Colm Greaves: Three things we’ll learn at Cheltenham today

Colm Greaves looks at the Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle, Noel Meade’s prospects and novice chasers.

Colm Greaves: Three things we’ll learn at Cheltenham today

The art of placing a horse

Happily AP got off the mark in the Ryanair yesterday, but imagine that he hadn’t and headed in to the last Festival race of his career without a winner in the week? The tension would have been made even more unbearable as the Grand Annual Chase has been renamed in his honour this year. Step forward then, Noel Meade and the seven-year-old gelding, Ned Buntline.

Ned’s sole racecourse exertion so far this year was a spin in a hurdle at Christmas so he comes here only 2 lbs higher than last year when he was runner up and if he isn’t fancied, fit and ready to run his eyeballs out it would be, to put it mildly, surprising.

If you ever wondered what wheelbarrows full of money looks like – stand in the betting ring as they go to post.

Can novices win championship chases?

According to the British Handicapper, Phil Smith, Coneygree is the best novice chaser he has seen for over a decade, better even than Denman at this stage. The next question is if that makes him good enough to win today’s Gold Cup.

His trainer Mark Bradstock has agonised through the winter on which route to travel, the RSA against novices on Wednesday or to take on the senior lads later this afternoon.

In his favour: eight years old is mature for a novice, the expected overnight rain will slow the course down, his front running style will help avoid interference and it’s far from a vintage Gold Cup.

Against: the last novice to win the Gold Cup was Captain Christy in 1974. The most recent high-profile failure was Gloria Victus who was killed in a fall in 2000. Tough decision that.

Is Peace and Co the bee’s knees?

The first race on Friday always divides opinions. The Triumph Hurdle, a helter-skelter scramble of immature four-year-old ex flat horses and precocious Frenchies — it can either ruin a good horse in the long term, or alternatively, excite future expectations.

The truth lies a little in both camps and as this year the race looks both wide and deep, it could be more interesting than normal.

Since he cantered home by half the length of the straight in his British debut at Doncaster in December, Peace and Co has been a ridiculously short price for an open race.

His 16 opponents today have won 28 races between them including his unbeaten stablemate at Nicky Henderson’s, Top Notch.

The fact there are only 17 starters today will help the favourite as should the expected slower going.

It’s important to remember that sometimes very short prices are plain good value.

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