Racing Review and Cheltenham Festival 2014 Tips – This week’s racing review concentrates on the Saturday card at Ascot where the Long Walk Hurdle had a major impact on the World Hurdle markets!
We’ll start with the Silver Cup, and with Triolo D'Alene a late non-runner due to the ground, Houblon des Obeaux (25/1 bet365 – JLT Speciality Handicap) started as favourite and he duly obliged. Despite winning the race with a battling performance, his odds are unchanged for the JLT at Cheltenham. His odds did however shorter considerably for the Grand National, a race which he is unlikely to take his chance in. He’s a likeable horse who has plenty of determination, but failed to jump too well at Ascot. He stayed on gamely after the last, to beat the Paul Nicholls trained Cedre Bleu. That horse is a frustrating sort in his own right, who could well have won well on Saturday had he put everything into the race. Typical of his character in general, he doesn’t like to get his head in front at all and until that issue is remedied he will continue to struggle to pick up the victories his level of class deserves.
Reve de Sivola (14/1 Coral – World Hurdle) made all to win the Long Walk Hurdle, and is the dark horse for me when it comes to the World Hurdle in March. The ground was ideal for him and allowed him to gallop relentlessly at a pace that suited his. His attitude is just what I look for in a Cheltenham horse – an out and out stayer, and a brave gutsy type. Connections of Big Bucks (11/4 Ladbrokes – World Hurdle) were happy with his racecourse gallop at Exeter on Thursday, and he still has to be the one to beat. At Fishers Cross (14/1 Coral – World Hurdle) again disappointed, and his odds drifted considerably after he made an almost identical mistake at the last to the one he made at Newbury. He is a shadow of himself compared to last year, and is hard to fancy until we see him return to the form of old.
Dan Skelton had his biggest winner to date, in what has been a very successful couple of months since taking out his training licence. Ridden by his brother Harry, Willow’s Saviour (12/1 Stan James – County Hurdle) ran on well to finish a clear four lengths ahead the rest of the field in the Ladbroke. The young trainer has already shown that he knows what he needs to do to get some winners under his belt, and has seemed to do well when picking races for his horses. Wherever Williow’s Saviour goes next, you have to think that he’ll go well, as he hasn’t run a bad race for Dan and Harry Skelton yet. He beat some progressive young horses including Ptit Zig who trainer Paul Nicholls thinks a lot of (recently mentioning a campaign towards a possible tilt at the Champion Hurdle). Recession Proof is a horse I’ve always liked and was still travelling well when falling three out, so I look forward to seeing where he goes next. Flaxen Flare (20/1 bet365 – County Hurdle) has finished there or there abouts in some top class Grade 1 races over the last couple of seasons, and has proven to be a reliable each-way bet for his followers. Both Nicky Henderson’s horses have shown some good form, but neither Chatterbox nor Rolling Star were ideally suited by the ground so still have plenty of potential.
Current Ante-Post Prices –
Houblon des Obeaux (JLT Speciality Handicap) (25/1 bet365)
Reve de Sivola (World Hurdle) (14/1 Coral)
Willow’s Saviour (County Hurdle) (12/1 Stan James)
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