Day Four of the Festival has the Gold Cup as its feature and Tony Keenan likes two horses in the big race along with a pair of Triumph Hurdle runners...
"Might Bite is the obvious pick here and it is not hard to envisage him going off shorter than the [4.5] available now; he is a low-mileage nine-year-old and should be unbeaten in his last seven chase runs."
By next Friday, we will know more about the value of various pre-Cheltenham form lines. That Irish novice chase you thought was a strong race? It hasn't produced a placed horse from five runners. That handicap hurdle you said wouldn't work out? A winner and a third have already emerged from it and two more are running in the Martin Pipe.
Doing something about this new information is the hard part, however. Ingrained ideas, months in the making, are hard to shift. Time is tight and there are external factors at play; it's the fourth day and you are tired, and almost certainly a little emotional. But ante-post bets can be laid back and others horses supported instead; there may be a betting cliché about never changing your mind but if the facts change then what else are you supposed to do?
None of this is to say that prior opinions should be thrown away completely. Stable form can be an overblown issue at the meeting and three days of prior action is nowhere near enough of a sample size to draw conclusions about the wellbeing or otherwise of a yard. Nicky Henderson had 30 losers in the first three days of Cheltenham 2011 before a Friday double with Bobs Worth and Long Run so these things are not always significant. Good luck with your bets next week.
The Fred Winter has meant reduced competition in the Triumph with the smaller fields decreasing the chaos potential of the race; finding the winner has become a case of picking the right market leader. That makes it an appealing event for an each-way bet where there are only a handful of meaningful contenders. Apple's Shakira is clearly one of those but her form doesn't entitle her to be so short in the betting and I prefer the respective claims of My Adjudicator and We Have A Dream.
Mr Adjudicator should uphold Leopardstown form with Farclas as he was only getting further clear in the final furlong and he possesses the best time-figure of the field after only two runs and has the scope to go higher. He seems to handle all going. We Have A Dream just wins lots of races, regardless of how they are run, and his form ties in favourably with a number of the main Fred Winter fancies. He looks overpriced as the second-string from the Henderson yard.
Forge Meadow is my way into the County, Jessica Harrington's mare one of the more improved two-miler hurdlers in Ireland this season, and while she doesn't run here due to being a bad traveller a pair of Willie Mullins-trained horses that tie in with her are high the shortlist.
Sandsend beat her at Naas in late-January, settling much better dropped to the minimum trip, and he was value for a little more than the neck verdict after mistakes at the last two. It's possible he lacks the seasoning for this but that is counterbalanced by the handicapper having little scope to get his mark right. Lagostovegas has had much more racing but there was a lot to like about her return at Gowran, travelling typically well and looking like one that would improve for the run after three months off, and she has some strong handicap form from Listowel in September.
The front end of the market in the 'potato race' - Santini, Chef Des Obeaux and Duc De Genievres - are all more lightly raced than the typical winner and could be worth opposing; it is not so much that the race bottoms horses for ever-after as it is won by a more hardened horse on the day. Two horses that fit that profile are Poetic Rhythm and Calett Mad (also entered in the Pertemps). The former had a hard race in the Challow but has been given time to recover and his experience as a second-season novice is a plus while the latter belatedly showed the benefit of a breathing operation when winning in a decent time at Musselburgh.
If the Triumph is a good each-way race, the Gold Cup is not; plenty of these can win if putting things together and win-only bets seem sensible. Native River has to overcome the poor record of beaten horses returning to the Gold Cup and may regress from a big effort last time. Our Duke's lack of Cheltenham form makes prices around [10.0] look tight while Killultagh Vic's jumping is always a concern; soft ground may be needed for him, too.
I've long been a sucker for a second-season chaser in this with these horses seemingly undervalued by the market; their unproven stamina can be too heavily factored in when the important thing is that they are improving. Might Bite is the obvious pick here and it is not hard to envisage him going off shorter than the [4.5] available now; he is a low-mileage nine-year-old and should be unbeaten in his last seven chase runs. Stamina is not a major concern given how he rallied in last year's RSA.
He is one of 'this season's horses' as is my second pick Road To Respect. He hasn't stopped improving since winning at the meeting last year and beating Outlander at Leopardstown is no mean feat given that horse's record at the track. The decision to bypass the Irish Gold Cup looks a smart one.
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Back Mr Adjudicator each-way @ 7/1 and We Have A Dream each-way @ 9/1 for the Triumph Hurdle with the Sportsbook
Back Might Bite @ [4.5] and Road To Respect @ [11.0] to win the Gold Cup