NOT many were leaving Cheltenham. The last race of a pulsating opening day at the 2014 Festival had just finished. Present View had passed the post half a length ahead of Attaglance but the stewards were deliberating whether the interference suffered by the runner-up at the hands of the errant winner was enough to warrant reversing the placings. Everybody seemed to have backed Present View and punters, some swaying due to an overdose of the Black Stuff, clutched their betting slips as if their whole financial futures depended on hearing the words “the placings remain unaltered.”
There was also a hint of desperation in the air after a couple of upsets during the day: Western Warhorse (Arkle) and Jezki (Champion Hurdle). Punters were battered and bruised, and they needed Present View…. especially the brave soul who had had £1,200 on the nose at 8/1 and stood to win £10,000.
Suddenly, silence reigned and demands to “shush” hissed around the grandstand as the tannoy burst into action. Eventually the yearned-for words rang out… “the placings remain unaltered”. Cheers of elation and relief drowned out a few howls of derision and disbelief that Attaglance had been denied victory, and snake-like rows of punters queued up eagerly to pocket their winnings.
The official handicapper had done a damn good job in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase, the race that will prove pivotal to this Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup. Let’s recap. Coming into the straight any one of seven or eight could have won. Present View was given a peach by Brendan Powell but there were hard luck stories galore.
Pendra was upsides when he missed the last: he may well have won, but in any case he will be absent in the Paddy Power. We have already referred to the unlucky Attaglance who was clearly hampered. But I’m convinced that if the usually excellent Brian Hughes had pulled him wide instead of going for a run up the rail then he would have prevailed. Then there was BUYWISE. Evan Williams had plotted a near perfect path to the Festival with this progressive seven year old who had rattled off a three-timer.
Turning in, he was on the heels of the leaders and staying on. Then he totally missed the second last, landing awkwardly and losing vital ground and momentum. His race was over but, amazingly, he ran on again up the hill and was just seven lengths behind the winner at the line. A fine effort and his later victory in April over course and distance at Cheltenham was well deserved. Buywise can certainly clout the odd fence and there will be little margin for error in a race as fiercely competitive as the Paddy Power but hopefully his jumping will improve as he gains experience.
Buywise is also 5lb worse off with Present View for that Cheltenham run. Jamie Snowden has cleverly protected Present View’s rating by not running him in chases since March. But I think Buywise could have more scope for improvement and offers a little more value.
The ground, as ever, could be crucial: it is good to soft at present and some rain is forecast this week. Buywise has won over 2m 7f on heavy ground and any juice in the ground will suit, whereas Present View would prefer good ground.
One note of caution: Evan Williams has stressed that Buywise is not a certain runner as he is concerned he might not be fit enough for the race. But hopefully he will be allowed to take his chance and he was today confirmed as among the 24 left in.
There is a doubt about the participation of several of the class horses and the weights will probably go up 8lb.
But as long as he doesn’t uproot any of the Prestbury Park fences, Buywise is the wise choice for Paddy Power Gold Cup glory. If he fails to line up, then the path is clear for Present View.
What do you think? Leave a comment below…