By Rachel Candelora
I have been very lucky since moving to the UK that this is the sixth Cheltenham Festival that I have been able to attend in person, and win, lose, or draw there is definitely no atmosphere like it at any Jumps festival in the world.
I was particularly fortunate yesterday in being invited by the great Michael Dickinson for lunch in the Charter Party marquee and was able to meet another true jumping great in Stan Mellor and his wife, pioneer lady amateur ride Elaine Mellor – watching Championship races in the company of true jumping greats really opens the eyes to what to really going on out on the track.
What does Black Corton have to do to get the respect of the betting world?
This seven-year-old has just kept on improving time and time again this season winning eight times over fences and since being ridden by Bryony Frost, for the first time at Worcester in July, he has proved an almost impossible horse to pass.
Frost got a tremendous tune out of him when making all of the running in the Grade Two Reynoldstown at Ascot in February and the form of the that race was franked yesterday when Ms Parfois finished runner-up in the four miler at the Festival.
I know, having attended a major Cheltenham Festival preview in North London last week, that several experts are a bit worried about what will happen if he can’t get the lead here, but my thought is which other rider will want to possibly compromise their chance by taking him on in the early stages?
He looks an each-way bet to nothing at his likely odds.
The Coral Cup is not a race I would ever get heavily involved in but a horse who looks to be chronically over-priced is C’est Jersey, one of five runners in the race trained by Willie Mullins.
He is completely unexposed over hurdles, winning twice in six starts, and has not run over smaller obstacles since his victory at the Punchestown Festival last April.
He has had two runs over fences in Ireland this year, running a good second to Kemboy on heavy ground at Fairyhouse in last January, and then probably “bounced” when he was wheeled back quickly to contest the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan in mid-February.
That was probably a throw-away run and he is attractively weighted to run a huge race back over hurdles here.
It is a not a negative that Noel Fehily has landed this eye-catching spare ride and the blinkers are back on, the last time they were on was the win at Punchestown.
I will be backing him each-way.
Do fancy buying yourself a ready-made racehorse?
If Captain Lars doesn’t win the 3.55 at Southwell the claiming department at Weatherbys will be very busy for a quarter of an hour after the race as I would imagine that “them in the know” will be trying to acquire this eight-year-old for this £7,400 claiming price.
However, this being a seller, the one way to virtually guarantee that he returns back to his own stable is for Archie Watson to send him out for a seventh win of the current all-weather season.
Make no mistake this is a calculated gamble by connections as they attempt to beat Spare Parts (ran in the 8:30 at Newcastle on Tuesday evening) as there is a £10,000 prize for the winning-most horse on the All-Weather this season, and it is awarded to the horse’s registered owner on the day of the Championship final – Good Friday.
He may be a short price but he is the only horse in this race who comes into this contest in anything like decent form and he is already a four-times winner at Southwell.
First things first – compared to cross-country races in the likes of France, and the Velka in the Czech Republic, this is a not a test of jumping. The fences here hold little fears to seasoned campaigners and this race invariably develops into something of a sprint over the last half mile.
Over the last couple of weeks the horse I keep hearing about in this race is Tiger Roll but last year’s National Hunt Chase winner simply might not have the finishing kick to win a race like this and therefore I am going to look for possible each-way value elsewhere.
There are four French-trained runners in the race and their most obvious candidate is Emmanuel Clayeux’s Urgent de Gregaine, who is already a winner over this course and was an excellent runner-up in the Velka in October, but the French “dark horse” is Urumqi.
The seven-year-old is a first runner at the Festival as a trainer for former multiple French-Champion jockey David Cottin and is ridden by another former champion Jonathan Plouganou.
He is an unusual French raider in this race in so far as he has never run previously in a Cross Country race but has shown solid form in graded steeplechases around the likes of Auteuil.
I was having a coffee yesterday at Cheltenham with some of the French contingent and this is the horse they are most interested in, given he is quicker than most of the other Gallic raiders who have contested this race.
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