Thursday, 11 March 2021

Cheltenham Festival: 20 years of pleasure and pain

I am ridiculously excited for this year’s Cheltenham Festival. The lockdowns merely emphasise the absence of other distractions.

I’ve updated stats summarising my punting performance at every Festival since my debut in 2000. I’ve shared this with Bacchy, my original Festival partner in crime; and decided to stick it up on this blog as well. Warts and all.

Looking at the thing in its entirety, the cliché ‘roller-coaster’ springs to mind. There shouldn’t be this much red in the sheet. That said, across the decades (!) it seems I've contrived to scrape an average nestling in the black and an overall Return On Investment (ROI) of 14%.

The few sentences of narrative against each Festival are to provide a bit of context because as old age creeps in, I’m beginning to muddle up the various years. As I wrote them, some of the memories and moments made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, possibly more so with the passage of time.

I’m always surprised how little I end up staking. The amount of wedge I win or lose is of course important. I’m always desperate to at least break even. But not really motivated by escalating my stakes and potential profits. That comes second to the sheer thrill of beating the bookies, finding one at a big price, knowing I’m on the right one, working it out, admiring a class horse; and on the flip side the agony of near misses, bad staking, bad judgement, cluelessness… And people to share it all with. Yeah, it’s the passion, not the money.

2021 will be 21 years of pleasure and pain. And recurring blind optimism. 





Monday, 1 February 2021

Cheltenham ante-post dabbles: January 2021


I took a while to warm up to the Jumps season this Coronavirus-hit year. No crowds, few foreign raiders and poor prize money had combined to dull the enthusiasm. Small fields and uncompetitive races didn’t help. And the weather…

With six weeks to go, finally, the sap is rising. Look, even a blog post for the first time in months. I’ve made a start on the ante-post schedule too. Here’s the progress. This is everything, including the bets already binned. Not that much activity yet, but I’m starting to get busy. This weekend’s Dublin Racing festival will be the catalyst for more action, either before the tapes go up or just after.

The 2021 Festival will be a shadow of previous years. Without being there on the Tuesday; without the lads down the Barley Mow for Festival Friday, it’s gonna be a tough one. Bt when push comes to shove, what the Friar Tuck else is there to do? We’ve even got a Zoom Preview evening lined up. If you can’t beat ‘em…

RACE                                                 

SELECTION

ODDS

SUPREME NOV HDLE

Metier

25.0

I was really impressed with Metier’s run in November at Ascot, and so I backed him for the Supreme the day before his Tolworth win. I had a bit on the day too, and was surprised to get 2/1. In a way, hope he doesn’t turn up in the Betfair Hurdle next weekend. It can be a brutal race before Cheltenham. Over in Ireland, Appreciate It looks really good. Impressive engine. Though I want to see him jump a few more hurdles than in that low-sun farce ‘the last day’. This weekend’s Leopardstown fixture is looking really strong and he should be in action.  My punting pal Bacchy has also lined this one up with a pre-Tolworth bet. We’re both on the same Supreme horse. You don’t get many of those to the decade.

CHAMPION HURDLE

Aspire Tower

14.0

This is a recent bet. If you believe Epatante is not the same horse as last year then this race is wide open. I see Hendo says he’s sorted her bad back, but I remain to be convinced. The run in the Fighting Fifth was visually impressive, but she didn’t beat a lot once Silver Streak and Not So Sleepy had both crashed out. I wanted to get onside with something before this weekend’s action in Ireland. Love the way Aspire Tower battles. His jumping needs to be more consistent and will need to improve to compensate for the loss of the age-for-weight allowance. But there’s every reason to suggest that’s what he’s doing. 14/1’s good enough for me at this stage. Will look again after the weekend.

BALLYMORE HDLE

Bravemansgame

6.0

I backed him immediately after that Chepstow win, despite a rubbish price. His run had me as excited as any race I’ve seen this season. Visually he looked stunning and yes, I’ve lapped up all those Denman comparisons like a junkie high on nostalgia. This is one for some dirty combis too. There’s loads of confidence behind Bob Olinger and he’s another who will be good to see this weekend.

RSA NOV CHASE

Shan Blue

28.0

Dead. Got carried away after the Feltham, and too late saw that the 3m race was not on the agenda. The Skelton’s have probably made the right decision. Unlike me.

CORAL CUP

Kateson ??

33.0 ??

No bet yet. This one has caught my eye a couple of times this season and I will back him for this if he’s entered. Not sure when the entries are out.

RYANAIR CHASE

Itchy Feet

44.0

 

Mister Fisher

16.00

Backed Itchy feet on a whim right at the start of the season, but this is now a poor bet. He’s more likely to end up in the Coral Cup! His jumping has just not come together at all, even out of his seemingly preferred soft ground. I hoped he would progress, but there’s no sign yet.

The Mister Fisher punt was a reaction to the Peterborough Chase win. He’s a lively outsider in a ace where both Min and Imperial Aura catch the eye.

STAYERS HURDLE

Thyme Hill

12.5

This was an early bet once Hobbsy confirmed Thyme Hill would stay over hurdles. Wish I’d put more on. Don’t know why I was so feeble. I haven’t seen much that’s come out to challenge this one or Paisley Park, so this one could be another for spawny combis. I’m worried about Paisley’s return to form and can see him doing TH in the last knockings again.

MARES NOV HDLE

The Glancing Queen

13.0

I like this one of Alan King’s. She’s probably just short of the top novices, so I’m hoping she turns up here, though she could go down the handicap route. This is NRNB, so it’s a bet to nothing.

TRIUMPH HURDLE

Fiveandtwenty

56.5

Dead. Another wide-eyed punt. McCain loves one for the Triumph (Navajo Pass) and I thought they’d go with this one, but he hasn’t been entered. Bollocks. Incidentally, I do like Navajo Pass. That beating of Buveur D’Air the other day wasn’t the fluke some think it appeared to be. I may line him up for the Aintree Hurdle at a nice price.

4 x acca

Shishkin,Monkfish, Chacun Pour Soi, Envoi Allen

19.77

Just a bit of fun, this one. And there will be plenty more where this one came from as we inch closer.  

I haven’t had a Gold Cup bet yet. Al Boum Photo was less convincing at Gowran Park than his reappearance last year and I do fancy something to run him closer this year. Maybe Minella Indo. Hard to know what to make of Venetia’s Ricci horse, Royal Pagaille. Who runs in the Peter Marsh as Festival Grade 1 prep these days? At 11/1 for the Gold Cup, I’d be more interested at 11/2 in the far easier old 4-miler!

And I wish they’d stop faffing around with Waiting Patiently. Surely he’s a 3-miler these days. Gets outpaced over anything shorter. Give him a go over the Gold Cup trip and watch him stay on, slowly, up the hill. Maybe.

On to Leopardstown then, with carefully stoked eagerness.