The Express can do the job where Buywise could not
14 November 2015
I was braced on Saturday for stormy weather, which never materialized. That is not to say it will not blow a gale in the lead-up to Sunday’s action. And I’ve been scanning through the form to see who acts on the soft extreme.
Bookmakers remarked on Saturday that you could not predict the majority of Saturday’s results and by the time a favourite, Leave At Dawn, did find the winners’ enclosure the punters had dispersed to the confines of a warm stand and the bars to commiserate their harsh luck.
So onto to StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle day and who will win the competitive handicap.
Sign Of A Victory carried top weight with real dignity at Ascot when chasing home Nabucco last time. I thought he would win for a moment, but lack of fitness may have got the better of him. He’ll be a different proposition at 2.40.
Twelve months ago Vaniteux nearly defied the burden of 11st-12lbs when chasing home Garde La Victoire and I sense Sign Of Victory will be looming large despite his top weight come the final hurdle.
Nabucco was heavily supported in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot and did the job nicely but I did feel both it was the one that got away for both Sign Of A Victory and Jolly’s Cracked It, who was second by a nose. This examination will be harder for John Ferguson’s runner. The trainer also has Devilment, who had conditions in his favour in October, but it will be a bit trickier today.
As I type money seems to arriving for Waxies Dargle assisted, no doubt, by JP McManus’ notching three winners at the meeting to date. He acts on heavy and has every chance.
For a speculative selection I go left field and some with Ebony Express, this will only be his seventh start over hurdles and his already claimed an Imperial Cup. He has a lowly weight, can handle all ground and is the ideal type to weave through a big field.
The other unusual pick for me is Croco Bay, reason being his win at Ascot almost a year ago. To say he won doing cartwheels is an understatement - it was in soft conditions and he came back to run a brilliant third here at the Festival in the Grand Annual.
He returned to be beaten by Simply Ned at Kelso in October but that was on good to firm and conditions have slowed in his favour now. He looks a stupid price at double figures and he has to be value.
Finally a word on the Paddy Power Gold Cup, having backed Buywise. I can now say I have no right to be picking up money for his second place. It was a patient yet Herculean effort by jockey Paul Moloney. Deserved plaudits went to Ian Popham on the winner Annacotty, for all the injury angst that young jockey has suffered there is nobody more deserving.
Don’t mistake Buywise’s efforts as a horse finishing strongly, however. Those in front had gone too quickly and came back to Popham and Moloney. That said, on close inspection Buywise is not the easiest conveyance over a fence and if only he could get into a rhythm. Even my optimism had given up on even four out. Then when it all got too much for those at the head of affairs, who was keeping on at the same pace? Buywise.
Here’s hoping the same will apply to Ebony Express and Sign Of Victory in the Greatwood, while Croco Bay could be on the periphery of great things.
Tanya Stevenson Sunday tips:
2.10 Cheltenham: Croco Bay at 18-1 with Paddy Power
2.40 Cheltenham: Ebony Express at 22-1 with BetVictor and William Hill
Tanya Stevenson's Sunday pointers:
Top weights to have won since 2000 are 2010 Menorah, 2006 Detroit City, 2003 Rigmarole, 2002 Rooster Booster
Rooster Booster is the last horse to win the Greatwood Hurdle and go on to win the Champion Hurdle
Since Rooster Booster completed the double the six horses who have since tried have all failed
Only one of the last ten favourites have won and seven since 1990.
Only one of the last ten winners of the Greatwood Hurdle had previously run at the Open Meeting.
Eight of the last ten winners came from the first five in the betting.
Five of the last seven winners had returned from at least six weeks off the course
Only four winners since 1990 have been older than six
The last eight winners had no more than one run prior to the Greatwood in the current season.
Only two winners since 1990 were returned bigger than 12-1
Recent winners include 2012 Dodging Bullets & 2010 Cue Card
Eight of the last ten winners had won at least twice over hurdles
Eight of the last ten winners had won on their most recent run
Seven of the last ten winners went on to run at the Cheltenham Festival - six in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Only four winners in the last twenty years were priced 10-1 or bigger
Paul Nicholls has won the race nine times since 1995
Ten favourites have obliged since 1998
Winners include 2000 Best Mate, 2002 Azertyuiop and 2013 Dodging Bullets
Sire De Grugy finished runner-up in 2012 & Captain Chris finished runner-up in 2010
Nine of the last ten winners were no older than six
Eight of the last ten winners went on to run at the Cheltenham Festival (seven in the Arkle) all were beaten
Since 1990 only one horse priced in double figures has won – Moon Over Miami 2007
Sprinter Sacre has won three of his five races at Cheltenham
Somersby has had nine races at Cheltenham but never won. He has been second three times and third three times.