It is rarely good when you are showing a loss on a race before that race starts. At least with Golan Way last Saturday in the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton, the loss was incurred after the start. Okay, so it wasn’t long after the start. In fact, you had a fair idea that your dough was done before most of the horses had crossed the start line.

Golan Way didn’t. (Cross the start line.) That wasn’t good. Things looked ominous when he was the cause of the starter saying, not yet boys, or something like that, we have one at the back who isn’t ready yet. At that point, I was hoping that Paul Moloney would dismount, say not today lads, and declare him a non-runner so that at least we would get our money back. Of course, he didn’t, which was understandable, the rider wanted to race. The problem was that the horse didn’t.

The money was lost, but I don’t agree with those who advocate the return of stakes on horses who refuse to race. If you did that, you would have to invoke a Rule 4 deduction on winning bets. People who thought they had backed a 6/1 winner would have backed a slightly-less-than-6/1 winner, depending on the SP that the refuser, and that wouldn’t go down well.

Also, where would you draw the line, literally? What if a horse refused at the first, or fell at the first, or walked across the start line 30 lengths behind the second last horse? Nope, it wouldn’t work. All in, run or not, as the case may or may not be. Usually you know who the dodgy starters are, and you factor that in to your betting strategy. Unfortunately, Golan Way was not a dodgy starter, not before last Saturday anyway. Guess what – he is now. Lesson learned. Expensive one, but there’s no point in getting older and poorer if you’re not going to get wiser.

So is it worse to back a non-runner ante post, or a horse who refuses to race? Difficult to know. It’s frustrating when a horse that you have backed ante post is taken out of the race, when you genuinely think that he would have had a big chance of winning it, that’s for sure.

Take Noble Prince in Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup. Or not in Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup. I hmmed about him (hm) all week. At the start of the week, he was a possible runner, around 50-50 you sensed, with trainer Paul Nolan saying that he might not take his chance. Then he looked more likely to run than not to run, he was left in at the five-day stage. Then his trainer said that if top weight Poquelin ran, and kept the weights as they were, he would probably run. Then Paul Nicholls said that Poquelin was an intended runner. Then I backed Noble Prince. Then Paul Nolan said that they would keep him at home and take Big Zeb on in the Fortria Chase at Navan on Sunday instead. Carnage.

It is frustrating, because he had to have had a massive chance in the Paddy Power. The race is run over the same course and distance as the Jewson Chase, the race that Noble Prince won last March, when he finally came of age, delivered on his potential, put up the best performance of his career. He looked good in winning at Naas two weeks ago on his debut over fences this term as well. Okay, it was only a three-horse race, but he jumped and travelled superbly, and he showed his impressive turn of foot from the last off what was an unsuitably slow pace over an inadequate distance on ground that was almost certainly too soft for him.

Still, you have to think that the trainer knows more about his horse than you do, and if Paul Nolan says that he is better kept at home, that the travelling to Cheltenham for a tough tough race just two weeks after his seasonal chasing debut might not be the best thing for the horse, then you have to think that he is better kept at home. I hope you didn’t go taking him out of too many of your Ten To Follow lists, mind you, because he could accumulate plenty of points in the Grade 1 and Grade 2 chases in Ireland and, more importantly, he is a huge player at this point in the Ryanair Chase.

So where does that leave Saturday’s race? Still with an opposable favourite in my book. Mon Parrain could be top class, he could be anything, as they say (and they are). He is a super jumper, he could be exceptionally well handicapped, he could win a King George or a Gold Cup, or he could win a King George and a Gold Cup, and wouldn’t you look clever then if he did for opposing him in a handicap off a mark of 152. He could win out of the park on Saturday, but you don’t get paid more if he does win out of the park than if he wins by a neck, and there is also a chance that it will all be a bit much for him. Cyfor Malta is the only five-year-old who has ever won this race. Despite the realisation that there is a small chance that he will turn the race into a procession, I am happy to be against him at the price.

The key could lie in last year’s novices. Last season’s Jewson Chase was probably a very good race, and the first three home, Noble Prince, Wishfull Thinking and Loosen My Load, could make a big mark this season. Wishfull Thinking looked good in winning at Aintree and again at Punchestown, beating Blazing Tempo, who won the Galway Plate on her next run, but Loosen My Load has an 11lb pull on him for a five-length beating in the Jewson, and he is more than twice his price. Loosen My Load was beaten last time at Limerick, but the ground was too soft for him, and the distance was probably too short. Wishfull Thinking is a player, but there is probably no value in him at his price, whereas there is still a little bit of fat in Loosen My Load’s odds for me.

Dave’s Dream has been well backed recently, and this is the time to get him, he is at his very best when he is fresh. But the distance is an unknown, and he has to step up a lot on what he has done if he is to be involved. He is interesting, but I’m not sure that he should be third favourite.

I thought that Great Endeavour was interesting, then I was against him because the David Pipe horses had gone a little quiet, but then he had three winners on Friday and could have had four. Then you remember that this is the Cheltenham November meeting and his name is Pipe. Then you probably want to have Great Endeavour on your side a little.

Divers has a chance, but you really would have liked to have seen a little more from him at Carlisle. I know Carlisle was not the day, and tomorrow probably is, but still, you had to have been at least a little disappointed with that run.

Calgary Bay remains interesting, good ground, Cheltenham, two and a half miles, although I think if Calgary Bay was running in the Derby I’d be interested in him. Araldur ran an encouraging race at Wetherby last time when he was weak in the market, but this is a huge step up. You would be keeping The Giant Bolster on side if you knew that his work with jumping guru Yogi Breisner would work the oracle and that he wouldn’t try to take the second last ditch home with him. This is not a race for dodgy jumpers. Tullamore Dew and Billy Magern and Quantitativeeasing (that’s easy for you to say) all also interesting.

(How many can you back?)

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