Tom Scudamore: Cheltenham can become a hurdle too high
Ballynagour did it very well at Warwick last week, when he won the Budbrooke Handicap Chase on his debut for David Pipe’s yard.
He’s been given a 21lb hike in the weights but he heads to the Cheltenham Festival with several options.
He has enough speed for two miles and he’s won over two miles four furlongs. He couldn’t have done it any better at Warwick. He jumped very well and won in the manner of a very good horse. He ran in point-to-points in Ireland and then he was sent to France, where he lost his way a bit. It was a good training performance to win as well as he did first time out.
Broadway Buffalo won the Doombar Festival/European Breeders’ Fund National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle at the same meeting and he’s engaged in both the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle over two miles five furlongs and the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, which is a three mile race, but I don’t think he will be going to Cheltenham.
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Nothing has been finalised at this stage, but he’s still a big baby and he’s an unlikely runner. He just doesn’t feel ready for Cheltenham to me. He’s only five and he doesn’t have much experience. A lot of the horses which are entered have run in bumpers, or on the Flat and are more seasoned.
There’s some very good racing on Saturday with some good handicaps and I’m not sure where I will be – either Newbury or Doncaster, it depends where Katkeau goes.
The handicaps are very competitive and they are hard to win, as you are taking on good horses. Everyone wants a Gold Cup horse, but they can’t all be Gold Cup horses so they’ll run in these very good handicaps which are always good to win. Sometimes the handicapper can get it drastically wrong and they under-estimate the horse when they give it its mark, but more often than not they over-estimate the horse’s ability.
A classic example of the former is Grands Crus, who was given a handicap mark and we felt he was a much better horse so we ran him in a handicap hurdle back in 2010 and he won very easily at Haydock and followed up a couple of weeks later at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, with these handicaps, you never really know.
Take Tony Martin, for example – he’s absolutely brilliant at winning handicaps in Ireland, and his horses are always backed at Cheltenham, but he hasn’t had a winner at the Festival for years.
The William Hill Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster doesn’t look a great race this year. The Package really needs to bounce back and run up to the level of form he showed when fourth in the Hennessey in November and if he’s back to that he’ll pick them all up and carry them around. But it has to be the same horse we saw at Newbury for him to win.
The other day I was on The Morning Line, and I was delighted to do so well in the quiz. I had one aim, to beat Nick Scholfield. He’s one of my best friends in the weighing room, but I had to beat him at the quiz – thankfully I did!
David Pipe’s horses are in great form, and I’m heading towards having my best season ever. My target is to get to 100 winners by the end of the season.
However, one thing I know in racing is that you can’t take anything for granted. While David’s horses are in the form of their lives ahead of the Festival, things can change very quickly and that’s why all we can do is take each day as it comes and enjoy the moment.
There’s racing at Exeter next Tuesday (March 5). The six-race card includes the Higos Insurance Services Devon National with the first race off at 2.30pm. Tickets cost from £13 if booked in advance, with Grandstand and Paddock tickets available from just £10 each for groups of ten or more. A free bus to the racecourse leaves Exeter St Davids at 12.50pm and Exeter Bus and Coach Station at 1.05pm and returns 30 minutes after the last race.
On Tuesday, March 19 a special March offer of £40 to dine in the Desert Orchid Restaurant is available. The offer includes a premier badge, table for the day, access to the Tote and a meal and costs just £40 per person. To book call the office on 01392 832599. Other ticket prices as above. The first race is off at 2pm.
Ticket hotline 0844 5793005