Cheltenham Festival 14 - Day 4

Big Buck's has been a colossus amongst the staying hurdle division for almost half a decade. How sensible to retire him at the scene of his greatest triumphs and afford him the luxury of one last circuit around the parade ring in front of deeply appreciative banks of race-goers. With impeccable timing, the PA announced his retirement at the very moment that Jonjo was handed a big glass edifice signifying his achievement in training the new staying King: More Of That.

Geraghty has been in superb form this week and gave More Of That a sublime ride. Not so Ruby Walsh who was reproachful and crest-fallen after his ride on Annie Power. In a weighing room interview with Mick Fitz, his quiet comment that he thought he was to blame for the mare's defeat had a confessional quality. Surely an inaccurate comments though. It will not go down as a peach of a ride, but More Of That had more to give and won on merit.

We've seen different sides of Walsh this Festival. His subdued demeanour today contrasts with the measured and careful set-piece interviews that C4 have been broadcasting each day. Ruby, sat in the strangest tartan lazy boy recliner, has been patting back a few considered half volleys from Mick Fitz. I like to believe the real Ruby Walsh has more of the witty, wry, almost acerbic characteristics to the fore, as captured in various preview panels and informal gatherings before the Festival.

I'm not so sold on Tom Scudamore though. As a jockey he's starting to get it right more than he gets it wrong. About time. Great ride on Dynaste today. For a brief moment I thought my fancy, Hidden Cyclone had given he field the slip. Dynaste put in a great jump at the last and Scudamore got the grey home comfortably enough. Then he' does that irritating pointing at the stands as if everyone's had it in for him and the horse. He did the same an hour later when Ballynagour bolted home in the Byrne Plate. Deal with it, Tom.

So a place-collect for me in the Ryanair and another on Trustan Times - typically, my least fancied bet of the day - in the Pertemps keeps me ahead of the game.

Into the final day and a session at the Barley Mow beckons. We've disrespectfully frittered away a lot of the Butts Mott wedge during the week. Hurricane Fly let us down in the first leg of the Champion Hurdle/Mares Hurdle double. Foxrock jumped poorly in the four-miler, Red Sherlock didn't get home in the Neptune and Morning Assembly ran with credit but no return for us in the RSA Chase. We are down to beer money and an interest bet in the Gold Cup. £116.10.

There's the Fantasy Festival to play for as well. £150 up for grabs this year and there are still about five or six of us with live chances. It will get messy. In many, many ways.

So I'm getting these bets down before the day disappears in a whirlwind of beer, betting slips and bullshit.

I had backed Activial at 12-1 after an impressive win in the Adonis. Withdrawn last week in favour of Aintree, the race lost more of its lustre on Tuesday when Le Rocher picked up some heat in a fore-thingy.  This leaves the race looking very open. Guitar Pete (8-1) has improved a mile since beaten here by Royal Irish Hussar in November. And I like his battle-hardened style. Would be a memorable win for the yard after the devastating loss of Our Conor on Tuesday.

County Hurdle 
Just the 28 runners then. Nightmare. I really haven't put the necessary hours in to pick over this form and am cluless, to be honest. Many live chances. Small bet on Montbazon at 25-1 e-w who would have hated the ground in the Betfair Hurdle on his comeback after a long injury in February. If he's able to recapture any of the form of his novice year, he'd have a shout here.

Albert Bartlett
Two ante-posts in this, both from the Hobbs yard. Champagne Fever (25-1 e-w) is a decent horse, improving all season. Doesn't have the eye-catching profile of the market leaders, but should do well if he goes on the ground. Sausalito Sunrise (50-1) looked impressive in his first three runs before bombing out at Doncaster last time. Let's hope that was a blip and he outruns these massive odds.

Gold Cup
Old glass legs, Last Instalment has overcome two smashed tendons, doubts about the ground and a steroid infested yard (allegedly) to get here. He was very impressive at Leopardstown in the Hennessy and I was congratulating myself on bagging some of the 8-1 available. Until Bacchy - a long time admirer of this beast - told me he snaffled 50-1 before the gelding's seasonal debut in January. Stunning bet. The ground may have gone against him, but we should be treated some wonderful jumping and who knows... I've also got minimum stakes on Katenko, a 40 to follow horse of mine with no chance here.

Pearlysteps (7-1) because I've heard of him. I may have even backed him once.

Conditional Handicap Hurdle
The third of my Hobbs novice hurdlers lines up here: The Skyfarmer, 25-1 ante-post. Great attitude and would have struggled on heavy ground last time. Decent shout.

Grand Annual
Impossible. Raya Star, 10-1, for old time's sake.


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