which he considers she might win or at least be well placed.

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Post by sportform on Thu 06 Mar 2014, 7:14 pm

I think part of the why Annie Power is running in the World Hurdle is the fact that Willie Mullins has Hurricane Fly in the Champions Hurdle and Quevega in the Mares Hurdle.

Paul Nicholls has confirmed that Al Ferof will go for the Ryanair Chase while My Tent Or Yours is '100%' after an injury scare earlier in the week.
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Post by racingnut on Sat 08 Mar 2014, 10:41 am

The Annie Power choice of race splits opinion,i think her form through Zarkandar if taken literally gives her at least the same claims as The New One and if his form is taken as gospel then she has the same chance as My Tent or Yours( lines through Cockney Sparrow also exsist),that been equal then why wouldn't you go for the Tuesday showpiece? The World Hurdle is a lung burster even on decent ground and she just doesn't appear to me as an individual who wants or needs this type of test,she is essentially a speed mare who can produce a sharp turn of foot at the end of a strong 2 or 2m4,can she do it at the end of 3m up the Hill? Yes, I can she her travelling like a dream,as usual, but when it comes to the final climb I fear its a step too far.At 7/4 she represents no value whatsoever.

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