Cheltenham Postscript

March 20th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

There was a time when my answer to anyone wanting to know what my guiding principle to winner finding was would be to follow a yard in form and, perhaps as important, avoid a yard out of form.

Phil Bull, when asked the same question, used to say “the going and weight.” Well following the week’s events at Cheltenham I have decided to promote the state of the going to the top of the list.

That is not to say there should be any complaints about the ground. Conditions were safe and fair, although by Friday when the going description had become good all round I would say it was definitely counting against the mud lovers.

From a personal viewpoint I made one big mistake last week. That was to decide, without really having a valid reason in some cases, to oppose the majority of the short-priced favourites. That is a tactic that, over many years, has served me very well but on this occasion it failed.

In brief, starting with my star bets, Buveur D’Air ran well to finish third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The going suited his stable-companion Altior rather more, but I still believe Buveur D’Air will in time prove the superior of the two. He is a half-brother to the stayer Punchestowns and other horses that won over further than two miles, so watch for him when he is stepped up in trip.

I was resigned to Connetable being beaten on Friday once the ground changed. The horse’s form had come on soft and heavy ground and he never looked comfortable at any stage. I expect to see him in a better light in the mud.

Kayf Blanco, my third star bet, was very speculative for the County Hurdle at 50/1.

I knew he would outrun that price and he duly did, staying on into seventh after being squeezed for room on the descent to the straight. I had originally expected him to tackle the Coral Cup over five furlongs further and on this evidence I reckon he will improve for the step up in trip. This view is corroborated by his pedigree – his dam is an unraced half-sister to Gold Cup winner See More Business and staying chaser Mister One – so let’s keep him on our side. He travelled well through the race and jumped slickly, just as he always does.

It was a case of just missing out in the handicaps. I gave favourable mentions to Ballyalton, Diamond King, Diego Du Charmil and Cause of Causes and I should have spotted Superb Story and Mall Dini, especially the latter who is a Dark Horse qualifier from my Guide.

Moving to the more general picture, I would say that the lesson from last week was all about class. Willie Mullins and his owners have the buying power to cherry pick the best young stock and the skill to both train and, more specifically, place them at the right level.

It has, though, to be said that the Vautour switch was not well handled. In their defence Tony Mullins had said in an interview on ATR with Matt Chapman that his understanding was that Vautour was staying in the Gold Cup as back-up to Djakadam, while Rich Ricci said on the same programme that Vautour’s work had been disappointing.

That was out in the public domain but the problem arose from Rich Ricci’s assertion that Vautour would tackle the Gold Cup or “stay at home.” The decision to run was almost certainly made at the last minute by Willie Mullins, as it usually is, and I expect next time the owner will be more circumspect.

As for the Gold Cup, a line through Road To Riches from last year’s race suggests that Vautour is about 5lb better than Djakadam which would make him the same horse as Don Cossack. I have no doubt that on good ground Vautour would prove superior to Djakadam, but that might not apply over the Gold Cup trip or on testing going. For me, he is still a doubtful stayer. I am sure that next year Ricci will be pushing to give him a chance to run in the race.

I will have more to stay about the meeting over the next few days. To conclude, it was a special week notable for having as exciting a crop of young horses as we’ve ever seen.

Bye for now