By Barry Doyle
I suppose it would be wrong to start this piece about the week in racing without paying tribute to the great Many Clouds. Last Saturday at Cheltenham saw some rare but tragic set of events.
Ex Grand National hero Many Clouds served it up to the odds on ante-post Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack & outfought him up the famous Cheltenham hill.
Moments after victory sadly he suffered a fatal internal bleed leading to trainer Oliver Sherwood stating “We always said he’d die for you, he’s done that today”.
Along with his obvious talent & huge heart Many Clouds was one the best looking animals in the game. Carrying the highest winning National weight since Red Rum he also defied the stat that cursed many an Aintree hero when winning 3 times post National.
Many Clouds will certainly go down as one of the true greats. We remember him for his savage jumping, iconic nose band , ginger tinted fringe, Hemmings silks, gigantic stride & refusal to give in.
The Champion Hurdle picture has been shaken up this week with further uncertaintly at the head ofthe ante-post market. Willie Mullins trained Faugheen missed the Irish Champion Hurdle on Sunday with a reported pulled muscle & JP McManus owned Yanworth will miss his prep in this weekend’s contenders hurdle.
It’s another JP horse who’s the springer in the market. Nicky Henderson trained BEVEUR D’AIR will replace Yanworth in the contenders hurdle at 13:50 at Sandown on Saturday. He will abandon his novice chase campaign for a late tilt at the Champion Hurdle.
In a year that so much uncertainty surrounds those at the top of the Champion Hurdle betting it’s a fascinating late switch back over hurdles epsecially given the timing & connections involved.
JP McManus only bought Buveur D’Air prior to the start of the 2016/2017 national hunt season having finished 9L 3rd behind Altior & Min in last years Supreme. Altior’s performance that day was right up there with your Vautour’s and Douvan’s of this world leaving Buveaur D’Air far from disgraced.
Going into last years Supreme the Henderson camp couldn’t split Altior or Buveaur D’Air. In fact recent reports suggested the Henderson camp believed Buveaur D’Air was indeed their fastest two miler.
This information coincide with last years Supreme result potenially backs up the theory that the Supreme Novice race over two mile tends to favour the strengths of a stayer (Altior) rather than a speed horse (Buvair D’Air).
A year down the line now given more time to strenghten I fully expect Buveur D’Air to dispose of stable mate Brain Power this weekend & leap frog Yanworth in the betting for the March show piece.
You can now back him at 7/1 with Boylesports & that now looks the juiciest price in the entire Champion Hurdle market with just less than six weeks until the festival.
Although it may not seem ideal preparation reverting back to hurdles half way through a novice chase campaign It’s worth noting that Petit Mouchoir came out the wrong side of Buveur D’Air when they faced each other at Aintree in April & he’s 4/1. In Nicky we trust.
Another one I’m looking forward to seeing on the Sandown Card on Saturday is the Paul Nicholls trained 5 year old CLAN DES OBEAUX 14:25. This fellow is owned by one of my all time heros Sir Alex Ferguson, I do promise I don’t just pick horses with flash connections but this lad is very exciting.
His chasing debut didn’t go according to plan on good ground in October before romping home to a 10L victory in a Grade 2 at Newbury in November. This was one of the most complete performances I’ve seen in any category this season.
There was soft in the description that day at Newbury & thats key to this fellow given his high action. At Cheltenham on dead ground he went off hot favourite & was just run down in the finish by the more experienced Whisper.
Altough Cheltenham in March may not be entirely suitable, Clan Des Obeaux’s jumping is electric & at the age of 5 he’s very progressive. Expect the flatter track at Sandown to suit & he should take all the beating.
BEST BETS OF THE WEEK
BEVEUR D’AIR – 7/1 (Boylesports) (Cheltenham Champion Hurdle)
CLAN DES OBEAUX – 15/8 (Betfair Sportsbook) (14:25 Sandown Saturday 4th Feb)