Following three dismal days of selections in the OJA Cheltenham Festival Update, it was nice to end the meeting with a few winners on the final afternoon, namely Vauban (advised @ 7/4), State Man (advised @ 4/1) and A Plus Tard (advised @ 7/2). It has been a very disappointing week overall but I am pleased to hear numerous clients backed Vauban and State Man ante-post in the Autumn, judging by the emails I have received. The latter was suggested at 20/1 'to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival' in the November Update, similar to Galopin Des Champs twelve months earlier.
A Plus Tard proved he is the best staying chaser on either side of the Irish Sea with fifteen lengths demolition in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The former Festival winner, who finished runner-up last year, had won the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November in devastating fashion but wasn't at his best in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Freshened up and prepared for the Festival, the eight year old produced a career best effort as he swept aside stablemate and last season's winner Minella Indo. Rachael Blackmore had to wait for a gap on the hometurn but A Plus Tard quickened approaching the second last and had the measure of his stable companion before the final fence. It has been rocky old winter for Henry De Bromhead but he has produced the goods when it has mattered with another three Festival winners.
Rich Ricci was confident Vauban would take some beating in the Triumph Hurdle - during the week following Gaelic Warrior's narrow defeat in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle he texted me to say Vauban was the one - and he was spot on as the Galiway gelding got the better of Fil Dor and Pied Piper by two and a half lengths. Taken wide by Paul Townend, he quickened to lead on the approach to the final flight but lost his momentum when getting in tight to the last. However, he regathered his equilibrium and stayed on strongly to beat the Gordon Elliott pair. He looks top class being blessed with speed and stamina. Tactically, it was a fascinating race to watch with Fil Dor ensuring it was a proper stamina test, while stablemate Pied Piper tracked Vauban with the intention of outsprinting Willie Mullins' runner. It looked a strong renewal beforehand and there is no reason to change that opinion.
State Man arrived from France with a lofty reputation and there was a belief that he had been let in lightly off a mark of 141 for the County Hurdle. Similar to compatriot Saint Roi a couple of years ago, it was only his fourth run over hurdles but the Doctor Dino gelding belied his lack of experience with an authoritative victory. Paul Townend gave his partner a 'safe ride' by keeping him on the outside but was travelling so well after the second last that he was able to bag the stands' rail in the homestraight. A good jump at the last sealed his win even though First Street stayed on well on the run-in. It was a class performance and is a horse to look forward to over fences next term.
Thank you to those clients who have emailed during the last few days, your continued support is much appreciated. The first three days were rotten and there is no getting away from that. Despite the poor results during that time, 99% of my clients have been class and it meant a lot. Hopefully the final day went some way to making up for it. Nobody was more disappointed than yours truly on Thursday evening.
Elsewhere, well done to Value Racing Club with the David Pipe trained Olympe De Gouges winning at 25/1 at Doncaster on Friday. Bought for 9,000gns just over a year ago, the daughter of Charming Thought stayed on strongly after the last to win by a couple of lengths. Later on the same card at Town Moor, Herewegohoney (7/1) was another winner for Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers in One Jump Ahead.
With the Festival behind us for another year, it is time to resume work on Ahead On The Flat which is due to be published early next month. I will updating the Publications section shortly with the full details. In the meantime, it is back to the bed and butter jumping action with a trip to Carlisle on Sunday pending.
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