19 Dec 2016

Cheltenham system that flagged a 66/1 winner

First published on a previous Key Racing News blog, 5th March 2016.

A few years ago we had the almighty experience of backing Son Of Flicka at 66/1 for the Coral Cup (returned at 16/1 after a huge gamble unfolded). Our rationale was simple; how could a horse who was 2nd by 1/2 length the year before in the Martin Pipe, to a pukka horse like Sire Des Champs, and who was now 5lbs lower in the handicap, possibly be a 66/1 chance? This actually happened.

As you can imagine his intervening form had been dire, but as we know in the handicap biz that's often just the way things are. In a stable tour Donald McCain had even laid the foundation of his excuse, confiding that the gelding had recently started to work better.

Ricks of that scale are pretty rare - but whatever the upshot, then as now I always make a point of knowing who's turning up at the Festival having lost by 2 lengths or less the last time. My philosophy is that barring tiny margins, these are Festival winners in all but name. When you think about it like that, and consider that many will arrive prepared with just one meeting in mind, it's worth pausing to make a list.

Here are the qualifiers this year, potentially heading to handicaps on a workable mark:

Broadway Buffalo: 2nd last year in the 4-miler, still only 8yo, he holds a couple of entries but is also in the Midlands National (a Pipe favourite) around the same time, not to mention the Aintree version. Up 5lbs from 2015, but ran a better prep this year:

"He ran very well in the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently when runner-up to Bishops Road and we will have to see how he is. He had a very hard race in atrocious conditions and it’s not certain he will go to Cheltenham but we will see and he’s entered in the Kim Muir and the Ultima Handicap Chase."

Modus: 2nd in the Cheltenham bumper he's down for the County Hurdle and Supreme Novices'. He's clearly a lot better than he showed in the Betfair Hurdle, loves spring ground and looks ripe to progress after just 4 hurdles starts:

"He got behind early in the Betfair Hurdle, hated the ground and was almost brought down. He’s in the Supreme Novices’ but with a mark of 139 I would be leaning more to the County Hurdle with him."

Bouvreuil: 2nd in the Grade 3 Fred Winter off 133, and highly tried but lightly raced since, the drop to a Novices Listed handicap looks a solid move - he's on 139 and open to improvement after only 3 chase starts:

"His most likely target is the Novices’ Handicap Chase on the Tuesday. He ran well to beat Vyta Du Roc at Doncaster and then didn’t run up to his best in a Grade 2 over two miles at that track. He was second in the Fred Winter last year and the longer trip at Cheltenham will suit him better."

Noble Endeavour: 2nd by a head bob last year in the Martin Pipe, racing off 140, touched off by the high class Killultagh Vic - unbeaten since in 4 starts including a Grade 1 at Punchestown when he beat Thistlecrack. To complete the picture, Noble Endeavour has since gone chasing and after 4 starts sits on exactly the same perch of 140:

"I think Cheltenham and four miles will be right up his alley and Jamie Codd will ride him if he runs in it. He's obviously in a few of the handicap chases as well and I'll have to speak to the owners and see what he's handicapped, but if I get my way he'll be running in the four-miler. If you've got Jamie Codd or Nina Carberry or Derek O'Connor in these sort of races it's worth a stone straight away."

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in ENIGMA:

Son Of Flicka wins the Coral Cup for Donald McCain
£900,000 gamble landed by Son Of Flicka in the 2012 Coral Cup

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