Pendra worth the weight

  • By: Ben Linfoot
  • Last Updated: February 27 2013, 20:14 GMT

You can't please everyone. But at the press conference held for the publication of the weights in the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, it seems you can't please anyone.

Longsdon: Excited about Pendra's chances

Too much weight. Not enough weight. The ground's too soft. The ground's not soft enough. Too many well-treated Irish horses. Not enough who-knows-how-well-they're treated French horses. Too much mash potato. Not enough sausages. 'Don't speak to me, I've nothing worth talking about.' And bizarrely, not enough female handicappers.

The all-male panel sat at the front of the Panoramic Restaurant high in the main stand at Cheltenham, explaining how they came to their conclusions and what the various cut-off points may be in the many handicaps at the Festival.

All thrilling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, but let's cut to the chase and highlight the buzz horses.

Take Ballynagour. He's a buzz horse. David Pipe's French import hacked up at Warwick and has been raised 21lb by the handicapper ahead of who-the-hell-knows-what-race-he'll-contest in two weeks' time. "'I don't think I've ever raised a horse 21lb," sighed the handicapper. "Who knows if it'll be enough.'"

Money suggests the Byrne Group Plate could be the destination for this exciting latecomer to the ante-post lists. He's 5/1 from 7s for the race with Sky Bet.

While we're talking of Pipe, what about Swing Bowler? A fine third in the Betfair Hurdle behind My Tent Or Yours and Cotton Mill at Newbury, she could race off a mark of 138 in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle, a weight of 10st 5lb if top-weight Petit Robin takes his chance.

She's filed in the drawer marked maybe.

Punting decisions will be put on hold, though, until the weights are well and truly scoured in search of the one, or more likely, ones. Plenty of headaches lie ahead.

The horses that have given the handicappers most pain in the upper regions this season have been Nigel Twiston-Davies' Master Of The Sea and Martin Keighley's Seymour Eric.

Both have improved by 50lb this season and they could still be progressing ahead of their respective assignments in the Coral Cup and the Pertemps.

I spoke to Martin Keighley for one of several video interviews that will be winging their way onto these very pages shortly, and he was keen on the chances of Seymour Eric extending his winning run to five as "he'll stay all day, though he would like cut in the ground".

He will have been pleased to hear, then, Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's clerk of the course, describe the ground as "soft, good to soft in places" with Cheltenham forecaster John Kettley (less unreliable than the others apparently) suggesting more precipitation is likely pre-Fez.

Like Keighley, Jonjo O'Neill, Tom George and Charlie Longsdon will appear on our video page and while Jonjo was 1000/1 to answer my "What is your best chance of a win in one of the handicaps?" question, Longsdon was visibly jumping out of his seat to wax lyrical about Pendra.

JP McManus' five-year-old goes in the Coral Cup off a mark of 139 and Longsdon purred about his novice form, his work at home and how he'd be "disappointed if AP didn't ride him".

Seeing as JP has 12 entered in the contest, that could be some clue. But with so many choices running in green and gold in this and many handicaps, AP can't please everyone. But he might please someone, and it could be Charlie Longsdon.

At least somebody will be happy.


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