Things We Learned » Cross wires

Cross wires

It is difficult to see the logic in running Peddlers Cross in the Jewson Chase instead of in the Arkle. True, he won the Neptune Hurdle over two and a half miles, but, according to Racing Post Ratings, the three best performances of his hurdling career were put up over two miles and two and a quarter miles. As well as that, the Arkle is by far the more prestigious and the more valuable race.

Far be it from me to be telling Donald McCain in what races to run his horses – he has the edge in terms of number-of-winners-trained in that match – but you would have thought that, if all was not right with Peddlers Cross, he should be waiting for Aintree, but if all was right, he should be having a real crack at Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle. It would have been the highlight of the meeting for many.

Fab four

So how do we know that the four returning champs in the four feature races won’t win next week? Just because they never have? Is that reason enough?

The reality is that they all could win (of course they could, it’s Cheltenham, anything can happen), but that they may not be value at current odds. The trick is to figure out which of them are value and which of them are not. Then back the ones that you think are value, and avoid or lay the ones that you think are not.

I think that Long Run represents the worst value of the quartet, even though he is available at the longest price. He just hasn’t gone on this season as you would have expected him to have done, given that he won the King George and the Gold Cup last year as a whipper-snapper six-year-old. It may be that he had a harder race than ideal on his debut in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, when he tried to keep tabs on Kauto Star, and that he hadn’t recovered from those exertions when he was beaten by Kauto again in the King George. However, he still didn’t impress hugely in beating Burton Port and company in the Denman Chase on his most recent run, and his jumping is still a concern. It doesn’t appear to have improved a jot from last year, despite the reported continued involvement of Yogi Breisner.

It may be that it will all come right on Friday, and it may be that this year’s Gold Cup is significantly weaker than last year’s, and it may be that Long Run will win it, but best odds of 15/8 about him doing so are too short in my book.

I wouldn’t be backing Big Buck’s either at 4/7. He has won his last 15, he has won the last three World Hurdles, and it is probable that we still haven’t got to the bottom if him, he is probably capable of a fair bit more than he has had to produce in the last three years. However, this is probably the deepest World Hurdle field that he has faced in his life, and he is nine now. Inglis Drever is the only nine-year-old to win the race since Galmoy. 21 of the last 22 winners of the race (including himself three times) were aged six, seven or eight. It is a young horse’s race.

Of course, he is the most likely winner of the race, but he was a 10/11 shot to win it last year, and it doesn’t make sense that he is no better than 4/7 to win it this year when the probability that he will do so is almost certainly lower than it was last year.

It is more argue against the odds available on Hurricane Fly and Sizing Europe. Hurricane Fly is probably the best hurdler that we have seen since Istabraq, so it is unrealistic to expect that one of his rivals can improve sufficiently to beat him on merit, it is unrealistic to expect that we will have the best and the second best hurdler since Istabraq in the same race. If you are into short-priced horses, it is easy to argue that Hurricane Fly is value at 10/11.

It is also easy to argue that Sizing Europe is value at even money. The Champion Chase lacks strength in-depth. It was disappointing in that context that Finian’s Rainbow couldn’t beat Somersby in the Victor Chandler Chase, and the fact that his Champion Chase odds were hardly extended at all on the back of that defeat tells you all you need to know about the strength of the race.

Europe looks to be in the form of his life, he loves Cheltenham, he loves fast ground, he comes alive at this time of year, and his performance in the Tied Cottage Chase told us that he probably has the measure now of his main rival, the year-older Big Zeb.

Best novices

It could be that the two best novice chasers in Ireland are not getting on the boat along with half the country tomorrow, but rather going up to Naas for their own private duel in the Naas Directors Plate Novices’ Chase. It was Bog Warrior who came out on top when the pair of them met in a beginners’ chase at Navan in November, but Flemenstar has improved markedly since then. If Peter Casey’s horse does happen to exact his revenge, post-race interviews are unlikely to make it in under the watershed.

Markets guide

The markets are usually the best guide. The markets told us that Peddlers Cross was likely to run in the Jewson before there was even an inkling of it on the wires. The markets told us that all was not perfect with Grumeti or Invictus, and that Boston Bob was more likely to run in the Albert Bartlett than the Neptune. (Still awaiting confirmation of that one.)

However, they don’t always get it right. Remarkably, there was no semblance of a weakness in Kauto Star in the market in the six days between his schooling fall and the announcement of his schooling fall, which tells you a lot about the tight-knittedness of the Nicholls operation. The market also told us on Wednesday that Spirit Son was likely to be supplemented to Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, before Nicky Henderson told us that he wasn’t even in training. (I’m with the trainer on this one.)

More Pre-Chelt-Eve briefs

Ivan Yates: So Davy, do you think you will ride First Lieutenant or Sir Des Champs in the RSA Chase?

Davy Russell: Is there going to be a min-budget or not? And how come Germany always know things about Ireland before we do?

© The Irish Field, 10th March 2012