Cheltenham Is Unique …
February 3rd, 2020 | Marten's Current Racing Diary
Cheltenham remains a law unto itself.
Come rain or shine, there have been Festivals when some results simply defy all logic. It’s certainly reasonable for pundits, myself included, to refer back to the evidence of the form book, but the demands of that hill, often at the conclusion of a race that has been run at a punishing pace, are unique and can find out even the classiest of animals.
So, the events of Leopardstown over the weekend are certainly important but not, necessarily, as relevant to the Festival as ‘trials.’ For a start Leopardstown is a flat track, with nothing like the sweeping curves and gradients of Cheltenham.
Having said all that, one horse that did win who could be expected to improve even more for Cheltenham is Delta Work.
Everything about him suggests the greater test of the Gold Cup would suit his style of racing. The seven-year-old is the dourest of battlers, something he showed even in defeat when he kept his head down to finish third in last season’s RSA Chase.
This winner of six of his eight chases followed up that brave effort with a 12-lengths defeat of Discorama in a Grade 1 novice chase at Punchestown. He was not at his best on his return in November before staying on powerfully to beat Monalee in the Savills Chase and then following that on Sunday over the same course and distance in the Irish Gold Cup.
Kemboy and Presenting Percy, who were beaten three and a half lengths and four lengths in the Savills, were expected to improve and duly did so by a pound or two, but Delta Work was still too good for them at the finish.
Gordon Elliott’s son of Network is the sort of horse who will always give of his best. There may be times when that isn’t good enough, but at Cheltenham that attitude is a prime requirement and we must not forget that as a hurdler he beat 22 rivals in the Pertemps Final.
Kemboy’s jumping, which let him down when he fell at the first in the Gold Cup, remains a cause for concern although he does travel well through a race, while Presenting Percy shaped well without convincing me that he gives of his best. He can also get rather flat over the fences.
Anibale Fly finished last, almost 100 lengths behind the winner, but he was runner-up in last year’s Gold Cup and will probably run well again if connections let him take his chance. That’s how it is at Cheltenham!
Moving on there would be no more popular winner next month than Faugheen but at the age of 12, for all the tenacity and talent he still shows, I am concerned that he may be giving too much too soon. At his age the tank has lower reserves than with a younger horse.
As for Chacun Pour Soi, I was pleased to see him win without being blown away by the way he did it. The eight-year-old has been my long-term fancy for the Queen Mother since last May, when he beat two Festival winners at Punchestown, but we should note that on official terms in beating Min by three and three-quarter lengths he beat a rival rated 2lb superior.
If Defi Du Seuil and Altior turn up this could be the race of the week, with the first named likely to start favourite to beat them. What a thriller.
With Envoi Allen, Paisley Park and Tiger Roll likely to start short prices for their respective races, those looking for banker bets will have three strong candidates to call upon.
I know we seem to say this every year, but this really is building up to something rather special. Does it need a fifth day?
Bye for now