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SETTING THE SCENE FOR CHELTENHAM
As Saturday’s William Hill Imperial Cup is often considered a late pointer to one of the Cheltenham handicap hurdles, especially with the lure of a bonus, we’ve drawn together a short piece comprising of last-minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at a couple of the less high-profile races for the week ahead. We hope you find it useful.
Bonus may hit the buffers
Baltimore Rock’s win in the Grade 3 William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday may only have set up a bonus attempt in theory, writes David Dickinson.
Still in the County Hurdle this week, the gelding needs upwards of 30 above him to come out at the overnight stage to get a run, even with his penalty. Saturday’s win was a continuance of the upward curve the horse has been on in recent weeks. Certainly, anyone who backed him when Loyaute beat him at Kempton must be feeling extra hard done by now.
I used the fifth home, Chesil Beach Boy, as my benchmark and have raised Baltimore Rock 9lb to 134, allowing the second home, Gassin Golf, 3lb for the length he was beaten in subsequent handicaps.
The fact that the Regal Encore bubble was burst, temporarily at least, is worthy of mention. Judging horses on the subsequent exploits of horses that beat them is fraught with danger. His Hexham conqueror in December, Seeyouatmidnight, might now be rated 155 but he was stepped up a mile in trip for his next two starts and horse that was third in that Hexham race has subsequently been beaten off 119 twice in handicaps.
With all roads leading to Prestbury this week, the official top rated horses in the 2m Championship hurdle races are Vautour (Supreme), Hurricane Fly (Champion) and Le Rocher (Triumph).
Anyone buying a racecard at Cheltenham will notice that there are ratings next to each horse in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, writes Mark Olley. The BHA does not publish official handicap ratings for horses in National Hunt Flat Races, though we do put performance figures to every horse in each race and these are the figures shown in the racecard.
We keep these figures so that we have an idea of each horse’s ability when it comes to the Bumpers at Cheltenham and Aintree and we have to decide which horses get in those races in the event that they are over-subscribed.
For anyone interested, and who does not have access to the Cheltenham racecard, the figures are listed below and you can see our idea of which horses have the best form so far.
136 Killultagh Vic; 130 Modus and Black Hercules; 129 Golantilla; 128 Vigil and Shaneshill; 127 Our Kaempfer; 124 Foryourinformation and Definitly Red; 123 Seven Nation Army; 122 Western Way, Value At Risk and Third Act; 121 Coyaba and Joshua Lane; 120 Zeroshadesofgrey; 119 Stack The Deck and Silver Concorde; 118 El Namoose and Assam Black; 117 Neck Or Nothing; 115 Izzini, Oscarteea and Great Try.
114 Mountain Of Mourne; 113 No Dice; 112 Royal Vacation; 107 Big Mike.
The second group are the horses that are involved in the elimination sequence and need horses to drop out at the over-night entry stage in order to get a run. For example Royal Vacation, trained by Colin Tizzard, needs three horses to come out to take his place in the line-up.
An interesting task I was faced with on Saturday was deciding the elimination sequence for the CGA Foxhunter Steeple Chase, writes Phil Smith. There were 28 entries and the safety limit was 24 so I had to find four horses to put in the sequence.
Gale Force Oscar was the first to be eliminated as although he had run three times I was unable to allocate the horse a rating because of insufficient information as he only had one measurable performance. The horse with the lowest rating was Up There on 91 so he became number two. Croan Rock (93) was number three and The Hollinwell (99) was number four.
However what to do with Ganbei who has never run under rules and who is therefore not entitled to a rating? I could have made him joint number one with Gale Force Oscar thus bringing The Hollinwell into the race. However I looked up his point to point form. This race is the only occasion I am allowed to use point to point form if I wish to.
That is because I am allowed to allocate one wild card which gives automatic entry into the race. I discovered that Ganbei has won his last two races in point to points and is the leading horse at North Carlton. It is very unusual for me to use the wild card and very risky of connections not to run the horse under rules. However Ganbei beat Ballyjames – currently rated 100 under rules – so this brought him out ahead of The Hollinwell.
I have only ever used the wild card once before for Mid Div And Creep in 2011. When I saw her starting odds of 100/1, I thought I must have made an error including her but she didn’t let me down and ran brilliantly to finish second to Zemsky.
I am hoping that this year’s wild card selection of Ganbei can also justify my selection of him.