Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Cheltenham on the Horizon!

Well Paul Nicholls good run is continuing - he's 15-46 with a 33% strike rate so far in February and he sends four runners to Taunton today where the going is heavy, soft in places and he has a couple of chances of recording some more wins.

Dan Skelton is also continuing to knock in the winners (9-34 with a 26% SR) and he sends runners to both Wetherby and Taunton today.

Paul Nicholls
3.05 The Brock Again hadn't run for 418 days when he returned at Taunton in the Bathwick Tyres Class 3 handicap hurdle on 13/01 where he finished 6th of the 10 runners over 2m 3f on heavy going. The reason for his long absence had been a combination of wind issues and a leg injury which are now all clear. He should in theory have no problem with the heavy going as both his wins in France on the flat came in similar conditions.
His second run LTO came at his home track Wincanton against just 3 opponents in a novice limited handicap chase over 2m - his first run over fences and he finished 2nd of the two finishers behind Venetia Williams Pressurize.
He's in a similar race today save that it is Class 4 not 3 but for that he has to carry top weight - however those below him are rated 104, 108, 109, 115, 116 so you would hope he would be up to winning this if he has improved for his two runs and his rating of 120c could prove to be lenient.

3.40 Antartica De Thaix wore a hood and a tongue tie for the first time on her return at Wincanton on 03/12 to try and calm her down. She had had just the one run for the stable the previous season in a bumper at Kempton when she came home 6th of 14 having run too freely.
She was said to have shown plenty of jumping ability at home prior to her first run back and under Harry Cobden she was a staying on second of nine over 2m on soft going in a Class 6 maiden bumper - this time settling much better.
She then went back to Wincanton on Boxing Day for a Class 4 mares novices hurdle over 2m on soft where she blundered badly at the third flight and unseated Nick Schofield.
The stables fortunes have improved a lot since then but she's up against a potentially useful sort in Sherwoods Robinesse who was 2nd to Jessber's Dream on 17/12 and she finished second twice thereafter before winning a Grade 2 mares hurdle at Sandown on 19/02.

4.10 Qualando won the Fred Winter Hurdle at the festival in 2015 beating his stable mate Bouvreuil after keeping on strongly under Nick Schofield.
He is said to be a chaser in the making and returned over hurdles at Cheltenham in a decent Class 2 4yo hurdle over 2m 87y on good going in which he finished 6th of the 8 runners. He faded towards the finish like many of his stable at the time and in any event he wasn't very well in at the weights against very smart rivals.
He then went to Aintree on 05/12 for a Class 2 handicap hurdle over 2m 4f on soft going where he finished a disappointing 8th of the 9 runners under Nick Schofield.
He's in another Class 2 handicap hurdle today - is back down in distance to 2m 104y and Harry Cobden claims a useful 7lbs having also been dropped 3lb in the handicap ratings - so he is theoretically 2lb lower than when winning the Fred Winter.
The softer ground shouldn't be a problem and with stable enjoying better fortunes of late it can only be hoped that he is now better placed to run more encouragingly - although he is on the drift in the betting and is a best priced 11/2 as I write this post.

5.20 Captain Buck's is by French sire Buck's Boom who is a full brother to Nicholls Big Buck's. This is his first run for the stable having run just the once in France. He was said to have done well for his summer break and was described as an interesting type that should win races earlier in the season.
He starts here in a Class 5 bumper under his jockey Mr Stan Shepherd and receives a 9lb 4yo weight allowance against some potentially useful sorts in what is an open looking race and although he may run well and even win it's not a race I will be getting involved in betting wise.

Dan Skelton
4.10 Cobra De Mai is said to be an interesting prospect for the season and is a chaser for the future. He started his campaign at Warwick in a juvenile maiden hurdle over 2m on soft where he was said to have been too keen and fresh when 5th of 12. That was a slightly disappointing return and a better run was probably expected next time out at Newbury in a Class 4 juvenile hurdle over 2m 69y on soft going - however he came up against a useful recruit from the Nicholls stable in Clan Des Obeaux who won and has since run well in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham and has been allocated a hurdle rating of 144h and John Ferguson's Jaleo who has also won since.
Cobra De Mai dropped down in grade on his next and last run to win well in a Class 5 juvenile maiden hurdle over 2m on heavy at Wetherby under Harry Skelton for which he was odds on.
After the race his trainer was looking to go to the likes of Ascot, Newbury and Sandown next so Taunton today doesn't quite fit into that bill but it's a Class 2 handicap hurdle and he receives plenty of weight from those in front of him in the betting under his jockey Bridget Andrews and in fact gets in on a handy mark with the others so could easily win this. 

Both of the Skelton runners are odds on at Wetherby and for that reason I will give those a miss in this write up.

Qualando 0.50 points ew @ 11/2 (paying a quarter the odds a place on the first two home)

Cobra De Mai to beat Qualando in a forecast.

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