Next Sensation To Pass Annual Appraisal
The 2016 Cheltenham Festival bows out with the Grand Annual Chase (5.30pm), where punters have one last chance of grabbing the money, and with the Irish landing two of the last three renewals, there has been plenty of interest in Jessica Harrington’s, Rock The World.
World To Rock Cheltenham
With his last six form-figures showing as 122121, Rock The World – officially rated 146 – has proven a model of consistency, winning a Grade 3 novice chase back in September, before scoring over this C&D a month later (good).
Many were of the opinion that Rock The World was being given a “sighter” of the Cheltenham fences that day, and he has been kept fresh since.
Another Grand Annual Blank For Mullins?
Willie Mullins also has one of the main fancies in Blood Cotil (12/1), who won a big novice handicap at Punchestown last May, and had a spin in January when down the field. It’s hard to fancy him, though, as his rating is a touch high on 153 (the last 10 winners were 147 or lower), and unlike Harrington, who won this race back in 1999, Mullins has yet to taste victory in the Grand Annual.
Gordon Elliott’s, The Game Changer (14/1), also looks to have a high enough rating on 155, having landed a hat-trick of Grade 3’s when last seen during the autumn, though stablemate, Bright New Dawn (16/1), has less to prove in terms of recent form having won a small event in February (2m4f, heavy). Elliott mentioned afterwards that he wouldn’t mind dropping him in trip on good ground, and he needs respecting if lining-up here.
The Brit Challenge
The Brits will still be hopeful of having the final say at the festival once more,, as the current 8/1 favourite is last year’s Grand Annual winner, Next Sensation. Michael Scudamore has kept this 9yo under the radar this season, and returns from just a 1lb higher mark than 12 months ago (rated 144). He was kept fresh for this during the last two years when fourth in 2014, before winning last year, and has followed the same approach having not been seen since December.
Neil Mulholland’s, Minella Present (rated 134), is also prominent in the market on 12/1, and was an excellent second in a valuable handicap over C&D when last seen in November, though he’ll need plenty of runners to drop out if getting in the bottom of the handicap.
Venetia’s Oak Looks Solid
Venetia Williams also flies the flag for the Brits courtesy of her 8yo, Arthur’s Oak (14/1), who has won four handicaps during his last five outings, including a valuable race at Chepstow last month (2m, soft). Rated 152, he is improving fast, handles good to soft ground and comes from a yard that likes to win handicaps at this meeting.
Last year’s winner, Next Sensation, has again been aimed at this race, and will be just 1lb higher than when triumphant 12 months ago.
Encouragingly, his yard has been among the winners of late, and Next Sensation will turn up as fresh as paint having been rested since December.
*Prices correct at time of publication.