There’s less than one week to go until the Cheltenham Festival 2017 and here’s a preview of the Coral Cup.
Modus 11/1 (156) – Modus has been a frustrating horse to follow in the last couple of seasons. He clearly has tonnes of ability having won the Champion Bumper and the step up in trip at Kempton last time saw significant improvement as he bounded away in a competitive handicap. He had previously been finding things happening too quickly and it’s clear that the step in trip was the key to him. He will therefore appreciate and even stiffer test here but his mark of 156 doesn’t look to have much juice left in it for me and in all likelihood he is going to have the burden of carrying top weight which won’t help him in keeping a decent position through the race, something which I believe could be a problem for him. I don’t believe he has the class to concede 7lbs to the likes of Tombstone and Bleu Et Rouge and for that reason I’m out!
Tombstone 11/2 (149) – Has been given an outstanding chance by the handicapper. Connections were highly likely to supplement him for the Champion Hurdle prior to the weights being released for this and they have been tempted to run here instead. The very fact that they were going to supplement him for the Champion Hurdle tells us what high regard they hold him in and they clearly thought he would be placed or the large supplementary fee would not have been worthwhile. With that in mind we have to keep him on side here as he could well be a Grade One animal masquerading as a handicapper.
Blue Et Rouge 20/1 (149) – Given how strongly we like Tombstone then we have to be with Bleu Et Rouge too at the prices. The pair met at Leopardstown in the Delloite last year and Bleu Et Rouge came out on top by three lengths. That is a really smart piece of form and although Bleu Et Rouge was getting 1lb from Tombstone he was only a five year old at the time and when Tombstone came to him at the business end of the race he eyeballed him and repelled him. His chasing campaign clearly hasn’t gone to plan this year but reverted back to hurdles he has to be a major player here. He has tonne of form over two miles doing all of his best work late on in races and so this trip and track should be perfect to him. Given how closely matched he is with Tombstone on the formbook he cannot be overlooked at 20/1 if he runs here.
Automated 14/1 (142) – Gordon Elliott has been very bullish about his chance in this despite the 5lb higher mark given by Phil Smith. He won nicely enough at Navan in December when beating Scoir Mear. The two pulled a long way clear of the third and there was plenty to like about the performance as he came from last to first to win. Brian Cooper clearly knew he was on the best horse and he won going away. His strike rate of 2 wins from 10 starts over hurdles, coupled with the shocking recent record of horses returning from a break of over 90 days at the Festival is a negative but he will go close I’m sure.
No Comment 20/1 (137) – As it stands No Comment has little chance of getting into the race as number 64 on the list. However, he is entered in a handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday and if he were to win there then the 5lb penalty would almost certainly book his place here. He is a horse that I have had in my notebook since the start of the season. I think he has a proper engine and he’s been progressing nicely win three victories since having his colours lowered by the extremely smart Robin Roe. He has given the impression that a step up in class and a truly run race on a stiff track would be right up his street. With the NRNB concession he is worth siding with as if he gets into the race I can see him halving in price, particularly if he wins with authority on Saturday.
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2 PTS WIN – TOMBSTONE @ 11/2 (General) NRNB
1 PT WIN – BLEU ET ROUGE @ 20/1 (General) NRNB
1 PT WIN – NO COMMENT @ 20/1 (General) NRNB