Our Cheltenham Plans …

January 31st, 2021 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

With less than six weeks to go before the start of Cheltenham we decided on the allocation of the Bulletin Book essays a few days ago.

Many years back I wrote most of the 30,000-plus words myself, working for five days non-stop, sometimes through the night, to meet the Sunday evening deadline. It was then a case of overseeing the layout on Monday to ensure it was with the printer that evening in time for despatch on Wednesday, to reach clients by the weekend before the start of the meeting on Tuesday.

In those days there was no Internet, so we were reliant on Royal Mail to deliver on time. They were militant times, and I used to lose sleep in the build-up to the meeting for fear that the unions would call out their postal workers and leave us with 1,000s of disappointed and hugely frustrated subscribers.

Cheltenham was a three-day meeting back then and the Bulletin Book reigned supreme, with no other rival publications nor anything like the depth of coverage you see today.

Such was the intensity of my focus that one year I developed a blood clot – a DVT – from not moving from my desk for such a long period of time. It was the equivalent of a long-haul flight, and the clot made its way to my lungs forming an embolism. The NHS did a great job but I was subsequently informed it was a close-run thing.

It happened again a few years later, but medication has worked and I now have a dedicated team to help me, hence this week’s discussion with Jodie.

I will be writing the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle previews – I think clients would expect that of me. I will also be covering the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as it’s a race I like and because it’s the first race of the meeting I try and give everyone a good start. I am also covering the Triumph Hurdle this year.

I also enjoy the handicaps although, as you know, rather than write a ‘weights and measures’ guide to every horse I prefer to pinpoint half-a-dozen horses or thereabouts in each race, focusing on ones that appear to have been laid out or prepared with this meeting in mind.

In order to try and refine the service even more I am writing the Online Supplements by 11.00 on the morning of the races. In the past I have done these the night before, but in recent years I have found things change at late notice and the extended deadline will ensure I can include all the very latest news.

Of course we don’t yet know whether any members of the public will be in attendance and there is still a doubt about the participation of the Irish horses, although I expect that issue to be resolved in good time for the commencement.

As for the equine stars a few ‘bankers’ – a term I use advisedly – have emerged.

Shishkin is as short as 4/6 for the Arkle Trophy, with uncertainty over those likely to take him on. He impressed almost everyone at Doncaster yesterday, beating a useful 149-rated rival with more in hand than the winning margin of eight and a half lengths.

He did jump slightly left at times and has a tendency to carry his head a little high – something that he’s always done. Nico de Boinville also had to nudge him along turning for home, so there could be a point in the Arkle when the trail-blazing Allmankind holds a clear advantage. This is something that in-running traders should bear in mind, but more about that later.

Allmankind and the promising Energumene look the main threats, but the latter also has a possible alternative entry for the 2m4f Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Monkfish is strong at the head of the market for the Festival Novices’ Chase (formerly known as the RSA) while you can’t beat 10/11 for Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Things may change next weekend, when many of the Irish contenders run in the Irish Festival at Leopardstown, but with Paisley Park, Epatante, Chacun Pour Soi, Altior and Al Boum Photo and other big names looking nicely set up the portents augur well.

Let’s hope for a clear run in the next few weeks.


Bye for now