Mark Howard Publications Ltd

Blank day for selections

14-March-2024 18:38
in General
by Admin

The Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival is traditionally the toughest of the week when it comes to finding winners. With that in mind, my selections in the Update were kept to a minimal and it proved a blank day. Both Facile Vega and Iroko were disappointing in the Turners Novices' Chase. The former looked anything but a natural and it wouldn't be a surprise if he reverted back to hurdles, while the latter appeared to be going well down the backstraight before getting outpaced at the top of the hill. Staying on in the homestraight, he might be worth another go over three miles at Aintree. The J.P.McManus owner runner looked rusty when the tempo lifted and wasn't as sharp as when winning at Warwick earlier in the season.

The performance of Jade De Grugy was also very disappointing in the mares' novice hurdle. Unbeaten in two previous runs over obstacles, including the Grade 3 Solerina Mares' NH at Fairyhouse, she jumped and travelled well and everything appeared to be going to plan running down the hill. The whole complex of the race changed at the second last though with Willie Mullins' runner getting tightened up and shuffled back. Paul Townend elected to stay on the far side while the rest of the field came stands side. Marooned in the middle of the track, the ex-French filly still had a chance at the last but couldn't land a blow. Beaten around four lengths in fourth, it wasn't her rider's finest hour. 

On a positive note, Ben Pauling couldn't have been more accurate with his views regarding Shakem Up'Arry (8/1) in the Plate on page 2 of the Update. The ten year old had been kept fresh since winning over C&D on New Year's Day and, despite a three pounds rise in the weights, the Harry Redknapp owned gelding stayed on strongly to beat the well supported Crebilly by a diminishing one and a quarter lengths. It was a terrific result for Ben and everyone at his Naunton yard.

The Top 40 Prospects had its second Festival winner of the week with Grey Dawning (5/2) taking the aforementioned Grade 1 Turners Novices' Chase. I must confess I thought Dan Skelton had selected the wrong race following his impressive win over three miles at Warwick in January. Given a break since and freshened up, Harry Skelton sat much closer to the front running Ginny's Destiny on this occasion compared to when the pair clashed over the same C&D in December and picked off Paul Nicholls' runner between the final two fences. A two lengths winner, he is a thoroughly likeable young chaser who wears his heart on his sleeve. 

One more day to go, fingers crossed the Update can finish with a flourish on Friday.


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