We went into the second day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival after a generally satisfactory, but slightly frustrating opening day, when for one reason or another we might have had a lot more points on the board, still, we'll always take being ahead at the Festival as it's the hardest gig in town and day two was to prove that to us in spades!
Day Two[table “21” not found /]
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
The Big Breakaway - 1 point each way at 10/1
For many Irish and English punters alike Envoi Allen was the banker of the week, and after Gordon Elliot finally declared him for the Ballymore and Abracadabras franked the Royal Bond in no uncertain style in the Supreme, he saw sustained support down to as short as 1-2, so if the bookies could get him beat in Wednesday's opener it would be the best possible start after a first day of somewhat mixed results.
The early part of the race was pretty uneventful... even Robbie Supple managed to get them off the first time! The Big Getaway took them along at an even pace in the early part of the race and the favourite who was settled by Davy on the rail in midfield, he got in close and fiddled a couple of early flights which was a surprise (to me at least) given how well he has jumped in all his races to date. The only thing to really note was that both the second and third favourites both seemed ill at ease, Sporting John was having to be pushed into the bridle (Stewards found he finished distressed) as they passed the post on the first circuit and our selection the Big Breakaway travelled in snatches and didn't seem to be taking a cut at his hurdles.
The Big Getaway and Easywork quickened as they started down the hill and most of the field immediately came off the bridle. The two leaders were both going well and had seemed to steal a few lengths on the field, Davy shook up Envoi Allen to keep tabs on the leaders but the response was not immediate and as they turned for home he suddenly found himself 5 lengths down, and the Betfair in-play odds went as big as 4.2 on the favourite... but the 'wobble' was nothing but a blip. As they straightened off the turn and he got him balanced the speed he found to reel the front two in and pass them as they came to the last was little short of breathtaking. He flew the last going past the leaders as if they were standing still (watch the after race replay from shot from the side).
He's is little short of imperious... picked up by Chevely Park for a mere 400,000 gns, he's now unbeaten in eight races and already a dual-festival winner, and for my money is possibly the best novice at this stage of his career that I have ever seen. The sky looks the limit for this good looking son of Muhtathir and connections have said he now goes novice chasing and looks like he could be even better over fences... Timeform (not noted for gushing comments) say "he has the potential to be a true great of the sport"
He beat the right horses here and the field was strung out like washing, almost 5 lengths back to Easywork in second, a further 3 lengths back to the Big Breakaway 3rd, I was impressed with the 3rd who is a big raw-boned individual and cane into this with only a couple of runs over hurdles, he looks far from the finished article and could be a different horse over fences next season. Although our selection The Big Breakaway did not seem to run up to his best, he was still the best of the rest 6 lengths back in 4th and 9 lengths ahead of the rest... Colin Tizzard, who was fancied by some to be top trainer had a miserable week with 0 wins and only 2 places from 17 runners... a strike rate of only 11%. I'd be tempted to forgive him this one.
watch the race again here (you'll need a Skybet account to watch)
2020 Cheltenham Festival - RSA Insurance Novices' Chase
Battleoverdoyen 1 point each way at 14/1
Watching this race back again the only thing I can put Battleoverdoyen's 25 length 4th down to is not truly staying the trip on this track, he jumped and travelled really well in behind a strong pace from the off that was set by Allaho with Minella Indo in close attendance. Coming down the hill for the final time Davy Russell still looked to have plenty of horse underneath and with Champ jumping scruffily in behind and the front two having taken each other on for a long way it seemed to be set up for a closer, this was echoed by the in-play market forcing him down to odds of 5/2. But when the front two kicked again at the bottom of the hill and Davy shook him up, he found absolutely nothing and the game was over.
Talking of the in-play market it must have been absolute carnage with big winners and big losers galore! The front two looked to have slipped the field coming into the straight and they both jumped the second last with Champ the best part of 10 lengths behind, this was around the time that he was layed at 600/1 to a good few quid (ouch!). Minella Indo seemed to be asserting coming to the last but having jumped particularly well all the way he fluffed the last which may have just cost him the race as he lost all momentum. Although Allaho got back level Minella Indo showed plenty of guts to go a neck back up and traded as low as 1.06. But Champ who pecked at the last simply flew up the hill and came between them to win a length going away.
He still looks a bit immature to me, but if Champ can improve his jumping and get all his undoubted ability together he will be a player in the Gold Cup next year as well as Minella Indo.
And a note to selves... this was an antepost selection that we backed at 14/1 with 3 places, we could have had 16/1 with 4 places on the day and would have got paid out.
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
Franco De Port 0.5 points each way at 10/1 & Coko Beach 0.5 points each way at 40/1
A very competitive looking County Hurdle that was run strangely only at a medium pace. The first circuit was pretty uneventful with the JP pair Alfa Mix and Top Moon disputing the lead and pretty much the whole field travelling and jumping well. As they passed the post for the first time, Paul Townend looked to have Franco de Port in a good position just behind the leaders and Luke Dempsey travelled OK in midfield on Coko Beach. As they swung down the hill the pace hotted up and Franco de Port steadily lost his position without seeming to come under anything like a ride. He jumped the second last flight almost in last place and was pulled up in the straight. The Stewards enquired into his running and Townend reported he ran to free in the early stages. Watching it back he was a bit free but never pulled his jockeys arms off... all I can say is that he won't have done his handicap mark any harm!
There was plenty of scrimmaging on the outside as they approached the second last and Champagne Well made a bad mistake interfering badly with Coko Beach who had to be switched violently inside and lost both ground and momentum. Luke Dempsey who did well to stay in the plate, managed to gather him back together and he did run on in the straight, but it was too much and he ultimately finished 9th when we were playing 7 places. Whether he would have placed without the interference is open to speculation.
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Defi Du Seuil 2 points to win at 9/4
So not much luck with in the first 3 races but we'd had plenty of pre-race fortune with our antepost selection: Defi du Seuil. We had advised him at 9/4 and the very next day Altior came out of his box lame with a splint and looked very doubtful to line up... Defi's odds contracted to 5/4. Then in the pre-race 'trot up' second fav and general 6/4 shot Chacun Por Soi was also found to be lame with an abscess under one of his shoes so had to be withdrawn. Defi went 2/5 and looked pretty much a penalty kick to give JP McManus his 3rd winner on the bounce.
But the kick flew high and wide, he seemed to be taken off his feet a bit early and never seemed to be entirely comfortable with Barry having to keep at him rather than being able to sit quietly. He jumped adequately but no better than that and as they started down the hill it was clear that he was in big trouble, when Barry asked him a serious question after the 3rd last there was no answer and he was one of the first beaten. To be fair Politologue has been a fantastic servant to connections and has dined at the top table many times, he deserved a big one and this was his day, however, he'd finished 25 lengths behind Defi at Ascot and although he probably ran to somewhere near his best there's no real argument that he picked up a race that had pretty much fallen apart. The Stewards had connections in but there was no explanation apart from Barry saying that at no point was he travelling with his usual fluency.
I mentioned earlier in the piece that Colin Tizzard's team disappointed, well Philip Hobbs also had a week he won't want to remember. His 15 strong team managed only one place between then despite Defi going off at 2/5 and another half dozen starting at single-figure prices.
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Glenfarclas Chase
We didn't have a bet in this and most people couldn't see past another (beaten) banker of the meeting... the people's horse and twice Grand National winner Tiger Roll. In fact, I was told by someone close to the stable before the race that Rachel Blackmore had said: "it was buying money". Whether that was true or not, the only people buying that money were the bookmakers as Easysland ran out as one of the most impressive winners of the meeting.
Snapped up by the Green and Gold after his win here in November, he had been backed by some shrewd faces several weeks before the race at 10/1 and in the end went off the well supported 3/1 second favourite. He always raced with zest in a prominent position and took it up with under a mile to go. The script seemed to be going according to plan as Tiger Roll improved through the field on the bridle and went second seemingly just biding his time. But Easysland jumped slick and fast and as they hit the racecourse proper Tiger Roll still had 3 lengths to find and never got any closer... in the end being beaten 13 lengths.
As a 6-year-old in this ownership, I don't see Easysland being campaigned at anything other than this race and it's easy to imagine that he'll be a multiple winner in the years to come.
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Thyme White 0.5 points each way at 14/1 & Fraser Island 0.5 points each way at 28/1
Yet another winner for JP... his 4th on the day... if he wasn't such a nice guy it'd be getting boring! Or selections held decent positions turning down the back but Fraser Island had put in a couple of sloppy jumps and Thyme White pulled way too hard in the first mile. As they came down the back Jeremiah McGrath was hard at work and beating a retreat, but Thyme White was holding a good position and as they jumped the second last he looked as though he could get involved in things, but as they quickened again off the turn he came under pressure and his earlier exertions took their toll and he came home at the one pace in 15th, Fraser Island being the last of the finishers.
It was a terrible day for us and watching these all back and writing this I'm feeling depressed all over again!
2020 Cheltenham Festival - Weatherbys Champion Bumper
I suppose that by this point in the day the best thing for us with the way the day had gone was that we had no bet in the race!
However, I had put up Eskylane as good ew value before the meeting at 20/1 on his form with the favourite and had a few quid on. He went off a 12/1 poke with Davy Russell on board (never a bad thing) and although running a fine race and looking like he might even win for a couple of fleeting seconds, he just failed to last home and was run out of the places up the hill.
A fitting end to a day to forget... I'm off for a quiet weep!