February 27th, 2024 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there,

This week, away from the political scene, the weights for the nine handicaps at Cheltenham are published. As you may know I always like to dig out the plots for these races … Sire Du Berlais was a big one for us when he got up an under an inspired Barry Geraghty to win the 2019 Pertemps Final … and I have a couple that have caught my eye this season.

I see that entries for the Derby will also be revealed. This is the one area where trainers are forced to declare their hand. Yes there is the occasional owner-motivated entry, and Aidan O’Brien will be well represented, but frivolous entries are few and far between and close scrutiny can be hugely rewarding.

Looking back to the weekend I was most impressed with the turn of foot displayed by William Munny in the closing bumper at Naas on Sunday. Barry Connell’s son of Westerner had won on his debut at Navan last month by a short head from a well-regarded Willie Mullins inmate, the pair pulling 12 lengths clear of the third, but this was far more impressive both on form and to the eye.

The trainer said afterwards his winner would skip Cheltenham for Punchestown, which is probably sound thinking given how challenging the Festival bumper can be for a young horse.

The other race that drew my attention was the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. Paul Nicholls says the winner Kalif Du Berlais will also miss Cheltenham, having been bought by his owners with a view to his developing into a Gold Cup prospect.

The four-year-old, who won a hurdle race in France in October and then on his UK debut here at Kempton in January, displayed great tenacity to give 5lbs to the useful Givemefive and I expect this to prove top-class form with the passing of time.

The Festival is just two weeks away which means that my countdown Cheltenham Communiques start next Tuesday, featuring latest news of running plans, going, market movers and ante-post suggestions.

These are despatched daily and included with subscriptions to the Festival Package, which incorporates the Festival Spotlight Guide and the four Daily Bulletins.

My colleagues Jodie and Ronan tell me they have some interesting news through for the meeting while, as I said earlier, I am keen on a couple in the handicaps.

Bye for now