Thursday, 16th March 2017
This column was on MORE OF THAT when he won what was then the World Hurdle back in 2014.
Things haven’t really gone to plan for him since then. He’s had problems – well-documented problems – and his chasing career has never really got started. It certainly hasn’t hit the heights that that were expected when he was switched to fences.
He’s had two wind operations. The first didn’t work, the horse bled and after the second it took him a while to regain his confidence.
The issues were compounded by the fact that this is a horse that doesn’t show much at home. It is on the track where the horse produces. And he wasn’t doing it.
Plenty of people had given up on the horse. But not Jonjo O’Neill who retained the faith and consistently referred to his 9yo as ‘great’.
More Of That’s first three efforts this term seemed contrived to make O’Neill eat his words. He was pulled-up at Cheltenham on his seasonal debut. He was put in his place at Huntingdon and again at Leopardstown over Christmas.
But when he showed up at that last track once again for the Irish Gold Cup last month, something clicked. Something that hadn’t clicked for a while.
He ran a big race. He travelled sweetly – much like his old self – and came with every chance before making his one mistake of the race and unseating Mark Walsh at the last. He might well have been the winner that afternoon.
It was an eye-catching display. One that suggested O’Neill has got the horse back at just the right time. One that suggests More Of That has a bigger chance in Friday’s Gold Cup (3.30) than his odds of 14s suggest.
Walsh has been stood down for the rest of this week’s meeting after coming a cropper yesterday. Maybe Noel Fehily – who has already won a Champion Hurdle and a Champion Chase this week – will get the leg-up.
Whoever gets the ride could be on an under-estimated horse in an open renewal shorn of the major players. More Of That loves the track and it is his time of the year. If back to his best, his price underplays his hand.
Earlier on the card I fancy Noel Meade’s JOEY SASA to outrun general quotes of 25s in the County Hurdle (2.10) – and he’s well worth backing each-way.
He might be an 8-year-old but he’s a very lightly-raced one – and not because of injury or problems. Whatever his years, Noel Meade has always rated the horse as smart and one of his best. The fact he’s tried this horse in Graded novice events tends to frank that view.
This is a first-time crack at handicap level and I’m hopeful this horse can prove his opening mark of 140 as generous.
He’s twice-shown he can handle the hustle and bustle of a big-field, he really likes good ground and he’s got some decent form with some smart novices who ran decent races in big G1 novice hurdle events at the meeting earlier in the week. He can run a big race tomorrow.
The other one I like at the prices is Dr Richard Newland’s VOSNE ROMANEE at a big 33s – another nice each-way quote.
This one hasn’t been seen over hurdles since winning at Perth in May last year – going up almost a stone in the weights for an easy victory. But the 6yo demonstrated he’s in good heart on the all-weather at Wolverhampton last month – defying a 281 day lay-off to score over 1 mile and 6 furlongs….
He stayed on strong at the end and that blow-out will have brought him on bundles. And, not having run for a year over flights, he could be heading into tomorrow’s race on a protected mark.
I’d say that’s been the plan rather than circumstance. A mark of 139 has been high enough to get in the County in recent years. Having got the horse to that point, connections have kept him there.
He’ll appreciate the decent ground and I think he’s a real live-wire horse for tomorrow. Aidan Coleman is an eye-catching booking – a rider whose gone close a few times this week.
THEINVAL is an interesting runner on just his second handicap appearance at 12s for Nicky Henderson – who likes to go well in the race named after his father.
This horse has been running at trips around 20-furlongs but last time they tried him over 2 miles and he won a 3-horse race in good enough style at Plumpton. His ability to stay further will be of assistance up the hill tomorrow. It’s no ordinary 2-mile races. They always go fast and having a little more in the tank at the end is a good thing.
Henderson reaches for the cheek-pieces for the first time too tomorrow. That’s another sign he’s hoping to squeeze a little more out of his horse.
The other one I like is Gordon Elliott’s THE GAME CHANGER at 16s. The yard has had a cracking week and they’ll be looking to finish proceedings off in style – and on handicap debut this could be the horse to get that job done.
A mark of 150 is traditionally a bit high. But the festival handicaps are changing year on year. More and more good horse being entered mean that 150 is not always the same bar it has been previously.
The intention had been to run this horse in the Champion Chase – a race he finished a creditable 4th in last season – in search of prize-money. But they’ve come here instead.
If he’d finished 4th yesterday – as he did last year – he’d have won £19k. If he’d hit 3rd that would have been £40k. They must feel he can go well enough here off 150 to stand a chance of winning the £54k for winning or the £20k for finishing 2nd.
This horse coped well in big handicap hurdle fields, he likes the spring and good ground. Bryan Cooper is back on-board the horse for the first time since September. I like the 16s.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going on the last day of Cheltenham 2017….
In the Gold Cup (3.30 @ Cheltenham)....
In the County Hurdle (2.10 @ Cheltenham)....
In the Grand Annual (5.30 @ 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 next week with all the fall-out, the raptures, the recriminations and the useful stuff we can take forward – there’s been plenty of that this week at Cheltenham.
Until then. Stay tuned. And be sure to enjoy final day. It doesn’t get any better.
P.S. Whatever you plan to back today, make sure you get the best of the bookmaker deals and concessions on offer. Check out the best of what’s available here….