The dust is settling on the November Meeting, so who were the standout performances at Cheltenham? Matt Brocklebank is keen to get one of the winners on side at 25/1 for the Festival in March.
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Protektorat – 25/1 for Marsh Novices’ Chase
Dan Skelton has registered a Grade One victory in each of the last two seasons and it is almost inevitable that he will be on the board with a third at some stage soon, before the floodgates eventually open in the fullness of time.
There was a fair bit of nonsense said and written after Protektorat won doing handstands at the weekend, with some suggesting the horse would for some reason now be kept under wraps.
Winning jockey Harry Skelton did, in his post-race interview, suggest the winner wouldn’t be over-faced before the spring given he’s only five going on six, but if for one minute you’re thinking connections aren’t working back from Grade One races at Cheltenham and Aintree, with something like the Dipper en route, then prepare to be shocked.
In beating Southfield Stone by 17 lengths – albeit in receipt of 3lb – Protektorat, who already possessed a BHA mark of 149 heading into the race, ran to a huge figure and will surely be well into the 150s when his revised rating is published on Tuesday morning.
Southfield Stone, who had previously beaten Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner a length and a half off levels at the Showcase meeting, was made to look decidedly one-paced and may well now be forced up in trip again.
But Protektorat was deadly. He barely touched a twig all the way around before just slightly brushing his hind legs through the last fence, and the way he really quickened between the final two fences sparked one firm into adding him at 16/1 for the Sporting Life Arkle.
The horse has run at Cheltenham six times now and has clearly turned a corner in terms of temperament, with the intermediate trip of the Marsh Novices’ Chase evidently right up his alley.
Envoi Allen’s presence at the top of the betting will dissuade some from having a pop at the race this far out, but it’s precisely the sort of challenge the Skeltons will be relishing and I’m surprised he’s still 25s in that market with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook.
If Envoi Allen falters at all this winter, Protektorat’s price will completely crash and he’s the one I want on side now.
Kingswell Theatre – 50/1 for Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
With the Scudamores shelving thoughts of retirement (and rightly so!) you’ll get a run for your money when it comes to Kingswell Theatre come March, and it’s clear that experience of this unique test counts for plenty, but Friday was his Gold Cup.
Tiger Roll didn’t look right from the outset and needs to be turned inside out if he’s ever going to retain his cross-country crown, let alone the Grand National.
Easysland was a disappointing odds-on shot but didn’t run badly at all and will most likely be a different proposition in the spring, while Beau Du Brizais and Potters Corner – who were both having their first taste of the track – are entitled to come on a lot for the experience too.
Does He Know – 33/1 for Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Odds of 33/1 for the Ballymore make next to no appeal when it comes to this horse but he looks a smashing prospect in the longer term with fences in mind.
This particular trial has been won by some big names down the years, including 2012 scorer and subsequent Gold Cup winner Coneygree, so with a bit of luck we’ll hear a lot more about Does He Know in years to come.
He could follow 2019 winner Thyme Hill and head for the Challow Hurdle next and if pressed for a Festival target at this stage then the Albert Bartlett might be more his thing come the spring. He’s 40/1 in a place for that race.
Friday’s runner-up – the Skelton-trained mare Wild Romance – is one to look out for once given a mark which presumably may now be forthcoming.
Duffle Coat – 16/1 for Triumph Hurdle
Duffle Coat could have gone around again, couldn’t he?
Gordon Elliott’s grey became the first Irish-trained winner of Saturday’s Triumph trial since John Queally’s Ai Eile in 2003, and in the process extended his winning streak to 4-4 over obstacles.
Duffle Coat stays all day and while occasionally a bit scruffy at his hurdles and clearly potentially vulnerable when it comes to the Festival in March and the chance of a much quicker racing surface, stamina is absolutely essential for winning a Triumph Hurdle.
We’ve all fallen for a rash, pre-Christmas bet in the Triumph market before but this horse has an almighty engine inside what appears quite a small frame and he’ll surely win loads more races providing he’s fit and well through to the spring. A crack at the Flat in 2021 was also mentioned by winning jockey Robbie Power after the race.
In short, the 16/1 for the Triumph looks perfectly fair.
Eldorado Allen – 20/1 for Sporting Life Arkle
Quotes of 20/1 and shorter for the Arkle at this stage do look a little skinny on the face of it but that’s not to say Eldorado Allen can’t win a nice domestic prize en route to the big festivals.
He was bumped along but it did look like Robbie Power was still quite happy with his position as Gumball departed in front of him two out, and he popped the final fence very nicely before coasting home.
This run at least shows Cheltenham holds no fears for the grey after he was beaten out of sight under a big weight in last season’s County Hurdle.
Perhaps he’ll head now for the Henry VIII at Sandown, a course at which he has plenty of experience already including a taking maiden hurdle win two years ago.
The Big Breakaway – 10/1 for RSA Novices’ Chase
Just about faultless from The Big Breakaway and the sort of performance that immediately puts him into the frame for the RSA Chase (or whatever it may officially end up being called this year).
Good luck to those who took a chance on him taking to fences this well, but at 10s he’s no longer a long-term betting proposition, especially with a horse like Monkfish yet to surface this season.
Even at such an early stage of the campaign it looks a very strong crop of staying novice chasers this time around.
Put The Kettle On – 10/1 for Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
The oddity here with Cheltenham in mind is that Duc Des Genievres doesn’t even feature in most firms’ lists for the Champion Chase.
He was comfortably held in the end by last season’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle On but it has to go down as a pretty promising start for Paul Nicholls, who fitted a hood to go along with the usual tongue-tie.
He’d had a breathing operation for good measure too and could be up to winning something really decent before this campaign’s out.
Put The Kettle On obviously benefitted from Defi Du Seuil cutting out quickly and Riders Onthe Storm’s jumping going to pot down in trip, but the main question now is whether she’s kept fit and fresh for the Festival as she was last time around after winning the Arkle trial at this meeting.
If not, the obvious December target would be the Tingle Creek, a race her trainer Henry De Bromhead won with Sizing Europe in 2011 and almost repeated the feat with Special Tiara three years ago. Put The Kettle On is 12/1 with BetVictor and 8s generally for Sandown.
For Pleasure – 50/1 for Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
I’d have to think twice about backing For Pleasure at 150s for the Sky Bet Supreme so we probably shouldn’t dwell on him for too long.
The race was pretty unsatisfactory from the off when the winner was gifted a hefty lead and, as such, it’s safe to assume some of the beaten horses could be capable of much better than this bare form.
The runner-up, Third Time Lucki, is another Skelton-trained, handicap project to keep an eye on as he was rated just 129 coming into this and should be nudged up sufficiently to see him make the cut for some of the nicer Saturday races through the winter.
He’s going to need to go close in something very smart if the intention is to get him into a race like the County Hurdle, one the yard clearly likes to target from some way out.
Good Risk At All – 33/1 for Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Definitly Red, Ballyandy, Poetic Rhythm and Master Debonair have won the wonderfully-named High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race in recent seasons so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Good Risk At All went on to achieve something even more significant further down the line.
He’s got loads of size and scope for hurdles and fences, of that there's little doubt.
There was an awful lot to like about this effort as he was quite keen early which must have taken a bit out of him so to come through to the front so easily and stay on best when challenged was pretty impressive.
He’s not trained in Ireland, which is typically a bit of a problem when it comes to having a bet in the Champion Bumper, especially this far out, and while he merits plenty of respect on a testing surface, the quotes of 33/1 look about right.
Best of the rest…
Ramses De Teillee is remarkably still only eight and reminded those who backed him for last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle that he remains a pretty useful chaser too by beating Yala Enki in the kind of pulsating finish that this meeting is all about.
The latter is 10/1 generally and reportedly on target for the Becher Chase next month, with a return to Aintree in mind in April (he's 50/1 for the big one), while the David Pipe-trained winner will surely have another go at the Welsh National (16/1 co-favourite of three), a race in which he was second to Elegant Escape in 2018.
A round-up of the Paddy Power weekend without a mention of the Paddy Power Gold Cup winner would seem potentially counter-productive, especially after Coole Cody was put up by Ben Linfoot on the Podcast in midweek, as well as in Friday’s Value Bet, as the one to be on.
He looked beaten on several occasions with terrifyingly low – yet ultimately efficient – jumps causing a few alarms along the way, but being able to make the running and stay out of trouble is a massive asset in this race and he was clearly well-handicapped from his hurdling days, on top of being hard-fit following three very decent (and seemingly improved) novice chase efforts this autumn.
He’ll be clobbered by the handicapper but will no doubt be geared towards a crack at the Festival Plate - run on the slightly more galloping New Course - in March, while Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle winner The Shunter may be aimed at the Coral Cup given how much his stamina came into play on the holding ground at the weekend, though he’s now quite likely to mix it between both fences and hurdles throughout the winter months.
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