A Cheltenham unlike any other
19th March 2022
We've had some magnificent Cheltenham Festivals for the last two years, winning over +40 pts profit in both 2020 and 2021, but the 2022 Festival proved extremely frustrating and we rattled the crossbar for most of the week and had little luck with our big bets.
We were in a fantastic ante post position in the Supreme, taking 11/2 for Sir Gerhard, until Willie Mullins decided to run him in the Ballymore on Wednesday instead. He had been backed into 2/1 favourite at the time, but we didn't end up getting a run for our money (the perils of ante post punting I suppose). Our other Supreme bet, Dysart Dynamo (14/1 was taken, went off 5/2) fell when in contention for minor money.
We needed Saint Sam in the Arkle, for a chance to win 20 pts, but he got no luck in running, having been held up after a change of tactics on the day, and unseated his rider after being impeded by a faller. Riviere d'etel, our other Arkle bet, was beaten fair and square and ruined her own chance, jumping right.
We backed the second in the Ultima, Gericault Roque (12/1), who ran a blinder from 5lb wrong, the second in the Champion Hurdle (Epatante, 18/1) and also the second in the Mares Hurdle (Queen's Brook - we were on the latter at ante post prices up to 12/1).
We didn't go close in the Boodles with Turn The Tide but we ended the day with yet another second - Run Wild Fred in the NH Chase. We took 11/2 ante post and he went off 15/8 fav, though he was a sitting duck for Stattler, who we'd backed as a saver bet to give us some insurance.
On Wednesday we didn't get much more luck to be honest.
Like most punters, I was cursing the decision made by the clerk of the course to water the track and, after heavy rain fell the following day, the testing ground was a hindrance at what is a spring, not winter, Fesival.
We had backed Galopin Des Champs for the Brown Advisory at 11/2, so, after seeing him clipped into odds-on for that race ante post in the week before the Festival, it was frustrating then seeing Mullins divert him to the Turners when the final decs were made.
Three Stripe Life was therefore our main bet in the Ballymore in the end. He picked up some place money for us at 25/1, with the horse we'd backed for the Supreme, Sir Gerhard, ironically being the one who beat him home. We also landed a little bit of place money in the race from Whatdeawant (12/1).
In the Brown Advisory we backed Farouk D'alene as our main bet after the rain fell and he was in the process of running a huge race - Davy was cruising on him when he fell two out. He would have been second at worst, and could have even won, had he stayed on his feet.
We didn't have any joy in the Coral Cup and never looked like collecting anything off The Shunter or Gowel Road in all honesty, but we were left cursing the disgusting ground with Shishkin, who we had backed in a small ante post double with Honeysuckle (winner of the Champion Hurdle on the opening day). Nico pulled Shishkin up as he detested the heavy conditions and didn't go a yard.
We backed two placed selections in the Cross-Country to make some profit (Plan of Attack at 25/1 and Diesel D'Allier at 16/1).
We never looked like winning the Grand Annual, though, with Sky Pirate and Elixir du Nutz both appearing well-held.
American Mike (7/2) closed the card and with yet ANOTHER second for us in the Champion Bumper.
Thursday started with a rather fortuitous winner, Bob Olinger, who was set to finish a well-held second in the Turners until Galopin Des Champs fell at the last, and we had him covered in a strongly fancied double with Allaho, who hacked up in the Ryanair.
We had a couple more seconds to add to our rapidly expanding collection thereafter - we had Alaphilippe onside at 25/1 for the Pertemps Final and he was defeated by just a neck. We backed five horses in that race in the end. Winter Fog was placed, but the other three horses we sided with were all involved in trouble with each other in play - Born Patriot fell early on, bringing down Sassy Yet Classy and badly impeded our main bet, Sire du Berlais, who lost his position and had to drop to the rear of the field before switching to the wide outside - all the while losing ground. I know it's jump racing, but for that incident to ruin three of our bets in one go....unreal (and it was to happen again on Friday).
Thyme Hill (5/1) was another second for us in the Stayers Hurdle, while Imperial Alcazar also filled the runner-up position in the Paddy Power Plate (8/1).
Our back-up bet, Love Envoi (14/1), won the Mares Novices' Hurdle for a welcome winner, as our main bet, Dinoblue, bombed out.
Thursday ended with the Kim Muir, in which both of our bets, Ain't That A Shame and School Boy Hours, were both held up and didn't land a telling blow.
Our unluckiest day, however, was Friday. With the ground drying out on the New Course over the last few days, and with several of my strongest fancies of the week running, we attacked the day with venom and backed the main hopes in multiples, as well as the ante post singles.
The first of those strong fancies was State Man (7/2) in the County Hurdle. He travelled like a Grade 1 horse in a handicap and won stylishly under Paul Townend. A Plus Tard (4/1), another strong fancy, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for us two races later, destroying his rivals by 15 lengths under Rachael Blackmore.
Sandwiched in between those two winners, however, was Ginto in the Albert Bartlett. He was in the process of running a huge race and cruised into the lead after the second last, though he sadly took a false step, broke down, and suffered a fatal injury.
It was a devastating blow for connections and meant, due to his misfortune, our multiples (only of secondary importance in the circumstances, admittedly) we had placed, which would have paid over +50 pts if he had won the Albert Bartlett, were affected. We didn't get a fair crack at seeing him finish his race to try bag us a large pot. It was a tragic end for such a talented horse though, as I say, and you really feel for connections, who were the real losers. He was such a bright talent :-(
We had further seconds on Friday. Fil Dor was outclassed by Vauban in the Triumph but beat stablemate Pied Piper into second, but the most ridiculous second of our Festival was Winged Leader in the Foxhunters. He was six lengths clear of his rivals jumping the last, but he'd been embroiled in a battle with Jamie Codd's mount turning in and ultimately paid the price for that late on, as he was mugged in the final strides by Billaway to rob us of a 6/1 winner. He'd traded at 1.14 on the machines.
Although our main bet in the Mares Chase, Concertista, didn't jump well, our saver bet, Elimay (6/1) did win to make us a minor profit on the race.
However, the Festival ended on yet another frustrating note as Langer Dan, who was in multiples with State Man, A Plus Tard (and Ginto) was brought down by Grand Jury (who was, ironically, our other bet in the race) at the second flight of hurdles, robbing us of an opportunity to win over 50 pts on the day (this was separate to the Ginto bets.....if both Ginto and Langer Dan had won on Friday we would have won over +270 pts, i.e. over three betting banks).
Langer Dan just couldn't get out of the way once Grand Jury fell in front of him, and we felt cheated as we'd not had a fair run....AGAIN.
All things considered, I have to ask the question, were NMP punters the unluckiest punters in the country this week, following all of that misfortune? I'll let you, dear reader, decide.
For the Ginto and Langer Dan multiples to be both quashed under such sickening circumstances was something, and to back ELEVEN SECONDS over the course of the week was also something else.
We made some scraps off the places, but winners are all that really matter for the purposes of P/L.
The bad luck will level off at some point. It always does. It is just a case of wondering when.
Will it be at Aintree? Will it be when the new Flat season starts next weekend at Doncaster? I'd like to welcome you to join the service to find out!