Hazel Hill looks fair value

February 23rd, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

For a few years I concentrated on one race at the Cheltenham festival – the Stayers’ or World Hurdle, as it was called for a while. I decided to take short prices about Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s in their prime and settled down to enjoy the rest of the racing with no considerable financial interest.

I have to say it worked very well. Of course, we can all see that the rewards are greater if you solve one of the multi-runner handicaps, but how likely is that these days? Let’s be honest, we’re not bound to name the Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott horse which finishes in front of its stable-companions, never mind all the others. The thing to remember about Cheltenham – ONE of the things to remember – is that Irish stables are looking for handicap opportunities about a year in advance. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the festival without getting carried away by it. I realise I may well be in a minority, as anyone who attends the preview evenings will probably agree. Most of these are about an hour and a half too long and for every one enlivened by an irreverent Mark Winstanley, there are half a dozen weighed down by interminable analysis.

To return to the Stayers’, I am loathe to desert a horse I’ve managed to tip the last twice, but I’m bound to say I think Paisley Park will face a much harder task on the day. The home defenders do not amount to much but Mullins has considerable strength on the distaff side and there are two or three mares capable of giving Paisley Park plenty to think about if this is their chosen event. The other point to make is that he seems to need to come between horses. He did it at Ascot and it was only when Aidan Coleman switched him left on trials day that he relished the job in hand and put the race to bed.

I always look hard at horses when people give up on them too soon. Waiting Patiently, who could not go with Cyrname at Ascot last week, is a perfect example of this. He has done nothing wrong. All right, he was considered a Gold Cup possible after running away with the same race last year, but stamina was always likely to be a problem and Ruth Jefferson had already settled for the Ryanair by the time Waiting Patiently finished second the other day. Given that the UR in the King George at Kempton was an awkward accident and he had not raced since, I thought he ran well.

Don’t forget, he had Politologue behind, even if the latter’s stable-companion ran away from him. There was much to like about his attitude and I think he will represent each-way value in the Ryanair if the rain arrives in mid-March. The trainer is very careful with him and may prefer the Bowl at Aintree, though we hardly every get really soft ground there these days.

My other passing thoughts. Al Dancer was impressive in the Betfair Hurdle but the race itself bore no resemblance to an old Schweppes or even the Betfairs of recent years. It was a smaller field when switched to Ascot, runner-up Magical Dancer is totally exposed but still managed to hold the others at bay and the third home started at 100/1. This was a weak handicap hurdle for the money and although Al Dancer could do no more than laugh at the opposition, I wouldn’t take a short price in the Supreme Novices’.

Finally, a horse who impressed me as much as any with the big meeting in mind was HAZEL HILL at Warwick in January. He has a superb win record, goes well for Mr Alex Edwards and may give the rider some joy in the Foxhunter after some placed efforts. Needless to say, the Irish will make things far harder but Hazel Hill has gone from strength to strength for trainer Philip Rowley and he looks like being my nap at around 7/1.