Matt Tombs / Friday 14th March 2014 / 10:05
It’s been a good week puntingwise and I'm determined to round it off by backing the winner of the Gold Cup. The key consideration is the watered ground. On Tuesday, four of the seven races, including all of the three grade 1s, were run in times under standard - the Champion Hurdle in a time 5.75s under standard. On Wednesday all three grade 1s over jumps were run in times under standard with the Champion Chase run 3.51s under standard.
By contrast, on the watered ground on the new course on Thursday, all the times we well over standard. The only race within 6 seconds of standard was the Ryanair (2.13s over standard.) That all suggests there was serious watering and that with the previously dry top but high water table, the ground was quite tacky. It should dry out a bit for today's action but it's likely it won't be as quick as it was on Tuesday and Wednesday.
We've got 3 solid bets in the portfolio already. Captain Cutter (9/1) has sound claims in the Albert Bartlett and this a is a race where those at the front of the market do well, (only one winner at a double figure price so far in 9 renewals.) The Mullins camp have said that Briar Hill (13/8) is their banker of the week and given that Vautour and Faugheen have run away with the other two novice hurdle grade 1s, that looks a tip in itself. That said, I think it’s a bit more open than the betting suggests and I'm going to stick with Captain Cutter, rather than play again.
I’m sweeter on the chances of the other two runners already in the portfolio. Arctic Fire (13/2 from 16/1) looks to have a favourites chance in the County Hurdle if the occasion doesn’t get to him – if they hadn't watered it would have helped but hopefully the ground won't be too slow for him. Certain Flight (20/1) is an interesting outsider for an open looking Foxhunter. I don’t want to play in these markets again now.
Sadly, the Pipe team ran Dynaste in the Ryanair rather than the Gold Cup. He was a good winner of the Ryanair and given how he won that through stamina, I’m wondering what might have been. Perhaps he will emulate Imperial Commander by winning the Gold Cup the year after taking the Ryanair. Given Dynaste's frustrating absence, and the fact we have 3 of the other races covered, I'm focussing all my attention on finishing the week with a Gold Cup winner, as the other race I'd normally have a bet in, the Grand Annual, is one where every time I have looked at it I've fancied something different and now like about ten of the runners.
Bobs Worth (2/1) is a solid favourite in that he’s won at the Festival for the last 3 years and is 5/5 on the track. However, he looked beaten all the way round last year, and only really stayed on past horses that were virtually walking over the line. He goes on good ground, but I still think he may get tapped for toe coming down the hill again and they won’t stop this year. He ran a stinker at Haydock and whilst he showed more toe in the Lexus, that looked an ordinary Grade 1. The watering will help bring his stamina into play but I couldn’t back him at such a short price.
Of the two at the front of the market I prefer Silviniaco Conti (7/2) who has the best single piece of form this season when winning the King George. There was a lot of focus on Cue Card’s performance at Kempton and I don’t think Silviniaco Conti has been given the credit he deserves. The only concern is that he fell in the race last year, (his only run over fences at the track.) He seemed to handle the track perfectly well until then, and if he doesn’t remember that he’s the most likely winner of this.
Last Instalment (8/1) will take his chance despite the ground drying out. He was a really good novice chaser two seasons ago and after injuring two legs, returned this year and after a good run at Thurles, he bolted up in the Irish Hennessy. That may not have been that strong a renewal but he couldn’t have been more impressive. The concern is how he comes down the hill given all the problems he has – last year Gigginstown had a similarly fragile type in Bog Warrior who was about 5 lengths clear with the World Hurdle seemingly at his mercy, only to break down badly coming down the hill. If it had rained then I’d have fancied him, but I’m really concerned that, even with the watering, the ground will be too quick.
Triolo D'Alene (14/1) is a horse who's been continually underestimated by punters, winning the Topham (off 132) at 14/1 and the Hennessy (off 147) at 20/1. He needs to progress hugely again to win and the Grand National was his original target, but the race really lacks depth and it's no surprise he's been a springer with AP booked. That said, he's being backed on the strength of being unexposed rather than top class and the fancy prices have gone now.
First Lieutenant (12/1) has been switched to this in case the ground becomes too quick for Last Instalment. He's a really consistent sort and loves the spring and good ground, but he's 1/12 in open company and hasn't looked a strong finisher at this sort of trip. Even with perfect conditions it'd need a few of the others to under perform for him to actually win, but as usual he has place prospects.
The Giant Bolster (16/1) is a genuine course specialist. He's been 2nd and 4th in the last two Gold Cups, the latter on unsuitably soft ground. His other last 2 chase runs here have produced a wide margin win in a handicap and a 7l defeat of Rocky Creek (who gave 5lb) in the Argento. The hood and visor combination looked to help there, and if they have a similar impact again on his favoured better ground, he could well be in the mix again.
Another interesting outsider is Lord Windermere (33/1) who won last year's RSA. He's been disappointing all 3 runs this year but Jim Culloty's small yard has been out of form all winter. Spring Heeled's win yesterday was their first since he won on 29 August. It's hard to know how to interpret those sort of results from a small yard, but if they are back in much better form now, Lord Windermere could belie those odds.
Lyreen Legend (50/1) was second to Lord Windermere in the RSA last season. He was held up in the autumn and was apparently well short of peak fitness on his seasonal debut when 5th in the Lexus and is expected to come on again for the run after filling the same place behind Last Instalment in the Irish Hennessy. Much was made of Dessie Hughes ability to peak a horse at Cheltenham when the Champion Hurdle was being discussed, and it applies equally here. He's not the no-hoper the market suggests and it'd be compensation for the Hughes team after the sad loss of Our Conor earlier in the week. He has each way claims.
On His Own (20/1) was supplemented for this. He's been plying his trade in handicaps for much of the season, mainly being disappointing before winning the Thyestes again, off 142. He's since won a conditions race at Fairyhouse that is often used as a Grand National prep - and that has apparently been his target all season. Similarly to Triolo D'Alene, you get the impression that connections sense this is more open than the market suggests and it's worth a go. He has no real chance on form, but it's worth noting that when Willie Mullins did his start of season stable tour, this horse was one of those he gave the 'star quality' banner.
Whilst I like Silviniaco Conti and think he's the most likely winner, the value is with the underrated course specialist The Giant Bolster. He's run well in this for the last 2 years, is only 9, and the hood and visor combination really looked to sharpen him up last time. He comes into the race in great form and the ground is in his favour. After the Moore's took the Champion Chase it would be fantastic if another small yard had it's day in the sun and there'd be few more popular winners than David Bridgwater.
1pt The Giant Bolster to win the Gold Cup (3.20) @ 16/1