Cheltenham Markets To Be Shaken Up After Saturday
There’s Grade 1 action at Ascot and a few Grade 1 performers turning up to Gowran Park so it’s a busy Saturday and some Cheltenham Festival markets are likely to be reshaped after all the action this afternoon. The big honours on the day could be heading for a veteran and a novice.
Cue one last hurrah
There just seemed to be a little bit of confidence in the tone with which Joe Tizzard spoke about Cue Card earlier in the week and with the stable now back in much better form than they were around Christmas and the period beforehand, Cue Card could be set for one last hurrah in Grade 1 company.
Still the highest rated in the race, Cue Card is counting down the days to retirement but the Ascot Chase today is a top level race where cases could be made against each of the runners in the field. Reunited with Paddy Brennan, Cue Card’s last run behind Bristol De Mai can easily be ignored as the ground was almost unraceable that day and Outlander has since bounced back to run well at Leopardstown.
Last March Cue Card still travelled well in the Gold Cup and all of his rivals have yet to get anywhere near his level of form..
..so if he can bring his ‘A game’ to Ascot this afternoon, like connections seem to think he can, he has the experience and the class to win one more Grade 1 contest before the curtain comes down on his career. Connections could hardly have wished for a better opportunity.
Coney Island is the interesting one. A bad run here would surely be put down to the dreaded bounce factor but what he does here will surely guide us towards which Cheltenham race he’ll end up in but after looking outpaced at Ascot before staying on last time, a win over this trip could really put him in the Gold Cup picture but Cue Card is preferred to shade it.
Percy to give Kelly another big day
Pat Kelly doesn’t talk to the press, doesn’t seem to enjoy any of the limelight associated with having Cheltenham and Grade 1 horses in his care, but doesn’t seem to care one bit as he just gets on with the job and a very good job he does.
Presenting Percy landed the Galmoy Hurdle last month, a shrewd decision by the trainer to drop the RSA Chase favourite back over hurdles and now he’ll take him out of novice company to take on BoyleSports Irish Grand National winner Our Duke in the Red Mills Trial.
It looks like Our Duke really is on trial here and if he can win this 2m4f contest all roads will lead to Cheltenham..
..whereas defeat here might see him return for a historic bid at a second BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
Our Duke looked to be running a blinder in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival but a mistake at the second last seemed to knock the stuffing out of him at a crucial stage. The ground won’t be a problem but the trip is likely to be a bit on the sharp side which can hand the initiative to Presenting Percy to en route to the RSA.
A race against this calibre of company, which also includes Valseur Lido and Ballycasey, should be a perfect prep for Presenting Percy as he goes into the caldron of a Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival, but as he showed on Thyestes Chase day when winning the Galmoy, Presenting Percy has bags of class and hopefully he can show it again today to win the Red Mills Chase.
Danny to get back among the winners
Danny Mullins will have been raging to have picked up an injury at a time when both Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend were also missing but it is good to see him back in the mix now and his first winner since New Year’s Day can come courtesy of local trainer Pat Fahy and his charge Tongie.
Tongie is a consistent performer at his own level and he’s running in the handicap chase at Gowran Park today off a mark of 107 which leaves him with 10st1lbs and getting weight from all around him.
He has failed to complete on two of his last three starts over fences but put in a clear round at Fairyhouse last time..
..and was unlucky to bump into Shrewdoperator that day. He won a novice hurdle rated 111 a couple of seasons ago so winning again off this sort of mark with conditions to suit him doesn’t look behind the eight-year-old.
Cue Card (10/1) – 3.35 Ascot
Presenting Percy (5/4) – 2.00 Gowran Park
Tongie (4/1) – 2.35 Gowran Park
*Prices correct at time of publication.