Ben Morgan enjoyed the first big meeting at Prestbury Park and was happy to set the alarm for Melbourne
Ben Morgan has ups and downs at Prestbury Hill
As I arrived back home from work on the Friday evening, the first day of the Cheltenham Open meeting, my first port of call was unsurprisingly the sofa where the TV remote rested beside me. I had managed to avoid hearing about Cheltenham all day at work and even survived an accidental refresh of my Twitter feed so I was pretty intent on watching the races back as soon as I could.
I had to resist the urge to immediately feast upon the lovely meal that my partner had prepared for me and I also had to block out the raised tones of said partner as she continued to ask herself why she bothers. Fair to say, I have learnt not to answer such a question.
Although, I’m pretty sure if she had £40 each-way on First Assignment at 8/1, she would be pretty keen to watch the action unfold as soon as she could.
His profile fitted the race and his mark looked lenient. He carried good form into the race and everything looked set up for a big run. Despite knowing all this, I still cut an anxious figure while watching the race. Tom Scudamore nudged him into a narrow lead and when he jumped the last with a narrow margin I didn’t think for one second he would stop. To be fair, I didn’t think he would be needing a photograph to confirm the result but the lack of match practice might have just told in the final furlong but he held on well much to my pleasure. It’s amazing how flavoursome cold lasagne tastes when you’ve just won the best part of £500.
Just 24 hours later, though, I was in a desperate, damp state in the back of my Dad’s car travelling back from Cheltenham. We had both been outdone by our better halves in terms of picking winners and I in particular was feeling bitter.
However, I very nearly forgot that I had £40 riding on War Brigade in the last at Newbury. I was pretty sure he was well in off his mark and backed him accordingly. He and Press Gang engaged in a ding-dong battle up the straight and, as they ran through the line, it was too close to call. I waited anxiously for the result only to find out Press Gang had got there by a short head. Numerous expletives left my mouth as I cursed my luck for the day.
It took me about 45 minutes to regroup, find my phone which I earlier threw into the footwell in disgust, and have a look at the next day’s early prices. It was only then that I noticed I had a lot more in my betting account than I’d had half an hour earlier. I checked my bet history and saw they had paid out on War Brigade as he had been awarded the race in the Stewards Room…..I believe such an event is often referred to, in the trade, as ‘bloody lucky’.
My luck continued to ebb and flow throughout the next couple of weeks which was most frustrating because I am normally either hot or cold. However I went from being hot, £30 on Sun Hat at Wolverhampton at 7/1, to being cold, £80 loss on War Brigade at Newmarket, in the space of 48 hours. I normally adjust my staking patterns as to what form I am in but I had very little idea as to what to do.
I decided to sit, wait and watch before I made my next move. That was
until a mate texted me asking me what I fancied for the Melbourne Cup. Now, I hadn’t really studied this race and hadn’t even looked at the racecard before he asked me as I enjoy watching the race but, for me, it’s not a betting race. However, if I had realised Cross Counter had such little weight on his back then I would have gained far more of an interest at a much earlier stage.
I relayed the tip back and stuck £10 each way on at 15/2 myself just as I tucked myself into bed. It didn’t seem long until the alarm was penetrating my ear drums at 4am which was part of the reason I made a right hash of a) turning the alarm off and b) turning the telly on – much to my partner’s annoyance. Through half opened eyes I watched the race and decided it was far too early in the day to be criticising Kerrin McEvoy’s decision to anchor Cross Counter towards the rear. Had it been 4pm, the little Aussie would have been on the receiving end of a good telling off I can assure you.
All was forgiven turning for home, though, as he made smooth progress and pressed go up the straight. The acceleration was brilliant and the way he menacingly bore down on the leaders was something else. He won with plenty in hand and rates a top prospect for next year now.
I turned the TV off, rolled back over and fell back to sleep while mumbling something like ‘should have put more on’. I thought I heard a disapproving tut from the person next to me but I decided to let that one go.
After backing Whatmore in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow where he finished a gallant third, I couldn’t not back him at 3/1 in a weaker race at Bangor. Now that he has learnt to settle he is a decent free-going front runner with an eye for a hurdle. I stuck £50 on the nose and watched the race in supreme confidence. Pinging his way from one hurdle to the next he was far superior and his victory provided a much needed boost heading into Cheltenham.
However, as much as I would love to report on a ding-dong battle with the bookies over the three-day meeting, it turned out to be a relatively quiet affair.
I had one big bet each day as I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality on show compared to other years. The Friday was all about White Moon (£25 each-way 5/1) who I think is right out of the top drawer. Given plenty of time by connections to recover from his injury he looked like repaying them as he galloped up the straight. It was clear he was the only one staying on and I’m sure he had plenty left as he fell at the second last. The secret is out now, but I’m sure he can recoup losses.
Luck swung my way on the Saturday as First Assignment held obvious claims of following up his previous course success. £80 was placed at 5/2 and I only wish that all big bets would win as easy as he did. Tom O’Brien barely had to move as he galloped a good way clear of the field. A seriously progressive horse.
Unfortunately I conclude on a disappointing note as Paul Nicholls’ smart bumper horse, McFabulous (£80 at 15/8) struggled to cope with the Cheltenham hill as he faded badly.
He was my main bet of the day and such a loss is not what you need on a Sunday night with work in the morning.