Tanya Stevenson
Tanya Stevenson's Racing UK Blog
Friday 14th November 2014

Racing UK

Balthazar can lead the pilgrimage to Cheltenham

The anticipation is intense; thrilled as we all were to have Cheltenham active in the racing calendar once more.

The course may have already hosted the Showcase Meeting last month, but the next three days is where it all starts.

Old acquaintances renewed, current ones further cemented, and future ones hopefully forged.

Tweed and corduroys dusted off and at the ready, an astute eye over the form and we are all set.  

An excited roar is sure to greet the start of the first race.

Plenty will click through the turnstiles curious to view the evolving changes courtesy of some new construction work.  

Yet there’ll be plenty heading straight to the ever-popular shopping village.  

I can almost taste the traditional mince pies, which I tuck into at least once over the next three days.  

Many ask where I purchase my millenary, with a good win I often treat myself to a hat in the shopping village, thanks to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday I may be able to make that investment early!

The three days offers a chance to glean the major players for the 2014-2015 National Hunt season; here is hoping for some pleasant surprises and some epic battles. 

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The absence of AP McCoy and Sire De Grugy is a massive loss, the latter lit up last season and fingers crossed he will be back very quickly. 

McCoy will be as restless as we are not to have him, the phenomenon taken for granted, on these occasions his skill is appreciated all the more. A speedy recovery is required for our champion, Cheltenham, in fact National Hunt racing, is not the same without him.   

Having spent most of the week scouring through the stats, be warned that not many horses have done the double - win at this Open meeting to then go on to win at the Festival in March. Yet this has evolved into a mini Festival itself. Those horses who run well at the meeting in previous Novembers often replicate the form.

I have had the privilege of having a crucial preview of the course on Thursday and it helps gain the bearings, and more importantly and sentimentally it gives me a sense of occasion. 

I’ve had to stop myself all morning, however, from getting to the course much earlier than needed and even took in a spinning class as a means of delaying tactics then waited for the declarations for today and Saturday’s big race.  

The ever gloomy and gathering grey clouds looked ominous outside my window, they will have to deposit a deluge to come close to the soaking I got at Doncaster on Saturday! That caused a pair of boots and a supposed waterproof coat to find its way to the dustbin!

Balthazar King
© Racehorse Photos

Balthazar King
I’m mindful though that one of jumping’s favourite sons, Balthazar King, wouldn’t want the going to be extreme.  

There should be scarves made in his colours, or even flags for us to wave, as he goes to the start. Uncle Junior is deserved of our support also.  Eight will try and negotiate the intricacies of the Cross Country Course.  Wouldn’t it be good if there was the option to view the whole race from the air until they turned for home for the final time? Or indeed watch an aerial computer animated view of the race? It would add a crucial perspective and understanding of how much they had to travel and the course they are taking. 

It’s just over eight minutes of action to marvel at the twists and turns and varied obstacles, yet Balthazar King has in recent years made it his speciality and in April ran a fantastic second to Pineau De Re in the Crabbies' Grand National.  

He is sure to be returning to the spruce fences in the hope to go one better, but for now it’s his turn to please the crowd at his favourite course and give us all something to cheer about come 3.40. He's short, but he is sure to be worth it.

Tanya Stevenson's Friday tip: 

3.35 Cheltenham: Balthazar King at Evens with Ladbrokes

Tanya Stevenson's pointers:

1.50 Cheltenham - Paddy Power Handicap Chase:

Only three of the last ten winners had previously won at the course.

All ten winners were a single figure starting price.

Over the last eleven years, Paul Nicholls last 11 runners have resulted in three winners, two seconds and a third.

Over the last eleven years, Nicky Henderson’s last nine runners have resulted in three winners and two thirds. 

2.25 Cheltenham - Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase:

The last eight winners were aged six.

Eight of the last ten winners came from the first three in the betting.

The last ten winners had had no more than one run prior in the current season.

Six of the last eight winners had run in the same year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Previous winners include Taquin Du Seuil, Dynaste, Grands Crus, Imperial Commander and Denman.

3.00 Cheltenham - Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle:

Only three of the last ten favourites have won (2004 Brewster, 2008 Diamond Harry & 2011 Fingal Bay).

Seven of the last ten winners had run no more than once over hurdles prreviously.

Seven of the last ten winners came from the first three in the betting.

3.35 Cheltenham - Cross Country Chase:

Balthazar King is running for the sixth consecutive year at this Open Meeting 09 2nd, 10 2nd, 11 PU, 12 2nd, Last year WON.

Balthazar King is running for the sixth time over the Cross Country fences, on his first experience he was carried out but since then he has finished second once and won three times.

Balthazar King’s record at Cheltenham is amazing 16 runs, seven wins and four seconds.

Uncle Junior is encountering the cross country fences for a ninth occasion having won twice and second once.

Eight of the last nine winners of the Cross Country Chase have been aged ten or over

Eight of the last ten winners were Irish-trained

Eight of the last ten winners came from the first three in the betting