Tuesday, 14th March 2017
There is no way on this planet that TAQUIN DU SEUIL was ever going to be competitive in a handicap chase this week off a chase mark of 160.
But off a hurdle mark some 12lb lower he could get very competitive in tomorrow’s Coral Cup (2.50).
A mark of 148 hasn’t been a great mark for handicap hurdlers at the Festival over the years. You generally need 10lbs to 12lbs in hand of your mark to win one of these highly-competitive events. And most hurdlers on 148 don’t have the necessary scope.
But O’Neill’s horse is one that might well have the margin necessary to do the business tomorrow….
We know he’s a genuine high 150s horse over fences. And we’re not talking ancient history either. He won a big chase handicap at Cheltenham as recently as November.
If he fires over the smaller obstacles tomorrow he could well be 10lb better than 148 at a track where’s he’s won plenty of good races and most of his career-earnings.
He certainly gave the impression that hurdles are not an issue for him when running a decent enough race at Chepstow behind Ballyoptic on his seasonal reappearance in October.
And he’s certainly a classy-enough operator to have big claims of out-running a price tag of 20s – which makes plenty of each-way appeal in a race where multiple firms will be paying out on 5 places….
I also want to be with Gordon Elliott’s CARRIG CATHAL. He only ran on Sunday in Ireland and yet he shows up tomorrow having snuck in right at the very bottom of the weights.
He’s up at 40s this afternoon and I think that’s a massive price about a horse that has been progressing all winter long on ground he hates and who has every prospect of progressing in leaps and bounds tomorrow on the best ground he’s encountered since running up a couple of wins last summer.
Tomorrow’s assignment might come a bit too soon. But that’s factored into the price and if nothing else we know the 6yo is fit and firing. And he might well be bouncing.
There’s no jockey booked right now. I’d like to see Davy Russell given the job….
If that happens, it would be a significant development. Russell won the Coral Cup on Elliott-trained horses in 2011 and 2016. It’s a combination with the knack in this specific event and that’s always a useful bonus to have on-side.
Nobody has a better record with 4yos at the Festival than Paul Nicholls and I’m taking him to continue in the same vein in this season’s renewal of the Fred Winter….
Both Nicholls and his assistant Clifford Baker have been bullish about DREAMCATCHING and his prospects at the meeting. Last month they both nominated him as the yard’s best chance this week and the general 12s is no bad price.
Running off a mark of 131 he’s certainly in the right kind of place in the handicap. Nicholls has won this race for the last two years with horses rated 131 and 133. Stan Sheppard takes off a useful 5lb with his claim.
The apprentice was on the horse for its second appearance in Britain at Wincanton last month. The horse produced an eye-catching performance there in a big-field event – finishing strongly and suggesting there is plenty more to come.
The Nicholls yard saddled the 1-2 in each of the last two editions of the Fred Winter. The year before that they had the 2nd and the 4th horse home. What that tells you is that the yard’s second-string shouldn’t be underestimated.
I could take the 12s each-way about Dreamcatching. But I’m minded instead to forego the place part of the bet and go two-against-the-field with the other Nicholls horse, DOLOS, my second selection also at 12s.
I don’t think he’s here simply to make up the numbers. Ahead of the Festival Nicholls was at pains to emphasise that he wasn’t going to waste shots this week with Aintree just around the corner.
The fact that Dolos takes part at all, with the yard so bullish about Dreamcatching, is a clue in and of itself. Sam Twiston-Davies is a fine rider of the Old course and he’s in the plate.
I’ll be backing both horses to win and hoping one of them can land a profit by maintaining Paul Nicholls’s great recent record in this event.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going on Day 2 of the Festival….
In the Coral Cup (2.50 @ Cheltenham)....
In the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50 @ Cheltenham)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
That’s all from me for today.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my take on the action on Day 3.
Until then. Stay tuned. And be sure to enjoy the racing. It doesn’t get any better.
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