AND ANOTHER THING…
Those of you with memories will recall, when last heard of in August, I was immersed in the delights of Flat racing. Since then I have spent some time in Japan before outstaying both my permit and my welcome. This has meant exchanging warm tropical winds and a temperate climate (typhoons excepted) for driving winds and rains of biblical proportions here.
Actually, to the equivalent of something of a rookie after my absence, Cheltenham’s Friday card looks a pretty stormy proposition. Trying to tackle it, the best that can be said about a hard but interesting day’s racing is that three races look solvable; the trouble is it may take three picks in each event to do it. Therefore, at least from my perspective, it doesn’t look as if a bet is likely. Apart from that I am rusty.
Three, or maybe it is four months, is a long time to be absent from racing. Not only have new names – both equine and human – sprung up; but, for the present at least, I seem to be lacking the necessary acumen to take on the betting ring. Racing is like that. Only those brave enough or sufficiently inured to reversal survive and keep coming back for more: Standing Man as Mark Rylance’s character so eloquently put it in the excellent Bridge of Spies.
They start the program pretty early. Midday to be precise. And they start with an excellent event. Minella Rocco shaped better than finishing third of three reads at Haydock and looks as if this step up in trip will suit him. Blaklion may well have won here last time but for tipping up at the notorious downhill fence so may gain his revenge on Vicente, but he faces the same obstacle again so will need to have learned from the experience. I also cannot help but observe that backing horses at Cheltenham with an ‘F’ by their form figures (as opposed to an expletive placed by a disgruntled punter) is not always the wisest move to make.
Vieux Lion Rouge, who is young enough and possesses enough scope to defy his current rating in the 1.45, has most to fear from solid opponents, Sausalito Sunrise and The Druids Nephew. These – and possibly Knock House (but I have limited it to three) – look a class above the opposition.
Finally, in a fierce-looking handicap hurdle, The Eaglehaslanded and Fingerontheswitch look to have claims, although it is possible that this trip will bring about improvement from Oscarteea, who could represent value at a double-figure price. Then again there are those tipping up Monbeg Gold and One Track Mind. It is already looking like a potential minefield to me.
I shall be watching with a mulled wine, or maybe an Asahi. It is my intention to ease my way back into betting between now and early in February, when the plan is – after a mid-winter break in India – to return to the fray by trying to decipher events at Meydan before the blitzkrieg that is Cheltenham and beyond. That’s the plan. Not much of one I admit, but right now, it’s all I have…