In little over an hour on Saturday, betting markets for the staying chases in Britain and Ireland were blown wide open by the impressive victories of Cyrname and Lostintranslation.
This week’s Cheltenham Festival watch analyses the changes in races such as the Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup – whilst the markets are once again likely to be affected once the results of this weekend’s exciting ITV racing action are discovered.
Having selected 25/1 BetVictor Gold Cup winner Happy Diva, and with his Ladbrokes Trophy Antepost Preview currently live onsite – where a 16/1 selection has now been chopped into a single-figure price with many bookmakers – our man Joe Eccles is back, this time taking a look at what promises to be a vintage renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Many felt it would take something special to inflict Altior with a first defeat over obstacles, and the highest-rated chaser in Britain – Cyrname – did just that when making all to land Saturday’s Christy 1965 Chase.
He has been cut to a best-priced 5/2 to follow-up in the King George at Kempton in December, but I feel that there is more than one reason to take him on in that contest.
Firstly, he has his stamina to prove over 3m. This will be three furlongs further than Saturday’s race, and doubtful stayers don’t win King George’s.
Whilst secondly, this isn’t Ascot. Yes, it’s a sharp right-handed track which he has won over twice in the past, but those victories both came in weak four-runner novice chases. By far his best performances have come at the Berkshire venue – so the return to this course does pose a question.
I’d be more than happy to let him slide at his current price, and I’m also going to oppose his main market rival Lostintranslation.
Colin Tizzard’s charge was catapulted to the head of the market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after Saturday’s Betfair Chase victory, but I feel his connections have been lulled into the idea of contesting the King George with the £1million bonus – understandably – a contributing factor.
Whilst it can be argued that Aintree’s Mildmay course is fairly sharp, it is not Kempton, so this will be a new test for the Flemensfirth gelding.
He is clearly improving, and his connections have a good recent record in the King George, but he is probably priced about right at around the 5/2 mark, so my head tells me to look elsewhere.
Last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux should strip fitter with his comeback run at Down Royal under his belt and is likely to have been targeted at the race once again, but this renewal looks considerably stronger than last year’s and his form has declined since that victory.
Earlier this week, Steven Kilborough made the bold claim that Altior will never win another Grade 1, and whilst I’d be reluctant to go that far, I don’t see him winning the King George – even if taking up what could be argued is a doubtful entry.
Now on to the first of my two selections, which is the Willie Mullins-trained Footpad. The Simon Munir & Isaac Souede-owned gelding appeared to get his career back on track with victory in a Listed race at Thurles earlier this month.
He has raced over three miles only once in the past, finishing third in the 2017 Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
You’d be hard-pressed to say he didn’t stay there, and it is interesting to me that his connections have often seen him as more of a staying type.
After landing the 2018 Arkle Chase, Willie Mullins reported that he had him “marked down as a JLT or RSA horse” at the start of the campaign, and he said his potential target for 2019 could be the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Things clearly didn’t go to plan last season, but Footpad is still only a seven-year-old, and not many horses in training have a better record in Grade 1 contests, with the Creachadoir gelding’s form figures at the top level currently reading an impressive 13F124243111128.
With Bristol De Mai set to bypass this race, it seems likely his owners will let him take his chance, and with that in mind, his current 14/1 odds could look big come race day.
Footpad’s stablemate Real Steel was very nearly my second pick for the King George, and I still feel that he is a Grade 1 winner in waiting after his fourteen-length Down Royal demolition earlier this month.
However, whilst the right-handed track will suit, I still feel he may be a year too inexperienced for a test such as this, particularly as his jumping remains a cause for concern – with this in mind, I’ve decided to pass him over.
Also, at double his current price, Black Corton looks too big to ignore at a chunky 50/1.
The eight-year-old is about as admirable as they come, having finished out of the first four in only three of his thirty-three starts under rules – one of those efforts coming on his sole run on the flat.
I’m of the opinion that he’d have won the Galway Plate in July but for significant interference from a loose horse on the run-in, and bearing in mind that no horse had carried more than eleven stone to victory in the Galway Plate since Ansar in 2005 – that effort looks significant considering that Black Corton had 11-10 on his back.
He finished a fine third behind the smart Vinndication in a competitive Ascot handicap last time out and having taken the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on this card back in 2017, the course holds no fears.
Paul Nicholls has recently spoken about being tempted to let Black Corton take his chance in the King George if the race produced a small field, and with the prospect of Cyrname and Lostintranslation scaring many runners away – that looks a real possibility.