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Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Entries & Recent Form

I thought that it was a good, game performance from Woodlark Island to score at Kempton yesterday.  Our four year old made most of the running and stayed on gallantly to see off Cortinas by 3/4length in the handicap chase.  I was watching the racing on television yesterday when I fell asleep in my armchair, I awoke just as Woodlark Island reached the start - it was like some kind of good omen, so I had to have a little flutter.  It reminds me a bit of a story about Michael Dickinson and the Newmarket Sales.  He had an owner who would fall asleep and then buy whatever was in the ring when he woke up - he finished up buying Captain John...who needs form books?!

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Taking a look at the week ahead, if you are planning to take a trip to Kempton this afternoon, it would be well worth having a look at Robert Thornton's race riding master class and book signing.  On Tuesday Exeter play host to their Haldon Gold Cup fixture which is almost certain to attract a good field - I was amazed to think that it is ten years since Best Mate won the race.  More recently we landed the contest with Pablo du Charmil in 2007.

Don't forget that David's stable tour will appear in tomorrow's edition of the Racing Post.  I always enjoy keeping the stable tours from the various yards and looking back at the end of the season to see how accurate the trainers comments are.  There is normally a horse to follow, and a dark horse so it should certainly be worth a good read.

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The stable runners again performed creditably yesterday on the opening day of Cheltenham's new season.  Raslan ran a cracker in the competitive handicap hurdle to be beaten just under three lengths under Danny Cook.  I get the impression that the handicapper might just have him in his grip from a mark of 142, even so, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him stick another few pounds on his back after this performance.  Battle Group (the 6/1 joint favourite) finished just behind him and is another to have performed well without looking like he is obviously well-treated by the official assessor.

In the amateur riders' handicap chase, Swing Bill once again ran a solid race to finish second under Tom Weston (who I have to say, looked very professional).  This was possibly his best run so far and he could be up to winning again before too long.

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Tom__Lough_Derg

Tough as teak hurdler Lough Derg is in action this afternoon at Cheltenham
Cheltenham plays host to it's first meeting of the new season this afternoon, and we are represented by no fewer than six runners.  Among them is ever popular hurdler Lough Derg who has to shoulder top weight in the competitive handicap.  He has won over an amazing £360,000 during his career, and his popularity is largely due to his never-say-die and granite constitution - he is a real trier and unsurprisingly Tom Scudamore's favourite.  You may recall that Tom burst into tears after the pair had won their first National Spirit hurdle at Fontwell - I have cried over a few horses myself in the past, but it is normally when they have been beaten!

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I see that Ladbrokes have already paid out on Paul Hanagan to be the champion flat jockey for this year.  Apparently they have paid out about £150,000, although maybe they will be wishing they hadn't after his nearest rival Richard Hughes rode a treble to reduce the gap to seven.  I suppose Hughes' upcoming seven day suspension and his trip to ride in the Breeders' Cup in America on the last two days of the season have something to do with their decision to pay out early.  I wonder what would happen if there was only a couple of winners in it with a few days to go - would Richard cancel his trip to the States to challenge for the title?  I was also puzzled as to what Ladbrokes get out of paying punters early?...publicity I suppose.

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For those of you that keep in touch with my daily column, you would have read about my concerns for the England football team.  Well, as predicted they did not get a cricket score, instead they could only draw 0-0 with Montenegro.  Although England probably deserved a penalty for a hand ball infringement, let's be honest - if we can't Montenegro at Wembley, what chance do we have of lifting a major championship?  The obvious answer is none...how can you pick someone to win their first cap at the age of 32?  I really don't understand why Capello doesn't play more of the under 21 squad, they need to be blooded and I think that most of the public would be more accepting if they could see that the manager is building the team for the future.  Personally, I will be glad when Harry Redknapp takes over as England manager!

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Over 5,000 people turned up at Salisbury races yesterday for the Bathwick Tyres sponsored meeting.  The repeat of the free entry initiative certainly did the trick again, and the spectators were treated to a Frankie Dettori signature flying dismount after his victory aboard Secrecy.  It was obviously no secret that he was well-fancied as he started at odds of 1/2!  Let's hope that some of the first time race goers in attendance will come back and maybe pay next time - I firmly believe that more courses should have free entry days in the hope that they may capture more racing fans.

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