CHARLIE LONGSDON: Now looks ahead to his planned runners on day 3 and 4 of the Cheltenham Festival with video snippets.
One that got away
As I mentioned in part one of this BETDAQ blog, we still haven’t had a Cheltenham Festival winner but we’ve hit the crossbar a few times. We had a fantastic old horse called Pendra, who was owned by JP McManus, and he probably went off single figure odds three or four times at the Cheltenham Festival. He never won, but I always think he should have won once or twice.
In the Kim Muir, when Derek O’Connor rode him, he really should have won that one. The third last was omitted that day and Derek said that had they jumped that, it would have given him a natural breather and he would have got up the hill in front. Even halfway up the hill, a few people were patting me on the back saying, ‘you’ve done it!’.
He got beaten less than a length that day. The jockey on the winner actually got an 18-day whip ban afterwards, and under the new rules they would have certainly lost the race, but that’s probably just sour grapes on my part!
Pendra was still a fantastic horse for us and definitely deserved another day in the sun at Cheltenham, but it never quite came off. You’ll always rue those days, but that’s racing.
Cheltenham runners on Thursday
Glimpse Of Gala
I have been surprised by Glimpse Of Gala’s progression this season. I think she was about 122 at the beginning of the season and we were claiming seven pounds off her as she’s a very small filly and I thought she’d need all the help she could get. But she’s kept on improving and she has actually struck up a fantastic relationship with Bradley Roberts.
The frustrating thing is that he is injured and will not be riding her. Do we now put an inexperienced claimer on her, or go with a top jockey? It’s a conversation I have to have with my landlords who bred and own her. We’ll decide that in the 24 hours leading up to the race.
One thing she will do is run her heart out – she’s tough as anything. She’s quite hard work for whoever rides her, she’ll be off the bridle for about the first mile and a half, but all she does is stay on. If she starts out the back, she’ll be gone out the back of the TV screen before you know it! So, she’ll be ridden fairly prominently, given a positive ride and hopefully she’ll be flying up that hill.
Is she well handicapped? She’s certainly showing that she’s a 137-rated filly, but is she better? She’s currently priced at 17, and if she finishes in the top six, that’ll be great. She deserves to be there.
Hector will run as well [in the Pertemps], he was a really good winner at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day over three miles, so he’s a course and distance winner. He went up that day from 126 to 134 and I think there is still room for improvement. He’s still a young horse and he loved it round Cheltenham last time. We made sure we got him qualified and we’re going to get him there fresh. He’ll love the big handicap field and a good gallop. I think there’s more potential for him to be ahead of the handicap than Glimpse Of Gala. He’s a bit of a dark horse, I think, and he could run nicely at around 13.
Look at the entries. In a lot of races Irish-trained horses dominate the entries. If you go to the likes of the Champion Bumper, they have the first six in the betting, and that’s a common theme in other races like many of the handicaps – the Irish are dominating in the betting.
Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins will be sending over an army of horses, and with the fewer British entries, the Irish will dominate. It’s sad, but it’s a sign of the times at the moment.
It’s a difficult one and there are probably a range of factors. There’s less racing in Ireland, so races are probably a bit more competitive. The prize money is better, so some British-based owners have definitely got more horses in Ireland because of that. It’s a worrying trend at the moment.
Things can change, but we do need trainers like Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls to have a good Festival, to keep our side up as we don’t want it to be a total Irish domination.
We want at least a dozen winners! But if the Irish beat only narrowly us, then so be it.
Stayers’ Hurdle: Klassical Dream of interest in an open race
This looks like a massively open race. You’ve got Flooring Porter who’s a winner of the race before and you’ve got Paisley Park, who’s apparently been working extremely well. And then there’s talk that last year’s Mares’ winner, Marie’s Rock, could be going there as well and she gets a seven-pound allowance.
The one I thought could be interesting is Klassical Dream. He’s a Cheltenham Festival winner and course form is massively important. Willie Mullins will have kept him fresh and he gets things right about 99 percent of the time. Marie’s Rock has improved and improved though, and she’ll certainly be snapping at his heels the whole time.
Cheltenham Gold Cup: Ignore A Plus Tard at your peril
Everyone has slightly forgotten A Plus Tard, who is the reigning champion. He was pretty impressive last year and why won’t he go well again this time?
Yes, he was disappointing at Haydock, and of course it’s notoriously difficult to go and win back-to-back Gold Cups, but there’s no reason why he couldn’t. Galopin Des Champs seems to have got the best form in the race, Bravemansgame has got the best English form – he was great in the King George, but he’s got a lot to prove, as he bombed out at Cheltenham last year. Galopin Des Champs is definitely beatable, but you ignore A Plus Tard at your peril.
Paul Nicholls has kept Bravemansgame fresh this year, but sadly I think those two Irish horses will beat him.