Angus McNae
Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
Wednesday 12th March 2014
Racing UK
Mullins Momentum Set to Roll On From the Start

I had a good start to the Festival here yesterday, with Vautour winning at 7-2 and The New One going down in the Champion Hurdle.

Unfortunately we did not get a full house, as Champagne Fever was narrowly touched off in the Arkle. Nonetheless we have some units at the ready going into today and I am keen on two horses.

Let's start with the obvious in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Surely this is going to go to Faugheen. I know he is not going to be much of a price, but everything he has done throughout his career has been full of class and he has always looked like a ready-made Festival horse.

His career has been a little understated, but a glance at the form book tells us that this horse is the real deal.

In May of last year he beat Josses Hill by 22 lengths. That horse finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday. Since then Faugheen has remained unbeaten, the latest of his wins being a facile success at Limerick. He did make a few errors that day and he will need to be slicker, but Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins will have him ready for this and he just could be a superstar. At the time of writing 9-4 is available, and that is very fair.

You will have read here on the blog last week that I am against Sire De Grugy in the Champion Chase on the basis that he has a 0-2 record at the track and both times he has run at Cheltenham he has made mistakes.

With this in mind surely we should be backing Captain Conan. He actually beat Sire De Grugy easily at Cheltenham in November 2012. He is four from six over fences, and when he was beaten by Sire De Grugy on his seasonal reappearance he palpably needed the run.

Having Barry Geraghty on board is an obvious plus, and his trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race for the past two years. He is a credible opponent to Sire De Grugy, and should be backed to lower the favourite’s colours.

The action on day one was exhilarating, particularly that which took place on the hurdles course. For me the two best races on the card were the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle. Vautour was really impressive in the Supreme and Jezki finally fulfilled his potential by taking the Champion.

One question arises out of the Champion, and that is whether The New One would have won if he had not been hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor.

It is too easy to say that because he finished so strongly, he would surely have won if he had not been hampered. That simply does not follow. What about if he finished strongly because by being hampered, and allowed to get into the race gradually, he actually saved energy that ultimately enabled him to finish well.

There is no doubt he ran a blinder and Sam Twiston Davies did not panic when he lost some ground, but you cannot say he would have won if he had got a clear run.

The Turtrax sectionals show that he was the fastest horse in the race between the last hurdle and the winning post, but they also show he was briefly outpaced down the hill. He may well gain his revenge on the two who finished in front of him another day, but it is far from certain that he will.

Today's Selections:

1.30 Cheltenham: Faugheen at 9-4 with BetVictor

3.20 Cheltenham: Captain Conan at 5-1 with BetVictor