Cheltenham Festival 2020

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Entries & Recent Form

 I did say in my latest column that last week would probably be a quiet one and so it proved.  Indeed, we didn’t have any runners over the last seven days, partly to give the horses some additional time to recover from their flu jabs and partly due to some desperately soft ground owing to further heavy downpours.  Not even ‘Lucky Gem’ can help us if we don’t have any runners!

Things should start to return to normal next week with a few runners here and there with the David Pipe Racing Club very well represented.  Their Little Red Lion runs this afternoon (Monday) at Lingfield, whilst Dusky Hercules is entered at Plumpton on Wednesday, Airton at Market Rasen on Thursday and Jacbequick at Taunton on Saturday.

There is a local fixture at Wincanton on Thursday and we have a few entries there, including Rathlin Rose who is entered in the feature Somerset National.  He ran a good third in the Sussex National last time out.  Eur Gone West and Flou Artsistique are also engaged there.

Promising bumper/hurdle winner Kepagge is entered at Chepstow on Friday.   We have made an entry for Daklondike and Champers On Ice in Haydock’s Grade 2 Peter Marsh Chase on Saturday, whilst the former is also entered in the Portman Cup at Taunton on the same afternoon.  It is Taunton’s most valuable race on the calendar and has unsurprisingly drawn some quality entries.

Horses To Follow

You may recall that back in October I gave readers six horses to follow and now seems to be a good time to reflect on how they have performed with a ‘half-term report’.  Of the six horses I mentioned, four have won so I am happy with a 67% strike rate…that is not to say that I won’t be trying to win races with the remaining two! 

Remastered hasn’t won this season but put up an extremely good effort last time when just touched off at Chepstow on his first try at 3 miles.  He was only beaten a neck, trying to concede 9lbs to the winner, Potters Cross.  That form is looking even better now that the winner has subsequently won the Welsh Grand National!  There are certainly races to be won with Remastered over timber, although he is very much a chaser in the making.  He has had a wind operation and there is more to come from him.

Eden du Houx has finished second and fourth in two starts since switching to hurdles.  He bumped into a very useful rival at Fontwell on his hurdling debut, the pair of them coming miles clear of the remainder before proving a little disappointing in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham in November.  He has had a wind operation and a little break since then and is certainly better than he has been able to show so far.

Israel Champ (pictured above) has looked very good in winning his last two starts in bumpers at Cheltenham and Ascot.  Those were Listed contests and the second of those efforts where he was conceding weight to some very talented rivals is as good as any piece of bumper form on offer on this side of the Irish Sea.  As such he is favourite with some bookmakers for the Festival Bumper in March and that is his next intended target.  He is a strapping, big horse who will hopefully prove even better once he goes over hurdles and eventually fences.

Queens Cave put up a good first effort when runner-up to a useful mare at Chepstow and followed that with a deserved success in testing conditions at Exeter.  She has run creditably since in stronger company and will be winning more races.

First Lord de Cuet was a brave winner at Southwell last month and performed at least as well when a close second at Haydock last time, trying to concede 6lbs to the winner.  A point-to-point winner in Ireland, he should be well suited by a step-up in trip in time.

Know The Score showed good battling qualities to win at Worcester on his seasonal reappearance but has been disappointing the last twice so we are now freshening him up.

Four More…

Most racing fans love nothing more than a horse to follow, so with that in mind here are another four new recruits that should pay to keep an eye on for 2020.

Elan de Balme recently joined us from France where he had some good form in middle distance chases.  He will be a nice one for handicaps over here and could revert to novices’ hurdles at some point.

Martinhal joins us from the Irish point-to-point ranks.  He was still bang in contention when parting company with his jockey on his only start in November, showing plenty of ability until that point.  He is a fine looking son of Westerner and the first horse I have had for Mrs Lynne Maclennan and I am hopeful this gelding can do well for us.

Brinkley has had just one run over hurdles in Ireland, shaping with enormous promise behind Blue Sari (runner-up in the Cheltenham Festival bumper last season).  The second has already franked the form by winning easily since and on that evidence Brinkley should have no trouble breaking his maiden tag before long.

Finally, I have to mention Crossing Lines.  He looked like a seriously good horse in winning two Irish point-to-points decisively within the space of a month in November/December and will start out in bumpers shortly.  Furthermore, I have a 25% share available for sale (further details on my 'horses for sale' page).

Airton Added To Club

I was pleased to add a fifth horse, Airton, to the David Pipe Racing Club last week.  He was a winner for us on his hurdling debut at Taunton last term, showing good form to beat the very useful Scaramanga.  Runner-up in a handicap hurdle at Fakenham on New Year’s Day, he showed that he is certainly capable of winning something similar and should give members of the club some enjoyable days out.

You too can be a part of the fun with membership from only £100 for 12 months.  Further details of how to join can be found by clicking here...

5 Day Festival?

There have been mutterings about the possibility of the Cheltenham Festival being extended to five days for years now, but those rumblings seem to be gaining more momentum once again.  As far as I am concerned it is a mere formality that this will happen at some stage, be it sooner or later.

There is tremendous demand to attend the Cheltenham Festival with record crowds last year of almost 267,000 in attendance over the course of the meeting (and almost 72,000 present on Gold Cup day alone), so it is clearly a very tempting option for the Jockey Club (who own the course) to exploit this by adding an extra day.

From a racing perspective, I am not a fan of the idea.  The danger is that adding another day can only dilute the quality on offer and make it like any other racing festival.  Cheltenham in March is supposed to be the pinnacle of our sport.  Mind you, some people weren’t happy when it was changed from three days to four days…

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