by Dave Metcalf
Dave has over 30 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing and football fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for At The Races, Coral News, the Daily Mirror and Racing Plus newspaper. He produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.
Henderson Quells Fears Over RSA Hope Santini
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson has said there is “no reason” why Santini won’t run in the RSA Novices’ Chase at next week’s Cheltenham Festival – despite pulling off a shoe when schooling at Newbury on Sunday which has required treatment.
The seven-year-old had been the long-time ante-post favourite for the Grade 1 contest on Wednesday, 13 March, and as short as 9/4 following impressive debut over fences at Newbury in November before a solid third in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day when staying on strongly at the finish without being unduly knocked about.
However, fears were sparked that he had been injured and would miss the race following a huge drift on the betting exchanges which saw him touch 9/1 at one stage. That saw the Gordon Elliott’s Irish raider Delta Work usurp him at the head of the betting and he remains the favorite at a generally available price of 9/4. Santini, meanwhile, has come in for renewed support with most firms – with William Hill now a standout 4/1 about his chances. Henderson issued an update on Santini via Twitter prior to going into more detail about his well-being at a Cheltenham Festival Preview evening on Monday night. He said:
“Santini lost a shoe yesterday and our vet poulticed it as a precautionary measure. I have been away from the yard today but have spoken to my staff and they report him fine and we see no reason why he won’t run in the RSA. Should that change, I will update accordingly.”
Lil Rockerfeller to Have Another Crack Stayers’ Hurdle
Lil Rockerfeller, one of the most popular horses in training and the one that has put his trainer Neil King on the map, will bid to make it third time lucky in the Stayers’ Hurdle on the Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival for which he is currently a 50/1 shot with Unibet.
King confirmed the eight-year-old will take his chance in the Grade 1 contest over 3m on Thursday, 14 March, rather than run in the the Coral Cup handicap over the shorter trip of 2m 5f the previous day. Lil Rockerfeller, who is a dual winner at Grade 2 level, finished a gallant 3/4 length runner-up to Nichols Canyon in the 2017 running of the Stayers’ and having failed to really take to fences this season has run well in two starts since being switched back to the smaller obstacles.
In the last of those at Fontwell, he raced with real enthusiasm at the head of affairs before being unable to find any extra and finish a 3m 3/4 length third to Vision Des Flos in the Grade 2 National Spirit over an inadequate 2m 2f.
King believes that run showed he was not quick enough for the Coral Cup – making the Stayers’ Hurdle the right race to go for one again. He also revealed that high-flying Bryony Frost, who has partnered him in his last two starts, will once again be in the saddle.
Vinndication Ruled Out After Failing to Shine in Racecourse Gallop
Kim Bailey has announced his top novice chaser Vinndication has been ruled out of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival having failed to sparkle in a racecourse gallop at Newbury. The six-year-old has been prominent in the betting for both the JLT Novices Chase and the RSA Chase.
It is a massive blow for Bailey – the only trainer to win the Cheltenham Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season – as had looked the real deal since being sent chasing and is the apple of his eye.
Vinndication had won in fine style at Carlisle and Ascot prior to losing his unbeaten record under rules when third to Defi Du Seuil in Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown early last month when not ridden as aggressively as one previous occasions. Bailey said on his website:
“We took Vinndication and Wandarin Star to Newbury and sadly I was not happy with the way Vinndication went, so Cheltenham for him this year will be missed. It is so frustrating for all his owners. He is a still a weak and immature horse, and it is showing. There will be other big days for him.”
Vinndication’s absence leaves Bailey with a possible team of five for this year’s Festival – Charbel, Dandy Dan, Diamond Gael, First Flow, and Minella Warrior.
The quintet are all outsiders at prices ranging from 20/1 to 33/1 on Cheltenham 2019 ante-post markets.