ROBERT COOPER WRITES
TV man picks his fancies to beat bookies
Every once in a while we dream of how to spend our lottery windfall; a new gate would be near the top of my list but I don’t think owning a string of racehorses would make my top five.
Every time I shift the wheelie bins from behind the abovementioned gateway, a rotting segment falls away to the ground like an autumn leaf. As with owning horses, there’s a fair slice of schmaltziness; considering how few horses win races, it’s amazing how willing owners are to fork out thousands to keep them in five star accommodation. It’s the same with my gates; they were made and hung by my father 25 years ago, and he’s been in the carpentry shop in the sky since 1998. Whether it’s a gate, a slow racehorse, or and old pair of shoes, sentiment usually wins over logic and common sense.
As reported last week, ‘my horse’ Royal Sunday (note modest lower case) ran at Sandown Park last Sunday. After showing up well for half the race, he beat a hasty retreat turning out of the back straight and was pulled up by Harry Bannister two out. Despite the disappointing run, it was a cracking day out and the Sandown hospitality was first rate, the only thing missing was anything to celebrate. Our trainer Alex Hales was quick to point out that the recent form of the yard’s runners has been somewhat lacklustre. Every racing cliché was aired at the post-race inquest – in short, there’ll be other days!
The overall owners experience offered me a glimpse of the expectations and disappointments involved. Around the same time on Sunday afternoon, I guess Simon Munir and Isaac Souede wore similarly longish faces after FOOTPAD’s winning sequence hit the buffers at Naas. He returned sore and banged a leg after a couple of uncharacteristic jumping errors were followed by an unseemly exit at the final fence.
Full marks to Harry Whittington taking on FOOTPAD with SAINT CALVADOS; their only previous encounter was in the Arkle at Cheltenham when SAINT CALVADOS finished as a dot on the horizon behind FOOTPAD.
I thought FOOTPAD was as awesome a novice that I had seen for some time last winter but although there were valid excuses made last weekend (aren’t there always?) I wouldn’t rush to back him at 6-1 to beat ALTIOR at Cheltenham next March.
Should the duo meet again, I would side with SAINT CALVADOS – he was always in total command and the quote of 16-1 is mildly tempting, but ALTIOR could be in a different league. We’ll be a good deal wiser after the Tingle Creek in three weeks.
Today’s £160,000 Bet Victor Gold Cup is as furiously competitive as you would expect for the money. Looking at the betting, the bookies and punters must rate MISTER WHITAKER’s narrow defeat of RATHER BE at Cheltenham last March as gilt-edged form. This will be RATHER BE’s first run since the Festival, whereas MISTER WHITAKER looked in tremendous form beating HAPPY DIVA at Carlisle a few weeks ago, but the handicapper has made it tough for Mick Channon’s chaser, raising him 7 pounds.
I’m pinning my hopes on Paul Nicholl’s second season novice MOVEWITHTHETIMES [2.25 CHELTENHAM] who doesn’t immediately leap out of the form book as a ready-made winner – in truth he’s yet to win over fences after five attempts, and the latest at Fakenham ended with his jockey Barry Geraghty picking himself up from the Norfolk turf after being unseated at around half way.
Jumping is certainly an issue but he may just be one of those horses who runs best in top class company, in a race run at a frenetic pace. In fear of my theory being doomed, I’ll have a saver on Neil Mullholland’s KALONDRA who was cruising into contention when falling two out at Galway – he’d previously run well here at Cheltenham in April.
Despite being a cheese and biscuit producer’s dream, there appeared to be no fluke about CRACKER FACTORY [12.40 CHELTENHAM] [ridden by Daryl JACOB] winning the WENSLEYDALE Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby a couple of weeks ago. All that’s missing is a glass of port.
Alan King has a superb record training young hurdlers and CRACKER FACTORY has won four from five, and the form of his latest victory looks strong as the horse he beat, CHIEF JUSTICE, had won three times prior to their encounter. The whopping spanner in the works is Nicky Henderson’s high profile French recruit NEVER ADAPT but she’ll need to be pretty sharp to beat CRACKER FACTORY.
Alan King’s exploits on the Flat in 2018 have resulted in 32 winners and earnings of more than £430,000. King’s SCARLET DRAGON runs at Lingfield today in the listed Churchill Stakes in a Fast-Track Qualifier for Finals Day on Good Friday. He’s not without a chance having run well in a Group 3 at Newbury and the drop back to ten furlongs could be a plus – however I must give one more chance to William Haggas’ ADDEYBB (2.45 LINGFIELD) who was never sighted behind ROARING LION in the QE2 Stakes at Ascot, but a return to his spring form would be strong enough for a big run here.
SILVER STREAK impressed me [3.00 CHELTENHAM. SUNDAY] winning the Welsh Champion Hurdle last month and he’s my fancy for tomorrow’s £100,000 Greatwood Hurdle. The way he sprinted clear of useful opposition was particularly eyecatching. Back in the spring, Evan Williams’ grey produced another spring-heeled effort to win Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle, and he looks the type to continue improving.
Ground permitting the prospect of FAUGHEEN, SAMCRO and SUPASANDAE locking horns in Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle tomorrow is one not to be missed. The mighty HURRICANE FLY won this Grade One three times and FAUGHEEN won last year – but he got turned over when 6-1 on favourite in 2015. They call him The Machine – but even equine equivalents suffer mechanical defects now and then.
“Jumping is certainly an issue for Move with the times but he may be one of those horses who runs best in top class company”
Fancied, but his jumping is a problem: Movewiththetimes
Tough ask: Mick Channon