Stan James join Sky Bet and Brt365 going NRNB for all races at the Festival. Paul Jones @CheltFestNews
Cheltenham Going 4:01PM 28 FEB 2016 The going description at Cheltenham now includes the words good in places on all three courses after an exceptionally wet winter finally gave way to a dry fortnight. However, the forecast is unsettled and clerk of the course Simon Claisse is reluctant to speculate upon how it might ride when the festival begins on March 15. Confirming that the track had dried out considerably since trials day on January 30 took place on ground officially described as heavy, Claisse said: “We’ve not had significant rainfall for two weeks and, as of this morning, it is now good to soft, good in places on both the New Course and the Old Course, as well as on the cross-country course. All three tracks are pretty similar in condition, with the good patches on the turn away from the stands, at the end of the back straight as they climb the hill, then turning down the hill on both the Old and the New courses, and a little bit in the home straight too. Rain is forecast for Monday into Tuesday, perhaps 5mm or 6mm, and then a similar amount towards the end of the week, and then it is expected to remain unsettled.”
Claisse maintains a hotline to former BBC weatherman John Kettley, who predicts that Cheltenham will see “a bit of everything” over the next two and a half weeks. Kettley confirmed the likelihood of rain tonight and added: “I’ve told Simon that there is enough rain around to keep it as he likes it – not too quick. There will be plenty of chilly days too.
Tuesday is milder, but on the whole temperatures over the next two and a half weeks are probably about average, or a little below, and a bit colder than we would like it for festival week, with possibly a bit of snow on the hilltops.”
RIDING PLANS SAM TWISTON-DAVIES has decided to try and make it third time lucky in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on The New One rather than partner Old Guard for boss Paul Nicholls. Twiston-Davies has ridden The New One on all bar one of his 23 career starts, and it was Old Guard that he was aboard when deserting The New One, finishing fourth of five in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December. The New One was a seven-length runner-up to Faugheen that day under Noel Fehily. Nicholls released the news on his website on Monday morning. He said: “Sam has revealed that he is going to stick with The New One in the Champion Hurdle so therefore Nick Scholfield will be on Old Guard.”
Nicholls also had news on who will partner his pair of Ryanair World Hurdle hopes, Aux Ptits Soins and Saphir Du Rheu. The pair worked at Kempton before racing on Saturday, with Twiston-Davies aboard last season’s Coral Cup winner, while Scholfield was on Saphir Du Rheu. However, Twiston-Davies has decided to partner the latter, as Nicholls added: “They both looked great and Sam has just phoned me and thought about it over the weekend and said he is going to ride Saphir Du Rheu so Nick will be on Aux Ptits Soins.” 11:41AM 29 FEB 2016
“Alisier D’Irlande continues to excite. His jumping definitely improved for that better ground. We’ll more than likely look at Aintree next.” Henry de Bromhead @HenrydeBromhead
Saturday Leopardstown Schooling Feedback An array of equine talent was on show in the traditional post-racing gallops at Leopardstown on Sunday, with Davy Russell emerging as a potential partner for Don Cossack in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owners Gigginstown House Stud have plenty of big guns for the blue riband event, meaning retained rider Bryan Cooper will have a decision to make for the March 18 showpiece. Cooper partnered the Gigginstown-owned Don Poli as he schooled with Willie Mullins-trained stablemates Vautour (Ruby Walsh), Pont Alexandre and Ballycasey. Cooper was later on RSA Chase contender No More Heroes for Gordon Elliott as he jumped in company with King George faller Don Cossack, ridden by Russell. Elliott said: “The two of them were very good, I couldn’t be happier. Davy said he (Don Cossack) could have gone round again, I thought the two of them worked very well. Davy sat on him there, Bryan has to make a decision on which one he is going to ride. I would have no problem with Davy riding him.”Russell, who won the Gold Cup on Lord Windermere in 2014, said: “He went well and he jumped great.” Asked if he would like to ride him in the Gold Cup, he said: “I’d be delighted to ride any Gold Cup horse.”
Mullins said of his quartet: “Vautour made a mistake at the first, I think he was just idling, but they all went well. They jumped eight fences and went about a mile and a quarter. It was just to get their eye in and have a day out rather than serious work, it wasn’t a trial or anything. It was also for the riders to get a feel of them. Don Poli is a very lazy horse and takes every bit of work we can give him. Him and Pont Alexandre were upsides in behind and Ballycasey led Vautour. As they said in the election, there’s lots done, more to do.”
Also in action was JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov from the Aidan O’Brien yard. The Montjeu gelding went round with a lead horse under Barry Geraghty, and Joseph O’Brien said: “I’m very happy with him, and Barry seemed very happy with him. We weren’t going to learn anything more today, but it was a nice day away.”
Saturday Kempton schooling – Cue Card looked full of himself as he showed his well-being ahead of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with a pleasing workout before racing at Kempton. Colin Tizzard’s stable star is chasing a £1million bonus if he can add the blue riband to his wins in the Betfair Chase and William Hill King George VI Chase earlier in the season. Cue Card, with his regular big-race partner Paddy Brennan in the saddle, was accompanied in the two-mile exercise by stablemate Morello Royale, who was ridden by Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe. “It was lovely to see the horse so happy afterwards. The whole idea was to come and give him a gallop round here and get him on the lorry,” said Tizzard senior. “We probably didn’t go as fast as everyone else, but it was a day out for him and he’s had a good blow out.” The Tizzard duo were among 12 horses who worked in pairs at regular intervals.
Two of Nicky Henderson’s Stan James Champion Hurdle hopes, My Tent Or Yours (Barry Geraghty) and Hargam (Sir Anthony McCoy), were the first to strut their stuff. “We were all delighted. It was great and it all went well,” said Henderson. “My Tent Or Yours has come on again and both Barry Geraghty and AP thought he had. They said they could have gone further. Everybody was happy with that and he’s come on a hell of a lot for the last time he was here a few weeks ago. Barry said he was still tanking at the end. We are in a better position than we were three or four weeks ago when we were up against it. We’ve got him as ready as we can without having a run and that’s as good as we can possibly do. That was a good gallop. They went a good gallop, as you can’t hang around with My Tent Or Yours otherwise he will pull and go.”
Paul Nicholls’ two Ryanair World Hurdle hopes Saphir Du Rheu (Nick Scholfield), runner-up last season, and Aux Ptits Soins (Sam Twiston-Davies) worked together. Nicholls said: “Both horses went well and I’m more than pleased with both of them. I said to Sam to sit on Aux Ptits Soins as he’s not sat on him since last year. There’s no point Sam making a decision now on what he rides, but I’ve a fair idea what he might go for.”
Last year’s World Hurdle winner Cole Harden was also put through his paces with his Warren Greatrex-trained stable companion Missed Approach.
Other horses to work were Charlie Longsdon’s Germany Calling and Our Kaempfer, and Tom George’s Double Shuffle and O Maonlai.
RICHARD JOHNSON Five Cheltenham rides I’m looking forward to With the Festival just over two weeks away, I thought I’d update you on some of those horses I’m most looking forward to riding…
Balthazar King He must have a great chance in the Cross Country Chase. I schooled him the other day and you’d never know he’d had such a bad fall last time. This is a conditions race now and that will definitely help him.
I’m going to school him over the Cross Country course on Thursday so will update you at the end of the week.
Village Vic He’s been absolutely outstanding this season, winning four out of four. He has form at Cheltenham as well which is an obvious bonus. We’re still not sure if he’ll go in the handicap or the Ryanair, but whichever race he runs in I’d like to think he’s got a great chance.
Saddlers Encore I think the Pertemps will be the race for him. It was very bad ground at Sandown last time and he’s by Presenting whose offspring normally prefer better ground. He showed a good attitude at Sandown and I felt like there was a bit more to come. He’s still a fairly unexposed horse, hopefully the more I ask him, the more there’ll be.
Rock The Kasbah I loved his attitude at Ascot when he won there last month. He’ll be one for the handicap hurdles and whichever race he runs in I’d be hopeful of him running a very big race.
Garde La Victoire We’re still not sure where he goes, it really depends on the ground. I think a lot of people have forgotten that he beat Bristol De Mai pretty comfortably at Uttoxeter on his seasonal debut, when he was giving him 9lbs. He really hasn’t done a lot wrong at all. He’s got solid form at Cheltenham and he’s another who I think will have a great chance whichever race he runs in. Betway Blog Monday 29th
Schooling @PJHobbs1 this morning great to sit on Baltazar King again and pop over the fences feels as good as ever #crosscountry Richard Johnson @dickyjohnson77 · Feb 24
#startracking Saturdays results
Newcastle 2.20 DRAYTONIAN 8th 5/1 Market drift spoke volumes and he was beaten turning for home. “Draytonian disappointed but he is merely marking time before he goes over fences” Adam Norman, paddockwatcher
Newcastle 3.25 DELUSIONSOFGRANDEUR 4th 9/4 Never looked happy and was backpedalling from two out having set the fractions. “Delusionofgrandeur has had a tough campaign and he wasn’t right here, getting warm beforehand and running flat. This was his sixth race of the campaign but no doubt they will find another race for him if the ground remains soft.” Adam Norman, paddockwatcher
Kempton 2.00 GIBRALFARO 4th Evs Fav. Three star*** win bet @ 11/10 with PP (12.30pm)
The Racing Post comment of “plugged on” is about as good as it gets. Off a mark of OR151 he will be impossible to place. Looking forward to Alan King update.
Kempton 3.05 OCEANE 4th 12/1 Watching Brief. Odd choice of racing taking on his elders. OR132 should stay intact for a tilt at the Fred Winter? Looking forward to Alan King update.
Kempton 3.35 CHAMPAGNE WEST Fell 7/1 Three star*** win bet @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes 5.00pm) Massively disappointing as his jumping was ragged at best. Thought he was sneaking back into it turning in but departure at the second last was on the cards. Looking forward to Philip Hobbs update.
Kempton 5.20 DRUMCLIFF 3rd 7/4 Fav Two star** selection @ 3/1 general. Impressive looking horse who was just two keen but this half brother to Simonsig is very much one for the future.
“The concluding bumper at Kempton is sure to be a pointer to plenty of future winners over jumps and the surprise 20/1 winner, Bolving, made a very taking racecourse debut here for a yard that traditionally does well in this sphere and certainly looks to have a bright future in the care of Victor Dartnell. However, it was DRUMCLIFF who caught my eye as a raw unfurnished individual who did well to finish third after being keen throughout. This gorgeous son of Presenting is open to plenty of improvement once switched to the hurdling ranks and once he learns to settle he should be effective in races between two and two and a half miles. Ultimately he looks to have the physique to make a lovely chaser and for that reason, this Harry Fry-trained 5-year-old enters the notebook as more of a long-term prospect.” Final Flight Notebook
Newcastle 3.00 SHOTGUN PADDY 2nd 7/1 Two star** e/w selection @ 9/1 ¼ the odds first four with Coral. As always solid and reliable. I fear that the ground and the handicapper may now have gone against him and he may continue to be susceptible to the improvers.
#startracking Saturdays additions
“After winning his sole point in November, BIG MEADOW was very much on my radar for next season’s publication and his demolition job of the eleven strong bumper field at Chepstow went a long way to justifying my belief that this 5-year-old is a graded jumper in the making. This Neil King-trained gelding had this race in the bag with two furlongs still to race and although it is over obstacles where I think he will excel, on this evidence defying a penalty in the bumper sphere before going onto bigger and better things” Final Flight Notebook