horse racing

Cheltenham Open Meeeting – In-running reflections

Now that the dust has started to settled on the 2011 Cheltenham Open meeting NTF in-running guru Andy Richmond has cast his eye back over the entire meeting and cherry picked a clutch of horses that he recommends we pay close attention to for in-running purposes in the coming months.

In-running reflections – 2011 Cheltenham Open Meeting

The recent Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham offered plenty of food for thought for the future with some eye-catching performances that in some cases confirmed a horse’s ability and in other cases brought them to my attention, especially for their use as in-running vehicles.

Here I have taken a look at the entire meeting and highlighted those horses that I will be paying particular attention to in the future, especially at forthcoming Cheltenham meetings.

The first race on the card for amateur riders brought STEWARTS HOUSE to my attention; he’d won a Listed handicap at Newton Abbot in August and was then given a wind operation and by the way he travelled here that appeared to have been successful. He wasn’t ridden as prominently as usual but worked his way into the race steadily. All of his wins have been at shorter trips than this extended 3M that he faced here and I suspect that he may be better back at that sort of trip, but he does move strongly through the race and I would have no hesitation in keeping an eye on him as a solid back-to-lay horse over 2 ½ miles in the near future. If he does run over 3M again then just be careful about supporting him at short prices in the later stages of the race.

The Cross Country Chase provides the next pointer and I’m sure that we will be seeing GARDE CHAMPETRE around this eclectic set of fences again but he is not the horse he was and I think that he is starting to lose a little bit of zip in his step. That does provide us with an opportunity though as he will generally be priced up on reputation around this course and if you do want to back him them in-running is the time to do so as even on all of his winning visits to Cheltenham in his pomp he has traded way above his SP due to his exaggerated hold-up style. Of course you can always look at the equation another way and lay him first and then trade that liability away during the race as he trades at bigger prices.

The Novices’ Hurdle won by Step To Freedom provided me with another chance to watch OHIO GOLD a horse that I have long had on my list as one to get against when the prices allow, either pre-race or in-running. He was in a little too deep here but his creditable run will probably see him start a false price next time out in lesser company. He already has three odds-on IR defeats on his CV and although he travels powerfully I’m never sure about the end product.

Moving onto Saturday’s card saw a fascinating long-distance chase where it paid to be prominently ridden, but I was very taken with JJ O’Neill’s GALAXY ROCK who has now won four out of his five chases. He travelled powerfully here, a trademark of all of his chase runs so far and although I would be more wary of him on deeper ground he looks a young stayer with potential and given these conditions again makes an excellent back-to-lay opportunity. In the same race we came across an “old friend” in REVE DE SIVOLA, for me he just doesn’t jump with enough fluency or élan over the bigger obstacles and it’s only his heart and engine which get him into races. For my money I would never back him pre-race as on balance due to those traits he will always be available at bigger prices IR. In his three hurdles wins and one chase success he traded substantially above his SP and if do want to back Nick Williams charge then better prices are always available during the early stages of the race.

The Paddy Power was run in great style by Great Endeavour but there are two performances behind the winner that I want to highlight. The first would be the horse who was backed into favouritism WISHFULL THINKING – it would have taken a performance of real quality to defy his mark of 164 in this field and I thought that he went far too quick in the early stages and made himself into a sitting target – apart from his chase debut where he fell at the first this was the first time that he had finished outside the 1-2. As time may well show this was probably a test that he would have done exceptionally well to win especially on ground that was a little too soft for him. I still think that on the right ground he proves an exciting front-running sight and given those conditions I would always be looking to get with him with a view to saving at least the stakes later in the race as due to his free-wheeling style he is sure to shorten IR especially given an easy lead.

In the same race FINE PARCHMENT who finished ninth was in some ways flying a little too high but although he weakened in the later stages of the race I did notice him travelling strongly throughout much of the contest. He didn’t trade that low on this occasion due to the way things panned out but there are not many outings when this horse has not traded at least 50% less than his SP, a slight ease in grade will see that happen again and he’s a horse that is firmly on my list of ones to follow from an IR standpoint.

I noted a similar performance to that of Fine Parchment from ROSSMORE LAD in the Listed Handicap Hurdle which followed. Rossmore Lad is fairly inexperienced and looked to have been pitched in very deep here having won at Chepstow last time out, here at Cheltenham it may have been the rise in class or the extra distance but if you can view the race again note how powerfully he is travelling behind the leaders at two out before just running out of gas after that point. This was a significant rise in class for Rossmore Lad but I was very taken by that performance and he will be one to keep an eye on for IR purposes in the near future. Another in the same vein out of that race is CANTLOW who looked to stay longer trips but I believe would now appreciate a step back in trip – he’s a very fluent mover and sure to catch the eye of IR players in the future as he did at Wetherby in his previous outing.

The concluding Novice Chase was notable for seeing five of the six runner’s trade at under 2.0 IR, with some furious trading action over the last few fences where the shape of the race changed considerably. Although this race was seemingly all about Restless Harry, I was far more interested in the performances of JOIN TOGETHER and VIKING BLOND. The former is now firmly ensconced as a runner to back during the race especially over these three mile trips and I’m pretty sure that he is always going to hit an flat spot or be tapped for toe at some point in the race but he certainly stays well and displayed a very willing attitude – he hit a high of 55.0 on Saturday and it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a similar scenario in some more of his races over this sort of trip. He’s particularly interesting for the 4M at the Cheltenham Festival. Viking Blond is a completely different animal and he travelled with great fluency from the front with his athletic and accurate jumping being a further positive. Traits like this will always see him shorten quickly IR and Sam Twiston-Davies appears to excel on these types of trailblazing front runners, giving them confidence out in front. Given an easy lead Viking Blond is a very dangerous tool – if he is given those conditions it’s likely that his price will shorten very quickly IR.

The Sunday’s card didn’t offer so much in terms of the other two days although I did note a few performances that will be worth taking a look at for the future. Everyone’s eye appeared to be drawn to the performance of Olofi in the Greatwood Hurdle but I was far more interested in the horses that finished fourth and fifth for differing reasons. Let’s take the fourth first – MOON DICE – he found considerable trouble IR at various points in the race, the skirmish at the final flight being the last straw but I did note him throughout the race and although he’s not the smoothest of travellers and can hit a flat spot of two (watch coming down the hill) he does display a very likeable attitude and I could see him being worth a few quid IR if he trades above his SP, a tenacious type he may just fool a few people that he is under pressure when in fact that his style of running. Another to keep a careful eye on is the fifth in the Greatwood – VIVA COLONIA; he was held up in exaggerated fashion here and was always playing catch-up on the principals. In his four hurdles wins he has traded at well above his SP and if the hold-up tactics continue I could see that scenario developing again especially over a longer trip (the performance screamed Coral Cup to me) – certainly one to be aware of in the early stages of a race if he trades at inflated prices as he will certainly be getting into the race in the latter stages.

John Ferguson has made a terrific start to his training career and the previously unbeaten over hurdles PERPEPTUALLY put in a really taking performance in the Intermediate Handicap Hurdle over 2M 5F. Previously he had looked as though this sort of trip would suit but here he was outstayed over this stiffer test. He looks to be a fantastic jumper of a hurdle though (the race is worth watching for this aspect alone) and he had a major chance turning for home before being outstayed. Generally ridden close to the pace I really like his style of racing and he is firmly on my list as a very solid back-to-lay opportunity as he moves and jumps so well during a race.

Finally while everyone was raving about Fingal Bay in the Novices’ Hurdle it was the fourth WELL REGARDED who went firmly onto my list as one that I want to support next time out. Coming down the hill he is travelling as well as anything in the field and he traded as low as 6.2 – and if Fingal Bay had not been in the lead and going well I reckon he would have gone even shorter, in the end a blunder 2 out saw him fade away but the style and manner of his run were very taking and I would like to see him given a chance in a slightly easier grade next time out although that not to say in time he would not be up to this grade.

Three days of racing that held plenty of interest and I’ll be taking a close look at all the horses highlighted here in their next few runs and playing them in the style suggested.


Many thanks to Andy for his alternative take on last weekends action. You can catch Andy on Racing UK and also follow him on twitter under the username @Bickley14.


Talking Irish Horses – 2011/12

With the National Hunt season now in full swing there are a plethora of racing publications vying for our attention. New kids on the block Ray Rose and Timmy Donovan have thrown their hat into the ring with Talking Irish Horses – A Guide To Irish National Hunt 2011/12. They kindly dropped me a free copy of their new book and I’m currently dipping in and out of it when I get a spare moment.

Once I’ve fully digested the guide I will be reviewing it here on the Blog; so far I like what I see……

*Those of you that have been following me on Twitter for sometime may remember that NTF greyhound Minnie has quite a thing for destroying racing books. To date she has destroyed 3 of my racing books (including my own book!) and just yesterday I had to grab back my copy of Talking Irish Horses – A Guide To Irish National Hunt 2011/12 from her clutches!! Thankfully very little damage was done but there is something about a book with a horse on the front she really does not like?! Time to phone the dog whisperer I think!!

Ben (NTF)

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