Matt Tombs / Monday 9th March 2015 / 15:27
After a good first two days, the Thursday curse reappeared, with two seconds and a third, none of which I'd had the sense to back each way. Despite that, we’re playing with the bookies money on the final day, and whilst I’m keen to get my hands on more of it, I’m not keen to throw a load back at them recklessly either.
Looking at the Specials bets, it had looked like Rawnaq might be coming to win the Plate approaching the last before crashing through it. To make thinks worse, Darna won at 33/1 despite being put up by Pricewise. That scuppered the 20/1 bet for the Fred Winter to provide the longest SP of the week. It was also a bad day for the 9/1 15+ Irish winners bet as the British won 5 of the 6 races, leaving Ireland on 9 winners. It would be asking a lot for a repeat of last year's 6 Irish winners on the last day.
The final day's betting is complicated by the fact that it is due to rain for much of the day. The ground was basically riding good on Thursday but if the rain comes it'll soon soften. In particular, rain falling on chewed up ground later in the day would make it really testing.
This isn't great for some of my ante-post bets. In the County Rich Coast wants good ground and that would be the ideal surface for Smad Place in the Gold Cup and Current Event in the Foxhunter. I'm seeking solace from the fact that Ted Veale and Salsify were hugely inconvenienced by the rain on the final day 2 years ago, but still managed to win for the column.
The one race where the likely rain is less of a concern is the Albert Bartlett. I backed Shantou Bob ante-post at 25/1 and Martello Tower at 12/1 so that covers a lot of angles in that race. Both ought to handle testing ground but given how much of a slog the Albert Bartlett becomes on soft going, that would make me even sweeter on Martello Tower's chances. If you're not already on, he's the bet of the day, (available at 10/1.)
If you are able to wait until Friday afternoon to bet then you'll have a big advantage in terms of a much better understanding of the ground. At this stage it doesn't seem a good strategy to put up soft ground horses against those already in the column, given the rain might not arrive.
I'd sooner look at the later races where I've not yet had a bet and which could be run on really bad ground. I'm focussing on the Grand Annual, which as a cavalry charge 2m chase, is the perfect way to end the Festival.
Hats off to the Cheltenham establishment for naming it after the great AP McCoy, to celebrate his last Cheltenham Festival ride. His mount, last year's 2nd Ned Buntline, is already pretty short at 5/1 and it's likely sentimental money will shorten him further. There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house if he were to win but it is not a betting proposition under the circumstances.
There are a few in here I like for whom a lot of rain would be a major concern - Next Sensation (14/1) and Grumeti (20/1) in particular, and it probably isn't ideal for Eastlake (14/1) or Ted Veale (16/1) either.
However, the one obvious one that would like soft ground is Blood Cotil (9/1). He handles soft ground really well and also stays further which is an ideal combination for this race. He was seen as a novice for the Grade 1s earlier in the season. He ran into the classy Gilgamboa on his chasing debut and then might have got outstayed by Wounded Warrior over 2m4f. Taken out at the first fence in his next start, he then bolted up last time. He looks to have a great chance to provide an ironic end to AP's Festival career by providing his great friend and rival Ruby Walsh with a winner in AP's last race. He could be really well handicapped off 141.
There are others to consider and it would be even more ironic if JP's other runner Festive Affair (33/1) won this off 10-3, (below McCoy's lowest riding weight now.) He's not been in form this season but looks really well handicapped on his old form.
The other one I like is Brick Red (25/1). He looked a good novice on bad ground last year and arrives here in good form having chased home Mr Mole twice before winning off 144 last time. The problem is he is up to 150 now, a 3lb higher mark than any conventional handicap chase has been won off this century. It'll be tough to give that weight away if the ground gets soft.
There are loads with chances but if the forecast rain arrives it'll really play into Blood Cotil's hands and the Mullins/Walsh/Ricci axis can end the Festival as it began - with a winner.
1pt Blood Cotil to win the Grand Annual @ 9/1