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CVByrne
17 Jan 13 14:51
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Hurricane Fly -
 
Willie Mullins after Fly won last years Rabbo Bank Champion hurdle at Punchy.

"He wasn't impressive going past the winning post first time and just his class won the race for him..... Maybe next year we'll ride him like a normal horse as he's always been very keen and we've been trying to settle him. He settled at Leopardstown in January but he settled too much at Cheltenham. My job now is to try and get the Champion Hurdle back."

What he was alluding to here was the tactics in the Champion Hurdle were of confidence, they believed Fly's biggest danger would be being too keen and not settling like he was in 2011 and he'd expend too much energy early in the race. They thought that if Ruby could settle him picking up the leaders was a formality.
 
But Fly settled "too well", by that they mean when Ruby let him an inch of rein in the past the horse was keen he'd go faster when given that bit of rein, but this time he was too settled and Ruby had to get to work on him to actually go. Which he did and he was the fastest home from that point to the line. 

So Fly in all his runs last year has settled very well. The keeness of his 2010/11 campaign is gone, he's grown up. On his first run this season he made the running. Then at Christmas he tracked Thousand Stars closely. I'd expect him to do the same in Irish Champion Hurdle, track Thousand Stars again.

So then at Cheltenham, Ruby will know Zarkandar is going to be ridden up there in the first couple of horses. He is giving the feedback to Nicholls about Zarkandar having ridden him twice this season.

So knowing this, and being the superb jock he is, he'll be sure to have Fly right beside Zark at the start so he can track him for the race, Zark will have to be one of the first to make for home given how well he stays and how much he finds off the bridle. So if Fly isn't keen and using energy at the early part of a race, he can be settled in behind Zark and Ruby can then stay in his slip stream and bring Fly out to challenge as they turn for home.

This tactic I believe is key and there is every reason to believe as Fly settles now Ruby can "ride him like a normal horse" he can ride tactics as he sees fit. Those tactics will be to be ridden up with the pace without any worry that he needs to settle. Then his injection of pace, slick hurdling, courage and stamina should see him home.
 
Another thing to note is his prep, in 2010/11 season he had 3 prep runs and improved for each run before his best performance coming at the end of the season at Punchestown. Last season he had problems early on missing 3 intended engagements. RPTV Antepost analysis highlighted this, saying he is a horse who improves with each run and this is the reason to oppose him in Champion Hurdle. Sublimity is only winner in recent decade who had only 1 prep run.
 
So we've this further potential piece of the puzzle, Flys prep this year has been much better than that of last season, no missed races, 3 prep runs with the tactics he will be run with at Cheltenham employed each time, settled in just behind the pace and brought out to challenge coming to the last.
 
One final nugget, there is no Overturn. A grade 1 winning front runner who was kept company by another in Celestial Halo last year. This helped force a fast pace. It surely helped Fly settle, but if the pace is a little bit slower this year it will play against horses like Rock on ruby and Zarkandar and more in favour of Grandouet and Fly. Its not a huge issue but it's an important one none the less.
 
Given the odds you can get day of the race at Cheltenham in recent times Fly is not an antepost bet, he will probably be 4/1 or bigger on the day and is as close to a shot to nothing e/w as they come, having only ever been beaten 3 times in his career. But placed on each of those occasions.
 
 
Darlan - Came 2nd in a slow run Supreme, then won a comically slow run Christmas Hurdle where the final time was a full 8 seconds slower than River Maigue ran in the novice race earlier on same card. Raya Star in 2nd and 4th Fav for Supreme Dodging Bullets in 3rd even futher holds thjat form down. Darlan will likely have an egg and spoon prep race and go to Cheltenham and be 4/1 with zero form against the 4 main rivals he'll face. Also big scopey horses who can go chasing usually find one or two too quick over hurdles in this race. 5 of last 6 winners of this race were Flat bred. It would be madness to back Darlan at the prices.
 
 
Grandouet - Very nice sort, who has run well three times at Cheltenham, 3rd in Triumph, 1st in International and 2nd this season in the same race. There is one key theme here, those 3 runs came on the New Course, which is a much stiffer course than the speedier Old Course he'll run on a Cheltenham. Given he is a speed type he should improve for the change. Combined with the likely slower pace this year he would be the biggest danger to Hurricane Fly. He should be at his physical peak as a 6yo in this race.
 
Given Haydock may be off he might have to go for the Kingwell and face Zarkandar. He'd likely win that race on a speedy track like that and be cut for the festival. As such he is probably the best antepost play at this stage @ 7/1
 
Zarkandar - This is a horse who keeps on improving and will be at his career best in the Champion Hurdle, finds buckets off the bridle and though he lacks a change of gear he isn't lacking pace. Was never right last season and was tough for one so young and inexperienced to be thrown into the Champion Hurdle. But this year with a full season under his belt for the first time will have him a live player. It's unknown how much he has left when winning both times this season, could be a Hardy or Big Bucks type who keeps finding. No idea where the bottom of him is yet.
 
Rock on Ruby - I believe he and Overturn got the hop on everyone last year, riders thought the double figure horses up front would come back to them. They were wrong and both Overturn and RoR were at the front for the whole race. But this year RoR has 2 problems, people will not let him such rope in front again this year. They'll keep closer tabs on him. While there is no Overturn quality front runner for him to track. So if there is a lower quality runner making it that horse will likely fall away much earlier than Overturn meaning RoR would be in front earlier and make his task tougher. There is a price at which Ruby becomes backable but it's the 10/1 mark dotr.
 
Binocular - Very consistent horse at Kempton and Cheltenham, his record at Kempton being 311 and Cheltenham 2314. All grade 1s. Will likely have a new jock on board in the form of Paul Carberry (or possibly Townend) bot of whom will be excellent fits for him. He will likely not be good enough to win the race, but his consistency gives him stong place claims. so e/w 25/1 and a lay of the win bet back on the day of the race would be a shrewd bet in my opinion. It would be very interesting to see how Carberry would ride him.
 
Cinders & Ashes - Won a slow run Supreme and that's about the most he's done in his career. Supreme winners have shocking records in the Champion hurdle, usually because the horse who wins it is NH bred, has peaked by then and doesn't have as much improvement to come the following season. But C&A could possibly outrun his price of 18/1 but you'd be going on hope and faith more than anything.
 
Countrywide Flame - Won the fighting Fifth but beat what exactly? Cinder and Ashes. 5yo have shocking records in this race and Triumph field not doing much this season.
 
 
Suggested bets
 
Grandouet 7/1
Binocular e/w 25/1 - lay back win stake day of the race
 
Hurricane Fly - best morning price.

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Replies: 290
By:
roobuck
When: 17 Jan 13 15:04
Excellent write up CVB and struggle to argue with the rationale of your suggested bets.

The only thing I would add that is if it looks like being softer than usual, I'd get on the Fly earlier as I think he'll be backed ahead of the day
By:
Makybe_Diva
When: 17 Jan 13 15:36
Thanks CVB. A very interesting read.

You'll think I'm mad but, if I have a bet in the CH, my money will be on Darlan.

There's just something about that horse that I love.
By:
Can't Catch Me
When: 17 Jan 13 20:33
Good write up. Not a big fan of Grandouet fan myself however. I have a decent bet on HF, and Zarkandar is my back up choice. He still looks the best alternative to me, and would fancy him to finish ahead of Grandouet personally. He is 3 from 3 whenever they have met, and I think he has just as much room for improvement so can't really see why that will change next time.

HF
Zarkandar
Binocular

Is my 1-2-3 at his stage.....
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 20:41
my 1-2-3 is Oscar Whiskey,Grandouet and Zarkandar not sure what order though but very sweet on WhiskeyCrazy
By:
buddeliea
When: 17 Jan 13 20:52
i'm sweet on Oscar if its soft ground and have him at huge odds.Also have Bino and a speculative bet on Pearl Swan. Main bet is ROR,but would like HF or Zarkander on my side as well,want both but thats greedy and not sure i can accomodate both anyway.
Will wait till i am pretty sure on the going.Soft side i will have HF,if its decent ground may well go for Zark.

Going against Darlan and Grandouet.
By:
roobuck
When: 17 Jan 13 20:53
Oscar's a real player if its very soft.

Zarkandar, ROR and probably the Fly for me
By:
Can't Catch Me
When: 17 Jan 13 21:00
Yep keep forgetting about Oscar Whisky. Agree he would come into it on soft.
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 21:02
i got feeling Oscar going to run huge race and on at big odds cant see the going to change much even though it drains well here, the weather has been shocking an with this snow/rain going to be around for a few weeks its got to have the word soft in going. im against Darlan and the fly just cant have either think its been a long time since a horse has regained the champ hurdle after losing it Comedy of errors if im correct and not sure hes improved as for darlan the kemp race was a crawl an not sure that form would hold up in a true run race but hey that only my opinion ladsExcited
By:
CVByrne
When: 17 Jan 13 21:03
Unlikely they'll run Oscar given Hendo has 3 already for the race.
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 21:11
think he will deff run the going has  to be soft of some sort and he dosent stay 3 miles its not rocket science hendo knows this already, and theres 4 already u forgot punjabiWink
By:
roobuck
When: 17 Jan 13 21:12
If its soft enough for OW to run, then HF will deffo place imo.

CVB - OW's owner is quite assertive and Hendo has already said that likely to go if pretty soft. That is of course unless he hoses up in the Cleeve
By:
Can't Catch Me
When: 17 Jan 13 21:16
They've added Cash and Go to their entries this week as well.
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 21:18
be a miracle if theres racing here next week roo hope im wrong though
By:
CVByrne
When: 17 Jan 13 21:25
Oscar would only run if it came up proper soft or worse. Which is unlikely as March is the driest month of the year. So best to ignore him for now. He's main aim is Aintree Hurdle. Best focusing on horses we know will turn up.
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 21:39
march driest month of the year lol lets put it this way CVB New years day was called of cause or rain not frost big chance next week be called off due to rain/snow which will be a first for long time this has happend, this weather will have to change dramatically for it not to be good/soft on first day at best and thats without are mate turning on the tapsCrazy and oscar dosent need it to be very soft thimk thats aload of tosh he ran a great race behind the fly on good ground beaten 6 lengths and has been upped in trip since, the horse hasnt declined whos not to say hed of been placed or won champ hurdle a year later, 7/2 the fly 33s Oscar with soft in going is a no brainer
By:
roobuck
When: 17 Jan 13 21:47
Lets not get into another debate re ground Grin
By:
chief dan
When: 17 Jan 13 21:51
lol roo just saying it will be a first if it gets cancelled next week an losing new years meet cause of soft ground thats all an i can see the course from ereWink
By:
duffy
When: 17 Jan 13 21:52
HF and ROR for me, zark outpaced, grandouet, not get up the hill, oscar, not quick enough, soft or not, darlan, can't jump, didn't look to like cheltenham last year, cinders, not good enough, bino, good trade I suppose but wouldn't his price be creeping down already if they really fancied him.?
By:
CVByrne
When: 17 Jan 13 22:38
Chief Dan, I'm quoting facts. March IS the driest month of the year, has been driest or 2nd driest month for past 3 years

Go back and check when last soft ground festival was. Assume ground will be good to soft as it's 9/10 that going. Adjust opinion if there is rain closer to the festival.

Only a fool would play antepost assuming it would be soft. You need to look at the numbers, good to soft by far most common going at festival.
By:
Slabster
When: 17 Jan 13 23:11
Only a fool would think there's no greater chance of soft ground this year than other years CV. I'm not saying it will be soft, far from it, but the chances of soft ground this year are higher than in years gone by.
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 07:47
Course they are Slabster,and the possibility has to be considered this year,and any horse thats gonna be favoured by soft ground has to be included in ante post summising.Step forward Oscar Whisky.
No good saying it wont be soft when clearly theres a fair chance of it this year.
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 07:57
Really can see ROR running a similar sort of pace as he did last year,and if he does and quickens as he did i see the same result.
Dont realy care how others are ridden differently etc,i think hes stupidly underestimated,and as last year will be the best horse in the race this year,unless its soft ground,then HF and OW become a major threat.
Connections think hes a stronger horse this year,and if thats true it inspires even more confidence than i have now.
10/1? e/w steal imo.
Of course the likes of Darlan,Grandouet and a more fit Zarkandar could be better than last years horses,but from what ive seen i aint convinced,although Zarkandar worries me a tad.
By:
Ballydoyle
When: 18 Jan 13 08:01
I'm a Grandouet man.

Hurricane Fly was the biggest cert of festival two years ago but he is too old now, as is Binocular.

Oscar Whisky - fail to see how he can win when he was beaten 5 lengths two years ago and is now a slower horse.

Zarkandar - will be off bridle half a mile from home and tapped for toe.

Rock On Ruby - feeling he fluked it last year to be honest

Darlan - laughable at 4/1

Cinders N Ashes - Supreme winners dont win this the year after

Pearl Swan - 5yo. Not ran yet. dream on

Countrywide Flame - also 5yo and bar Katchit its a waste of time turning up.

So, that leaves me with Grandouet for much the same reasons as Mr Byrne has highlighted
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 12:11
Laugh
clueless drivel

Especially the bit about OW being slower!!
LaughLaugh
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 12:19
Actually i apologise Ballydoyle.

Some of those are fair points even though i may disagree with them.
Still think the OW comment is way out though.

But its wrong of me too have a go like that,sh!te day at work,but no excuse.
Sorry mate.
By:
cyclops
When: 18 Jan 13 12:22
A good summary CVB, and agree with most of what you say. Other than being another who is bemused at the reluctance of Henderson to target Oscar at the race, (he would start at single figures if he ran and maybe be second fav were it heavy - enough said)I wouldn't dismiss Countrywide Flame. Hosed up in the Triumph after meeting interference at the top of the hill, improved on the flat, and looked in great nick in the FF, even if he beat little. I'd ignore Kempton, as he was given a scarcely believable ride. A horse that has plenty of stamina, proven in soft, has front run before, and yet he was allowed to be held up for the final sprint. As a very battle hardened 5 y o I don't see the age factor being too relevant for him and he won't be far away.

As for the Fly, agree totally that he can now be ridden differently, but the nagging doubt is that, as I read it, he was never travelling last year and only his class and guts got him home. Yes, his preparation has, so far, gone better, but don't forget Mullins reckoned his Irish Champion performance last year was his best ever run, so they weren't too unhappy with him then.
Does he really like Cheltenham (with the travelling and all that the Festival entails)?

Outsiders that could yet come into the picture are Grumeti and Cotton Mill.
By:
alleged22
When: 18 Jan 13 12:58
grandouet is not battle hardened enough for me, 1 from 4 at cheltenham is that really good enough??? seems to like top of the ground better which he wont get this year,cant see him finishing infront of zarkander, the fly or OW. im really hoping OW  goes for the WH  but thats just my pocket talking.
By:
duffy
When: 18 Jan 13 15:33
If we didn't already know where CV's loyalties lay, we certainly do now

HF- thesis

the rest-postage stamp worthWink
By:
Ballydoyle
When: 18 Jan 13 16:05
buddelia - no problem. takes a man to say sorry and i know from previous convo's you're a sound guy.

My write up was done in about two minutes. Not strong on the champion hurdle - have 50 win Grandouet at 7-1 nothing else - but I cant have Hurricane Fly at 4-1 at 9yo regaining his crown. I love the horse - paid for my summer holiday two years ago with Champ Hurdle win - but I just think he will be done for speed. Go Native was arguably set to pounce when he fell and lto he didnt beat much. I also cannot have Oscar Whisky who I think shouldn't even run at Cheltenham. He's an Aintree Hurdle certainty again. He was beat convincingly by Hurricane Fly two years ago and two years on is he any better? Is he quicker Seriously? All very well saying "if there is a bog etc" but can't be basing ante post selections on that for a course and date when it is usually good-soft, soft at worst.

Record of Christmas hurdlers is poor so Darlan not for me. He was beat by Cinders N Ashes in Supreme and the Supreme last year was bloody awful. How many winners have come out of that? Beat Captain Conan at Aintree. Big deal. Beat Raya Star and Dodging Bullets at Kempton. Donkey Derby. He is priced 100% on reputation. May well make me look silly but we will see.

Grandouet dismissed Overturn easily earlier in career and was cantering until tiring last time out. He will be stronger now and is pretty lightly raced for his age. The vibes are good from Hendo n Baz. He will do for me. The worry is that he may flounder on soft ground but I'll have a go...a poster above said Grandouet not battle-hardened enough..yes, could well be true but we really don't know

The sneaky one could be Cotton Mill who was going ok in Neptune until spooked. If Simonsig was running in this I'd be all over him so have to give respect to Cotton Mill.
By:
sageform
When: 18 Jan 13 16:26
Many trainers will be looking in vain for a warm up race unless the weather improves. I still favour Zarkandar at this stage with an early ante post bet on Cinders and Ashes looking a bit forlorn. I still think that Cinders could yet come good in a fast run large field like he beat in the Supreme, but Zarkandar looks the one.
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 16:28
Yeh,i honestly think OW is better now then he was 2 years ago,certainly looks a stronger horse to me.
Yes hes an aintree 2 and a half miler,but each time hes won it hes ran at the festival,so i do think if conditions suit he will run and be a lot lot shorter than his current price.He can be backed ante post on here cos his price is huge should it be soft on the day and Soft is possible Bally.
See nowt wrong with covering all angles if the prices allow.
Agree with you about Darlan,but not about Grandouet,although i do think we aint seen the best of him,i just think Zarkandar beats him up that hill,as well as HF and ROR and probably Binocular.
By:
bluebirdfan
When: 18 Jan 13 16:37
I'll be very suprised if the winner doesn't come from this years International Hurdle
By:
Ballydoyle
When: 18 Jan 13 17:03
I just watched Hurricane Fly's runs this season again and by god, he's still got that ability to quicken. Hmmm....
By:
Ballydoyle
When: 18 Jan 13 17:03
Were Rock On Ruby and Overturn given too much rope last year?
By:
buddeliea
When: 18 Jan 13 17:14
Yeh they were(HF and Bino),but having watched it just now,again!!! they were plenty close enough when ROR quickened past Overturn and they got left.
Then made up some ground towards the last,but up the hill ROR extended away,although Bino did make a hash of the last,which could well have prevented him from placing.
Its what i mean when people say ROR winning was a fluke etc.
To me he was always near the pace,quickened off it and won going away.
Thats faultless in my book,and even if HF and Bino are at their best,if ROR runs a similar race,as ive said,i think he will win again.IF!!!
Unless,as ive also said, somethings better than him that we dont know yet!!
By:
GoldCupWinner
When: 18 Jan 13 17:37
Given too much rope would imply Hurricane Fly wa catching them last year but he got nowhere near them. Not even sure he closed the gap.
By:
CVByrne
When: 18 Jan 13 17:40
Ballydoyle, I've watched last years race again a few times last night. Rock on Ruby didn't half win well. It was an impressive performance imv. Fly didn't pick up at all and Ruby was niggling on him too far out for that to have been him at his best. Class got him 3rd. Similar to Kauto in 2008, he was never travelling from early on and it was nothing to do with race pace set by Denman at that stage. We'll see an improved Fly performance in March I'm sure especially as I can't see the race pace being as fast as it was last year with no Overturn. Also there is an element of under estimation last year of the first two.

I've been told early pace last year wasn't too quick and this is the reason Overturn and Rock on Ruby could make for home and keep going. I'd love to have the sectionals from the last two Champion Hurdles if someones could post them.
By:
GoldCupWinner
When: 18 Jan 13 17:43
Just watched the race myself from last year. Zarkander must have grew wings once the camera went away from him but he looked to be toiling badly but then nearly caught Binocular for 4th.
By:
CVByrne
When: 18 Jan 13 17:57
Yeah but this season will be Zarkandars first full season since he came to England. He'll be getting stronger and more experienced as he races and should be a different horse on the day. He may well be up front making the running, he has the stamina and it may be the best tactic. Similar to how Celestial Halo went a suicide pace in 2009 and they all finished very tired.
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