Nothing more than an aperitif on this the first day of Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting. If you want a small bet and don’t fancy anything yourself, I offer you one for each race. The serious punters, the pros, never have fun bets and that’s one reason I’m glad I’m not a pro. I love having a couple of quid each on these good TV races. With low stakes you needn’t justify spending hours poring over form and watching race replays. Turn on the TV, spend five minutes trying to find ITV4, settle back with a cup of coffee and a bar of chocolate and enjoy a couple of hours watching Cheltenham
I really like Kapstadt here. He looked a safe and confident jumper last time at Ludlow but his tendency to go left at his fences, which he did a number of times, probably cost him the race. He finished second but showed a willing attitude and I’m very hopeful he can go one better in the first ITV4 race on the card.
Just four runners but an intriguing contest. Big money buy Finian’s Oscar bids to follow up his Chepstow win where he might have benefitted from Alcala, the 2nd fav, slipping up on the flat. I think he’d have won anyway as his engine was really revving by the end of the race. The Tizzards have thought a lot of this horse for a long time and he could be anything.
The others are in receipt of 8lbs from Finian’s Oscar (his penalty for winning last time) and the second favourite is likely to be William Henry, a talented hurdler although Finian’s Oscar is rated 5lbs superior to him over hurdles. William Henry goes well at Cheltenham and is built for chasing. But the one who could give the favourite most to do is Movewiththetimes. This gelding travelled well for a long way in what looked a really hot race at Cheltenham last time when North Hill Harvey outran Sceau Royal on the climb to the line.
Movewiththetimes was almost upsides them as they turned into the straight but seemed to tire. He’d jumped a touch deliberately throughout and, with that behind him, should be slicker tomorrow. It’s a race I’m looking forward to; not for betting purposes, just to get a better handle on how good these novices could be. November’s a fine time for hope.
Selection: Finian’s Oscar
Many can’t stand these cross country races but I love watching them. My record of winner-picking in them is poor; the last one I backed was A New Story a few years ago although I did get a fancy price about him.
Enda Bolger’s usually mob handed in these races; he loves them so much he had a substantial cross country course purpose built at home to train his new recruits on. He’s the master of cross country and his runners are bet accordingly, many starting shorter than form merits.
A horse with quite a lot of talent is worth supporting here: Aubousson, ridden by Lizzie Kelly. He ran in some good quality hurdles notably when caught in the last stride and beaten a nose by Thousand Stars in a £250,000 hurdle at Auteuil two years ago. He didn’t perform at that level over park fences when sent chasing but cross country is a discipline a horse either takes to or doesn’t, irrespective of its talent.
In his first outing in this type of race last time out, Aubusson travelled well and looked like he’d go very close only for jockey Lizzie Kelly losing her irons at the 12th and never quite managing to get them back. He finished 3rd beaten just over 5 lengths. There’s a fair chance Aubusson’s appetite for the game has been stimulated by the change of code and he’s worth betting at around 6/1.
A fascinating race featuring more than half a million quid’s worth of horseflesh. Vision Des Flos changed hands last time for £205,000 and On The Blind Side for €270,000. Understandably they are at the front of the betting along with hat-trick seeker Calett Mad. Last-time out winner Poetic Rhythm had a really hard race at Chepstow a month ago, leading all the way up the long straight and battling bravely to hold off the strong travelling Amour De Nuit, who has won since.
If that race hasn’t left its mark, Poetic Rhythm at around 7/1 offers the best value here in a race that is very difficult to call: it’s full of Rumsfeld-like unknown unknowns. Poetic rhythm’s stablemate Aye Aye Charlie is probably not up to winning but he looks overpriced at 50/1. On the face of it he is simply slower than the others but he was staying on at Aintree last time after pulling hard early and making some big novicey jumps. No obvious reason he should turn that day’s form around with On the Blind Side but he should settle better and outrun his big odds.
Selection: Poetic Rhythm
Post-race edit: Poor wee Lizzie lost her irons again although she wouldn’t have won anyway. Finian’s Oscar won in the style of a good horse, as did the expensive On The Blind Side – he’s definitely one for you’re notebook. Kapstadt ran a brave race to be 2nd. Trainer said they ground had gone against him (they always have an excuse!)