horse racing

Five under the radar runners to take from the 2017 Cheltenham Festival…

What’s the good doctor got cooking…

So are we all recovered from last week?!

The week after the Cheltenham Festival is always a bit of a comedown, made even worse by the fact Mrs NTF usually makes me do some jobs around the house/garden that I’ve neglected for the past 2-3 weeks (the calendar is marked out as ‘the Cheltenham zone’ during that period!). The highlight of my jobs this week has been power-washing the back-garden!

Still it’s a stark reminder that life goes on out with the festival and let’s be honest that something we could all do with remembering!

It’s not all been power-washing and decorating for me, however, as I’ve still found plenty of time to go back over the festival form and compile exhaustive post-Cheltenham notes for full NTF members. The notes reach far and wide across the four days and here on the free blog I’ve cherry-picked five under-the-radar types (from the notes) that may have just escaped your attention amongst the festival fall-out…

Five under the radar runners to take from the 2017 Cheltenham Festival…

BUN DORAN (T George)

6th in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase

This was a solid effort from the 6yo considering the ground was probably just a shade too quick for him (yet to win outside of Soft & Heavy) but despite the Good ground and a couple of niggly errors he was still bang there at the last fence and only wilted when the gun was fully put to his head on the final push to the line. He probably just couldn’t find that extra gear on the quick ground but the 9L sixth is decent form and marks him out as one with plenty more still to give.

He was left on OR 139 for this effort and that looks a decent mark and one he can go to war with when meeting with more suitable ground.

He’s only had the four chase starts and looking back at his final run before the festival (in a G2 at Haydock against the likes of Patiently Waiting and Politologue) gives another indication of his talents. That day he made a proper bollocks of three out and had it not been for that he would probably have finished a decent third behind the aforementioned Patiently Waiting and Politologue. For the record that two are now rated 150 & 158 which is another pointer towards Bun Doran’s current mark of 139 being an extremely exploitable one.

ROCK GONE (Dr R Newlands)

7th in the Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase

This 9yo was kept out the back in this competitive Grade 3 Handicap Chase and was never put into things until it was too late. There was, however, enough in this run to suggest his current mark of OR 136 is very much within range for him. He’s only had the four chase starts so is extremely unexposed over fences and he could well land a half decent pot somewhere when ridden a bit more forcefully.

The comments from one of his owners after the horse won at Wetherby in January are worth noting…

“Rock Gone jumped okay, he was a bit novicey once or twice but you’d have to be happy with him. The plan is to go up in trip with him, but not yet. Richard (Newland) will have a plan.”

…and at Cheltenham, for me, he was very much ridden as a horse with a specific plan/target in mind. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree so I suspect that longer trip that was hinted at by his owner will be over 3m+, a distance he has not run over since his novice hurdle days and an area where he is completely unexposed at over fences.

The lack of urgency in the saddle here mixed with the way he finished like a steam train when the race was over as a contest very much hints at the good doctor planning a coup somewhere…


Fell in the Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase

This lad was still cruising along until they made the turn for home and despite a couple of minor errors 4 out and 3 out he had yet to be asked a proper serious question when falling two out. There is no way he would have won the race but there is an outside chance he could have stuck on for a decent 4th or 5th, at very best.

In all honesty he’s been an eye-catching type for a number of runs now without fully delivering on that promise but there is no denying he has the ability, he just needs to pull it all together now, he’s young enough (7yo) to still have faith in him coming good.

He looks on a very winnable handicap mark at present (OR 135) and he could well pick up a decent pot on an easier track and possibly even over a shorter trip than this. Both his previous wins have come on flat tracks, he has found the Cheltenham hill too much for him previously, and over 2 miles and it could just be a fast run 2 mile Handicap Chase on a flatter track will suit his smooth travelling style perfectly. I could see him hosing up of his current mark, if placed correctly…


7th in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Was running a big race at huge odds (100-1) and it was only really at two out where he started to wilt and you have to assume he just didn’t stay on this first try at 3m.

He’s rated OR 138 and that makes him interesting if dropped into handicaps over shorter trips, or if they do stick to 3 miles then preferably it will be a track without a stiff uphill finish (has weakened on both starts at Cheltenham when faced with the final climb to the line).

Long term he looks nailed on to improve over the larger obstacles as he very much has the size and scope to take to fences and hopefully that’s where they head with him next season.

In truth he was no 100-1 shot for this and that price in no way reflects the potential he has for chasing…

CALIPTO (V Williams)

6th in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase

This 7yo stayed on late in the day in the closing contest, on ground that was possibly a shade too quick for him (now 0/5 on Good ground – all 3 wins coming on ground with at least the minimum amount of cut in it), at a track he probably doesn’t really appreciate (now 0/4 at Cheltenham and 0/5 on Very Undulating tracks) and over a trip that looks on the short for him. This was also his first run for Venetia Williams and his first run for 328 days so he should come on significantly for the outing.

Post-race he was knocked down 1lb to OR 138 for the effort and that’s very much a winnable mark for one that’s still unexposed over fences after only 5 starts.

When you go back and look at his form from his hurdling days you see a myriad of top class efforts, from his 4th in the 2014 Triumph Hurdle (jockey’s stirrup leather snapped two out) and his 3rd in the Aintree equivalent to his 4th in the 2015 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Mix that in with his novice chase form of a 3rd in a G2 behind Garde La Victoire and a 3rd behind Tea For Two in a Class  contest and suddenly that mark of 138 looks even more tempting.

If anyone can plot the best way to utilise that mark then it’s certainly his new trainer Venetia Williams…

The above five horses all ran better than their finishing positions suggested and I would expect to see them all in the winners enclosure next term or, in some cases, prior to the end of this current season…

Ben (NTF)

2 responses to “Five under the radar runners to take from the 2017 Cheltenham Festival…”

  1. Hi Ben

    My UTR is Max Ward trained by Tom George

    I know Max Ward did not actually run at the festival but he ran last Saturday in the post-Cheltenham opportunity, the Silver Bowl Handicap Chase at Kempton, for horses that failed to make the cut at last week’s Festival.

    There may have been only seven runners in the race, but it was very competitive and all the horses running in the Silver Bowl that day would have gone to Cheltenham.

    Max travelled smoothly and jumped with ease to win this race comfortably at 9/2

    After the race, Tom’s wife Sophie commented

    “We are delighted with that.
    “It is nice for the owners as they are the same ones as Singlefarmpayment (narrowly beaten at the Cheltenham Festival).
    “They’ve been very patient with this horse. We’ve waited for the good ground and it has paid off.
    “I hope we can run him again this season as long as he is OK. He jumped better today.
    “This was the right trip and right ground.”

    Watch the race here

    • Hi Barry

      Yeah a fine performance from Max Ward and with only 5 chase starts on his CV he should still have progression to come. He was put up to OR 142 for the win but He looks at least a mid-140’s horse if not a high 140’s horse so he should be able to defy the weight rise.

      Totally agree with you on this one.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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