It’s under five weeks until this year’s Cheltenham Festival (how time flies!) and as we get nearer the time, we are seeing more and more of the hopefuls having their final warm-up before their chosen targets. Plenty of them are on show at both Warwick and Newbury today, and although some are obvious, there are a couple that are lurking under the radar at present. Will they still be lurking after today? Only time will tell…
Two of the big guns showing their hands at Newbury are Altior and Native River, who take part in the Game Spirit and Denman Chase respectively.
Altior has only been seen out the once this season, that when suffering his first chase defeat at the hands of Cyrname in the 1965 Chase at Ascot back in November. Since then he’s been the subject of so much chat you’d think he’d raced every other week – what is his best trip, has his jumping become ragged, does he “look right” this week, where on earth is he? It appears his trainer has finally thrown all his eggs into the Champion Chase basket once more, which to my way of thinking is probably the right basket. Yes, he was beaten at Ascot but he ran right to some of his best form, and using that formline to knock him seems a bit pointless at present. His jumping may not quite be as razor-sharp as it once was but as far as today goes, he should be winning this with plenty in hand. Only once he tackles Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Du Soi in March will we really see if it can hold up under maximum pressure these days.
Those of you that follow my writings elsewhere – firstly thanks, and secondly, you’ll know I’ve backed Native River ante-post for the Gold Cup. Basically it’s a ground gamble. I think I might have been looking out of the window at the twelfth consecutive day of rain sometime in January and thought that if we are to continue getting a wet late winter/early spring then he’s probably a player. His record in the big one can’t be knocked, and although he does act on better ground, soft simply slows the rest down to his level, and we know he can grid it out with the best of them. Just ask Might Bite. Actually you can, because he takes his on old adversary here, and whilst Native River continues to roll back the years, Might Bite looks a shadow of himself at present. In fact, there could be some value with The Two Amigos in the “without the favourite” markets here, as he’s the other that will probably enjoy this test. Anyway, I expect Native River to take care of these with the minimum of fuss.
Elsewhere, Nube Negra’s on-point jumping is going to stand him in good stead in Warwick’s Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices Chase. He was impressive on his chase debut here at Warwick back in October and then even more so when sailing over Fakenham’s stiff fences on his next start. He lost nothing in defeat when runner-up to Esprit du Large in the Henry VIII and with conditions ideal here, he can put his rivals to the sword.
For the more adventurous among you, take a look at Alan King’s Tremwedge in the first at Newbury, a novice hurdle. I’ve been waiting for Tremwedge to reappear after his eyecatching third at Fairyhouse back in December, when he was close up behind Cerberus and A Wave Of The Sea. Well, that form line doesn’t look so shabby after their 1-3 at Leopardstown last week and since then Tremwedge has moved from Ellemarie Holden to his new yard, making him even more interesting. There are some fancy prices flying around for the Triumph for him at the moment – I would suggest if he can get anywhere near Chantry House here, those prices may well get chopped a fair bit…
Have a good punting weekend, whatever you’re backing!
My 50th birthday bash at Southwell last year – can you spot the odd racing celeb lurking…?