Thursday night I traversed the pennines shortly after finishing school to make my way to the Coral Cheltenham Preview night at Haydock racecourse. This all came about thanks to the hospitality of Coral and being asked to attend by @BritBloggers who asked me to tweet and then do this blog.
I was also allowed to bring a plus-one to the evening and thought of no-one other than my dad who got me into this horse racing lark in the first place. It was fitting we were going to Haydock as that was the first meeting my dad took me to as a 15 year old. A pitstop at Burnley was therefore required to pick my old man up before heading off to Haydock. Courtesy of an eight mile traffic jam on the M66 we just arrived in time for the 7.30 start, which fortunately turned into an 8pm start.
We found a table right at the front and got chatting to a couple of great guys, one of whom has this blog here Matthew Archer and also this is his business link icpnetworks. The other gent who’s name I have forgotten (sorry!) also has his own business here Bottleworks. The company was great and we were set for the night.
The panel for the night was Simon Clare, Matt Chapman, Mick Fitzgerald, Dicky Johnson, Jason Maguire and Niall Hanity. Matt in his unique and somewhat excitable style took it in turns with Mick to push proceedings on. To be honest the way Matt and Mick bounced off each other and shared a bit of banter really was enjoyable and brought a touch of informality to the night. The first highlight of the evening was for Mick to have a live telephone chat with his former boss NICKY HENDERSON. The result of this chat pointed to the confidence behind SPRINTER SACRE and how both Nicky and BARRY GERAGHTY hold him in very high regard. Nicky had him as his best bet for the meeting but also gave us a pointer to TRIOLO D’ALENE in the BYRNE PLATE, but there is some confusion over what race he is declared in.
The remainder of the evening was spent assessing each race at Cheltenham. In the SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE Niall Hannity was very keen on the chances of SOUS LE CIEUX, which TED WALSH also highlighted as a big chance live on Channel Four Racing last week. Dicky Johnson was still very keen on COLOUR SQUADRON, and I must admit I am swaying that way myself.
The ARKLE seems to be geared towards a simple success for SPRINTER SACRE yet the panel did question whether he would get up the hill, and Mick Fitz, whilst not being negative, said he wouldn’t want to take even money in an Arkle. It was at this point that Dicky Johnson highlighted MENORAH as one of his best rides of the week. A strong pace and Cheltenham would play into all his strengths were the comments made.
The next debate ensued around the CHAMPION HURDLE, and what, if anything, could de-throne HURRICANE FLY. The panel all agreed the value in the race each way had to be OVERTURN at 33-1. Niall reported staff at Ditcheat thought that ROCK ON RUBY was just as good as ZARKANDAR and he thought it was value in the race. Personally I’m swaying towards BINOCULAR, he looked good at Wincanton last time and could have the ground he likes too!
On Wednesday the panel moved on to the NEPTUNE INVESTMENTS HURDLE and both Mick and Dicky both thought SIMONSIG, if declared in this race would win. Niall reported RUBY WALSH was very keen on BOSTON BOB, yet a few questioned whether or not he needs soft ground. Since then WILLIE MULLINS reported an excellent schooling session with him. Simon Clare came up with an interesting stat here and said that it as been a very long time since the winner of the NEPTUNE was older than 6 years old, the point; BOSTON BOB is a 7 year old. Simon highlighted MONKSLAND as his best value in the race.
The RSA CHASE was where Mick Fitz highlighted one of his biggest fancies of the festival in JOIN TOGETHER. Mick stated numerous times that you need a real stayer to win this and he couldn’t see the value in GRAND CRUS. It was felt BOBS WORTH would be much more suited to Cheltenham than some of the other tracks he has disappointed on this year.
The QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE was agreed as being quite a poor renewal and arguments were made for all of them, yet it appeared SIZING EUROPE should win it again. Dicky Johnson couldn’t say anything too positive about WISHFUL THINKING and was unsure why he has performed so poorly this year, Dicky says he is still fine at home but doesn’t seem to produce on the course.
Dicky then highlighted VILLAGE VIC as having a good each way shot in the bumper, saying it was one of the best bumper horses he has ridden in few years.
Unfortunately I had to leave at this point as the clock had hit 10.30 and I was aware I had to drop my dad back then travel back to Sheffield. So, we bid our goodbyes and set off from what was a really insightful and enjoyable evening. As for tips and pointers, there are a good few above for you and you may or may not follow them. I always tend to make my own mind up and make my own selections, that way I can only blame myself if they lose. From the early indications if the following horses run in other races I will be having a few quid on them. BIG EASY, POUNGACH, RIVERSIDE THEATRE, HISAABAAT and DE BOITRON.
As always I’m sure it will be one hell of a festival and there will be a feast of racing in store for all of us. I will finish by saying it was good to meet fellow bloggers/tweeters @pgstips, @jamesyellen, @callummadell and @eclipse_tweets. An finally a HUGE THANKS to @BritBloggers and @Coral for opportunity, the first of many I hope!