Cheltenham Festival Antepost Profit/Loss:
2pt win Ferny Hollow in the Champion Hurdle at 16/1
2pt win Quilixios in the Sporting Life Arkle at 12/1
1pt win Shewearsitwell in the Mares’ Hurdle at 20/1
2pt win Bravemansgame in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at 14/1
0.5pts each-way Captain Guinness in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at 66/1
2pt win Classic Getaway in the Champion Bumper at 14/1
1pt win Energumene in the Ryanair Chase at 16/1
FERNY HOLLOW was available at 50/1 for the 2022 Champion Hurdle prior to last week’s Cheltenham Festival and he is understandably much shorter after Appreciate It boosted the form of his Champion Bumper success courtesy of a 24 lengths romp on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and Bob Olinger advertised the strength of his maiden hurdle success at Gowran Park by virtue of a seven-and-a-half-lengths success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Appreciate It and Bob Olinger have won all seven of their combined subsequent starts including no fewer than five Grade 1 contests, which naturally poses the question of just how good is Ferny Hollow?
The Cheveley Park stud owned six-year-old displayed significant gears when defeating those high class rivals and he simply could be anything at this stage. Obviously he missed Cheltenham after failing to show the right signs at home prior to Christmas, but he is reportedly back in training and could still line-up at Punchestown.
If he does make that meeting and indeed plunders a Grade 1 prize of his own then he will undoubtedly find himself in the upper echelons of the betting for the Champion Hurdle, and the fact that Willie Mullins is light on genuine Champion Hurdle contenders – for all that Sharjah has been flying the flag admirably in recent years – may play a factor in what Ferny Hollow does next season.
There is also the argument concerning a lack of experience, which is obviously valid given that he has only had one start over hurdles thus far. However, that clearly didn’t bother connections of Energumene whom had just one start over hurdles before developing into a top class novice chaser this winter. It is worth noting, however, that Ferny Hollow was exceptionally keen on his first two starts in bumpers and may be type whom would benefit from more experience over hurdles.
I would also suggest that Cheveley Park Stud would be more than happy to support any decision that Willie Mullins made and would be keen to win a Championship race at the Cheltenham Festival given that they have no intention off adding to their National Hunt string – in the near future at least – following the passing of David Thompson.
Indeed, they intend to have some fun with the horses that are currently in their ownership and what better way to do that than winning championship races on the biggest stage of all?
QUILIXIOS ran out a ready winner of the Triumph Hurdle last week, improving his record to five victories from as many career starts. The Cheveley Park Stud owned four-year-old could easily remain over hurdles and go down the Champion Hurdle route next season. However, he has always been considered a chaser in the making and is in the right place to make a seamless transition.
Indeed, it certainly did his new stablemate A Plus Tard no harm to going chasing at four years of age, as he ran out a ready winner of the now defunct Novices’ Handicap Chase in March 2019 and boasts Grade 1 victories at 2m and 3m subsequently – in addition to placing second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last week.
The weight allowance prior to Christmas would undoubtedly aid his education and Fakir D’oudaries, whom landed the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase in 2019, is a further recent example of four-year-old’s being competitive at the top level in novice chase company.
Four five-year-old’s have won the Arkle in the last 23 years – namely Champleve (1998), Flagship Uberalles (1999), Well Chief (2004) and Voy Por Ustedes (2006) – and there aren’t many, if any, better trainers of a 2 mile chaser than Henry De Bromhead – as proven by his 2 Arkle victories and 3 Champion Chase successes in the last 12 years. Therefore Quilixios could easily develop into a serious Arkle contender if aimed in that direction.
The mares division looks solid if unspectacular judged on Black Tears’ victory last week and it’s possible that a few of this year’s novices’ can ruffle some feathers next season, with impressive Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle scorer Telmesomethinggirl a likely contender. However, I suspect that SHEWEARSITWELL would have given Henry de Bromhead’s mare a run for her money had she not been sidelined, and she could easily make up for lost time next season.
The exciting daughter of Shirocco won a Galway bumper before making a successful hurdling debut at Sligo in August. Both of those victories suggested that she was brimming to with potential, and she further confirmed that theory when readily kicking aside the boys in Grade 3 company at Tipperary in October.
Shewearsitwell clocked a 9 seconds quicker time than her 155 rated stablemate Saint Roi, whom landed the Grade 3 Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle over the same course and distance 35 minutes later, on that occasion and was promoted to the head of the betting for the Mares’ Novices Hurdle as a result. However, she met with a setback shortly after that contest and has not been sighted since.
Shewearsitwell has reportedly recovered from that unfortunate injury and will hopefully be back in action during the autumn, and she could easily develop into a serious contender for next year’s Mares’ Hurdle if picking up from where she left off.
Grade 1 Challow Hurdle victor BRAVEMANSGAME could only place third behind Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Ballymore last week, however, he has always looked like an embryonic chaser and should also appreciate stepping up to 3 miles next season.
There was certainly no shame in finding fellow Grade 1 winners Bob Olinger and Gaillard Du Mesnil too speedy last week and Paul Nicholls has done little to hide his excitement about the six-year-old going forwards. The comparisons regarding the mighty Denman have probably been blown out of proportion for obvious reasons. However, it’s still significant that the eleven-time champion trainer would mention them in the same breath, and his career path to this point is clearly similar.
The form of his hurdling debut defeat was given a boost when Soaring Glory landed the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. While his 10 lengths defeat of easy Grade 2 scorer Star Gate in the aforementioned Challow Hurdle also rates a solid piece of form.
If the imposing son of Brave Mansonnien shows the expected improvement for both fences and staying trips then he could easily develop into a leading player for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Therefore it’s worth taking some of the 14/1 currently available.
Shishkin already looks like he’ll take all of the beating in the Champion Chase next year and is priced up accordingly. However, CAPTAIN GUINNESS could represent fair each-way value at the huge price of 66/1.
Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old jumped for fun and ran into traffic when rounding the turn for home in last weeks Arkle, and I’m convinced that he would have been a good second to Shishkin had he settled better in the early stages and not got embroiled in a fist-fight with Allmankind for the majority of the contest.
It was to his credit that he battled on to claim third place after Eldorado Allen picked-up the pieces for second, and he is fully entitled to improve both mentally and physically for another summer at grass given both his age and lightly raced profile.
It is also worth remembering that Captain Guinness was still travelling well in red-hot Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when being brought-down last year – further demonstrating his ability in the Cotswolds.
A strong showing at Punchestown would undoubtedly see his price shorten significantly, and the established 2 milers don’t look rock solid at this stage. Therefore he is definitely worth chancing at a monstrous price – especially given his trainers record in the race (3 winners in the last 11 years).
Finding the Champion Bumper winner has become a fairly simple task – work out whom Cheveley Park have set aside and back them early doors! I jest, of course, but the fact remains that the prominent owner/breeders have won the last three renewals of this contest with high-class prospects – Envoi Allen (2019), Ferny Hollow (2020) and Sir Gerhard (2021) – and CLASSIC GETAWAY could bid to make it a fantastic four-timer in 2022.
I had wondered whether connections may be tempted to let the £570,000 purchase contest some of the better spring bumpers with a view to going hurdling next season. However, it has been their modus operandi to save a good horse for a Champion Bumper campaign and Chris Richardson virtually confirmed that this was the plan when discussing the Cheveley Park Stud horses yesterday, which is enough to garner my support given how impressive the striking son of Getaway was at Borris House in November.
The exciting five-year-old made stealthy headway and jumped to the front over the fourth last fence. He had all of his rivals off the bridle when sauntering clear over the third last fence and was allowed to coast home on the bridle, scoring by a facile 8 lengths.
It was a performance that simply oozed class and Classic Getaway could prove to be yet another top class performer to don the famous red, white and blue silks of Cheveley Park Stud.
It is also worth remembering that he will be six years of age by the time the Champion Bumper rolls around and will have a maturity advantage over many of his rivals, which should not be underestimated.
I’m not a fan of second guessing Willie Mullins as you can read on the lines, between the lines, left-to-right, right-to-left, top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top and still get things completely and utterly wrong. However, the Irish champion trainer does seem keen to try last weeks hugely impressive Ryanair Chase scorer Allaho over 2 miles and, if he proves effective, he is likely to partner Chacun Pour Soi in next year’s Champion Chase, which could conceivably have a knock-on effect for the hugely exciting ENERGUMENE.
The imposing son of Denham Road was an eleventh hour absentee from the Arkle last week and he could easily go down the Champion Chase route as a first string, second string or indeed third string next March. However, he was savagely impressive over two-and-a-half-miles on his chasing debut at Gowran Park and Paul Townend has seemingly been keen to make the running on each of his two subsequent starts – ensuring a strong gallop in doing so.
Whilst clearly fully effective over the minimum distance, Energumene seemingly possesses all of the attributes that made his aforementioned stablemate Allaho so impressive last week, as he jumps well, possesses a high cruising speed and likes to race prominently. Those tactics can often be utilised to best effect over further and – should the ground come up decent as it did this year – he may be better suited by going out in trip.
This is a race that can often cut up and Allaho (current Champion Chase 2nd fav), A Plus Tard (Cheltenham Gold Cup), Shishkin (Champion Chase fav) and Envoi Allen (Cheltenham Gold Cup 2nd fav), whom are the four horses currently ahead of Energumene in the betting, may all be headed elsewhere. Therefore it may be worth taking a small punt on Energumene lining-up here.