Cheltenham Festival Review: Horses to follow at Aintree and Punchestown
A soft/heavy ground Cheltenham Festival produced hard luck stories aplenty, Betfair's Niall O'Reilly, Harry Phillips and Adam Baylis look at several runners who can be expected to go well at Aintree and beyond...
County Hurdle - Chesterfield primed for further success
It may be an obvious one but the way Chesterfield travelled through the County hurdle was that of a very well handicapped horse, and to finish fourth on ground he'd have hated and on a track that would not be ideal makes him very interesting for Aintree.
He won the final handicap on the card last year where he had the beating of John Constable (before that one fell at the last) who it turns out was 30 pounds well in that day. He'll likely be close to favourite for one of the two mile handicaps and will be very difficult to beat. (NOR)
Champion Bumper - Felix the one to take out
It's rare for Gigginstown to send a horse over for the Champion Bumper, so the fact that Felix Desjy made the trip over is a tip in itself. Well supported in the lead up to the race, he was another far too keen throughout the early stages of the race, and showed his inexperience.
However, the way he travelled suggested he has a serious engine and I suspect he could be one of, if not the most talented horse to come out of the bumper this year. Having already run in two previous bumpers this season, it will be interesting to see whether he is now put away for a novice hurdle campaign next season.
Alternatively connections may choose to run him in one of the valuable bumpers at the Punchestown Festival. Either way he is a horse that looks worth following wherever he turns up. (HP)
Relegate (25-1) flies home to win the Champion Bumper @CheltenhamRaces and provides Willie Mullins with his ninth win in the race. #TheFestival? Racing UK (@Racing_UK) March 14, 2018
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Albert Bartlett - Inexperienced Santini can bounce back
I may be talking through my pocket somewhat, but to me Santini was the best horse in this race by some distance and should he line up at either Aintree or Punchestown on better ground, he will be carrying my money again.
Nico De Boinville clearly didn't want to pressure him too early, given the ground and the gruelling race the Albert Bartlett can be for a horse with as little experience as him.
He ended up giving the leaders far too much rope and despite staying on really well in third he just couldn't make up the ground on the winner Kilbricken Storm who received an excellent ride from Harry Cobden. Back on better ground I'd fully expect Santini to reverse form with that one. (NOR)
Gold Cup - Road deserves Respect
Road To Respect was a big antepost fancy of mine for Cheltenham though the prevailing soft ground went completely against him and despite travelling and jumping exceptionally well he just failed to see the trip out on the ground.
He was still not beaten overly far in fourth and will be a completely different horse on better ground with either the Aintree Bowl or the Punchestown Gold Cup looking ideal for him. (NOR)
Coral Cup - Voix to make amends at Aintree
Voix Du Reve ran an eye-catching race in the Coral Cup on the Wednesday. Well touted and backed on the day, the horse was far too keen, expending a huge amount of energy early in the race.
After a mile you strongly suspected he would fold tamely coming down the hill but to his credit, after being briefly pushed along, he came back on the bridle and was travelling as well as anything turning for home.
Dropped a lb for this race by the British handicapper, he could be one to pop up in a handicap at either Punchestown or Aintree. The owner had a very similar type two seasons ago in Ivan Grozny who finished 8th in the County Hurdle before hacking up in the 2m handicap at Aintree.
Voix Du Reve is definitely worth following in a handicap over 2m - 2 ½m at either Punchestown or Aintree. He looks a winner in waiting. (HP)
Grand Annual - Gamble came unstuck in ground
Theinval was a real ante post gamble for this race having run so well in it last year though he is another who lost all chance on the ground. I was amazed to see him still right there on the bridle two out and stick on quite well for fourth. Back on better ground at Aintree he'd have to be fancied in whatever handicap he runs in. (NOR)
Le Prezien (15-2) wins an eventful Grand Annual and provides Paul Nicholls with a double on the final day of #TheFestival @CheltenhamRaces.? Racing UK (@Racing_UK) March 16, 2018
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Triumph Hurdle - Redicean one to follow in Anniversary
I'm not sure Cheltenham was ever going to be Redicean's bag, let alone what looked a well above average renewal of the Triumph run on bottomless ground. Alan King's four-year-old came into this contest unbeaten over hurdles after racking up a hat-trick at Kempton and flat tracks are where this son of Medicean belongs.
Cheveley Park Stud bought back into him prior to the Festival and for all that they have a growing interest in the National Hunt sphere, they wouldn't part with a significant sum without good reason and Alan King clearly thinks the world of the horse.
He's reportedly now being targeted at the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree, a race the trainer won in 2012 & 2013 and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him go really well there. (AB)
JLT Novices' Chase - Benatar will come on for run
Quite how Benatar managed to finish third in the JLT, I'll never know, having pulled nearly the whole way around. He was also coming off an 83 day break so looks sure to come on for the run and given he ran really well at Aintree last year, and the fact he likes good ground makes him very interesting in whichever novice race he shows up in. (NOR)
Pertemps Final - Hobbs victory may not be far off
Philip Hobbs' string has been under a cloud for most of the season however his Louis' Vac Pouch was really well backed for the Pertemps, but ran no sort of race. Held up off the pace - as he usually is - he was never able to make an impression on the leading pack.
And for all that he has won on soft, conditions were clearly bordering on heavy on Thursday. Better ground should eek out some improvement and he was a good winner at Aintree at the back-end of last year, so it would come as no surprise were he to produce a much better performance there next month. (AB)
And one who bypassed Cheltenham completely...
Scarlet Dragon for Alan King ran a race full of promise on his first hurdles start when beaten nine lengths by the very impressive Global Citizen in the Dovecote.
He was a very classy flat horse when trained by Eve Johnson Houghton though he showed an excellent aptitude for this code, jumping with more fluency as the race went on. He let the winner get away that day though will clearly come on for the experience, while I can see Aintree being the ideal track to bring out the best in him.
He may face Global Citizen again though with that experience under his belt I'm very confident that he'll at least get closer, while it's quite likely he'll be a decent price to do so. (NOR)