Show is back on the road
It's Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham and our man Dave Ord is blogging live from a star-studded card.
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1630: Can I leave you with a frightening thought? The next race to be run at Cheltenham is the Supreme Novices' Hurdle...I'll be here. Before then there's the stable tours, Dave's Diary, weight gain and kennels search to take care of. Thanks for all your help today. See you again in March!
1625: Jonjo O'Neill can't wait to send Mr Watson over fences next season. Not ruling out his winner making a Fez appearance though.
1620: Gamble landed despite the favourite looking too keen in front. He travelled so well though and had most of em beaten by the last. He's got some of the 210,000 guineas purchase price back.
1st 10 Mr Watson (IRE) 11/4 f
2nd 11 Kings Lad (IRE) 10/1
3rd 9 Quaddick Lake (IRE) 12/1
1600: Mr Watson the one for money here. Always looked the sort to improve once stepped up to handicaps. Isn't that the quote?
1555: Nick Williams adds of the winner: "I thought he had to run well. He won so well at Ascot last time and there was very little between him and Oscar Whisky on ratings. He has as good a chance as any in the World Hurdle."
1552: Interesting line from PD - one of the good guys - re the ground. I'd have thought Oscar Whisky might have the edge if it does dry out but there's no guarantee over that. The water table is so high tight now, a soft ground Fez has to be a possibility.
1550: Winning owner Paul Duffy says: "Let's hope we keep him nice and fit and nice and safe until March. The ground will be better there - and that will suit him."
1545: Our sponsors Sky Bet make Oscar Whisky a 4/1 chance for the World Hurdle, Reve De Sivola 5/1.
1542: Hmm. No I'll repeat that. Hmm. Oscar Whisky stays, but not as well as the tough-as-teak Reve de Sivola. Better ground in March who wins? Not sure but it was another terrific finish.
1st 2 Reve de Sivola (FR) 15/8 f
2nd 1 Oscar Whisky (IRE) 2/1
3rd 10 Kentford Grey Lady 11/1
1530: Ladbrokes World Hurdle could look a very different race after this. Will Oscar Whisky stay? Can Kauto Stone or Walkon put themselves in the frame? We'll soon know as they say.
1525: Coneygree is to step up in trip for the Albert Bartlett at the Fez, Sam Twiston-Davies felt he went to the front too soon on The New One. Weighed in. Weighed in.
1522: Rebecca Curtis says of her winner: "He wasn't really the fancied horse here and to come and beat the other two is great for us. The step back to two-and-a-half concerned most people and I was a little worried but he has a touch of class and got away with it today."
1520: At Fishers Cross is being aimed at the Albert Bartlett and Sky Bet are 5/1 for that race
1517: Time for another re-e-wind as the kids say. In the Argento £30,726 traded was traded at Imperial Commander at 1/100 in-running on Betfair. Ouch.
1515: The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Fez looks open. Both our sponsors Sky Bet and William Hill make At Fishers Cross and The New One 5/1 joint-favourites for the big one.
1512: Coneygree is 12 lengths away in third. He was a little free in front and perhaps its the Albert Bartlett for him.
1510: Another thrilling finish and Tony McCoy is at his best to bring At Fishers Cross home in front of The New One despite trailing by a length at the last. Runner-up may not have been helped by racing towards the inside of the track and lost nothing in defeat but the winner is on the upgrade.
1st 1 At Fishers Cross (IRE) 13/2
2nd 3 The New One (IRE) 4/5 f
1500: Scoop keeps the faith.
1500: My confidence in Coneygree drawing the sting of The New One is waning. Is Scoop's?
1457: Placepot update courtesy of Sir Malcolm of Boyleville: "Pool: £202,605. Live units after race 5: £3,426 (1.7% of the original unit remain). Minimum possible Dividend predicted as £50.00. Maximum: £1,040.00."
1454: It's great to have him back but I'd have Imperial Commander down as a potential victim of the dreaded bounce next time.
1450: So what of that as a Gold Cup trial? Both principals are 25/1 with our sponsors Sky Bet. Betfred are 16s Imperial Commander, 25s Cape, Hill's the same price about the winner and 20s Imperial Commander.
1445: The runner-up receives a tremendous reception as he returns to the winners' enclosure - followed by the winner. Mr Malcolm Jefferson is some trainer people.
1440: What an absolutely magnificent horse race - Imperial Commander roars back into action and looks all over the winner until Denis O'Regan, riding as well as anyone this season, conjures a final burst from Cape Tribulation. Well done to all who boarded the bandwagon today.
1st 6 Cape Tribulation 7/1
2nd 12 Imperial Commander (IRE) 7/2
3rd 11 Hunt Ball (IRE) 11/1
1418: Imperial Commander looks straight enough despite the absence, paddock pick is Hunt Ball.
1415: Argento Chase next. What a card this is. I'm against Grands Crus here, I'm just not convinced he's finishing his races as he should. So what have I done? A combo exacta. Weird Al, Cape Tribulation, Imperial Commander and Quartz De Thaix, Guys...its over to you.
1412: Barry Geraghty says: "He jumped brilliantly and was clever when I wanted him to be clever. He was more relaxed today and I was slightly anxious before the race. You're always looking at things that might beat you and our only concern was the ground. Once we knew he was coping with that we saw what we expected to see.
"He's very good. If a horse can take him out of his comfort zone, I don't know. There's only one winning post and this fellow has a knack of finding it. He's a very big Rolls Royce."
1410: Nicky Henderson admits he was worried about the ground prior to the race and said: "I was having 50 fits beforehand but as David Minton said all good horses are meant to handle anything to be real, real class horses and he's edging into that now.
"He's got a long way to go but he's getting there. He's a public horse, that's why you get buzzed up beforehand. You know you have something special and we're responsible for something special. He's a gorgeous horse to look at, he knows he's special and we're all starting to believe he might be now."
1404: Bookmaker reaction is very swift - our sponsors Sky Bet now 2/7 about Sprinter Sacre for the Champion Chase. Ladbrokes are 1/3 and Betfred 4/11.
1400: Placepot update from Mal Boyle who says: "Live units after race 4: £8,779 (4.3% of the original units remain)." Cheers MB. I'm going.
1357: Absolutely magnificent. Sprinter Sacre is frighteningly good again and a different league to these. He's foot perfect and hard on the bridle at the line. It's 14 lengths back to Mad Moose who runs a cracker in second. Sanctuaire is held up but is broken by the second last, Somersby runs well for a long way but the star attraction of the day lives up the billing. Now for the Fez and the handbrake coming off...
1st 8 Sprinter Sacre (FR) 1/5 f
2nd 4 Mad Moose (IRE) 50/1
1346: Two handlers for Sprinter Sacre who looks very, very fresh and well. I'm sure this will be different to the Tingle Creek, Sanctuaire won't be haring off, but I'd expect Sprinter Sacre to win - and Barry Geraghty to have the handbrake on as long as possible.
1345: Huge crowd around the parade ring and Sprinter Sacre is strutting his stuff with aplomb.
1342: Sanctuaire bidding to reverse Tingle Creek form with Santuaire ere, Paul Nicholls says: "We were too free, too fresh and not fit enough at Sandown. We can try and ride him differently but I think Sprinter Sacre is like Master Minded was, the best two miler about, and might be impossible to beat."
1340: Somersby looks very relaxed, and very well, ahead of a belated reappearance
1337: Mike Barnes has a bet running. Good luck MB, he says: "Happy with the start to the day. Fruity O'Rooney 2nd @ 16/1 as first leg of an each way patent. Hoping Hit The Headlines and Like Your Style can deliver in Ireland now."
1335: We're going to re- e - wind as the kids say to the first. Steve says: "Hi Dave, the 5-1 about Rollin Star is a bit of a joke isn't it 6 weeks before the race and with plenty of hands yet to be played, possible ground difference etc etc. Who would want to take such a price about such a tough race so far in advance!"
I wouldn't be backing him myself at that price Steve - not as NJH says he's two more to rest before he finalises his team. Every chance the winner has yet to see a racetrack in Britain yet either but I did like the way Rolling Star did it and can understand why some firms are ducking him.
1332: No gloating from Ord. But I did tell you.
1330: Great news too - Bold Sir Brian seems none the worse for a horror fall at the last.
1328: A jubilant Venetia Williams says "It's really exciting, we were coming back in trip from Sandown but felt you needed to stay every yard of three miles to be effective up the hill in that ground. All things are open for us now and the Gold Cup is a really attractive option. The ground will be a big factor though."
1325: The winner is in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup - and looks to be heading there. 33s with both our sponsors Sky Bet and William Hill. Last year's winner The Giant Bolster went on to run a screamer in the big one.
1st 6 Katenko (FR) 4/1 f
2nd 11 Fruity O'Rooney 12/1
3rd 9 Nadiya De La Vega (FR) 8/1
4th 16 Tullamore Dew (IRE) 25/1
1305: Ian Ogg fancying a stupid forecast here and thinks Quincy Des Pictons will run well. I'm more straightforward. Three words. Katkenko. Will. Win.
1258: Hadley Fox has clearly never seen Ben Linfoot in the showers judged by his nickname in the final paragraph:
He says: After last saturday the gods have saved us and got the cards on so for me it has to irish saint (to thank the gods ), lavelles gullinbursti in the next, our mick, super sprinter, the forgoten hunt ball , LAYING the new one - makes no logical sense but you know when you get them hunches ord? , oscar whiskey will stay and will win very impressively, lord of the house ew in the last
"Pass on my regards to big ben, and can i ask both you and ben for just one horse of the day for a spec double."
I'll have Dildar HF and Scoop says Coneygree. He reads the blog.
1255: This is indeed very testing ground, Rajdhani Express is exhausted at the finish having made an early mistake, Johns Spirit was in fourth when getting the fence at the bottom of the hill all wrong. He survived the mistake, but came home in his own time,
1250: At the 18th attempt, Vino Griego breaks his duck over fences. Not saying he didn't carry much stable confidence but trainer Gary Moore isn't here...he's at Brighton v Arsenal.
1st 6 Vino Griego (FR) 25/1
2nd 12 Renard D'irlande (FR) 11/2
3rd 5 Battle Group 20/1
1240: Before I watch Johns Spirit win - here's the NJH reaction: "It's only his second run over hurdles; he's run a few times on the Flat on racecourses, when I looked them up this morning, I'd seriously never heard of them and he hadn't been winning those so I was a bit concerned about what the value of it all was.
"We've had him about five months and left him alone completely to start with. He's a lovely horse, great temperament, great attitude, just a thoroughly nice person; he's always looked like a nice horse.
"Barry said he jumped great, he just had a few blows on the way round but he was entitled to do that. We were trying to finish off his preparation in some seriously difficult circumstances. I don't think he'd mind better ground, it won't hurt him.
When asked whether Rolling Star would be the yard's main contender for the Triumph, Henderson replied: "There are a couple of others still to fire but you'd think he's going to be, I suspect that's where he's going to have to head for.
"The decision will be whether we have to do it again before the day, he can afford to have another run if we want to."
1237: Stan James and Betfred even more impressed and make Rolling Star 5/1 for the Triumph, don;t forget you can see what all the fuss is about on our video form page.
1235: Full Hendo reaction to follow once Ian Ogg has transcribed and I've eaten my pie. I get all the tough jobs...
1230: The bookmakers are impressed, our sponsors Sky Bet and William Hill both make the winner a 6/1 chance for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Ladbrokes are 8s from 10s.
1225: Hmm there's a new kid on the block and he looks rather good. Rolling Star isn't as slick at his hurdles as Irish Saint but readily quickens past him up the hill. Rick D'apsis duly rewards each-way support without ever threatening to raise the blood pressure.
1st 2 Rolling Star (FR) 5/2
2nd 1 Irish Saint (FR) 10/11 f
3rd 9 Roc D'apsis (FR) 16/1
1200: In the paddock for the opener, Rolling Star looks a typical Nicky Henderson horse, very athletic and oozes quality. Milord. given a positive mention in Catching Pigeons, is on his toes a little.
1150: It's absolutely glorious here now - pleasant sunshine. I'm now in full spring mode. Winter is officially over.
1135: Very pleased to see Ben Linfoot and Dave John got through the Yorkshire snow and into the office today. Less thrilled to hear Scoop has had a scotch egg for breakfast.
1130: Time for a word from our sponsors. Andrew Wootton with the latest market moves from the Sky Bet trading room ahead of Festival Trials Day.
12.10 Cheltenham - Irish Saint 10/11 from 6/4
The opening race of the day on Trials' Day looks like being a huge pointer towards the Triumph Hurdle at the festival in March and after some encouraging comments on The Morning Line, Paul Nicholls' Irish Saint has been very well supported. In comparison, his main market rival, the Nicky Henderson-trained newcomer Rolling Star, has been weak despite being shorter in the betting for the main event in six weeks' time. Irish Saint is unbeaten in two starts, one in France and when annihilating the field on his UK debut on heavy ground, and he looks to be the one to get punters off to a flyer whilst on the road to bigger and better things.
12.40 Cheltenham - Renard D'Irlande 8/1 from 12/1
It's been no surprise to see support for Venetia Williams' eight-year-old after stable jockey Aidan Coleman chose him ahead of her other runner, the last-time-out winner Benny's Mist. Renard D'Irlande is unexposed over fences after having just the three starts so far. Prior to switching to fences he looked progressive in novice hurdles and, whilst he has made a few glaring mistakes over the bigger obstacles, he could be on a nice mark on his handicap debut.
3.20 Leopardstown - Flying Light 10/1 from 16/1 (Sky Bet are paying an extra 5th place)
John Queally's Flying Light has been well supported to land the very competitive Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown. Last time out he was successful in a novice handicap hurdle over the course and distance, where he scored by a neck after coming with a strong burst close home. Fighting qualities like that will stand him in good stead for a race like this, where there is likely to be quite a few involved in the finish, and he could be the value carrying only 9st 13lbs in a race that Sky Bet are paying an extra fifth place.
4.10 Cheltenham - Mr Watson 11/4 from 11/2
Connections paid a lot of money for this six-year-old after his third in the Pointers' bumper at Fairyhouse last year but looked like he could be an expensive flop after defeats in his first two starts for Jonjo O'Neill. However, the second of those was in a course and distance novice hurdle behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Melodic Rendevous and the race has thrown up a couple of other winners. Mr Watson then won in facile style at Plumpton and he lines up today off a mark of 127, which he could well make a mockery of.
1125: If you're having a Placepot this afternoon the good news is Mal Boyle will be providing updates after each race. One of the good guys that chap. Despite looking like me.
1120: Cheese peaks play a role for me in the finale too - here's hoping they galvanise Dildar into delivering everything he has. Mr Watson greatly respected though.
1115; I have had a bet in the Cleeve though, and not Oscar Whisky. I'm on him at 7s for the World Hurdle and am happy enough with that for today's race. I couldn't let Kauto Stone go at the price though. Grade One performer, proven in the mud and with the cheese peaks - or cheek pieces - on for the first time in Blighty.
1110: I'm going to sit back and watch the Neptune Invesment Management Novices' Hurdle but it wouldn't surprise me if Coneygree managed to draw The New One's sting on this ground.
1105: I've already put up Sanctuaire without Sprinter Sacre in the Victor Chandler - for the Argento...Cape Tribulation thanks to your enthusiasm gets the vote although I do think Imperial Commander will run very well. Paddy Brennan sounded confident on Sky Sports News Radio this morning.
1055: If anyone reading this on their phone at Cheltenham sees me heading towards the rails to back Quantitativeeasing in the 1315, please slap me. No he's off the Ord list. Katenko isn't and is taken to beat Bold Sir Brian.
1045: I'm on a roll, don't try and stop me. Johns Spirit carries the Ord dosh in the 1240 as he's on the same mark as when running so well at Sandown. I'd be worried over the weight hike and undulating track for Rajdhani Express but Gullinbursti rates a danger.
1040: There's been a real buzz about Rolling Star all week, apparently Nicky Henderson's best juvenile, but he's very easy to back this morning. Irish Saint sets a good stand but not a odds-on for me, no a little each-way tickle on Rock D'Apsis it is. He ran a race brimfull of promise the first day. Fingers crossed he hits the frame at 16s.
1030: Mike Barnes writes: "Not much I fancy at Cheltenham other than Fruity O'Rooney @ 14/1 in the Murphy Group, down to a mark he has been competitive off before and whilst 2m5f is on the short side for him I think it will be a real testing gallop on the ground and he stays further than 3 miles so should suit him
"I am keen on 2 horses at Leopardstown, Like Your Style in the Leopardstown Chase, and Hit The Headlines in the old MCR Hurdle. Both are passed on the race trends
"Also going to have a ante post punt on Grands Crus for the Gold Cup NRNB @ 25/1 as I think he has to win the Argento today to be sent to the Gold Cup so its almost like a free bet at the odds."
I have serious reservations about Grands Crus over the trip MB although I'd have him down as a big World Hurdle player if they switched him back to timber.
1020: My turn to ask a question. Isn't 13/8 Sanctuaire in the market without Sprinter Sacre a decent price or are there genuine concerns over him going left-handed?
1015: Simon Burgess says: "First off, we must take our hats off to Cheltenham for getting this meeting on. No other course could have done it and proves Cheltenham really is the home of jumps racing! I like Cape Tribulation in the Argento. 9/1 cracking each way price with numerous doubts about the ground for many runners and others who could find it a bit too hot."
Completely agree with getting the show on the road SB - Simon Claisse and the team have done an incredible job. You wouldn't now we'd had a cold snap. As for Cape Tribulation...you're all beginning to win me over.
1010: Sam Lynes is ready for action, saying: "Welcome back to the fold. A perfect day for winter racing as I travel on the train and what a card !
"Will be interesting to see how good Rolling Star is after his ante-post plunge for the Triumph in the first but for me the bets of the day are Bold Sir Brian @ 6s, Cape Tribulation @ 7s and The New One @ 10/11.
"Good luck to all and let's hope Heavy ground doesn't stop Sprinter Sacre adding to his ever growing plaudits."
Plenty of love for Cape Tribulation in blog land this morning and he could run really well. So could Imperial Commander, I'm very much against Grands Crus.
1005: Good morning to Damon In Selby says: "Morning Dave hope you made it safely to Cheltenham firstly,we have ¾ of a foot of snow here in Selby this morning but the trains are running by my signal box.Now will racing at Cheltenham be on today I wonder if they have had any of this snow?It is to rain through Saturday night into Sunday morning but if the meeting has to wait until Sunday I anticipate the going will be heavy if not waterlogged and what would you find to do all of Saturday? Does Cheltenham have a Greggs bakers?
"Onto racing I was very impressed with The New One last time out and at nearly even money that is my banker today at Cheltenham,it is a shame that there are so many odds on shots with Sprint Sacre,Oscar Whiskey and possibly The New One but Iam of the belief that Sprint Sacre is going to be the next national hunt superstar for some years and Iam looking forward to seeing him run again and I can see him winning by certainly over 5 lengths if not
"10.Maybe some bookies will do specials as to how far Sprint Sacre will win by?As always I hope you have a wonderful day at work live at Cheltenham and Im not jealous in the slightest,just mention my name maybe when you choose to retire.The kids will be older by then and my wife may have become bored of me by then and not mind me touring the elite of the UKs race courses.;-D Always a pleasure Dave enjoy the action."
And you D. No Greggs at Chelter but some very good pasty stalls. The one near the Guinness Village will have a portly, bearded scribe visiting sometime around midday.
1000: Great to have Si Adams here and he writes: "Welcome back to this blogging lark! What a day in store. As many pointers and you can point your pointy stick at. Really looking forward to Rolling Star vs Irish Saint & The new one vs Coneygree today. Reputations and records on the line. The earlier races hold all the value and the later races the stars. Cant wait for the Aeroplane that is Sprinter again. I have always like the New One and Bold Sir Brian so they are the main tips today. Both have huge engines and battlers just what you need at Cheltenham. AP should enjoy a good day with John's Spirit and Mr Watson too.
"The argento & are too open to go with anything and ill steer clear of Grand Crus....and have a nutty F/C from 3 - Wayward Prince, Hunt Ball & Little Josh (needs the national place) Though headline on Sundays Sportinglife.......? Trials & Tribulation should the Cape win! Oscar Whiskey will stay and is finally odds against so he will do with an E/W on Lovecen....
"Cant wait!!!! The 5 hour time difference means it all starts while im still working but ill listen in and cheer them on from the cabin. Hidden Cyclone & Arvika legionnaire & City Slicker on the leopardstown card too are clues for festival lovers!!!
"Tips are: Rolling Star, John's Spirit, BOLD SIR BRIAN (NAP), Sprinter Sacre, Hunt Ball, The New One, Oscar Whiskey/Lovecen (e/w), Mr Watson/Sadlers Risk
"Have a great day all and hope there are winners a plenty for all!"
And to you SA. My thoughts on the big day to follow very shortly.
0955: Sadly a few significant non-runners through and Tidal Bay hasn't recovered in time to make the Argento. Calgary Bay also out of that race and William's Wishes misses the Victor Chandler.
0950: A very good morning to Peter in Beds. He was on the ipad last night and wrote: " I'm in a bit of a pickle can't make my mind up on something that's been effecting my sleep for a few days since corals went 9/2 CC for the jewson ' I've all ready backed him you see but thinking of going in again , trouble is I'm in need of some new strides for the fez as I'm going for the whole 4 days and I have only 2 pairs. Can I get away with jeans for a day or 2 or do you think I should make more of an effort !
"I know your after trials days thoughts,but could do with some independent advice."
You've come to the right man Pete. Yes, jeans for a day is permissable (I'd say Wednesday best) but only if you throw on a jacket (preferably tweed with elbow patches) and a yellow shirt.
I also urge you to consider a pair of plum cords.
0945: Magnificent response to my plea for early emails, magnificent. John Carus, one of the good guys and in the wonderful city of Dublin, says: "I do hope your journey to the real theatre of dreams is safe and uneventful. Great effort by the racecourse to get the meeting on. I will be watching from Dublin and my bets are Fruity O'Rooney, a Scoop special,Oscars Well and Forty Foot Tom at Leops.
"Enjoy the day, be lucky and say Hi to my good friends Andy and Paul (Two tall blokes with hats on!), who will be there enjoying the feast of racing with you."
Scoop is very sweet on Fruity JC, mind you he's taken up sledging and riding his one-year-old daughter's rocking horse using his dressing gown belt as a whip. Therefore I urge caution.
0940: A very good morning to all - and yes despite as Keeley predicted waking up to a good four inches - I've beaten the cold snap and made it to Cheltenham.
It's a glorious day down here too, sunny, three degrees and a bumper turn out of photographers already in the press room. Gonna be a busy one.
The old Golf was heroic in ploughing through the one untreated road we met en-route and the fact she only complained by flicking on a fourth dashboard warning light (this one is a circle covered by dots) only made me prouder of her.
Friday night: It's 1855 and Keeley, the bright and breezy weatherwoman on BBC Look North, is warning us that four inches of snow are heading over the Pennines. I don't need that. I'm bound for Cheltenham.
I should have travelled down tonight but owing to Jasper's short temper and despite a gelding operation, insistence on getting jiggy with his toy pheasant, offers of dog sitting were conspicuous by their absence.
So, putting my faith in John Kettley's bespoke local forecast. I'm up with the snowy larks in the morning and heading south through blizzards, snow drifts and Sounds Of The Sixties on the wireless.
But my oh my it'll be worth it. What a card we have to look forward to on Festival Trials Day and Prestbury Park will surely attract a bumper crowd as we action starved, tweed clad, jumps aficionados, finally get our fix.
Sprinter Sacre, Oscar Whisky, The New One, Grands Crus, they're all there. We've all morning to go through things in more detail but if like me your Friday night involves trying desperately not to hit 415 on the control and watch Get In, then send your early thoughts over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be my first blog since the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster. I nodded sagely when a colleague remarked "the king is back on his throne" and chose to ignore the response from a thin and pale colleague who added "or did the shifts this month".
No, to god's own racetrack it is, whatever the weather gods may choose to throw my way.