Preview And Tips For Cheltenham 2007 UK Horse Racing Action

Mar 4 19:38 2007 Malcolm Heyhoe Print This Article

A preview of the upcoming UK horse racing action for March and The 2007 Cheltenham Festival. A host of betting tips and sneek-peek at the horses to keep an eye out for.

When racing fans think of March,Guest Posting they think only of the four days of the Cheltenham Festival and the start of the new turf Flat season at Newcastle. The build-up to the former begins in November and never lets up. Barley a day goes by without a bookmaker supplying a story, or a trainer talking about the tricky road to Cheltenham. The Festival defines the entire jumps season like no single event in any other sport.

Thankfully March’s racing programme starts quietly enough on the 3rd of the month with Newbury’s VC Casino.com Gold Cup, a classy two and a half mile handicap chase that is now in its third year. Trainer Paul Nicholls may well have the answer to this year’s race with the hat-trick seeing Nozic. This would be nothing new because the same stable won the race a year ago with Cornish Sett.

The following Saturday, March 10, sees Sandown stage its traditional eve of Cheltenham fixture and the Sunderlands Imperial Cup takes centre stage. This race is usually won by a lightly-raced youngster that has managed to hide its talents in the current season and is often to be found taking a step up in class. David Pipe will be seeking to emulate his father’s terrific record of four wins in the past ten runnings while any Irish raiders should also be respected.

The Sandown card also plays host to the EBF “NH” Novices’ Hurdle Final and this is always a race to watch for future chasing prospects. Some smart types have collected this prize down the years and backers should look out for Nicky Henderson’s Sir Jimmy Shand, who might just turn up here in preference to a tilt at a Cheltenham Festival prize.

The 2007 Cheltenham festival kicks off onMarch 13 with the Champion Hurdle occupying prime position. Once again all eyes will be upon the powerful quintet of Irish hurdlers that have dominated this race in recent years and include Brave Inca, the reigning champion and Hardy Eustace, a dual winner in 2004 and 2005. Throw into the mix a precocious talent such as Iktitaf, who can be forgiven his latest dismal run on the grounds of a virus infection, and the Irish challenge looks as strong as ever.

Twelve months ago many among the Irish raiding party would not have expected to perform as well as they had done one year earlier. Nine Irish trained winners in 2005 had been hailed as a special achievement but that figure was swiftly eclipsed by a total of ten victories for the Irish in 2006. I doubt whether they will be able to emulate either of these figures in 2007.

They certainly look up against it in the Champion Hurdle with home-based challengers Detroit City and Straw Bear putting down a serious challenge to the Emerald monopoly on the hurdling crown. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see either of the aforementioned horses give the British their first Champion Hurdle winner since Rooster Booster in 2003.

The two-mile speed machines enjoy their place in the spotlight on Wednesday March 14 when the Queen Mother Champion Chase pits reigning champion Newmill against the powerful talents of Well Chief, Nickname and Voy Por Ustedes. The former looked back to his very best when landing Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase on his first start for two years the other day.

Providing he isn’t hit with the ‘bounce’ factor that can often see a horse perform below-par on its second star back after a long absence, he should go well but rising stars Nickname and Voy Por Ustedes will be no pushovers. Nickame has looked unbeatable over two miles on soft ground and if those conditions prevail at Cheltenham, he might be the one to give Ireland its second successive Queen Mother title.

On Thursday March 17 the Festival features its quietest day for championship races with the World Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase combining to put substance into the creation of an extra day for the modern Cheltenham. In the former contest the disgraced Black Jack Ketchum will attempt to put his season back on track after a dismal capitulation in last month’s Cleeve Hurdle at the same course. He seemed not to stay a testing three miles that day and connections will be looking for better ground this time around. Otherwise he may not run.

Decent rivals lay in wait and they will include Mighty Man, last year’s World Hurdle third who also requires a sound surface, and the Francois Doumen-trained Kasbah Bliss, who handles cut and is a live outsider. In the Ryanair Chase the Nicky Richards-trained Monet’s Garden will never have a better chance of winning a Festival race and laying his cautious trainer’s Cheltenham hoodoo. This is a weak race.

Friday March 16 sees the Cheltenham Festival climax with the Gold Cup and it is hard to see beyond Kauto Star in what looks a below-par running of chasing’s Blue Riband. You know that this is an ordinary renewal when a plodder like The Listener features in the top six in the betting. Exotic Dancer aside, there seems no reason why Kauto Star shouldn’t add this race to the King George he secured at Christmas. Much has been made of his last-fence demolitions but he’s still been standing and his canny trainer will adopt more enterprising race tactics in the Gold Cup, thus playing to his horse’s strengths and inconveniencing his rivals.

At the end of Gold Cup week on March 17 Uttoxeter stages the Midlands National and watch out for Nil Desperandum, the current Grand National favourite in this marathon four-miler while March ends on the 31st with the Lincoln Handicap at Newcastle that features Willie Knight’s recent Dubai winner Illustrious Blue among the market leaders while over in the desert kingdom, Discreet Cat and Invasor could clash in the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba. Isn’t it great to have the Flat back?

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Malcolm Heyhoe
Malcolm Heyhoe

Malcolm Heyhoe writes weekly horse racing articles for GG.com – horse racing betting in the UK He is also a tipster for the Racing Post Weekender, contributor to The Guardian and has written on racing for Sporting Life, Racing Post, Irish Examiner and The Independent newspaper.

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