Cheltenham Festival 2022


The dystopian nightmare awful silence that eerily deafened the almost empty stands of pandemic hit Cheltenham 2021 will be a faint dying ember when the returning and welcoming roar that greets the noses of the SKYBET SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE field  at 1330 on Tuesday March 15th. The festival curtain raiser couldn’t be any more fitting as it looks set to be one of the highlights of the week. 

  Constitution Hill made huge strides from race debut to the Tolworth Hurdle and heads a market that is billed around Nicky Henderson V Willie Mullins; Britain V Ireland. 

  Henderson also has the eye-catchingly bred, Jonbon—a full brother to 2015 winner, Douvan. He is of more interest for this race with a higher race speed efficiency figure (167-162). His recent Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle win at Haydock wasn’t as flattering as his previous runs but it was a tougher test. He gave five pounds to a decent Donald McCain previous winner and beat him three lengths while only getting going off of an unsuitable pace. The main reason I support his chances over Constituition Hill’s, is because the Supreme looks set to be a race where pace will overrule speed. Jonbon has a huge stride and the Supreme test should suit him very well. The Haydock placing looks a shrewd move by Henderson as it will have thought the horse that racing is not as easy as he has been tasting it and he will be more battle hardened for this assignment.

  Mullins looks set to unleash last years Champion Bumper 1-2, in Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit. In last years bumper, Kilcruit actually ran a better efficiency race than the winner by three lengths. I read into this that from a different racing position under different tactics, that Kilcruit has the beating of Sir Gerhard and so it transpired in the equivalent race at the Punchestown Festival, six weeks later with six lengths the difference. Kilcruit played his cards later that day and for a horse with plenty of stamina to his page, he showed he had speed also to win the Grade 1. His first two hurdle runs were said to be uninspiring but he chased home Largy Debut in Cork and but for bursting blood vessels twice subsequently, I think he would have proven a high quality race horse based on his time in that race in Cork. He went up in trip then when third to Journey to Me and Minella Crooner—two top level horses—but it was the drop back to two miles that proved most successful when winning a Punchestown maiden hurdle by 21 lengths conceding seven pounds. That race was worth 169 and while that doesn’t necisarily translate to the Supreme, it does reflect the level of his ability and with a strong pace and plenty of speed also proven, he looks to hold a great chance in this contest.

  Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo look unlikely to both show up for this and the preference looks to come down with the former who has plenty of speed but doesn’t jump great. There is no margin for error in the jumping stakes in the Supreme and he will have to be sharp to fulfil his pre-race 167 figure. He has Grade 1 winning form in a strong Deloitte Novices Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival as does Constitution Hill who is well touted from the Seven Barrows stable of which he hails and he was seven pounds more impressive than Jonbon through their respective beatings of Might I but his Grade 1 twelve length defeat of Jetoile may have questions around it as that rival failed to land a blow when coming last in the Betfair Hurdle off of a mark of 133. Overall, the Tolworth form looks weak but the winner couldn’t ahve won any more impressively and though he is on 162 through my calculations, that was a ten pound jump from his hurdles debut. Any such improvement would make him very hard to beat.

  To summarise, a very strong and intriguing looking Supreme looks set up to favour the pace horses like Jonbon and KIlcruit and both possess a strong turn off foot too. Although full brother, Douvan, won this race as well as the 2016 Arkle, the proven individual course form sides with Kilcruit as does the each way price.

  Of course, I am taking the assumption that Mullins will divert Dysart Dynamo. His presence changes the whole perspective of the outcome. I have a high opinion of this huge striding horse and I feel that if he shows upon this he could run them into the ground with similarities in his movement to the great 2014 winner, Vautour. He is currently a solid 163 but it is his stride that can kill of the rest of his rivals with the undulations of Cheltenham looking tailor made.

  Late exchange values suggest that Dysart Dynamo and Sir Gerhard may switch targets (at least akin to betting markets suggestions) and while such volatility is common place in the late run up to the meeting, there still needs to be reference to any potentiality.

As a big fan of Dysart Dynamo, it would be hard to let him go unbacked in the Supreme but it also has to be worth noting that taking on stablemate Kilcruit up front could negate the Mullins bandwagons leading hopes.

If such a cut throat environment does play out then it has to be asked who outstays who. Dysart Dynamo should get two and half miles without bother but Kilcruit is bred for three. Then there’s Dysart’s huge Vautour-esque stride which could come into play before stamina is a question.

The fear would be that they could set it up for something in behind and I nominate Jonbon for that. He will keep with the strong pace and stay further while also playing his hand with a good change of gears

Edwardstone (165) heads a very interesting Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase. He was brought down on chasing debut at Warwick but two weeks later he got off the mark at the same track before Grade 1 victory at Sandown was followed by Grade 2 victories at Kempton and back at Warwick. Three of his five runs have come at Warwick but he has run with credit in defeat at Cheltenham. In fact, he always stays well up the hill. His jumping is slick and he has created a good impression in his novice campaign. It is hard to pick holes in him apart from the obvious small field preference and whether or not this transpires to be a big field remains to be seen but looks unlikely. The problem I have with Britains leading contender is that his chase speed handicap figure, while impressive, is pretty much to parity of most of this field.

  Saint Sam needs to learn a lot about the game but is clearly talented. He performed to 167 this season but didn’t replicate that in the Irish version of the race. Haut en Couleurs (164) comes into this off the back of a fall in the same contest but like Saint Sam, he is a five year old where improvement is more than likely. Both horses have tube respected. 

  Riviere D’etel (156) won’t get the five year old allowance at Cheltenham either but does get the mares allowance which brings her up to 163. She was unlucky in the Irish Arkle having nodded on landing after the last and having to avoid a fine bit of riding from Paul Townend which ended in the stewards room. 

  The winning ride was on Blue Lord. He is a horse I have always thought a lot of and in his chasing experience, he has run to 169, but at a three race average of 166—marginally the highest on that review. He looked an attractive prospect when Ferney Hollow (170) was still in the race but at such short odds now, the each way value is gone. With that said, I still respect his chances and I think he is the most likely winner. He is still a maturing horse and was too lean and narrow for Appreciate It in last years Supreme. I think in time that Blue Lord will be the best of these.

  However, at the current prices, the short odds make this look an each way betting race and while he is a likely runner in the Grand Annual also, Couer Sublime (165) is intriguing in this contest having scored with that figure twice. Ferny Hollow would be a short price favourite in this if he hadn’t been injured and Couer Sublime was only four lengths behind him in a beginners chase. That distance extended massively over Christmas when fifteen and a half lengths separated them but Henry de Bromhead’s string weren’t firing on all cylinders at the time. Despite that, he conceded thirteen pounds to Riviere D’etel that day and off of level weights would have only have been a length behind. The 165 beginners figure may have been disputed then as his Racing Post Novice Chase performance was 154 and considering that the mare subsequently performed to 156 then the result could be vindicated. However, Couer Sublime returned to a 165 rating at Gowran Park when winning a beginners on Thyestes day. He would be well handicapped in the Grand Annual even off of a BHA enhancement as he is rated 148 in Ireland and can probably expect around 155 in Britain but Henry de Bromhead is far from one to sheer a challenge. He has good course form having finished second in the 2019 Arkle and being bred for speed by Elusive  Pimpernel, that New Course form also advertises stamina of which Arkle winners require. 

  De Bromhead is nothing if not sporting and while he could run send both his entries to this, there is always a likelihood that he will split them up and in Magic Daze he has a mare with an exceptional chance also. She ran away with with Robert Power in last years Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle and yet still managed to finish second off of the pace which was clearly too strong for mares. That suggested to me that she would be hard to keep up with as a stronger mare of which she is this year. Her chasing debut was uninspiring in a tame third at Galway albeit to decent rivals, but in winning her beginners at Cork, she ran to 155—an improvement of seven pounds on her debut. In coming back to Cork for a Mares Novices Chase on Hilly Way Chase day, she ran to a further improvement to 160 behind the very talented Concertista. The form from that is strong with Jeremys Flame winning by eight lengths next time out and beat Dolcita who won next time also. The travesty of the seven pounds mares allowance is the beneificary of the punter and Magic Daze’ concession would make her a 167 performer in the Arkle which bites at Blue Lord’s heels and has to be taken into account, though the Mullins runner commands most respect.

Frodon’s rating of 164 is generous from the British assessor and with Aye Right likely to go down the Gold Cup route he could have his own way out in front in the ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE. When Frodon gets his own way, he usually runs to 169 and is very difficult to pass in a finish. If Paul Nicholls allows him to take his chance, he would have a huge chance of repeating his 2020 course and distance handicap win off of the same mark. Nicholls’ horses are back in form after running under a cloud when Frodon ran no race at Leopardstown and his repeat King George bid was upset by Minella Indo’s pestering up front. There will be nothing in this race of that class and though Vintage Clouds (+11) will be handy and has every chance of winning again, he is not the talent that Frodon is and the top weight can repel all rivals.

  Imperial Alcazar’s ten length victory on Trials Day puts him a stone ahead of the handicapper and is tipped by all and sundry to win at Cheltenham. He would have an outstanding chance, though he looks all but certain to contest the Paddy Power Plate on Thursday.

  The favourite is Does He Know (+12), who stood out as a novice through impressive sectionals around the course. He was twenty lengths inferior to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle last season but his fractions and overall speed efficiency (161,57) was very good. He has won four of his six starts at Cheltenham; with that good Ballymore speed efficiency—and a four and a quarter length second to the very smart Threeunderthrufive. He is twelve pounds well in courtesy of that run but also his twelve length defeat of subsequent Grimthorpe winner, Undersupervision, whom he was conceding eight pounds to and that was one of Does He Knows four course wins. He readied himself for this contest with a fourteen length victory against Doyen Breed who was eight pounds inferior to Threeunderthrufive at Warwick. The hypothesis is that Does He Know improved between runs but whether or not that is true, he remains very well handicapped and looks the one to beat. Through conventional pound per length ratings he is six well in; in times relevance it is eleven lengths and in relegation from Threeunderthrufive, he would be almost a stone well in. He ticks all the right boxes.

  The average handicap advantage in this race is 9,42lbs and based on where the winner is likely to come from in the predicted handicap of 164-146 (if Frodon runs), then it would be worth looking around the 149 mark with around a ten pound advantage. The horse who ticks that box is Fusil Raffles (+12 pounds off of 149) but he looks like running in the Plate and Does He Know then becomes the most likely trend winner. 

  Death Duty is the favourite and Gordon Elliott has suggested that he is his best chance of a handicap winner at the festival but I disagree with that. Death Duty hasn’t looked at the right balance around Cheltenham in the past but has a potential 16 pounds advantage and likely to get his preferred soft ground. 

  If Frodon doesn’t go, the ratings could drop by ten pounds to a range of 155-128 and suddenly Floueur (+12) is very interesting. He is entered in a few contests as well being touted as an Irish National horse, but if he does get in here then he has a big chance based on last season’s Martin Pipe third, eleven lengths behind Galopin des Champs. Frodon aside, few of these horses could get within that distance to Galopin.

The UNIBET CHAMPION HURDLE CHALLENGE TROPHY is at the mercy of the undefeated reigning champion, Honeysuckle. Not only is she the best in the race but she gets a seven pound concession also for being a mare. Her potential performance with the weigh combination is 175. There is nothing within nine pounds (and therefore nine lengths) of that in this with Zanahiyr (166) the next best. He wasn’t good enough to win the Triumph Hurdle behind Quilixios (165) last season but clearly has improved since then and what was noteworthy in the Triumph was that he finished the race quicker than anything up the Cheltenham hill. That included Adagio (161) whom was also ahead of him but the difference was so infinitesimal that it equates to less than a nose in distance. One thing of interest is that Honeysuckle raced up the hill a quarter of a length quicker but she had put her race to bed and was easing close home. 

  Tommy’s Oscar (165) is an interesting each way angle but also somewhat of an imponderable. He keeps winning on northern circuits and improves as he needs to. He potentially has more up his sleeve but his 165 OTBR figure needs to be at least three pounds better than the time suggests and his handicapping figures suggest he is somewhere in the high 150’s which would require much more when the heat of the Champion Hurdle begins to swelter mid race. 

  Appreciate It was a seven year old when running away with the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season and with six of his eight rivals being aged a year below him (Metier was five). That is a massive step physically for a horse and it didn’t surprise in his superiority. His speed efiiciency figure for that was just below 162 and the time was 6,76 lengths slower than Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle, two hours later. That all adds up to Appreciate It needing to find a potential improvement of fifteen pounds to get to an on song Honeysuckle and that is off the back of a years absence from the track. Furthermore, his speed times of 159, 160, 159 and 161 read from last year’s performances and are remarkably consistent. Suffice to say, he is facing a huge task to land this prize and at 7/2 second favourite he looks far too short to side with. 

  Also, it appears to limit to Honeysuckle’s ability is still unexposed. As a novice hurdler, she clocked 170 efficiency in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse. That was a recurring figure on the next few starts and an easing down 168 (175 with the mares allowance) was enough to beat Sharjah—a solid 169 performer. 

  Teahupoo (159) is an improving type that may very well run into a place and Epatante back to her best can turn her 157 best into 164 with the allowance and she does have the form but her finishing speed in 2021 was inferior to all the young challengers this year when they contested the Triumph last season by at least four and a half lengths. 

  Honeysuckle cannot be opposed. Her Irish Champion Hurdle win was only 161 but with the concession that puts her clear best and there is without doubt more to come from her. It was also an effortless win. Zanahiyr could be the one to chase her home and Tommy’s Oscar is potentially very good also.

It will need to be third time lucky for Stormy Ireland (150) in the DAVID NICHOLSON MARES HURDLE but there is reason that it could be. She didn’t get a great ride when fifth in 2020 but regardless, she was beaten by Honeysuckle and Benie des Dieux—arguably the two most talented mares we have seen in years. She was a fortuitious second in 2019 when the latter fell at the last when clear but her form in the past eleven months has been the best of her career— winning a Grade 1 and Grade 2 last Spring. The course and distance Relkeel Hurdle win in January shows her best run at Cheltenham also and in the past she showed ability in the mid to high 160’s, albeit without performing in that league. 

  The favourite is Telmesomethinggirl (155) and her concession to Royal Kahala (158) at Leopardstown over Christmas may shine her in better light off of level weights. Heaven Help Us is a course and distance winner from last year’s festival when she recorded 156 in the Coral Cup but she was given a very soft lead that day and though she was only beaten a neck by the highest rated OTBR—Royal Kahala— at Christmas, there was a weight swing of three pounds against the winner making Heaven Help Us inferior to two rivals in direct opposition. 

  Queens Brook is a mare who showed strong Cheltenham form when finishing third in the 2020 Champion Bumper behind Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It and her recent Quevega Mares Hurdle second to Burning Victory (154) puts her on 156. Both these mares are live wires in this with the Gordon Elliott trained runner coming down on the side of favour based on a more orthodox style of jumping. Being a high class bumper mare suggests stamina is in her armoury and it will need to be when Stormy Ireland and Heaven Help Us go strongly at it from the front end. If Stormy Ireland can be passed, then I would favour it to be by Queens Brook. Royal Kahala’s stamina could see her stay strongly to the line but she may reroute to the Stayers Hurdle also.

The quality in the NATIONAL HUNT CHASE has increased in the passed ten years and this years renewal is set fair to be a vintage renewal. Stattler (163) represents Willie Mullins and his recent Grade 3 win at Naas over three miles shot him to the head of the betting. It was a quality field he beat that day with Albert Bartlett winner, Vanillier (155) a near twenty lengths back in third. That was a reversal of hurdles form of 35,5 lengths. There is no knocking that run but it remains to be seen if Stattler can get home in such a gruelling contest—last seasons average race speed was 28,17 miles per hour; Stattler’s Albert Bartlett average speed was 29.55mph with a pound less on his back over six furlongs shorter and on quicker ground. He didn’t seem to get up the hill that day but with a years strengthening on his back he has every chance of improving.

  Improvement is what Vanillier’s chase form needs but he was electric in the Albert Bartlett last year (169). His jumping has been good over fences but he seems to be missing a spark of which Prestbury Park has every chance of reigniting. Last season, he only managed tenth in his Cheltenham prep run at the Dublin Racing Festival before bolting in at Cheltenham. He has stamina in abundance and he is likely to have the assistance of top amateur rider, Derek O’Connor which is a massive addition to his claims. 

  Run Wild Fred (151) has looked every inch a National Hunt Chase horse in his two seasons as a novice and his bloodless Troytown Chase win further enhanced his credentials. He has to be feared and will without doubt go close. His form in big field strong running handicap chases in Ireland is exactly what will be catered for here and he will stay forever. He was second in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novices Chase to Fury Road (158) which was a solid run. I can’t fault his individual credentials. However, Fury Road also looks set to do battle here and he has solid form on the track in the stamina sapping Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle of 2020 a neck and a nose third to Monkfish off of a very strong gallop. More concerning for me is the fact that yard amateur rider, Jamie Codd, has ditched the ride on both and seemingly favoured the mount on the lesser form horse of Braeside (146). 

  Braeside pulled up in the Thyestes Chase in January—a race where the form has taken significant boosts through Death Duty and Coko Beach. Prior to that, he was fourth to School Boy Hours in the Paddy Power Chase but was a length and a half ahead of Death Duty giving it nine pounds. That subsequent form would review Braeside at 160 and therefore a penalty kick in a handicap. Furthermore, his PU in the Thyestes was the result of a slipped saddle and therefore unable to run his race. 

  Codd’s loyalty is almost a better tip than any form but at the same time, Braeside has the credentials in his form to suit this race. Of course, a line would have to be drawn through his Ten Up Novices Chase run of which he was a a distant third. 

The handicap comparisons were torn up when I discovered Gaelic Warrior (155) to be 26 pounds well in based on the time of his third at Auteuil in June. The BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE looks his for the taking and it is not an unknown for a British Isles trained debutant to win this race—Diego du Charmil did it in 2016. 

  The favourites stablemate, Icare Allen (152) is also ahead of the assessor by 16 pounds and is more familiar having won two of his three starts in Ireland. His figure is relevant to The Tide Turns (154) also. But his Red Mills Hurdle performance against older rivals was way below that on 128. Of course, connections may have been looking for a generous mark running him in such open company. 

Willie Mullins looks set to keep Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo appart and the likelihood is that the latter will step up in trip for the BALLYMORE NOVICES HURDLE. Dysart Dynamo (163) has a huge stride and commanding pace. He is by Westerner and out of a grand daughter to Saddlers Wells. The sire line shows speed and the mare won up to two and a half miles over hurdles but was a two and a quarter mile bumper winner also. This gelding—her second on the ground after the mare Dysart Diamond—almost replicates the likes of stable superstar Vautour in his incredible stride that rivals can’t live with. 

  Sir Gerhard (167) won the Champion Bumper last season and that is a race that is usually won by horses who stay well. HIs sectionals suggested the same and but for Grade 1 victory over this trip recently, this race would seem more likely. With that said, the Supreme also takes a lot of getting. His recent jumping wasn’t the most fluent and in the Supreme there will be little hiding place so perhaps Willie Mullins will revert back to this contest of which his high figure gives him a great chance. Sir Gerhard has a beautiful long stride and is a fantastic mover of which would have to ahve a big chance if he does go here.

  Bob Olinger won this last season for de Bromhead and he has another strong chance this season in the form of the unbeaten Journey With Me (169). He won a point to point at Ballindenisk, beating Gentleman de Mai by twelve lengths so he certainly does stay. He comfortably beat Minella Crooner and Kilcruit at Leopardstown on quick ground over two and a half miles and in winning a soft ground Navan novice race he showed adaption to unjulations of which Cheltenham will pose. In time, Journey With Me looks to be the makings of a staying chaser but that Christmas form at Leopardstown gives positive signs to his credentials for the quicker contest of the Ballymore.

  Rumours of Constitution HIll’s defection to this may flatter to deceive but I for one believe that his credentials for the Ballymore can’t be ignored. He hits the winning line strongly and does his best work close home. HIs strength in speed may represent his chances well.  

  There isn’t a lot of strength in depth in this contest as most of the fancied runners are more likely to run in the Supreme. At big odds, Grand Jury (161) has to be respected for Journey with Me’s connections. It is unlikely that they will both run but if they did, this horses 50/1 odds would be of no way a reflection of his ability through his four lengths defeat by leading fancy Ginto. He didn’t stay in the Nathaniel & Lacy at the Dublin Racing Festival better ground will also aid his chances. However, Henry de Bromhead has suggested that he may run in the Martin Pipe instead, of which he would be very well in.

Verdict – Willie Mullins holds a very strong hand here and I only see Journey With Me standing in his way. Either of Dysart Diamond or Sir Gerhard would be worthy winners for Mullins.

With Galopin des Champs likely to swerve the BROWN ADVISORY FESTIVAL NOVICE CHASE, it looks now a formality that Bravemansgame (169) will land the prize. He has course form, he stays well and has proven to be battle hardened for the contest. Chasing has been the making of him with his quicksilver jumping and strong pace proving devastating to his rivals. Paul Nicholls has largely campaigned him in open company— beating Itchy Feet in a Graduation Chase at Haydock and winning a Limited Handicap at Newbury conceding sixteen pounds, either side of Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices Chase victory at Kempton on Boxing Day over his Aintree conquerer last season, Ahoy Señor. Bravemansgame has been flawless and it looks like a penalty kick for him in this contest. With six of his closest eight rivals in the market almost certain not to run here, the odds against him winning this seem very generous. One of those likely to take him on is Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge (165). 

  He is a horse of whom I hold high regard but the Meade stable doesn’t excel for the Cheltenham Festival. With that said, Beacon Edge has been smartly campaigned and though one win from four starts is his stat, He has run with great credit each day apart from falling in the Ladbrokes Novices Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. His runner up spot at Navan in the Ten Up a fortnight later advertises his credentials well here. He conceded weight that day to the tune of seven pounds on heavy ground that day.

  Jungle Boogie (165) is a fascinating runner wherever he goes. He has never tasted defeat—winning a bumper, novices hurdle and novices chase by a combined distance of 45 1/4 lengths. He has only run those thrice and his chasing bow was a racing figure of 165. He is entered all over the shop from the Arkle to the four miler but one can’t help bit feel that staying is his game based on those devastating margins. 

  Nicholls holds a strong hand in this with Threeunderthrufive (168) right on Bravemansgame’s tail in terms of ability. He has had a few soft wins but in beating Does He Know over course in distance he advertised his ability at the highest level.

The cavalry charge CORAL CUP, generally throws up several horses of interest. With a predicted handicap range of 154-131 and of an average advantage of 11,23 pounds, Camprond comes closest to the average winner rating runner with a superior advantage. He is thirteen pounds well in through his Greatwood Hurdle run last November and he has apparently been kept fresh for this by trainer Phillip Hobbs who won this with Monkerhostin in 2004. Camprond has won over course and distance also. He is well experienced over hurdles with eleven starts and while a second season novice, he has won three of his seven starts and running off of a very lenient mark. 

 Monte Cristo was beaten 13 lengths in this last year but off of eleven pounds lighter this year he looks to have great value at 25/1 in a market that is likely to hold great each way prospects of five or six places. On his best form (which was his time rating a year ago), he would have eighteen pounds up his sleeve, and while recent form tempers the enthusiasm, horses course form around Cheltenham gives it some ignition again.

One must feel aggrieved that racing isn’t selling Shishkin (172) V Energumene (174) to a wider audience. True, it is not cut from the same cloth as Kauto Star V Denman but it is an I trigging rematch with so little at the divide in the BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE. Energumene was ahead of Shishkin when they raced to the Champion Chase finishing distance in the Clarence House Chase but Cheltenham will definitely suit Shishkin better and his two pound deficit is against a novice chase performance from his Ascot victim in the 2021 Irish Arkle. In terms of a betting angle, Energumene is definitely an attractive proposition as he took an awful lot out of Shishkin and while team Seven Barrows report the Sholokov gelding non the worse for the exploits at Ascot, the race course will hold no hiding place in testing that narritive. 

  There is certainly reason to expect more from Energumene. His Ascot run was a handicap efficiency rating of 171, which gives him at least three pounds under the bonnet when fully wound up. The uncertainty is how he will handle Cheltenham having never raced there. 

  The clouded picture by the top two finds Envoi Allen obscured. He is almost ridiculed now on the potential he once advertised. It seems that it is too easily forgotten that Envoi Allen has only ever lost once when completing. That came in Decembers John Durkan Chase when he finished sixth. On that occasion he was half a length behind subsequent King George winner, Tornado Flyer, and four lengths ahead of last months Thyestes Chase runner up, Franco de Port. Envoi Allen has since won the Paddy Rewards Club Chase when dropped back to two miles—a win that has pundits calling hard fought. He put a growing seven and a half lengths between himself and runner up, Battleoverdoyen, on that occasion and the strong travelling Muhtathir gelding will appreciate the unforgiving pace of the Champion Chase. He also has two Cheltenham Festival wins to his name in the Champion bumper and Ballymore Novices Hurdle. He travels like a two miler and while the big guns at the top of the market may prove relentless, Envoi Allen off of a handy position will keep with Energumene and can outstay Shishkin and even for each way purposes poses a great threat. 

  Shishkin ticks all the boxes but he is being priced up on his sole beating of Energumene. With improvement likely from both horses a chance would have to be taken with Energumene with such a small margin to bridge. Envoi Allen is seriously under rated in this also.

I spoke of Tiger Roll’s below par performance of 2020 in last years column and how it flattered Easysland and that theory came to fruition when he reclaimed the GLENFARCLAS CROSS COUNTRY CHASE in 2021. Recent social media posts from Gordon Elliott have shown Tiger in great form and a schooling session around Cheltenham with Grade 1 performer, Delta Work, shortened his odds further. His recent run at Navan was far more encouraging than his finishing position would suggest. He made significant ground up hill from the back straight to the swing for home bit inevitably tired as he was carrying plenty of condition. 

  There are a few concerns being expressed with regard age but those worries are sourced from ill found memories as this contest is regularly won by older horses. Native Jack and A New Story were both twelve when they won it and that was when it was a handicap. Although both banks specialists were carrying light weights. However, Spotthedifference—another twelve year old—carried top weight of eleven stone twelve and would again over course and distance aged fourteen at the Open Meeting, rated 150. 

  Headsontheground, Balthazar King and Rivage D’or were ten year olds who were victorious and the Tiger himself won it at eleven last year, reversing form with Easysland by thirty-five lengths (I had noted the times and weights of previous victories to suggest Tiger had underperformed by 35 lengths when second to that rival in 2020). 

  Even at his age, I felt Tiger Roll was worthy of his BHA rating of 161 for the Aintree Grand National, at least. He returned a 166 rating in this last season but for those ignorant enough to the handicap—such as owners Gigginstown House—it merely reflects on what the horse ability is when he gets to run his race. 

  Delta Work (163) doesn’t have the experience over the banks but is an interesting contender. It looks inevitable that he is prepping for a tilt at AIntree’s showpiece and a good run here would benefit that. 

Couer Sublime’s credential were already noted in the Arkle Trophy section but he would look more a likely runner in the Johnny Henderson GRAND ANNUAL CHASE off of a possible mark of 151. That would put him a stone well in and he would surely be the one to beat based on his experience and liking for the track. In his absence, Buddy Rich for Gordon Elliott could justify favouritism off a twelve pound lower mark of 144 than OTBR. His second place finish against Their Time Luck over course and distance gives him the advantage. Third Time Lucki has since finished four and a quarter lengths behind Edwardstone (15/8 Arkle favourite). If Arkle winners are based in the mid 160’s then Buddy Rich would be within a stone of that and at least be advantageous of seven or eight pounds. 

  Couer Sublime’s stablemate, January Jets, has on more than one occasion run to high levels of form in speed efficiency. The highest I found him 163 in his beginners chase run behind Envoi Allen. He replicated that in a brilliant beginners at Naas behind Janidil and made it third time lucky when slamming Soviet Pimpernel by fifteen lengths—a horse that got to within twelve lengths of Ciel de Neige (156). That would put January Jets at 160 and that is a very consistent playing field for him. That would give him a twenty one pound advantage but I have err on the side of caution and reviewed him on more recent form. Through Buddy Rich’s Fairyhouse run he would be eleven pounds pounds well handicapped but a pound worse off with that rival. 

Verdict –  As Couer Sublime’s connections edge towards the Arkle, Buddy Rich would be the pick with consideration to January Jets.

Facile Vega was superbly impressive at Leopardstown and is the worthy favourite in the WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER. Like many, I went straight to the parade ring to see the son of record making mare, Quevega (six time Cheltenham Festival winner). I was amazed with how much was left to work on physically and will no doubt improve further than his dual 166 performances. 

  His stablemate, Redemption Day, is a fascinating runner as he has performed to a track efficiency speed of 169. He has only done that once but also suggesting that there is more to come from him. The horse he beat won next time and the third horse, Tag Man,  came a six length fourth to Joyeux Machin of whom was a six length second to Facile Vega at Christmas. That would put Tag Man seventeen behind Facile Vega when including the riders claim of five pounds and which pound for pound gives him the advantage over his stablemate. But it is in race times and speed efficiency that exposes ability and Redemption Day was the more impressive track performer, though Facile Vega may the one race ready for this.

  American Mike (163) is another one of interest. He won a listed bumper at Navan and beat a subsequent short head second by seventeen lengths with seven pounds more on his back.

  I think James’s Gate will have to improve to beat these but all of these horses have scope to improve.

The likely defection of Galopin des Champs (170) to the TURNERS NOVICES CHASE sets up a fascinating clash between him, Bob Olinger (161) and L’Homme Presse (162). 

  Bob Olinger was 173 over hurdles and I had hoped he would stay over the sticks but he has warmed to jumping fences and retained a strong burst of speed on the evidence. I think he will prove to be Galopin des Champs biggest concern even though I have Venetia Williams’ star on a pound higher rating. He has been very impressive in Britain most recently when winning the Grade 1 Sciliy Isles Chase and also winning over course and distance beating The Glancing Queen by ten lengths conceding five pounds which in BHA terms would equate a rating of 157. HIs pound for pound win over Mister Coffey at Sandown would reach 158 so he is consistent through that logic. Although, Mister Coffey’s Ascot Chase run would not fill the form with inspiration at the winners chances. 

  There is little doubt in my mind that Galopin des Champs is going to the correct race and at Leopardstown I watched him at the back of the last land with a full tank and a giant stride. His form is solid. But for a neck second from Ain’t That a Shame, the first four in his beginners chase would be winners next time against strong opposition. Blue Sari beat the talented Grand Paradis by thirteen lengths; Floueur beat the same rival but a much shorter margin but then went on to be a solid third in the Grand National Trial—four lengths behind Ain’t That A Shame’s conqueror, Champagne Platinum, conceding four pounds to him. 

  In beating Master McShee (166) by nine lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival, he has by far the best chase form on show. However, Bob Olinger had Master McShee seventeen and a half lengths in arrears in a beginners chase with Bacardys in between and with fourth place Diol Kerr finishing fourth (23 lengths back from the winner and getting five pounds) in the Thyestes off of 135, Bob Olinger realistically should have a Turf Club review of 162, a pound above my assessment through time efficiencies. That suggests that Master McShee underperformed in his beginners, although he was 157 at Leopardstown in February and 155 on his chasing debut so perhaps my figure of 166 is exaggerated in the Faugheen Novices Chase. Either way, Galopin des Champs would be rated 170-168 on his two chase runs and that is something solid. 

  I expect improvement from Bob Olinger and I rate the horses ability higher than any of these but Galopin des Champs chasing career has been more inspiring and I think he would be the one to beat with L’Homme Presse seemingly shown his hand and I would think him to be third of these. However, Bob Olinger’s form arguably stacks up better than Galopin des Champs and a race for the ages does ensue. 

Sire du Berlais has won two PERTEMPS FINAL HANDICAP HURDLEs and is without doubt the stand out candidate yet again. It isn’t the strongest renewal and he has been quickly dropped from last season’s second in the Stayer Hurdle which beggars belief. He would still have ten pounds up his sleeve on that run and Rob James will take a further five off him. This horse has a superb Cheltenham record and I can’t see passed him in winning a third Pertemps. Born Patriot is the only other one with a significant advantage of five pounds but it is not above the threshold of 7,5lbs advantage. This system of handicapping has been in place since 2017 and in that time has found the winner of the Pertemos with Presenting Percy, Delta Work, Sire du Berlais (2020) and Mrs MIlner. 

Allaho (170) was sensational in last years renewal of the RYANAIR CHASE and there is nothing to suggest that he isn’t as good this year and everything to suggest that he will retain his title. The chief British trial for this contest is arguably the Ascot Chase won by Irish raider, Fakir D’oudaries. He was superb in the Melling Chase at Aintree last spring but that was after a twelve length demolition by Allaho in this and he again beat him by the same distance in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase in January. 

  Third in last years race was King George winner, Tornado Flyer, and the likes of Min and Melon had to pull up off the relentless pace while Fanion D’estruval came third to Fakir in that Ascot race off of a revised rating of 162—beaten three and a half lengths (Allaho had him 53 1/2 lengths behind him in Cheltenham). 

  The likelihood is that Allaho will scare off a lot of opposition and rightly so. Shan Blue (151) will run in this but there is no way he is good enough on all known form. His jockey has erratic tactics on him and it seemingly cost him in the Charlie Hall Chase when he forced the horse into a brainless gallop for home when he had the race at his mercy. If he tries something similar as he did in last years Marsh Novices Chase by going off like a scalded cat as if by some illusion he was going to somehow run rivals into the ground, he will quickly find out what this level of opposition will do to him.

  Janidil (164) looks the ideal each way bet. He is a strong paced horse that stays very well. He did just that in the Irish Gold Cup when ahead of Asterion Forlonge, who would have at least been second in the King George had he not fallen at the last but he was also seven lengths clear of Shan Blue in the course and distance Marsh Chase last March. In an ideal handicapping world, Allaho V Asterion Forlonge in last season’s time comparisons and against Janidil’s Irish Gold Cup run makes Janidil ten and a quarter lengths inferior to Allaho. Allaho won last season’s Ryanair by twelve lengths but a side script to that is that he beat Janidil only by two lengths in the John Durkan Chase which was an unbelievable line up of superstars but also a seasonal reappearance for many. Janidil was six lengths clear of last season’s Ryanair runner up and race fit, Fakir D’oudaries and that is something that cannot be ignored. I suspect that by season’s end that the 2021 John Durkan may be a race of which big things became of it’s challengers.  

A fascinating renewal of the PADDY POWER STAYERS HURDLE looks set to take place with four pounds separating the big four- Klassical Dream (170), Champ (169), Flooring Porter (168) and Thyme Hill (166). They all have huge claims but also vulnerabilities. 

  It is almost ridiculous to pick holes in the reigning champs chances but Flooring Porter is a horse that I don’t trust, as talented as I respect that he is. It amazed me how a horse of such temperament did not run out at Cheltenham’s open hurdles and that should eradicate such worries but it doesn’t. I respect his ability but I have little confidence in him not doing it again. The lack of a crowd twelve months ago benefitted no horse more than him and with record attendances forecasted this year I expect him to be most inconvenienced. 

  I can forgive Champ his Cleeve Hurdle defeat considering the way the race was run. The peculiar pace was not solid and played into Paisley Park’s hands. Champ did well to hold second place in the circumstances but he is a ten year old now and I wonder if he will have the ability to repel his younger rivals but like Flooring Porter, I can see him win this even with fraIlties.

 Klassical Dream started the season unbeatable in this sphere but since his devastating Punchestown Festival win, his performances have retracted race by race and he was arguably a fortuitous winner of the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown as the beneficiary of a farcical start against Flooring Porter. However, his recent run at Gowran can be easily forgiven and he was having his first run of the season at Christmas so it could very well be argued that he retains all ability from that Punchestown win. HIs course winning form in the Supreme further adds to his advantage and but for an air of recalcitrance, he would be one to side with great confidence. 

  Thyme Hill is the a solid horse but on the big day he is running out of excuses apart from his Liverpool Hurdle win last April. He was ‘the unlucky horse’ once too often for my liking, going back to when Monkfish beat him in the 2020 Albert Bartlett. 

  With the mares allowance paying into figures, there is a fly in the ointment in this race. Indefatigable ran a speed efficiency figure of 160 in last years Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham over a trip which looks short of her best these days. Her recent form can be questioned but we have seen the best of her at Cheltenham and with that unfair advantage of seven pounds, she would be capable of 167 over an inadequate trip. At 40/1 she is definitely worth a shout in a wide open and yet quality event. If they all show at their best, it will be the race of the week but with all having questions hanging over them, the value each punt may be wise. 

  The big guns are all quality but carry their frailties, as does Indefatigable but with a seven pound allowance and a love affair with the course, her 40/1 odds can’t be ignored for each way purposes. Klassical Dream does appear to be the more likely winner, however.

Imperial Alcazar is a stone well advantaged in the PADDY POWER PLATE HANDICAP CHASE and the win that gave him the 166 figure came over course and distance when beating Beakstown by ten lengths conceding seventeen pounds (twenty seven lengths). Five lengths back in third was Java Point (rated 127), who was dropped to 126 to beat Head to the Stars (132) by two and three quarter lengths, getting three pounds. That would bring Java Points rating to a parity 132 and even not allowing for that advantage at Cheltenham (it would be 137), the winner would still at least be 162 which gives him ten pounds up his sleeve.

  Fusil Raffles (161) looks more at home over this sort of trip on this more stamina demanding track and he can achieve a mark twelve pounds higher than his 149 allowed weight. He is also a course and distance winner and a good second to Chantry House in the course and distance 2021 Marsh Novices Chase, Grade 1.

  Coole Cody is something of a favourite of mine and with a generous 145 rating for a track and trip he adores, he would be ten pounds well in as recently as the Racing Post Gold Cup. He is an enthusiastic runner and if he is still in contention at the business end, he could well be a tough one to pass but regardless is a solid each way pick.

  The fourth horse that stands out on the handicappers wrong side is Silver Hallmark. IN fact, he is the races most well in runner when you consider his lengths and weights balance with Fiddlerontheroof in October. That would put him roughly four pounds behind a horse who carried 150 to a half length defeat in the Ladbrokes Trophy. The form of the race is questionable, however, and it is taking a chance that he is a 151 based on the BHA’s assessment of Fiddlerontheroof—who was a length and a half second off that mark albeit a good second. That alone gives Silver Hallmark nine pounds advantage but a times comparison would make him 158—to Fiddler’s 163—and therefore put the Fergal O’Brien “second string” a huge sixteen pounds well handicapped. 

  If all those calculations come to fruition, O’Brien’s Imperial Alcazar would still come out on top by a significant margin to his stablemate. Fusil Raffles would be third from Coole Cody.

The FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP interests me to the point of Champagne Platinum (155) of whom I found an inflated hurdles rating of 169 at last years festival in the Pertemps. His 155 seems solid over fences. He was a very good second in the Punchestown Grand National Trial off of 136, of which the BHA raised him by eight pounds. For a competitive handicap chase, they were well strung out at the line with Champagne Platinum the only one looking likely to trouble the winner and Ultima favourite, Death Duty. 

  Champagne Platinum’s level is to parity of Floueur’s based on that run and therefore, Grand Paradis’ (155) of who was a half length second to Floueur. He dead heated with Frontal Assault (155) that day and yet one is favourite and the other is 14/1 for this. Both are ten pounds well in but the prices do not reflect that. 

  School Boy Hours (156) is the best handicapped in this with ta stone in hand. That comes from his Paddy Power Chase win where he beat Death Duty by over seven lengths with just a pound more on his back. Through the Grand National Trial win by Death Duty, that make s School Boy Hours a 156 horse and he is running off of 142. 

  Champagne Platinum has been declared for the Leinster National on Sunday so he may not get on the boat on Tuesday. 

The final day of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival kicks off with the JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE and Pied Piper (156) and Vauban (154) are the worthy market leaders. Only half a length separated them at Punchestown on New Years Eve but their figures come from subsequent form of which Pied Piper’s two pound higher mark came from a course and distance win. FIl Dor had been 151 all season and his running against Vauban at Leopardstown concurs with that for his three length second. 

  Third at Leopardstown was Il Etait Temps (148). He was making his debut for the yard and it must come behind high regard to plunge him in at such a level. He has six lengths to find on Vauban but if he can’t find such improvement from his first run then perhaps the result was flattering. I would be happy to take an each way chance on him considering it is a four year old race and he is the one most likely to improve. 

From the mathematical comparisons form one handicap to another, the McCOY CONTRACTORS COUNTY HANDICAP HURDLE looks a Willie Mullins benefit. With a advantage threshold of 9,64lbs, Mullins would have four of six horses in advance of that with an average rating of eighteen pounds. They are Adamantly Chosen, Farout, Deploy the Getaway and State Man. Two of those—Adamantly Chosen and Deploy the Getaway—are above even that mammoth figure. With Deploy the Getaway a likely Martin Pipe runner, that leaves Admantly Chosen the selection by process of elimination. Even by compensating the weights to each runner, Adamantly Chosen would have the reserves to win the County but ten from Farout with State Man a close third. 

  Through Jonbon, Colonel Mustard could have a stone in hand and Cask Mate has the ability to out run his 142 rating. Bloomfield Burg, Quilixios and My Mate Mozzie just fall below the threshold, though the latter is averagely rated meaning he potentially has more up his sleeve—though Gavin Cromwell has suggested he is Champion Hurdle bound. 

Minella Crooner’s defection through injury has opened up the ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES HURDLE somewhat. Ginto (166) and Hillcrest head the market. Hillcrest keeps winning but with our beating anything of significance. Ginto, on the other hand, has rock solid Graded form, including in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novices Hurdle beating Grand Jury and Hollow Games. He looks every inch a stayer on that performance and connections seem to have made the correct decision going for this race over the Ballymore. 

  The Nice Guy (162) is well spoken of by Willie Mullins and his form through stablemate Ramillies looks impressive (he beat him by twelve lengths on his sole hurdles start and Ramillies won next time by seven lengths). The down side to his potential chance is that such a gruelling race deans experience and he does not have it. He is unbeaten in three starts but two of them were in bumpers. 

  Bardenstown Lad will be hoping that fast ground prevails but it looks unlikely in the forecast. He ahs course and distance winning form which is a huge plus but he has had to avoid graded horses in Ireland to face mediocrity around Catterick and Musselburgh. He won his maiden around Wexford in July but was two lengths behind Tullybeg (140) in an open race at Navan. He definitely has the experience and course form will stand to him but whether he has the ability looks unlikely and he will need better ground.

  Shantreuse (165) is the pick. He is only a pound rated behind Ginto the 11/4 favourite and he has gruel led it out on two tough heavy ground track of Cork and Clonmel, both times over the trip of three miles. He has form on better ground from his bumper days also and though he could have more experience, he certainly has the ability and the mental and physical toughness and is second highest at the speed figures. 

A Plus Tard may have had his jumping to blame in last years renewal of the BOODLES CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP but in Haydock for the Betfair Chase, he was sensational when putting twenty-two lengths between himself and subsequent Peter Marsh winner, Royale Pagaille (who also finished second in the Denman Chase recently). He was also superb at his obstacles when second in the Savills Chase to Gold Cup rival, Galvin, but he got a poor ride that day when burning up far too much petrol getting to the leaders from three out to the last when seemingly full of running and got collared close home. In last years renewal, A Plus Card ran a marginally better efficiency rating than winner Minella Indo (173,55 to 173,44). Since then, he ran the highest rating through the system of any horse in training when winning that Betfair Chase at 179 and while I full appreciate that the reigning champion Minella Indo has every reason to run better at his beloved Cheltenham than he has done in the interim since his win last year, his high mark of 177 is now inferior by two lengths and it is hard to find confidence in him reaching that lofty mark again on current form, as good as he is around Cheltenham. 

  I think A Plus Tard has the potential to win this at ease with the intruiging opposition coming form dour stayer, Galvin (168) and King George winner Tornado Flyer (170). 

  Galvin got a superb ride when winning the National Hunt Chase last season, as he did when catching A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown under the ultra canny Davy Russell. He will be doing good work at the finish when others have cried enough. HIs handicap for last seasons Cheltenham win was 163 but his efficiency was only 155,82. He was also soundly beaten by Frodon in the JN Wine Champion Chase in Down Royal when there was seemingly no excuse fitness wise as he had already been a winner a fortnight earlier in the Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown. Down Royal probably didn’t suit him as it is a speedier three miles in its down hill finish and the extra few furlongs will surely help.

  Toronado Flyer has always been a horse with plenty of talent and great potential. He was a Grade 1 bumper winner but really came to light as a chaser. When he chased Min home in the 2020 John Durkan at Punchestown, he advertised the high level of ability that was under the bonnet. It was only to appear in snatches however but in being one of very few horses capable of going Allaho’s furious pace even if not match for him in last seasons Ryanair Chase and he finally came good on the big stage of the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day last. It should be no surprise that he was good enough to win a King George and in hindsight it was the perfect race for him. However, he has always run with great credit around Cheltenham and the strong pace of the Gold Cup will cater for his attributes and he is a good stayer also. He is someway behind A Plus Tard on figures but he still has a lofty rating and he won’t be far away.

  Minella Indo and Al Boum Photo deserve respect. Last years Gold Cup was so strongly run that twice winner Al Boum ran at 171+ efficiency rating in defeat. The biggest issue for Gold Cup winners is replicating the high level of performance that won them the blue ribband. Since 2005, Kauto Star and Al Boum Photo are the only ones replicate or better their Gold Cup winning performances the following season and both of them won the race again. In defeat, Native River has done that and he won the Gold Cup the following season. The only other horse to do that in the time, was A Plus Tard this season.

  A Plus Tard on all known form will win this by eight or nine lengths. Of course, it is not so easy to predict races through ratings but he still deserves the most respect. Galvin and Tornado Flyer should be a good scrap for second. 

Billaway came out second best in a thrilling renewal of the ST JAMES’ PALACE FESTIVAL CHALLENGE CUP CHASE through its exceptional neck and neck finish between the Mullins runner and head bobbing winner, Porlock Bay. Billaway was 100% efficient in his race speed at 152,53 but he was actually a length worse off on time to the winner even if only a photo had to determine a short head win. He backed up with good runs in defeat at Aintree and Punchestown but the intriguing contender in the race is and was Bob and Co. He was cantering when unseating three out in last years race and went on to beat Billaway—if only by a nose—at Punchestown. Billaway showed his wellbeing recently at Naas, in a race he has used a stepping stone to the runner up position at the past few Cheltenham festivals but preference is for the David Maxwell runner and at odds of 7/1 over Billaway’s 3/1 favouritism, it makes more punting sense to go with a British runner. 

  Whether he would have won the race last year, we will never know. However, he was seemingly going so well under Sean Bowen when unseating three out and he was in a good position behind the leaders—a tactic that took similar issue when he won at Punchestown beating Billaway. Based on how he was travelling at Cheltenham and the manner of his Punchestown win, he would definitely be worth siding with this year while cautiously side stepping Billaway—who commands respect once more.

  It is understood that Mullins is trying a different approach with the favourite this year.

Concertista (157) should be three from three around Cheltenham but as it stands she has the sole win. Eglantine de Seuil caught her in the shadow of the post in the 2019 Mares Novices Hurdle—her yard debut. In 2020 she returned as a second season novice and bolted in by twelve lengths in a canter.

  She was a short price to land last years Mares Hurdle but was beaten close home by Black Tears. The sectionals confirm that Concertista was committed too soon—from a half a mile out. She was all over the winner for three of the last final four furlongs and all Black Tears had to do was stay somewhat in touch before getting the better of a tiring Concertista up the hill, which she did under a brilliant Jack Kennedy ride. 

  Excuses aside, Concertista has a great chance in the MRS PADDY POWER MARES HURDLE. She may only be a novice but so were Colreevy and Elimay when they fought out one of the finishes of the week last year. She is two from two over fences with her beating of Jeremys Flame in Cork most eye-catching. That rival won next time up beating Dolcita by eight lengths before a half length second to Ballyshannon Rose separated her second win—beating Dolcita again by five lengths. Taking Ballyshannon Rose into consideration through her subsequent second in a Grade B novices handicap off of 136. That was a sound rating based on her bettering Gevrey’s position 1 1/4 lengths and a neck behind in fourth off of 124. In simple terms, that promotes Ballyshannon Rose by two pounds to 138. By knock on effect, that makes Jeremys Flame 137 and Concertista 138. The figures seem modest based on time but consistent with the fact that the form is solid throughout its dissection. Magic Daze equally comes into that form (third in Cork). Her Arkle run may clear the air of whether the ratings are more accurate on time or the Turf Club’s official figures but they are solid in opposition.

  So if course specialist, Concertista, is more accurately assessed on time, then her 157 return would be hard to surpass. That is until considering the returned performance figure in this very race last season by Eliimay. From pillar to post—and with reflection to the sectional timing—Elimay put in a better performance than the narrow victor, Colreevy (157,47 to 156,61). More interesting is that the third horse, Shattered Love, had a better efficiency rating of 102,47% and in beating her by the style of the race allowed them, the figures are promoted by pound per length leaving Elimay on 160+. 

  Either way, both these mares time performances are almost equal and they both act superbly well around the track.

  The ride of the week in 2021 was from Jack Kennedy on Mount Ida (159) in the Kim Muir. Kennedy rode out of his skin throughout the festival last year but the patience he took with this mare when she seemed like pulling was great horsemanship. He allowed her to find her balance and to slowly hunt around in the race before putting her back into contention. She is marginally favourite to the two other mares and while she is of considerable talent, I fear for her if she replicates last seasons early antics in a six furlongs shorter race and potentially a second quicker per furlong contest, dependant on the going.

Deploy the Getaway (159) has an entry at Naas on Sunday of which he has been declared, and so his participation is highly unlikely for the MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL RIDERS HANDICAP CHASE. If he was to go, he would have nineteen pounds up his sleeve and that is a huge advantage.

  It is, however, bettered by the confirmed presence of Grand Jury (161) who is twenty pounds better off than the BHA’s assessment. Langer Dan (151) has been given a gift by the handicapper. He was second last year, beaten by the potential superstar, Galopin des Champs. Langer Dan was nine lengths clear of the third horse, Floueur and yet he was only raised seven pounds. It is baffling how a professional assessor can be allowed to get away with such favouritism. He would be a stone well in and has a massive chance to go one better if able to get the better of Grand Jury.

  The Mullins runners mentioned in the County Hurdle section are all entered here and would all be of massive interest if they did show up.

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