Pretend still on the up

February 4th, 2017 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

Last Saturday’s Cheltenham card was overshadowed by the sad loss of Many Clouds, who gave everything in beating Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase. Of course, the sport goes on, as it must, and attention returns to the implications of the result were the Gold Cup is concerned.

Basically, I thought Thistlecrack did very well for a novice without maintaining the superstar status that many have accorded him. On better ground he should beat his stable-companions Cue Card (who is unlikely to stay three and a quarter miles) and Native River, who will need plenty of give underfoot. With Djakadam the only other contender quoted at 12/1 or shorter, one can understand the bookmakers’ caution but I see no need to back Thistlecrack at this stage.

Nicky Henderson has his team in excellent fettle just now and BUVEUR D’AIR should win the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, where only three take him on. In think he could have won this with Brain Power anyway and the odds about his stable-companion will be short indeed.

Philip Hobbs is another trainer firing in the winners as he seeks to match last season’s tally at the same stage. He may feel that ROLLING DYLAN could concentrate a bit more and cheekpieces are sported for the first time in the valuable Betfred Mobile Homes Handicap Hurdle. Rolling Dylan was just run out of it at Chepstow in a race he might have been expected to win but he figures on a handy mark in this and is worth a little each-way.

Intriguingly, with all the talent at his disposal, Henderson lets SOLDIER IN ACTION make his debut in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh. He will be up against several previous winners and this looks a stiff task but I recall seeing Soldier in Action run right away from the opposition at Goodwood when still with Mark Johnston and, although not one to produce the same performance twice in a row for that trainer, he has more than a touch of class and first time up may be the time to secure some value.

It is very rare for Godolphin to keep a six-year-old sprinter on the go and the hint is worth taking when PRETEND contests the Listed affair at Lingfield at 2.00. He won pretty easily last time after a long absence and his Chester effort the time before, when he was clearly unsuited by the track, bears the closest inspection. All the old familiar faces line up at Lingfield, including dual winner of the race Rivellino, but Pretend is the progressive one and William Buick is in the plate.