Ashforth's Alternative View: Hail Min the merciless in Champion showdown

By David Ashforth@davidjashforth
Tue 12 Mar 2019

When faced with a Festival banker, it’s essential to clutch at straws.

Otherwise, you’ll just shrug your defeatist shoulders and say, “Altior’s going to win the Queen Mother” (a figure of speech, not a description of the prize) and move on to the Cross Country Chase.

In Altior’s case (3.30), the straws to clutch at are his alarmingly leftward leaps in the later stages of his most recent facile victory, at Ascot in January.

 Min and Mullins - a good combination to have on your side (Racingfotos
Min and Mullins - a good combination to have on your side (Racingfotos

Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville dismissed concerns that this might be a significant matter but those of us looking for chinks in Altior’s invincibility as well as a decent each-way opportunity cannot afford to be so cavalier.

Granted, Ascot is right-handed whereas Cheltenham is left-handed and if you prefer Henderson’s and de Boinville’s opinion to mine, so be it, but if Altior jumps over the inside rail then don’t expect any condolences from me.

The correct procedure is to back Min to win, with a bigger stake for a place on a betting exchange. Now you know.

Should Min win, owner Rich Ricci may not receive the standard rapturous welcome into the winner’s enclosure, having upset a lot of punters over the BetBright affair.

If you don’t know what that is, do try to pay attention and keep up – Google will be able to tell you. Anyway, there will probably be a lot of jokes about the status of ante-post bets.

By then, we’ll all know the result of the RSA Novices’ Chase (2.10), although it will be too late to do anything about it, unless you happen to be Dorothy Paget.

The extremely wealthy and similarly eccentric Paget, who owned Golden Miller, tended to sleep during the day and get up at night.

She had an arrangement with William Hill under which she could bet posthumously, when the racing was over.

You’d think this was a sure-fire winning system but Paget, who bet on a gargantuan scale, still managed to lose.

Watch rare footage of Golden Miller in our Gold Cup tales

But I digress. Earlier in the season I thought The Worlds End would arrive here as a major contender. At least he’s arrived here, albeit with a chequered curriculum vitae, and looks overpriced to me at 25-1.

Obviously, if he gets stuffed he was underpriced.

Really, I want Count Meribel to win, even though it’s unlikely. The very sound reason is that the good egg and trainer of Collier Bay to win the 1996 Champion Hurdle, Jim Old, has been helping Nigel Twiston-Davies with Count Meribel’s preparation and he’d be very pleased.

Old bought Count Meribel as a yearling for only 3,500 guineas and sold him to another good egg, owner Charlie Walker, for whom Count Meribel has won more than £60,000.

Throughout his career, I’ve offered my professional advice, which is that Count Meribel’s pedigree renders it unlikely that he’ll stay two miles and impossible for him to stay further.

My advice was treated with contempt, which was just as well, as Count Meribel has shown a complete disregard both for his own ancestry and my opinion.

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