Cheltenham Festival

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22 Mar 22 13:15
Date Joined: 15 Jun 01
| Topic/replies: 27,405 | Blogger: sageform's blog
I am usually keen to lay any short priced favourites before Jan 1 before a festival but looking at the winners of the main 5 races, I would not be in a hurry to oppose any of them at this stage. Honeysuckle is intended to run again, Energumene could improve for another year, Allaho and Flooring Porter seem unassailable and it will take a very good horse to beat A Plus Tard. I'm sure that Constitution Hill, Galopin des Champs  and Shishkin will have supporters but it is always a very big step up from a novice to winning a championship race.
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Report strontium March 22, 2022 2:15 PM GMT
That's interesting analysis Sage.

I wasn't impressed by Honeysuckle (thought she won another weak race in a workmanlike style). Consitution Hill looked like a potential megastar, though I accept he has to make the step up. However, I'd have him favourite in a match right now.

Energumene is hard to judge - he wasn't visually impressive and the ground was terrible, so maybe Townened just did what needed to be done on him. However, it's too soon (IMO) to write off Shiskin and Ferny Hollow is kicking about. There's not much depth in the division though and none of the other novices excite me.

I would say it's now obvious how to beat Flooring Porter. He's a very solid horse, but he won't get an uncontested lead again. The fact that several horses finished in a heap ~3 lengths behind him suggests he's not that superior.

Allaho is a superstar, but he didn't win as well as last year (so he might be regressing slightly) and he may have Gallopin des Champs to contend with. I'm sure they'll try to make GDC into a Gold Cup horse, but he has so much speed he doesn't look like he's crying out for the extra 6 f yet.

I agree with you about A Plus Tard - that was deeply impressive and he'll take some beating on good/good-to-soft ground.
Report sageform March 23, 2022 8:02 AM GMT
All good points strontium and the markets seem to be o your side of the argument. All 5 champions are at backable prices right now but as we all know too well, getting them to Cheltenham again in one piece is even money, never mind winning. I have always been a layer in the past at short priced ante post prices and I had laid Honeysuckle and Allaho this year (purely on the NR basis, not form). I won't do that again unless they are priced up at less than 2/1 before Xmas. Flooring Porter looks to me a typical World Hurdle multiple winner. He is not flashy, probably keeps a bit for himself but, if staying sound, looks as unbeatable to me as Big Bucks and Inglis Drever were in their day. I am not convinced that taking him on earlier would be a wise move for opponents. I accept that Constitution Hill has the speed figures to beat Honeysuckle but she is another one that only does what she is asked to do and has not really been tested in her life. On the negative side, mares usually decide they have had enough racing by the age of 7 or 8.
Report sageform March 23, 2022 9:07 AM GMT
Flooring Porter is currently 5.9 on Betfair and the second fav is Buzz at 17! Unless a new contender comes to light, he looks nailed on again to me.
Report jimnast March 23, 2022 9:28 AM GMT
I remember backing cusp of carabelli in a summer handicap hurdle at Gowan at 12/1 the horse was matched at 4s on in running but was chinned on the line by a 122 rated handicapper called flooring porter i certainly didn’t think oh well the winner will go on and win two stayers hurdle and who knows possibly three ,just shows what’s out there in the reminds me of backing one of Paul melons in a goodwood handicap looked very unlucky in running just failing to beat one of Micheal stoutes giving it weight,the stoute horse was called pilsudski Cry
Report strontium March 23, 2022 9:32 AM GMT
I agree that FP has a fair amount going for him, not least that all the horses he beat this year are getting on, so none of them seems likley to improve past him. Klassical Dream might, I suppose, with a better prep (i.e., if he arrives fresh). I also take on board what you say about FP keeping a bit for himself. In terms of not letting him have an uncontested lead, I was thinking more of "team tactics" - e.g. one runner from a yard/owner is sacrificed to disrupt FP. But the Styaers ia a funny division, and it's hard to predict what will run in it - you get the out-and-out staying hurdlers (like FP, Thyme Hill), but you also get 2 milers stepping up in trip (Zanahiyr?), horses that come back from chasing (like Big Bucks), and horses stepping up from novice company (which route will the completely unexposed The Nice Guy take?). I suspect it's quite a good division to be a layer.
Report brandyontherocks March 25, 2022 10:39 AM GMT
I wonder if they consider switching Vanillier back to hurdles. He ran out a good winner of the Bartlett last season and hasn't taken to fences at all.

I would want be against Shishkin at this stage. Surely can't blame the ground for that run last week. A few people on here commented how much that run at Ascot would have taken out of him after that race.

Jonbon would my early pick as an Arkle horse. I think he is a lot better than the 22L he was beaten in the Supreme. A fence should bring out the best in him.

Statler is on my short list for the Gold Cup. He impressed me last week and beat a 150 horse very easily.
Report strontium March 25, 2022 4:03 PM GMT
Good shout about Vanillier, though he's also trained by Gavin Cromwell, which might br a spanner in the works.

I wonder if Shiskin might go out in trip next season? He's never looked particularly comfortable at 2 m pace to me, and he wins his races by outstaying everything. He could be more of a middle distance horse. Similar with Jonbon I would say - I agree 100% he wants a fence, but he also looks like he already wants a trip. But Henderson doesn't seem to equate good horse with middle distance horse - i.e., he thinks the real stars have to run in the Gold Cup or Champion Chasse, even if those trips don't suit.
Report duffy March 25, 2022 4:19 PM GMT
Wouldn't up Shishkin myself, he has smashed up everything easily enough at 2 miles before just getting to Energumene at Ascot, which is the race people would use as an example of why he needs to go up in trip but you've got to take into account the fact that Energumene is a bloody good horse at the trip so Shishkin had every entitlement to only just win at Ascot, yes if it was further he would have won by more, but it doesn't mean he should go further....Cheltenham was just a write off for me, certainly at 5/1 it is anyway.

Altior kept outstaying everything over 2 miles and would have had the same argument levelled at him if he had ever come up against anything like Energumene.
Report brandyontherocks March 25, 2022 5:31 PM GMT
What would you put his Cheltenham performance down to Duffy?
Report duffy March 25, 2022 6:00 PM GMT
He was beaten from the word go I think we probably all agree with that and if they don't find anything then it's a complete mystery, I assume they have done tests to rule out anything untoward in his system.

One thing that I wouldn't entertain is the hard race syndrome, it may show itself to be the case in due course but we can't deduce it from what happened last week because as said he never went a yard and if it is possible that a hard race can have such a dramatic effect as to stop a horse from even putting one foot in front of the other then that effect would surely be seen on the gallops too beforehand, unless we believe that the horse gets himself into such a state when he knows he's actually going racing which I don't believe.

Also what we all usually accept with the hard race syndrome is that the horse will travel perfectly well through the race and only when he's asked to dip into the red zone will we see the negative effect.

It was also too early for it to be the ground, a complete head scratcher, but for me 5/1 about him is worth the risk that he'll prove to be the same horse he was a short while ago when we all thought he was a monster.
Report strontium March 25, 2022 6:31 PM GMT
It would be unlike Henderson to up Shishkin in trip, especially after he got bitten trying it with Altior. I guess we'll know a lot more after the Celebration Chase.

That said, you kind of make the arguement for upping him in trip Duffy - 2 m 1 f at Ascot is a very stiff "2 miles" and it took him nearly every yard to beat Energuemene. There isn't a lot of depth in the 2 m division, and the novices he faced were poor, so one could ask how strong his record over 2 m actually is. On the other hand, one can say he's raced three times this season and beaten the Tingle Creek winner and the Champion Chaser, so it would be mad to step him up in trip. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Report rolland March 25, 2022 6:55 PM GMT
Contact within the Henderson camp. The horse is not the same animal after Ascot- keep in view ground etc etc. Look elsewhere for QM champ chase 2023.
Report strontium March 25, 2022 7:35 PM GMT
Has this contact told the trainer that?
Report sageform March 26, 2022 12:16 PM GMT
Shishkin would certainly not be the first horse to be bottomed by a hard race. He might come back next season but I could not back him for anything this spring.
Report nocturnal March 26, 2022 11:20 PM GMT
What if Rolland was right?
Report duffy March 27, 2022 12:09 AM GMT
Strange how the exchanges didn't suggest it before the race, obviously the whole of the Henderson camp chose to not act on the fact that they were now working with a shell of a horse...most unlike them.
Report irishone March 27, 2022 10:33 AM BST
Getting a bit too common now with poison nicky isnt it ?
Report sageform March 28, 2022 1:24 PM BST
Not sure who is causing the prices but they don't have much clue, particularly with chasers. They actually made Bothwell Bridge favourite yesterday with form of FP. So of course it is now FPP.
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