Cheltenham Focus: Now is the time to back Brandy and Gaillard Du Mesnil

Daryl Carter.
It's week 19 and Dary has two more selections to add to his portfolio.

It's week 19 of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus, and with Betfair's NRMB offer coming in very soon, Daryl wants to get two more ante-post plays into his list...

  • Daryl adds two bets to his ante-post list at 4/1 and 10/1

  • Talks through the week's action

  • Gets his Supreme Novice Hurdle thoughts down on print

Yes, it's the last chance to get some ante-post bets on the list before Betfair's NRMB offer comes in on the 21st of February. First, let's catch up on the week's action!

Strange Mercedes-Benz leaves more questions than answers

Hiddenvalley Lake lost his unbeaten run to stablemate Monty's Star in the Mercedes-Benz Hurdle at Clonemel on Thursday as he attempted to make all of the running under Rachael Blackmore.

He was pushed from 11/2 out to 8/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook for the Albert Bartlett, while Monty's Star moved into 8/1 from 50/1.

Monty's Star 1280 x 833.png

However, this was not a test of stamina despite running over three miles. It was strange to see Blackmore opt to make the running on Hiddenvalley Lake and even stranger to her go such a sedate gallop on the first circuit - particularly because that wouldn't favoured her strong staying favourite.

The first circuit clocked a time of 3.04.12, while the second circuit was 19.71 seconds faster (78.84 lengths faster!).

This is a remarkable difference for a 3m hurdle race.

To put it into perspective, the second circuit was faster than any other race on the card, and all other hurdle races were run over a maximum distance of 2m3f.

I would tread with extreme caution if betting anything solely off the back of this race for a 3m contest, particularly those that had not proven their stamina for 3m previous to this run!

At Sandown in the Grade 2 Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle, You Wear It Well confirmed that excellent time figure she put in when poorly positioned behind Hermes Allen in the Challow Hurdle by dotting up here by seven lengths. She is now a 10/1 chance for the Mares Novice Hurdle, and she is no back number in that contest.

We touched upon the fact that she ran an almost identical circuit time to Hermes Allen in the Challow Hurdle but was poorly positioned and held up at the rear of the field. I am still determining whether that was a form boost for Hermes Allen, and I will come back to you with the answer.

Shishkin relishes step up in trip and new Ryanair favourite

Shishkin bounced back in no uncertain terms when demolishing the Betfair Ascot Chase field by 16 lengths. He was immediately cut into 5/4 favourite with the Betfair Sportsbook for the Ryanair, and rightly so. We now sit in an excellent position with him, having advised to back him on the Betfair Exchange at a widely available 7/1.

This was excellent to watch, I must admit. The notable thing here was that he didn't jump out to the left at any of his fences or at least not to the degree he did in the Tingle Creek or when claiming the scalp of Energumene in the Clarence House last year.

There's a good chance that his back - the issue over the summer after the Cheltenham Festival - may have played him up for a while. This was much more like it today, and it was a well-run contest. He will be very hard to beat in the Ryanair, which will surely produce a small field and nothing of the quality of Shishkin.

At Haydock, Bo Zenith bounced back from his disappointing debut effort at Sandown with a dominant display, although what he beat is up for debate.

Still, he could now pick up the progressive thread and will get a decent handicap mark for the Boodles Handicap, so it is worth keeping an eye on. He is a 12/1 chance for the Boodles and 16/1 for the Triumph Hurdle.

At Wincanton, I Like To Move It absolutely bolted up in the Kingwell Hurdle and is now heading to the Champion Hurdle 33/1.

He won really well here, and this was much more like it, but Bryony Frost on Knappers Hill went far too hard, and this was not First Street's true running. Take nothing away from the winner and connections, and they are right to dream by heading to the Champion Hurdle on the back of this effort.

Really poor Red Mills Hurdle sees Sharjah's decline

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The Red Mills Hurdle was run so slowly that it was hard to take any positives out of the race for many of the runners.

Sharjah, sent off a short-priced 4/7f had been readily held by State Man the last twice and showed significant signs of decline here. Fil Dor, who was back over hurdles after a failed chase campaign, set a slow gallop and tried to turn the race into a sprint.

At three out Fil Dor was 5.85 secs behind the Juvenile Maiden Hurdle winner Sinbad Le Martin and his finishing effort was only 12 lengths faster from three out to the finish. It's hard to suggest Fil Dor should be on the radar for anything at Cheltenham, which also goes for the declining Sharjah.

The Novice Hurdler in the contest, Doctor Bravo, was flattered by his finishing position having been well positioned, but he is improving, and there could be more to come.

The fourth, Da Capo Glory, should be firmly on the radar for the Martin Pipe 20/1, he was given an easy time of things here, and connections surely have a handicap in mind.

However, his trainer has never had a runner in Britain, so from an ante-post perspective, he is probably a little risky for one that won't be shorter between now and March.

Janadil throws his hat into Ryanair ring

The long-time absent Janadil got back to winning ways by scalping Haut En Couleurs on return at Gowran Park in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase. Allaho is now the only horse to have beaten him when returning from 200 + days off the track, and the runner-up probably confirmed my theory that Fakir D'oudaires is on the downgrade with this performance.

Haut En Couleurs would have been a good winner over Fakir D'oudaires but for a fall on his previous outing, but he was readily held here by Janadil.

Janadil is now 6/1 for the Ryanair, and without the outstanding performance of Shishkin at Ascot, he probably would be a favourite.

Backers of his must beware that he has not always been as good a second time out as he is the first. We tipped him on this column each way last year in the Ryanair, but he probably would have finished a well-held third if not for the fall of Conflated.

The form is stacking up nicely, but the standout in this Ryanair is certainly Shishkin.

Supreme Novice Hurdle thoughts

Writing this is more for me than you as I need to get some thoughts about the Supreme Novice Hurdle down on print, and as I have said before, I use this column as my seasonal diary...

The Supreme Novice Hurdle is a race I didn't give enough attention to because I felt that Facile Vega would be very tough to beat. I didn't have anything else in the race running up to my required ratings of 150-155 - which in a typical year would see the winner at least fight out the finish in the Supreme.

I believed Facile Vega was well clear, but the Dublin Racing Festival saw him put in a dreadful performance and showed chinks in the armour that had previously looked impenetrable.

After the race, I immediately thought that the market overreacted by pushing him from 8/11 to 5/1, and I thought about taking some. Still, he quickly came back into 3/1, and I didn't want to react to my first thoughts and thought it wise to let the water level.

This week I decided to delve into this contest and dedicate some serious hours.

I first returned to Facile Vega's run at Christmas, where he beat Il Etait Temps comfortably.

At the time, I remember thinking, christ, Il Etait Temps made ground up on his quickly here between the second and last flights, and my other thought was that jockey Danny Mullins was hesitant to give Facile Vega a real challenge as he loomed up on the home turn. They almost jumped the final flight on terms, but Paul Townend on Facile Vega had plenty in reserve, having dictated the race - albeit in a fair time figure.

On course at Leopardstown, I wanted to back Il Etait Temps in the without market, but I felt 7/4 was tight. I wished to place that bet because, in the back of my mind, I thought it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that he could reverse Christmas form or at least get closer.

That move from the second last into the home straight had imprinted on me.

Facile Vega clearly went too hard last month before finishing well beaten, but his form is a little bit off-putting in the main, and it's a long way back from that effort. He is very good, of course, but it's hard to make the case that he is now miles clear of his rivals.

Marine Nationale 1280 x 820.png

Il Etait Temps tempts me, not just on the time figure he recorded or RPR of 158 at the DRF but because the Juvenile form from last year is very strong - particularly in Ireland.

He was mad keen in the Triumph Hurdle and pulled the arms off of Danny Mullins for much of the contest, and a strong gallop at the DRF really suited him.

There are a couple of concerns, though. Will he wear the hood on game day? No winner wearing headgear since Flown in 1992.

Will they take it off? He can be extremely keen.

Is he really a 20-length better horse than Facile Vega? I don't think so.

And why did they syndicate him?

All these questions led me to look closer at Marine Nationale, who I had dismissed easily earlier in the season because the Royal Bond form is not typically the way to go, and there has been little time to revisit. However, there is no stand out now in this Supreme Novice Hurdle; he arrives with an unbeaten record and is completely unexposed.

The Royal Bond form took a big knock when Irish Point couldn't go the pace at the DRF, but my findings have suggested that it was not his true running, and it's best not to judge Marine Nationale on that evidence.

The Royal Bond was run at an end-to-end electric gallop

Compared to Teahupoo's (160+) Hatton's Grace win over 2m3f, Marine Nationale ran a 10.68 length quicker circuit time. Compared to Handicap winner Merlin Giant (now rated 140), he ran a 9.64 length faster circuit time carrying 13lbs more, and he was quicker than Lossiemouth (139) also.

He was slower than all three of the above-mentioned comparable races from three out to the finish, but he was stuck in a pocket and on the bridle until the final flight, having been a hostage to fortune.

The most interesting thing about these comparisons is not the final circuit time but how the races were run.

Emmet Mullins' handicap winner Merlin Giant raced in third, but there was a tearaway leader who booted 25 lengths clear of the pack. The Royal Bond field matched that tearaway leader. Marine Nationale was still eight lengths clear of that leader at three out, and then at two out, Marine Nationale was 20 lengths ahead of the now leading and eventual winner Merline Giant.

If we look at how the Royal Bond was run compared to Lossiemouth's Juvenile victory, Marine Nationale was more than seven seconds ahead at four and three out.

Lossiemouth made up significant ground in a sprint finish from three out to the line. Still, it must be remembered that Marine Nationale's rider sat motionless on the bridle and was never asked for an effort until a bad error at the final flight - and he found plenty.

The one thing to note here is that Irish Point never ran anything close to this at the DRF, and Marine Nationale could have easily run faster had he the quality in rivals to make him work before the final flight. I remember thinking. He must be a tool if he can pick up from almost a standstill mistake at the final flight and still get up.

We can also take from this that he will have no trouble going a Championship pace because the only other horses to have clocked a time like this are Facile Vega and Il Etait Temps.

He now makes most appeal to me, and Barry Connell could have been right all along.

However, there's no need to back him until the day.

Time to back Brandy!

Brandy Love cost you and me a few quid last year when connections pulled her out on race day, but I hope we can get some redemption this time.

She is due to run in the Grade 3 Quevega Mares Hurdle on Wednesday at Punchestown, and she faces what looks like a strong field (before declarations), so a victory will almost certainly see her shorten in the market.

Brandy Love 1280 x 750.png

The Mares Hurdle is her sole target, and the 4/1 could look outstanding value should Maries Rock confirm roomers and head to the Stayers Hurdle. Honeysuckle heads the market at 2/1, but she has now been well beaten in two very steadily run affairs, which suggests she is nowhere near the force of old.

I'd be shocked if Epatante stayed this 2m4f trip with a stiff uphill finish at a course like Cheltenham, and Love Envoi is another that has not matched last year's speed figures in two outings and has eight lengths to find with the selection.

Brandy Love is very lightly raced, and there is far better to come once going left-handed, so providing she comes through her seasonal return test, then she must be a huge player here.

Back Brandy Love for the Mares Hurdle


Just chance him going for Grade 1 glory at 10/1

I know, I know, Gaillard Du Mesnil is going for the National Hunt Chase, for which he looks a shoo-in at 6/4, but with NRMB in the coming days, this is the last chance to take a double figure price about a horse that would have an excellent chance on all known form to land this Grade 1 prize.

At the start of the season, he would have been a wild price to run in this race with Willie Mullins's firepower. However, the loss of significant runners in The Nice Guy and Minella Cocooner sees him trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with Sir Gerhard, who will surely head to the Turners despite the trainer's comments.

Ramillies and Tenzing also need to fit into this picture but lack the class of a Brown Advisory winner. Gaillard Du Mesnil represents the second-season Novice crop which is 4-14 in this race, and his trainer suggested that it would be the Grade 1 route with him this season before any suggestion of the National Hunt Chase.

Mullins has kept that promise of heading down the Grade 1 route by campaigning him in nothing but over trips shy of his best bumping into the best of this season's Novice Chasers who are absent from this contest.

His form is significantly stronger than anything else in this race, as is his third in this race last season.

It would surely be a wasted opportunity to head to the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase when this Grade 1 prize is sitting there for the taking. He is only a seven-year-old, and there is surely plenty of improvement to come.

At a standout industry, best, 10/1 looks worth chancing regardless, and history would suggest that the way he has campaigned would see him end up here. The price suggests he is worth chancing; this is the last opportunity to grab it.

Back Gaillard Du Mesnil for the Brown Advisory Novice Chase


Recommended bets

Daryl's running P/L

Three Stripe Life for the Brown Advisory -1pt

Bravemansgame for the Ryanair -1pt

Meet And Greet for the Stayers Hurdle -1pt

Champ Kiely for the Albert Bartlett -2pt

Daryl's ante-post list

Back Facile Vega for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 7/2 1pt win NOW 16/1

Back The Storyteller for the St James' Palace Hunters Chase @ 12/1 1pt win NOW 14/1

Back Stattler each way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup @ 16/1 0.5pt e/w NOW 7/1

Back Thyme Hill for the Brown Advisory Novices Chase @ 12/1 1pt e/w NOW 11/2

Back Banbridge for the Turners Novices' Chase @ 10/1 1pt win NOW 5/1

Back El Fabiolo for the Arkle Novices Chase @ 6/1 1pt win NOW 6/4

Back Grangeclare West for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 8/1 1pt win NOW 66/1

Back Tellmesomethinggirl for the Mares Chase @ 14/1 1pt win NOW 20/1

Back Blood Destiny for the Triumph Hurdle @ 33/1 1pt win NOW 11/4

Back So Scottish for the Plate Handicap Chase @ 16/1 1pt win NOW 5/1

Back Mighty Potter for the Turners Novices Chase @ 7/2 2pt win NOW 11/8

Back Shishkin for the Ryanair Chase on the Betfair Exchange @ 8.07/1 1pt win NOW 2.56/4

Back It's For Me for the Champion Bumper at 4/1 1pt win NOW 7/2

Back Allmankind for the Grand Annual at 40/1 1pt win NOW 14/1

Back Tekao for the Boodles Handicap at 6/1 1pt win NOW 5/1

Back Hiddenvalley Lake for the Albert Bartlett at 11/2 1pt win NOW 8/1

Back Sire Du Berlais for the Stayers Hurdle at 100/1 0.5pt e/w now 100/1

Back Brandy Love for the Mares Hurdle @ 4/1 1pt win

Back Gaillard Du Mesnil for the Brown Advisory @ 10/1 1pt win


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