HORSE RACING: Top Pundit Paul Ferguson, author of “Jumpers To Follow” previews all the top racing ahead of day four at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday 19 March 2010 at Prestbury Park
At this stage, the final day of the meeting is the lease attractive to me from a punting point of view, though things can obviously change during the course of the week.
At first glance the couple of handicappers I liked on the day were Ranjobaie and Qaspal who both hold an entry in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, but neither would look like making the cut.
In any case, it could be that the pair could be off to Sandown on Saturday to contest the valuable EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final. Nicky Henderson’s Ranjobaie was mentioned for that contest after beating the smart Bygones Of Brid at Market Rasen last month. His form is now stacking up, with that rival winning Kelso’s Grade 2 Premier Hurdle on Saturday and he had earlier chased home a couple of classy sorts in Menorah and Notus De La Tour (fell with a race at his mercy in between).
Philip Hobbs’ Qaspal also looks a likely type for the contest, after winning over course-and-distance last time. That victory came just a week after he shed his maiden tag at Kempton and he looks on a sharp upward curve.
Keep this pair and Notus De La Tour (Imperial Cup) in mind, when trying to boost the Cheltenham funds at Sandown on Saturday.
Back to Gold Cup day and the best bet on the card looks to be Willie Mullins’ Enterprise Park in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. This year’s renewal looks, arguably, like being the strongest running of the race with Tell Massini and Restless Harry having shown smart course form already and The Betchworth Kid threatening to improve for the step up in trip.
But, Enterprise Park is an unexposed improver, who has yet to taste defeat in three career starts. After easily making a winning hurdles debut in November, he followed up in eye-catching fashion at Limerick over Christmas where he took the Grade 3 Doran’s Pride Novice Hurdle impressively.
The form of that race is really working out with the runner-up landing a Listed event next time and the third home, Hugo De Vindecy, also came out and won his next start.
Incidentally, last year’s Albert Bartlett winner, Weapon’s Amnesty, landed the Doran’s Pride en route to Cheltenham glory and lightning looks like striking twice.
Ruby Walsh should be aboard Enterprise Park and it will be interesting to see if he opts to ride for Mullins in the opening Triumph Hurdle. Mullins is set to saddle Secant Star, very much another unexposed young hurdler, while he will also have the option of riding Advisor for Paul Nicholls.
The juvenile division doesn’t look great this year (in fact Notus De La Tour would warrant consideration if switched to this race – currently 20/1) but Secant Star is one that has caught my eye the twice he has run in Ireland.
His form, however, doesn’t amount to much at present so he can’t be selected with any confidence at this stage. But, pay close attention to how Capellanus fairs in Wednesday’s Fred Winter, as he chased home Secant Star at Gowran Park in January before winning there last month. It would be nice to see him go close off 124.
Walsh will certainly be riding for Paul Nicholls in the feature race, where he will partner Kauto Star. There is not much I can tell you about this incredible chaser that you don’t already know, but he was very impressive in retaining his Gold Cup crown last year and he was imperious in winning his fourth King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
With Denman fluffing his lines at Newbury last month, it is hard to look past the market leader, who will be very hard to beat with a clear round, especially as the ground should be no worse than good-to-soft.
| “Jumpers To Follow – £9.95|
Paul Ferguson’s “Jumpers To Follow” 2009-2010 can be bought from “High Stakes Books“.
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This year’s Foreword is written by Charlie McCann, head of PR at Stan James, who describes the author as a “most articulate, informative and knowledgeable racing professional.”
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