‘There’s more to life than Cheltenham’
Tuesday, 11 March 2014
‘There’s more to life than Cheltenham’
After the critical acclaim of Definitely Maybe, the stadium tours that followed (What's the Story) Morning Glory?; the worldwide success, the adulation; the vast wads of cash and pyramid piles of pills, powder and pints. After all of that stuff, the diminutive Mancunian musician sat down and self-indulgently penned the bragging, bloated Be Here Now.
Noel stood, perhaps on the shoulder of giants, certainly on the precipice of artistic immortality on the day that album was released and faced, in my mind, a very similar challenge to the one I face today. You see, in many (well, some) ways (kind of), BHN was the music industry's equivalent of the 2014 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Cheltenham Festival of National Hunt Horse Racing.
Bear with me, and behold these blog entries, posted on this very forum on the eve of the festival over the past two years. Firstly, Cinders & Ashes - the very by-product of Cigarettes and Alcohol - a red-hot 10/1 belter, which kicked off proceedings 24 months ago, and whose embers still burn bright in my festival memory banks. Then the follow up in 2013: a perfect collaboration of Mullins's training brilliance, Walsh's riding magnificence and Rich Ricci's equine-ownership arrogance: Champagne "Supernova" Fever: a 6/1 conqueror of Cleeve Hill in consecutive annual contests, who this year attempts his own "difficult third album".
The anticipation of the year's first festival selection is almost too much for me! I desperately desire to deliver a Knebworth House recital but realise such levels of performance are unsustainable without sufficient research and rehearsal. Couple this self-imposed pressure with the distraction of having started a business in the past few months, and I feel like I'm heading off to do battle with the bookies at Cheltenham this week with as much preparation time as is normally afforded a microwave telly-dinner. D'You Know What I Mean?
Maybe I should just Roll With It. Despite not feeling as organised as I would like to be on this, the Christmas Eve of equestrian entertainment, I still feel the ever-enterprising bookies are charitably offering such generous gambling gifts that it would be wrong of me to bemoan the rock-god situation in which I seem to find myself. So here's the track listing for day one of this year's festival season and a summary of the best deals available online and with your high street turf accountant:
Supreme Novices' Hurdle:
The Liquidator - 22/1 with Paddy Power offering money back if your horse finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Vaniteux, thought by most to be Nicky Henderson's support act in this race before Barry Geraghty took the ride, is the 12/1 alternative selection to take on the much fancied duo of Irving and Vautour, who deservedly vie for favouritism at the head of the market. I just think The Liquidator's experience around this track, accepting his disappointing run at Kempton last time out, warrants a much skinnier price than the one on offer here.
David Pipe, fresh off the back of Imperial Cup victory at Sandown on Saturday can be backed as top Cheltenham trainer at 33/1 generally, 50/1 with 888.com, and with Kings Palace, Red Sherlock, Dynaste etc, surely stands as good a chance as any of the other British contenders. Yet his price is significantly juicier than his compatriots. Usually regarded as being strong in handicaps, here's a clip taken from his website, in which he addresses the chances of his novice hurdlers, including my selection and former Cheltenham course winner, The Liquidator: http://vimeo.com/88241732.
And although we have come to expect Pipe-trained greys to come up short in recent years, Tom Scudamore rates Dynaste's chance as his best ride of the week, and obviously plans to make up for last year's runner-up spot and 2012's Grands Crus disappointment later on in the week:
The Arkle Chase:
Rock on Ruby & Trifolium - available at 5/1 and 9/2 respectively - will check the Betfair exchange in the morning as they are offering Best Odds Guaranteed every day in the build-up to The Roar. Much as I think the aforementioned Walsh/Mullins/Ricci combination is one to get even the most cool racing customer feverish under the white collar, I'm not confident enough in Champagne's ability to pop over every fence with the required fluency in what will be a pacy affair. Noel Fehily is certain to have a good week, and he can get off the mark here on board Rock on Ruby, who is a consistent if unfashionable performer on this, the biggest of stages. Trifolium is Tom Segal's antepost pick and is also partnered by a Palphabet favourite jockey in BJ Cooper, who should make the most of his steed's excellent jumping ability.
2.40 Festival Handicap Chase
I like three here! Course, distance and 2012 race winner Alfie Sherrin has the strongest chance, and I fancy AP to do what he does best in handicap fields like this, particularly since he has clearly opted for this 10 stone 9er's chance over top weight Cantlow, on whom I saw him win back at Newbury in November at 6/1. The Package for Pipe and Scu as mentioned above at a big price after a lengthy lay-off, and a small stake on Time for Rupert.
Ladbrokes and William Hill are clearly having a little side bet of their own this week: who can disrespect Hurricane Fly the most? Hills go 6/1 tomorrow morning from 10am, offering 10,000 punters the chance to have £10 at a stand out price. Lads, meanwhile, have been marketing their "money back if Fly finishes 1st or 2nd" for weeks now. I have backed Hurricane Fly, who I think is as strong as ever, with a strong stake, and also had a bit of Melodic Rendezvous at 25/1 with Magic Sign, fully expecting to be able to claim against their insurance policy if, as I expect, Hurricane Fly finishes in the top two. Young, strong contenders Jezki, The New One and Our Conor make this one of the races of the week, with seven-year-old and multiple grade-one winner My Tent or Yours extremely well fancied if he can put it all together and make it up the hill. A mouth watering renewal, but expect Ruby to be holding up three victorious fingers as he passes the lolly pop ahead of his rivals yet again.
Need I say more? 4/1 for new Coral customers is available, but even the 1.9 on Betfair appeals for a horse who has made this race her own over the past five seasons. Betfred's offer of money back when Quevega wins is effectively a free bet, so why not have it on Cockney Sparrow at 8s or Highland Retreat at 14?
Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase
Shutthefrontdoor with his experience and Nina Carberry with hers, well worth the short price. I like Herdsman too, trained by Grand National winning boss Sue Smith and fancied by the RP's northern tipster, Colin Russell.
Novices' Handicap Chase
It's that tricky third album again! Haunting me all the way to the end of the card. With Palphabet wins for Rajdhani Express last year, and top weight Hunt Ball in 2012, I need to avoid a Be Here Now at the close of play as well as at the start of the day! Pricewise has tipped two at double figures (Art of Logistics and Festive Affair), and whilst I will be backing both of those at 8.30 in the morning, I am plumping for Gardefort at 50/1 for Venetia Williams and Aidan Coleman, and Baby Mix, who is partnered by former Irish Champ Davy Russell.
For what it's worth, by the way, I think Be Here Now is pretty good! Stand by Me remains one of my favourite Oasis songs, and at the end of the day, it's more important to have faith in your own convictions than to worry what the critics might say! Best of luck for the week ahead .. If you've got this far, I'm sure you're as Mad Ferret as I am!
Sunday, 17 November 2013
On the whole, it was a profitable day's punting, with a 3pt stake on Champagne Fever looking about as safe as the debut chaser's jumping looked competently assured. I did set an unmatched lay before the off, which as you can see was matched shortly before the second last fence, just in case. Ruby looked very happy on board as it completed a quickfire treble for him at the start of yesterday's Punchestown card, and he's surely going to be even more delighted when he guides Hurricane Fly to a record breaking 17th Grade 1 victory later today. My £20 double on the Mullins bankers returns just £12 profit - a testament to the high esteem in which they are both held by the bookies. Segal's tips of Fergal O'Brien's Bradley and Alvarado in the 1.50 at Cheltenham were confidently conveyed in his column and the latter proved him correct, causing me to collect :)
1.00 Cheltenham - Pay the King - Bumper winning Nicholls horse with Harry Derham taking off three pounds. Lieutenant Miller has been out and about as a flat stayer this summer, notching up victories under Tom Queally and Graham Lee before coming a creditable third in the Cesarewitch priced up at 10/1. Holds less betting appeal at 4/1 this afternoon but is the clear alternative to 15/2 shot Pay the King.
1.35 Cheltenham - Lac Fontana - Clifford Baker's dark horse popped up in my At The Races "Tracker" email this morning. A 7/1 shot in a small field, worth a small bet as Sea Lord and The Liquidator hog the pre-race headlines.
2.10 Cheltenham - This is a tricky one, with Raya Star, Dodging Bullets and Ted Veale all there or thereabouts in the betting. Probably the one Nicholls will win with DB, as I am siding with Cheltenham Festival winner and useful flat performer, Teddy V.
2.40 Cheltenham - Just wonder if former Nicholls horse Tataniano isn't worth giving another vote of confidence at a big outside price of 22 on Betfair. Wearing the famous red and white colours of Big Buck's, he's a memorable horse, although I dug out this article from 2010 that Mr Nicholls would probably rather forget!
2.55 Fontwell - Benvolio (NAP) - With Ruby Walsh off the books at Ditcheat, I think the line up of jockeys should be able to be compared with the squad of Tottenham Hotspur this year. Losing a superstar, but gaining a balance.. Sadly for Spurs fans, they are playing dreadfully dour football, while Nicholls has at his disposal his number 1 Daryl Jacob, claimer Harry Derham, a pumped-up Twiston-Davies and one of my Twitter faves, Nick "Melodic Rendezvous" Scholfield, who takes the reins on this even money banker today. I know who I would rather be watching ply their trade this term and it's not the scum from Edmonton!
3.15 Cheltenham - Flaxen Flare - easy one for me this as FF gave me a huge 31/1 boost on Day 3 of last season's festival. Was 12/1 this morning, but has been clipped into around 8s since Segal selected him again, lauding his trainer Gordon Elliott and describing today's conditions for the four-year-old as "perfect".
3.50 Cheltenham - One last Nicholls stab - Southfield Vic - same colours and close relative of the aforementioned near-misser from yesterday, and PFN seems more confident about this one than he did about that!
Over in Ireland, blog favourite and new Racing Post columnist Bryan Cooper has a good book of rides, picking up strongly-fancied Don Cossack from the banned Davy Russell in the 1.40 Novice Chase. While the only bet I've had over there is on Hurricane Fly in the fourteen-fifteen formality, why not have a look at this blog from my Twitter pal Steve, as he seems to have a good handle on things over the water.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
A friend of mine, who has been mentioned on these pages before, even went so far as to say he was insulted by my perceived lack of attention and interest in the code of horse racing that is contested over distances of five furlongs up to around two miles and during which the animals are not encouraged to leap gallantly over bristly obstacles.
Well, while I am always keen to take on board constructive criticism, the insinuation that a withdrawal of words and writings on this website equates to an absence of interest or excitement is wholly inaccurate.
I will acquiesce that this weekend, with the Cheltenham Open Meeting in full flow and with Punchestown delivering knockout blows in the shape of Mullins one-two Champagne Fever and Hurricane Fly, I certainly return to these pages with more vigour. But I have taken huge pleasure and eked the occasional pot of profit over the period during which my Raymond Weil has been set to British Summer Time. If anything, I've been enjoying it too much to have found time to write about it!
A few Palphabet highlights of the 2013 flat season:
- JP Murtagh - what a man - although not backing Royal Diamond on British Champions Day after having circled him in the morning's newspaper was a real error.
- Getting on a Producer / Lost in the Moment 4/1 double with a £100 stake the weekend after a visit to the Hannon yard. Made all the more special by the fact that the double in question took place in Istanbul, was brought to my attention by Richard Snr in a "conversation" I was fortunate enough to share with him (I basically overheard him mentioning it), and required real endeavour to get on - I really savoured the rewards on this one. Balthazar King's raid on a French cross country course at something ridiculous like 22/1 also provided under-the-radar European entertainment.
- BCD3 - I've not missed one yet! Breton Rock, Olympic Glory and Farhh ensured that although it wasn't a case of "Frankel who?!" on the richest day in British racing, there is life after the Sir Henry Cecil wonder-colt. Meeting Paul Bittar; James Knight, Simon Clare and the Coral crew; merely seeing Julian Muscat from afar - all these characters ensured a fantastic day out. Getting so obliterated on red wine that I knocked a table of drinks over some well-dressed ladies was only a small low point of an otherwise perfect day.
- The young Irish apprentice champion - Conor King - caught the eye many times, and none more so than when completing a 14,725/1 quadruple over at Cork. Spoke very well when interviewed on the telly during some of the more high-profile meetings, he's definitely one to watch.
- Ryan Moore vs Graham Cunningham - this was an enjoyable exchange, with Ryan taking to his Betfair column to very eloquently put the outspoken TV pundit back in his box for a while. Cunningham was not quite so scathing in his analysis of Moore's Melbourne Cup ride on Dandino, although somewhat ironically the horse's owners decided to boot him off for next month's Hong Kong vase.
- Treve - what a horse.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
Saturday, 29 June 2013
To compound the discontent, I layed my entire book against Ken Duke winning, meaning that any of Chris Stroud, Graham DeLaet, heck – even Bubba Watson himself, emerged victorious, I wouldn’t lose anything. Duke had never been crowned victorious in his journeyman career, hit 999/1 on Betfair at one point as the chart below painfully portrays, and so I thought the £215 lay at 1.41 was a reasonable course of action. He went on to win, I went to bed a loser for the second week running.
For this week’s AT&T National and Irish Open I went hard (well, £15.12 each way) on a Seung-Yul Noh/Graeme McDowell double. Noh was fourth in the US event last year and was priced up a 150/1 outsider, while G Mac, despite missing the cut at the US Open and at this course twice, where he has also never managed to record a score under-par, appealed at 18/1 (for some reason) with SportingBet offering six place each way terms.
Thursday, 13 June 2013
|The US Open iPad App is a must-download for the weekend ahead|