Three bets for Rory Delargy on the opening day of the season at Cheltenham at 28/1, 4/1 and 12/1.
0.5pts e.w Clemencia in 4.15 Cheltenham at 28/1 (General - 1/5 1,2,3,4)
1pt e.w Marquis of Carabas in 4.50 Cheltenham at 4/1 (William Hill, Sky Bet - 1/5 -1,2,3,4,5,6)
0.5pts e.w Bermeo in 4.50 Cheltenham at 12/1 (William Hill, Sky Bet - 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
There’s a temptation to go charging in now Cheltenham’s back, but this first meeting of the year tends to be one full of small field novice races which, whilst interesting to watch, aren’t necessarily rewarding to bet in. As such, I want to concentrate on the races where the form has already fallen in line to some degree.
I did think the initial prices framed against the 888Sport What's Your Thinking Novices' Hurdle were wrong, and even with the inevitable adjustment, I’d still put in a strong mention for John McConnell’s Bardenstown Lad, who is better than he’s been able to show so far, and ought to be favourite in my eyes. He would be receiving 19lb from Siruh du Lac if this were a handicap, and that seems to suggest his task is a tough one, but the bottom-weight has a lot to prove over hurdles, and is a very doubtful stayer over this trip.
I’d also say that the selection has achieved more than Gordon Elliott’s Calagogo, who won a tactical race at Killarney last time which hasn’t worked out. On the other hand. Bardenstown Lad’s latest third to Tullybeg in a conditions event at Navan is solid form, and he was beginning to rally after the last having found the first two doing him for toe in the straight over that 2¾m. He looks all about stamina, and will appreciate the return to 3m here, while the Navan winner scored at Gowran next time, and will be fancied to defy a mark of 140 in the Pertemps Qualifier here on Saturday. The runner-up at Gowran won the Durham National off a BHA mark of 142 recently, underlining the strength of Tullybeg’s form, which in turn compliments Bardenstown Lad.
The downside is that the market has moved significantly, and Bardenstown now finds himself at exactly the price I put him in at, having been 13/2 when the market opened. That’s enough to nullify the value argument, but the positives are very much worth bearing in mind.
Clemencia has a patchy record, but tends to save his best for this track, and looks overpriced in the Abu Dhabi Digital Exchange Handicap Hurdle. Beaten just a neck for third in the 2020 Fred Winter on his debut for Tim Vaughan, he was running well when falling at the penultimate flight on this card last year, and followed that with a creditable fourth of 16 behind Breffniboy here in December, and was clearly not right when beaten a long way at Exeter on his only other run last term. He’s now 4lb lower than for that latest placed effort, and he should not be the rank outsider assuming he is fit for this return.
Tim Vaughan took a long while to break his Cheltenham duck, which he did in this corresponding race in 2017, but he’s had a few go well at Prestbury since then, and doubled his tally when Madera Mist sprang a 33-1 surprise here last December. He had a winner the other day, too, and while he’s largely struggled since first breaking through over a decade ago, I’d not take him lightly with runners here. The question is whether Clemencia will stay this 2½m distance, which he hasn’t tried before, but he runs as if worth trying at the trip, and his stamina is worth chancing from what looks a fair mark now.
Cheltenham amateur rider events tend to be won one of two ways, either by jumping well on the front end and gradually turning the screw, or by using waiting tactics as the more enthusiastic riders push on too early and then picking them off on the final climb. With a whole host of front runners in attendance here, I’d suggest Option B - sit and wait - might be the way forward, and there is no finer exponent of those tactics than Derek O’Connor, who has been booked early by Fergal O’Brien for Marquis Of Carabas.
Marquis Of Carabas has his first start for Fergal O’Brien here, having been with David Dennis, and backing ex-Dennis horses after a break last autumn was a very profitable ploy (accepting that the former trainer went with those horses). The selection has an absence to overcome, but the vibes from the yard suggest that fitness will be no issue, and he will have this race run to suit as less experienced jockeys press on down the hill.
The other runner who appeals here is Bermeo (yes, it’s a veritable Tim Vaughan love-in on Pointers today), who was second in this to Storm Control last year, and he then ran very well in a better class handicap here in April, not beaten far despite being well out of the handicap (traded evens in running, so wasn’t simply running past beaten rivals). He’s 6lb higher that for this race last year, but is clearly well suited by this track, and he has won fresh in the past. Good ground should be ideal and he will be staying on well under Aine O’Connor when others have cried enough.
Preview posted 0950 BST on 22/10/2021
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