I’ve been trying to write this for weeks, and work has simply taken over. I’ve been swamped with requests for Cheltenham work over the past few days, working for many bookmakers, newspapers etc as the build up to Cheltenham continues.
I’ve finally found time to get this finished, just in time too, and we’ve also changed the name as festival confidence has grown. This was going to be ‘Three Horses to Give The North Hope at Cheltenham’ but the fact is, we are far better placed than that. I may be over confident here, and extremely biased, but I think us northerners are going to have a great Cheltenham Festival, and here is why….
There are two things that everyone is looking for now when it comes to Cheltenham, horses that will love the ground and those who are guaranteed to stay. Vintage Clouds ticks both boxes, something which will make him a popular choice tomorrow I am sure.
A fourth in the Welsh National on heavy ground over a distance further than this one gives him a great chance of winning tomorrow, and that race was sandwiched in between two equally good efforts on heavy ground. The first was in a graduation chase at Haydock, while his most recent run was behind Ballyoptic at Wetherby, a horse who is fancied to run well in the RSA Chase on Wednesday.
I probably wouldn’t have mentioned Vintage Clouds two weeks ago, but the conditions have given him a live chance on the opening day for Sue Smith and Danny Cook.
I’m sure there isn’t just me that is fascinated by Mount Mews in the Coral Cup on Wednesday. He was a lovely hurdler last season, winning a Grade Two at Kelso on heavy ground, and finishing second in a Grade One at Aintree to end his season. He has been novice chasing this year, but never really looked comfortable and the return to hurdling could bring about some improvement.
He is rated a couple of pounds higher over hurdles but could still prove to be a well handicapped horse off 142. He is clearly a talented individual, and if you go back through his form there are pieces that give him a great shout, including a four length victory over Sam Spinner back in December 2016. He needs to improve on what we have seen this season, but a return to hurdling could be what brings about that improvement, and that gives him the potential to be a lively outsider in what looks to be a wide open Coral Cup.
The King Of May
I’m a little disappointed with my own lack of ability to get this piece out on here, and one thing that has really frustrated me is that many people have now jumped on The King Of May’s bandwagon. I’m still going to mention him though, because I feel he has a great chance, and if he was trained by Paul Nicholls for example, he would be half the price he is right now.
We’ve only seen The King Of May once, and that was up at Musselburgh where he finished third behind We Have A Dream and Act Of Valour. The former was strong in the betting for the Triumph, but may not now run, while Act Of Valour is currently joint favourite for this race. The King Of May needs to make up just over two lengths on Act Of Valour, but has a 5lb pull at the weights to allow him to do so. There is no reason to think he can’t do that based on what we saw last time out, but I am sure he is going to improve a ton for what he did at Musselburgh. He looks the type to relish the Cheltenham hill, and there is no way Brian Ellison will have had him at 100% for his British debut, he will have left something to work on.
This looks to be ultra-competitive, but he appears to have a great chance. I think the only thing stopping me saying he is our best chance at the festival is my love for Definitly Red, but I am convinced that The King Of May is a seriously well handicapped horse in the Fred Winter.
Before I talk about Cloudy Dream in the Ryanair, let me say that this is one race I wouldn’t mind us not winning. I’d love nothing more than to see Cue Card win this race and bow out after a great racing career, that would surely take the roof off the Cheltenham grandstand if the old boy could get his head in front.
Onto Cloudy Dream, I’m convinced this horse is a two and a half mile horse, a trip we have only seen him at once this year. He has been called a few names in the past, and needs to be delivered on the line, but has a solid each way chance in the Ryanair for me. His only run over this distance saw him finish second behind Smad Place, probably his most convincing run of the season behind a good one. Since then he has finished behind Fox Norton over two miles and Definitly Red and Native River over three miles, all good runs behind solid yardsticks, but over trips that are no perfect.
The return to two and a half miles will suit, he has form on heavy ground and looks to have a solid each way chance in the Ryanair on Thursday.
The staying hurdle division is looking for a new horse to dominate, after having the likes of Big Bucks and Inglis Drever in the past. If there is one horse in the field this year that could do the same as those two did for many years then the horse is Sam Spinner. He has improved at a rapid rate this season, and there could still be more to come from him, something we will find out on Thursday.
The one negative for me with him is that he will aim to do this from the front, something that is very difficult to do over this kind of distance at the Cheltenham Festival. You can picture the queue of horses in behind coming to the second last, and it is going to take a monumental effort to fend them all off.
At just six year old, we may not have seen the best from Sam Spinner just yet, which is a scary thought after seeing what he did at Ascot last time. He has to do things the hard way, but he could just be the next star staying hurdler.
I’m a massive, massive fan of this horse and have been for a long time now, and its a little surreal to think he has a great chance of winning the Gold Cup. I’m probably more biased when talking about this horse than any other, but I think he is our best chance of a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
He will relish the test of stamina that this race brings, and while he may not quite have the class of a Might Bite, he will certainly have the guts and bottle to stand up to anyone in the field. I make no secret of my love for this horse, so I won’t say too much more, but suffice to say I think he has a cracking chance, and if he manages to do it on Friday, it’ll be my voice you hear echoing round the four corners of Yorkshire.
Enjoy the festival, first and foremost lets hope all horses come home safe and sound, while secondly let’s hope we get a winner or two from the North.