Well we hit the crossbar and shot just wide today. Mijhaar came in a third after looking the likely winner at the top of the hill but finding disappointing little when he came off the bridle, however we made a small profit on the ew play there.
Vincente could only manage a close 3rd behind the bottom two in the market and he again looked the likely winner but belted the second last which probably cost him the race summed up by the comments on the Sporting Life result card "Held up in touch, not fluent 4 out, blundered and left 2nd 3 out, every chance when not fluent 2 out, stayed on flat, closing on 2nd close home"
So not a fantastic start to the season but no real damage done
Onwards and upwards and here are the selections for Saturday, and we'll be back tomorrow evening with a selection for Aintree on Sunday.
The Cleeve team
14.10 Cheltenham - winner.co.uk Handicap Chase (CLASS 2) (4yo+)
This is an interesting handicap chase with a group of horses who have seen plenty of action over the last few seasons. Next Sensation is the best horse in the race in my view, but he has a lot of weight and usually needs a run to sharpen him up. Boondooma is the likely favourite based on tissue prices; however his best form is at a lower class and with a lot more juice in the ground, saying that Dr Newland’s runners here should always be respected. Astracad is an old favourite of mine and won first time out this season and is sure to be thereabouts, but he is bit inconsistent these days so I have left him alone. Of those at bigger odds Sew on Target made most appeal but does not win that often.
Eastlake has the valuable assistance of Barry Geraghty and has shown form in better races like this plus has won at Cheltenham before. His last few form figures are not that impressive, but he has won first time out in three of the last four seasons. He should be tucked in nicely behind Astracad and Next Sensation coming down the hill and if fully wound up should pull clear coming up the hill. I don’t think Barry Geraghty would have been up unless the horse had a chance at the weights as Jonjo likes to use claimers if he thinks the horse is under pressure or has no chance.
14.45 Cheltenham - Masterson Holdings Hurdle (CLASS 2) (4yo)
If you look at the official ratings of each horse in this race then Qualando is probably sixth most likely of the eight runners to win this, but sometimes it works to look outside of the obvious. Several of these ran against each other in a Grade 1 at Aintree with Devilment finishing second ahead of Stars Over the Sea and Hargam. Hargam had probably gone over the top after finishing third in the Triumph Hurdle, which was a top class renewal. He might need the run here but will still go close with the old team of Henderson and Geraghty teaming up. Devilment was well behind Hargam in that race and I think like a lot of flat bred horses he is better on a flat course like Aintree or Doncaster where he has run well. The major threat to the selection could be Fou et Sage trained by Dan Skelton and the main thing that put me off him was his nasty habit of finishing second.
As I said at the start of this write up sometimes you have to look past the obvious and Qualando although rated below most of these has already won at Cheltenham having taken the Fred Winter at the Festival. All Yours of Paul Nicholls beat several of these including Hargam and Devilment in the Aintree race so I am sure he knows what is needed to beat them again. This gives me a feeling that Qualando has improved since last season and is sitting on a decent mark. He has the advantage of having won over course and distance and has suitable going. His price also makes him value comparatively to Hargam, Fou et Sage and Devilment.
This is what I would call a key race and expect several future winners to come from it.
15.20 Cheltenham - winner.co.uk Trophy (Handicap Chase) (CLASS 2) (4yo+)
This is a fairly trappy handicap with eight horses within just 3 points of each other in the betting. In the past it has proved difficult to win this race with a weight of more than 11 stone, which rules out Champion Court, Fox Appeal and Kie. The main challengers to our selection look to be Theatrical Star, Azure Fly and What’s Happening and if the rains come then Theatrical Star will have a bigger chance, but he has the tendency to find one too good and I think the same will happen here. Azure Fly won last time out but in a lower class than this and he is likely to get run off his feet in the final couple of furlongs. What’s Happening has struggled when upped from Class 3 and may need the run having been off for 192 days. He has won first time out before but Tom George is not firing in the winners presently so we can leave him out.
Big Casino from the Twiston-Davies stable looks to have been saved for this race (one the trainer has won twice before) and won last time out. Sam Twiston-Davies rides and that is another positive for a horse which look markedly improved in a Class 2 last time winning by five lengths. Due to the various challengers I have erred on the side of caution and advised him ew, but I do think he has a winning chance.