I’VE always been slightly suspicious of Trials Day at Cheltenham as a reliable guide to the Festival itself. The meeting is usually run on deep ground, conditions that you rarely see in March, and it can throw up a few red herrings when looking for 2015 Cheltenham Festival clues. But I would be very surprised if last Saturday’s meeting fails to produce a Festival winner. It was a quality card, albeit run on soft but not bottomless ground and there were some taking performances…
MANY CLOUDS impressed the most. Giving 8lb to Smad Place in the BetBright Cup, he repelled the challenge of the elegant grey and the favourite Dynaste, and has definitely improved again since his Hennessy victory. This horse has serious scope and there looks to be more improvement in him. If it’s a wet March and he gets his favoured soft ground, then he will have a terrific chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Oliver Sherwood has handled this horse superbly and one would hope that other major owners will consider sending him some more equine talent. The bookies were hesitant at first after his victory and trimmed him to 12-1 but there has been more money in the past 48 hours and he is now as low as 8-1 for the Gold Cup, although 10-1 is still available. I’ve always been a huge fan of this horse since he won his Wetherby bumper and I’d love to see him win the Gold Cup.
Smad Place ran very well and came up the hill strongly. I always assumed this horse preferred soft ground but Alan King said last week that he’s a better horse on better ground. If we get good ground at the Festival, then there should not be much between him and Many Clouds. He is as big as 25/1 for the Gold Cup and that’s very good each-way value as he always runs well at the Festival.
I also hope Dynaste goes for the Gold Cup. Better ground would also suit him and he ran a blinder in what was a three-way battle. Again, 33-1 is too big for the Gold Cup. And don’t forget The Giant Bolster who plugged on to be fourth and remains of each-way interest at 33-1 for a race he always excels in.
Elsewhere, it looks fairly obvious that Value At Risk should be aimed at the Albert Bartlett after he was edged out by Ordo Ab Chao in the Neptune Trial. The 14-1 for Value At Risk looks generous for the AB. Ordo Ab Chao produced an excellent performance considering he pulled too hard during the first half mile. He travelled and jumped well and showed a turn of foot up the hill. The 20-1 for the Neptune Investment Hurdle looks excellent value.
Peace and Co also pulled like a train in the early stages before settling, so his victory over Karezak in a falsely-run Triumph Hurdle Trial was all the more commendable. Still, he is too short in my book for the Triumph, which is such a competitive race. They will go a fierce gallop, which will suit both Peace and Co and Karezak, and the latter appeals more as a sporting each-way wager (he is available for 25-1) as he is so consistent and stays really well.
Saphir Du Rheu is now a clear second favourite (6/1) behind More Of That for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle after his gritty Cleeve success. He will take a lot of beating although he was only three lengths clear of the returning Un Temps Pour Tout who remains a fairly hefty price at 16/1. He cannot be written off just yet. One on the drift is Cole Harden, who was disappointing. I can’t wait for him to jump a fence.
One horse who didn’t win but still caught the eye was Stellar Notion. He is a big baby who might not be mentally ready for the Festival but one who could make an impression at Cheltenham is Annacotty, another favourite of this blog. He showed tremendous courage to get up to beat Big Fella Thanks and would have a few options at the Festival, although the 3m Festival Handicap Chase looks perfect.
Finally, Diamond King ran well until the closing stages in the last race and should be watched next time. Donald McCain thinks the world of him and he should strip fitter for this.