In the latest of GG’s Cheltenham Festival previews, Andrew Mount (@trendhorses) analyses the main contenders in the pertemps Final and gives us his Cheltenham tips
A mixed bag over the years but, more recently, younger horses have done well.
Since 2010, had we backed five or six-year-olds who finished in the first three in their prep race, we would have won five of our 45 bets and made a profit of £25.00 to a £1 level stake at SP.
This system found Presenting Percy (2017) and Delta Work (2018). Last year’s two qualifiers included the 16-1 third.
Before we commence, I have a confession to make. I’m not normal. I’m not a purist or a connoisseur when it comes to the Cheltenham festival. I don’t salivate over impressive Grade 1 winners of the past. My kick comes from digging one out in what many people perceive to be the impossible handicaps.
This approach usually fails but, very occasionally, the big one is landed. I’m wary about discussing the 2004 Pertemps Final as no-one likes an after-timer, but I did back 50-1 winner Creon and did tip him in my blog on GG.co.uk (GG.com at the time) as well as in my ‘Trend Horses’ book (Final Furlong podcast host Emmet Kennedy still remembers it fondly).
I got the train to Cheltenham that morning with my best mate Dom and was hunting around the ring prior to the off time of the Pertemps – the last race of the day – trying to beat the general offers of 50-1 and 40-1.
Freddie Williams – the god of on-course bookies at the time – was offering 66-1.
“£1000/£15 each-way Creon please”. “Sorry, we don’t do fractions” came the reply. I walked away disgusted and then realised that this was still much better than the 50s, so went back and had the £15 each-way.
Creon, racing from 2lb out of the handicap and ridden by Timmy Murphy, won all out by half a length to get a nice few quid for someone who was still a civilian and not employed full-time in the racing industry at that point.
What followed was a lesson in how not to celebrate. We went into town to have a few drinks, mindful of the time of the last train, but got carried away and ended up in a lapdancing bar. Now I was an innocent 34-year-old at the time and had never been in one (honest!).
I didn’t know what type of bar it was and said to Dom: “Mate, there are loads of beautiful women in here and they’re all looking at me”.
I was relieved of a few quid, missed the last train and ended up asleep in the back of a taxi on the way back to rural Leicestershire, or so I thought.
When I woke up the driver was heading down the M40 to London. We eventually got home and I even tipped the driver but when I checked my pockets the following morning the 66s was more like 6-1. My first experience of premium charge!
There have been no more Creons in the intervening years, although Henryville (fourth at 50-1 in 2015) and The Tourard Man (fourth at 66-1 in 2017) have given me a thrill.
Phoenix Way won with more in hand than the head margin suggested when justifying 4-1 favouritism in Huntingdon’s qualifier – his first start since wind surgery – and Harry Fry’s seven-year-old, the 7-1 joint-favourite at the time of writing, could well be up to defying the 7lb rise. I did chuckle post-race when I heard jockey Barry Geraghty’s quote – “I didn’t have as much in the end as it might have looked”.
I wrote up Skandiburg in my Racing Post Weekender column after his Aintree victory in November, where he scored with more in hand than the official margin of a length and three-quarters suggested.
He impressed in putting almost 19 lengths between himself and the third, Rosy Wild, as that one was in front two out. He followed up at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, despite taking the inside route where the ground was probably slower, never looking the winner until the very closing stages. He only went up 5lb for that and holds obvious claims.
SIRE DU BERLAIS
Last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais is only 5lb higher this time around, catching the eye when fourth in the Warwick qualifier on his latest outing. That form was given a boost when the third, One For The Team, bolted up by 14 lengths at Newbury next time. Buena Vista (2011) was the last horse to win this in consecutive years.
Relegate came form last to first when winning the 2008 Champion Bumper but has won just a maiden hurdle from five subsequent starts. However, she went into a few notebooks after her fourth in the Punchestown qualifier on her debut for new connections and is guaranteed a run (24th in the weights).
Philip Hobbs has plenty of ‘previous’ in this race, last winning it with Fingal Bay in 2014. Jatiluwih won his first five for the yard after leaving France and might have made it six from six had he settled in the Wincanton qualifier on Boxing Day. The step up in trip could help, as will the big field and likely strong pace.
ONE FOR THE TEAM
One For The Team went up 12lb for his 14-length Newbury romp but is lightly raced and trainer Nick Williams rarely wastes handicap entries at this meeting.
Three of his 28 runners have won for a profit of £17.50 to a £1 level stake at SP but, more importantly from an each-way perspective, eight of the 25 beaten horses were placed (20-1, 16-1, 16-1, 16-1, 14-1, 9-1, 13-2 and 9-2) with another running fifth at 33-1 in the 2017 Fred Winter when most bookies were paying at last five places.
Rapper might not get a run – he’s 28th in the weights – but probably doesn’t deserve to be as big as 33-1. He was a huge eyecatcher when seventh of 17 on his reappearance here at the October meeting, sticking to the inside rail where the ground was deeper. He followed that by landing the Market Rasen qualifier the following month and found only Skandiburg too good over course and distance on New Year’s Day.
Stoney Mountain, a stablemate of Rapper, is shorter in the betting at around the 20-1 mark but is not certain to appreciate returning to Cheltenham.
His record in tracks with stiff uphill finishes reads 502PU (0-5), compared to 111123115 (6-9) at easier venues, with the unplaced effort coming in the Warwick qualifier. He’s two from two at Aintree and will be very interesting there in April if he bombs out here.
Winner of the 2018 Albert Bartlett from Ok Corral and Santini, he has just an odds-on novice chase win to his name from nine subsequent outings. He ran moderately at Haydock last time and makes little appeal.
The last four renewals have gone to patiently ridden Irish runners, including Delta Work and Presenting Percy, but the home team looks strong this year.
Phoenix Way, Jathiluwih and One For The Team all have possibilities but I like the form of the New Year’s Day qualifier and will be siding with SKANDIBURG and RAPPER, who finished one-two in that contest.
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