GC: Time has beaten us folks but thanks for all your questions. I'll be back same time, same channel next week to reflect on Trials Day and more. All the best this weekend, GC.
GC: Astonishing horse, Niall, though not one I've managed to get right from a punting view on various big days. Sea Pigeon won a CH at 11 and HF has a record to match that mighty horse over the last few years. That said I wouldn't fancy him in March unless the ground came up very soft and he'll surely have his hands full again with Jezki given that there was only half a length between them here over Christmas. Just one point to mention regarding Sunday's race. I think I'm right in saying Leopardstown was set up in it's tightest format in December. I think the rail will be out wider this time around and that might just help Jezki more than it does the Fly. It looks like Plinth is in there to set the pace for Jezki and although opposing the Fly at this venue over the years has been a very swift way to the poorhouse my punting instincts tell me there is hardly an ounce between the pair, and, as such, Jezki has to be tempting if he gets any bigger than 7/4.
Niall: I cant wait to
Sunday for the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Do you think Hurricane
Fly will be able to beat Jezki again? If he does and looking further ahead to
Cheltenham, do you think he has a chance of winning the Champion Hurdle for a
third time at 11 years old? What a wonderful horse he has been.
GC: There's always cause for optimism when you've horses as good as this trio but I mist admit I'm in no mood to oppose Un De Sceaux. We touched on it last week but it's worth repeating this last has a fast, aggressive jumping technique to go with his blazing speed. It will be a great spectacle as Bryan Cooper on Clarcam and either AP McCoy or Mark Walsh on Gilgamboa try to keep tabs on him. UDS is already a skinny price for the Arkle at Cheltenham. He's bidding to take out two of his main Festival rivals on Sunday... and I think he probably will.
Sean: Big race at
Leopardstown on Sunday with the trio of UDS, Clarcam and Gilgamboa gunning for
top prize, do you think whoever comes out on top will be nailed on for Arkle or
will the ground on Sunday give the losers good cause for optimism heading
towards the festival
GC: The cat's been out of the bag a long while now with this fellow, but I'm really hoping we see something special from him. In case you haven't seen it before, have a look at the way he jumps in this Clairefontaine win and then hark back to the way he absolutely demolished some fair horses at Donny on his British debut. He clocked a time nearly 10 seconds faster than the 127-rated handicapper Kashmir Peak that day and did so on the bridle after jumping like a very good horse indeed again. Tomorrow's Triumph Hurdle Trial looks a really good race with Bivouac already rated 147 on the BHA scale, Karazak rated 142 and the Nicholls runner Ibis Du Rheu looking a very bright prospect after an emphatic win in France for the McCaire yard. We're unlikely to get any great price but I must admit it's a long while since I've been as impressed by a juvenile hurdler as I was by Peace And Co at Donny. He just needs to race a little less aggressively to fulfil his massive potential but I can't wait to see him tomorrow as there's something about him which suggests he could be a real crackerjack.
James: What are you expecting from Peace And Co at Cheltenham tomorrow?
GC: I think it should make some ripples in the Gold Cup market, but assessing who will be doing the rippling is tough. The first point to make is this might not be a truly run contest as very few of this sextet are proven front runners. That won't hinder Dynaste and his Ryanair win, his Aintree second and that fine King George second to Conti mean that he lines up with very bright prospects. That said, he does have potential improvers against him. Many Clouds absolutely thrived for a gruelling stamina test in the Hennessy and I'd love to see him win as it would be great to see Oliver Sherwood and Trevor Hemmings lining up on GC day with a live contender. Overall, Smad Place surely has to be a danger to all getting 8lb from his main rivals here. I am a tad biased having had a few quid on him for the GC before his Hennessy fifth. But Djakadam showed it's possible to leave a run like that way behind and Smad Place's Cheltenham record over hurdles and fences bears very close inspection. It may be significant he's been strongly supported this week and though it's hard to have maximum confidence my instinct tells me Dynaste and May Clouds (who is 12lb worse off with Smad Place this time) will have to be right on their game if Alan King's grey is right back on song.
Kelvin: The BetBright looks
interesting tomorrow. Doesn't look to be to be a standout horse among them,
rather some very good horses, some more consistent than others. What do you think about the race?
GC: Don't agree that you're taking a massive chance as regards Saphir Du Rheu, Bradley. True, he's had his issues over fences but his hurdles form is extremely strong and Nicholls is cleaning up these big races right now. That said, the bookies aren't taking any chances at 7/4 and I wouldn't put anyone off Un Temps Pour Tout for the simple reason that he thrashed Cole Harden last Feb and meets that rivals on 6lb better terms here. He has to go very close here to earn a ticket to the WH and I suspect he will do exactly that. That said, the immediate puzzle relates to tomorrow's market and when I look at the shape of this race I wonder whether 11/2 will be too big a price about Reve De Sivola. He's never been flashy, but he hasn't half won some big races in his time, including this race 2 years ago, and the way he turned Zarkandar away in the Long Walk indicates he's right on top of his game. e should get a true test here with Cole Harden set to make the running. I'm sure you'll get a good run from UTPT but conditions look right for RDS to run his race again and if he does, 11/2 is a very fair price.
Bradley: What do you make of
the Cleeve hurdle tomorrow. I am firmly in the un temps pour tout camp - I have
already had a decent bet on the pipe runner for Cheltenham. I can't believe
that Saphir du rheu is around the 2/1 mark as favourite - anyone backing the
Nicholls runner is surely taking a massive chance at that price based on this
GC: Not quite as convinced as you, Gil. The World Hurdle looks to have a pretty hazy look to it at the moment but Monksland seems to have run to a mark of around 150 in his two runs since that lengthy injury break and it goes without saying that he needs to find a good 10lb to win a World Hurdle and although that's possible I couldn't be confident overall.
Gil: Hi GC. StiIl on the subject of horses returning from serious injury. I hold an ante post voucher for Monksland in the World Hurdle and was very pleased with his second comeback race yesterday on ground he would not have loved. I still think he is a proper e.w. chance for the WH but am surprised to see the likes of Hills have pushed him out in the betting, grateful for your view on what looks to me like a wide open WH this year.
GC: Here's a really interesting tactical debate, Andy. Some people simply take the view that The New One was desperately unlucky having being hampered 12 months ago but I take a slightly different view. It would be folly to suggest that The New One isn't a high-class two miler but to my eye the key split in last year's race involves the long run from two out to the last. That split involves around 350yrds covered in just under 24 seconds and when you watch the replay back you'll see that The New One was simply unable to make any headway on Jezki and My Tent Or Yours. Perhaps this year will be different but I was inclined to take The New One at 3/1 or under before last week's Haydock win and nothing I saw last Saturday persuaded me to change that view. In short, Jezki has looked a very solid each-way option at 6/1 for some while now and I hope he can confirm that impression when he goes in against the Fly again at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Andy L: Graham.
Do you think The New One has the tactical speed to win a Champion hurdle? I
think he could get outpaced at some point in the Champion hurdle. For me
Faugheen will win with Jezki the main danger. The New One's jumping is also a
cause for concern whilst Faugheen jumped really slickly in the Christmas hurdle
GC: There are so many factual inaccuracies in that diatribe I don't know where to start, Bob. We need to get onto as many other questions as possible, but a couple of points do occur. First, it's a really cute move by Newmarket to use switching July Cup day to midweek as a bargaining chip to help them get what they want later in the season. And it seems what they want is a Saturday and Sunday Future Champions Weekend with the Dewhurst and the Fillies' Mile on day two. That should be an excellent weekend for the HQ purists such as yourself, but you mentioned the phrase 'voting with your feet' in your length epistle. It will be interesting to see if the turnstiles will be ringing for such a tempting double header? Or will they be giving away thousands of tickets free in order to ensure the bars and terraces are bouncing?
Bob M: Well it looks like racing's rulers think more about
Newmarket than you Mr Cunningham. You must be disappointed to see the Middle
Park moved away from the Dewhurst and Future Champions' Day moved to a
Saturday for a course you have openly slated.
You got that one wrong suggesting Newmarket didn't deserve any better - and
you should always respect public opinion, particularly racing
educated customer opinion when it comes to racing matters. You took a blinkered
view with the crazy people that made the changes in the first place
that thought they knew better. People voted with their feet and the
contrived self interests were hit in the pocket.
You derided people last October on your forum are you big enough to accept you
might have been wrong now? July Cup hopefully moving back to mid week too,
perfect. Hopefully the Champion Stakes will find its way back to where it
belongs rather than the ploughed field and sheer snobbery of the wettest patch
in Berkshire in October. Then we can leave you to zealously guard your patch
of bog in peace - oh and you can have the Cornwallis back too!
GC: I'm inclined to kick out the Hennessy completely. Some fair judges think he was short of peak fitness there and he was also a shade too aggressive. He might not be the only good horse who failed to show his best at Newbury, so now it's over to Smad Place to test that theory again tomorrow.
DB: What did you make of Djakadam’s Theystes performance given it looked a palpable non stayer in the Hennessy.
GC: Pretty sure Djakadam is going for Gold after yesterday's performance and I don't blame Willie Mullins in the slightest. Here's a horse that's only six with just five races behind him and yesterday's win was never really in doubt despite much of the action being obscured by fog. Clearly, we need to keep things in perspective and giving an exposed horse like My Murphy a 13lb or 14lb beating isn't a level to match the best around at the moment. But the way Djakadam won yesterday expunged any stamina concerns and though he came down in the JLT his jumping seems an asset. We won't see him until the Festival now and the ball is in Ruby's court. Does he choose this young improver? Does he choose last year's GC runner-up On His Own? Does he, as he has done on more than one occasion in the past, choose Boston Bob ahead of On His Own? I'll stay on the fence as regards Djakadam for the moment but I've always felt there was room at the top for an improver in this year's GC. We clearly saw one yesterday, and, who knows, we might see another in tomorrow's BetBright Cup at Cheltenham.
Jimmy Smith: Morning Graham.
After Djakadams top weight carrying performance yesterday, do you believe he
can be a player in the Gold Cup this year or do you think it may come a year
too early for him?? Or do you think the Ryanair is a suitable alternative
option for 2015 but is the trip too short??
GC: You could be right and that I'm guilty of ignoring something staring me in the face. There's no doubt DB is a different horse than the one who was beaten fair and square in last year's Arkle and I don't want to put anyone off. On this occasion, I tend to ask myself the question N Henderson made in the aftermath of last week's race. Can he use his skills in the next 6 weeks to find the 3 lengths SS needs to dig out in order to beat DB? Hendo thinks he can. And, on good ground, I suspect he might be right.
Car: After the Clarence House on
Saturday. It was great to see the black aeroplane back. I understand he needed
the run. However, I feel dodging bullets could be the one to side with in the
champion chase. At 5-1 now for a Tingle Creek and a Clarence House winner. I
think he's still value. Your thoughts on the QM GC?
GC: Not my specialist subject. Courtez but medication for this sort of thing is used on a routine basis with the proviso that anything used is out of a horses system by race day. Sprinter's high profile means that any small development is likely to be reported from now on and I think that can only be a positive.
Courtez: In light of Sprinter Sacre's supposed bleeding from the nose
after Ascot, does this permit his trainer to administer any anti bleeding drugs?
With the consent of the Jockey Club veterinary department, obviously.
GC: Can't have that on any level Gary. I doubt Nicky Henderson is much of a fan of mine, but any suggestion that Sprinter Sacre was schooled in public last week is pie in the sky in my view. He was a horse coming back from a 13 month break caused by heart trouble who made his move into the race to draw level two out only to be outpaced once Dodging Bullets kicked on at the last. True, Geraghty's whip was never used but what on earth did you expect to see given the circumstances? With respect, even a novice race reader could see that he wouldn't have found more than half a length or a length given a couple of cracks and I had no qualms about the way he was put into the race or the way he was just nudged out once he began to flag whatsoever.
Gary Harvey: It's all
very nice to see the Channel4 pundits waxing lyrical about Sprinter Sacre's
health after the race, but shouldn't the question be asked to Henderson as to
why you would put any horse in a race with little desire of trying to win the
race. I'm sure some small trainer at a
grade 4 track would have been hauled in front of the stewards on a "non
GC: Good info, Tom, though I don't agree with all of it. I was always lukewarm on Big Buck's last season, not least because he had two big improvers up against him in Annie Power and More Of That but I'm nowhere near as convinced SS can be laid with confidence. I'm interested that so many people seem to think he jumped well last week as to my eye there was nothing like the brazen power he used to show at his fences with the possible exception of four out. That said, I was reasonably encouraged by the way he kept on in the straight and anyone who thinks he found nil while coming clear of Twinlight and Somersby was watching a fairly different race to me. To my mind, the one thing that possibly got lost in the shuffle last week related to the ground. I know SS has plenty of high-class form in the mud but I do suspect a really good ground Festival would play very much to his strengths. Last week's race at Ascot was a stamina-sapping 2m1f with a winning time of 4mins08.7secs, a spring ground Champion Chase would see the winner hit the line in around 3m47secs or 3m38secs and I think that might place a different complexion on matters. We also have to factor in Festival form and DB has been to the big show three times finishing fourth in a Triumph, ninth in a Supreme Novices' and fourth in last year's Arkle. By contrast, Sprinter finished third in the Supreme (when he was sent for home too early) before cantering away with an Arkle and a Champion Chase. It's great that this puzzle is attracting so much passionate debate but I think the bookies have it right in having SS ahead of DB for the moment and Sire De Grugy will need to shrug off his training problems pretty quickly if he's to beat the pair of them in March.
Tom L: Morning GC. Sprinter's performance last week reminds me just
a little too much of Big Buck's run in the Cleeve last year, after a similarly
long lay off. "Travelled well, jumped well, very fit, just got a bit tired
etc...". I bought into it last year, despite the nagging though that
"he's just not the horse he was". In the very same predicament this
time around. Would dearly love to see SS win, and while there are positives to
take from last week, I just can't quite reconcile with what I saw last week.
Furthermore, Dodging Bullets looks a serious horse this year and I'm not buying
into the "doesn't perform after xmas" line. Nicholls seems to have
reinvented him and, crucially, he's finishing his races extremely well. Clearly
the one to beat IMO
GC: Very good morning Guy. On balance I do, but that's not to say I've gone cold on him as regards this year's Festival. This is clearly the type of horse and the type of story that makes people want to take a firm view if only because being right come March bestows a certain amount of bragging rights. But I think what SS did last week leaves the door open for several possibilities at Cheltenham and I think anyone who just writes him off or marks him up as a good thing on the back of what we saw last week is potentially jumping the gun.
Guy: You were one of the few pundits who dared to say
that the wins of Sprinter Sacre at the top level in 2013 may have taken a toll.
Do you still subscribe to this theory ?
Graham Cunningham will be answering your questions from 1100GMT. You can still get your questions in to firstname.lastname@example.org
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