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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cheltenham 2012 - Day 2

P&L after day 2 hides some very close bets.. honest!

Henderson - what's not to like?
Barry and the Henderson stamp a Big Foot on the Fest
Ignoring Henderson's strong challengers proved a downfall today but I was a whisker away with Get Me Out of Here, who gave £96.17 back to the pot but would have returned over £800 if he'd have managed to get home ahead of Son of Flicka. Elsewhere Soll, my tip of the week fell early on, along with stablemate Allee Garde. Simonsig, who I decided to lay, duly won for Henderson, who also took the RSA with Bobs Worth and the Champion Chase with Finian's Rainbow.  Nicky then had a 40-1 winner in the Fred Winter with Une Artiste, as I was lamenting another well-backed Alan King horse (Vendor).  It got me wondering - why don't I back Nicky Henderson horses very often?... and I think it's due to something buried deep in the realms of my subconscious...
Now, I'm certain that Paul Nicholls doesn’t hold Nicky Henderson in anything but the highest esteem.  I know Henderson, a former Champion Trainer and seemingly top bloke, is well loved in the horse racing fraternity.  He is clearly a fantastic trainer, with more festival wins under his belt than any of his current competitors and boasts a stable full of talented horses, worthy winners over all manner of mileage and obstacle. Yet, on television, I’m sure I've seen PFN appear to blank NH on a couple of occasions – at both Haydock and Kempton Park – after Kauto Star twice inflicted recent defeats on Gold Cup chaser Long Run.   So I have taken a position of harbouring a totally irrational dislike towards the Lambourn trainer, and hardly ever feel compelled to back his horses.

Now, after a day like today, I have two choices – I can either maintain a bitter and unfounded aversion towards contenders from Henderson's yard, or I can adapt to the environment.  I certainly don’t hate the bloke, I just like Nicholls, love Kauto Star and Denman, and found it more than slightly amusing when I saw the Ditcheat man seemingly turn his nose up at Nicky’s advances for a congratulatory handshake. 

I look back after today and wonder if there was anything in it – have any of you seen the footage from Haydock? – Paul Nicholls comes bounding up the gangway towards the winners' enclosure, delighted with Kauto Star’s return to brilliance.  Henderson approaches to say “well done fella” and gets, well, gunned!  
In retrospect, I think to myself “that was a bit out of order Paul!”  I find myself feeling sympathy towards Henderson, his big wet eyes resembling a likeable amphibian, just showing some affection for his victorious competitor on the day.  It’s making me think that tomorrow, when I would usually shy away from backing Henderson's horses, I should consider that he is absolutely flying at this year’s festival, and act accordingly.
Therefore, although I'll stick with Medermit in the Ryanair (in which Henderson's Riverside Theatre leads the market), first up is the Jewson Novices' Chase, in which Peddlers Cross is favourite, but where Solix is priced up at 9-1, and I'm going to do it - show some respect for Henderson and the pink-armband-wearing Barry Geraghty - and back the leading jockey / trainer combo with a pt e/w.
Our Father  (5-1) is my choice for the 3m Pertemps Final and is well fancied.  Then after the Ryanair comes the World Hurdle.  Watching this in a Cheltenham pub last year was one of my most memorable sporting events ever.  Ruby dropped his whip and using the reins alone, powering Buck's up the hill to beat off a genuine challenge from Grands Crus.  The choice for tomorrow is still there to be made: either lump on big-style for a 16th consecutive Big Buck's win ...or go with Oscar Whisky - trained by Nicky Henderson and undoubtedly a class act - who is trading at 5-1.  That may be a leap of faith too far! 
Thinking Hector's Choice or Notus de la Tour in the 16:00 handicap and will be interested to see what Pricewise says in tomorrow's paper.  Finally, I'm really looking forward to see if, like last year with Junior, there will be another monster gamble in the 16:40, and if Sir Henry Cecil can win the charity race again - does anyone even know if he has a runner? Plato's victory in the "Derby" was a nice way to finish St Patrick's Thursday a year ago.
If anyone's in Cheltenham tomorrow night - do say hello!


  1. Great comments Planey. I am amused that so many people seemingly drop the form card for these big races. It should be of no surprise Kauto struggled - but bravely played to the beat of the hype until the second to last. I would advise; tomorrow go back to the form cards and follow the methods used in any other days punting. It's a huge event for everyone but the horse, for whom it's just another day.

  2. Thanks for your comments disco, and i agree to an extent (although not sure why you're mentioning kauto) but think of the festival as a cup final at wembley versus a regular mid-season league fixture. .. the competing teams will often perform very differently.. Throw in fact that if a top team is playing a minnow, the quality required to win will not be as high as when two world class sides meet.. This, surely, is why form is less important during the festival - it's the world cup of racing!