Road To Cheltenham 28th December 2016

This Week’s Racing

The Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown is a cracking race to look forward to on Thursday the 29th of December. Nichols Canyon, Petit Mouchoir, Jer’s Girl, Ivanovich Gorbatov and Footpad go to post for what should be a thrilling contest. The Neville Hotels Novice Chase is always a brilliant Grade 1 and a very good guide in the lead up to Cheltenham. Follow us on Twitter, it is where all the banter happens daily.

A New Superstar Is Born – Thistlecrack

Colin Tizzard’s novice chaser Thistlecrack didn’t have to break a sweat to win the King George Chase at Kempton racecourse on Boxing Day. The eight year old was expected to have to produce an almighty effort to beat the reigning champion Cue Card but he had him off the bridle a long way from home. It may have been the smallest King George field for 20 years but it will probably be one of the most memorable. Thistlecrack jumped in spine-tingling fashion, it was scary to watch how high and far he can jump a fence.

It was reminiscent of watching the high jumper Javier Sotomayer who set the world high jump record of 2.45 metres, breath-taking. His owners John and Heather Snook will feel relieved and delighted that they opted to take the tough route to the Gold Cup this season. Named after a 30 acre field in Yeovil, Thistlecrack has captured the imagination of racing fans and it is stories like such that makes the national hunt scene arguably more passionate and bountiful.

Native River Gives Tizzard Three Gold Cup Options

Whilst Thistlecrack was absolutely amazing in the King George, flamboyance and speed won’t win you a Gold Cup. There’s a huge difference between winning over three miles on a flat track like Kempton and running over three furlongs further up a hill at Cheltenham. It may be harsh on the Gold Cup but it is evident over the years that slow boats can win, most evident in recent years by Lord Windermere and Synchronised.

Native River produced a brilliant display to win the Welsh National at Chepstow racecourse and has now been cut to as short as 8/1 for the Gold Cup in March. It was a very good win conceding weight to all of his rivals but we think Phil Smith, the chief handicapper, made an error when doing the weights for the race. Native River should have been 9 pounds higher but Mr Smith didn’t want him to carry a huge weight in the race. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but he made a big error. Did the handicapper make Native River look a better Gold Cup prospect than he should be? Time will tell.

Imperious Douvan Wins 13 On The Bounce

The amazing Douvan didn’t have to get out of first gear to win the Paddy Power Cash Card Chase at Leopardstown racecourse. Sent off the 1/8 favourite, he took over in the hands of Ruby Walsh two fences from home and surged clear to beat Sizing John by 8 lengths.

There is so much untapped potential under the bonnet and it will be interesting to see if they keep him over two miles or step him up in trip next season. He’s a very young horse and still has some huge days ahead of him so Willie Mullins is clearly looking after the horse as best as he can, and who could blame him?  He is now best priced 4/7 to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March, a race Mr Mullins has never won before.

Cheltenham Festival Ante Post Notes

  • Altior cut to 6/4 for the Arkle after runaway 18 length Grade 2 success at Kempton.
  • Arkle second favourite Min now best priced 7/2 after Grade 1 success at Leopardstown.
  • Willie Mullins’ Bellshill cut to 6/1 favourite for the RSA after Limerick Grade 2 success.
  • King George 2nd Cue Card cut to 5/1 for Ryanair Chase as Gold Cup dreams are dashed.
  • Philip Hobbs trained Defi Du Seuil is 7/1 for the Triumph after impressive Chepstow win.

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