The dust and torn up betting dockets have finally settled on the Cheltenham Festival. It wasn’t the best Festival the punters have ever had thanks largely to several short-priced favourites failing to oblige, but if you think you’re ready after all the emotion, here’s a look at five horses who didn’t win at Cheltenham, but might well win in the not so distant future.
Desert Cry (9th in the Vincent’ Brien County Hurdle)
The bare stats of finishing 9th beaten by 10 and half lengths wouldn’t automatically have you thinking ‘obvious winner next time out’, but there was cause for thinking the horse Everton manager, David Moyes owns a leg of, Desert Cry can claim a decent prize in future. Turning for home in the County Hurdle, Donald McCain Jr. trained horse looked beaten worse than an intruder at the Duncan Ferguson’s house, but halfway along the run-in, he seems to twig what it’s all about and finishes like he’s got a rocket strapped to his back. He never troubled the horses fighting it out for the race, but he did pick off some rivals that were travelling well and with 11 stone 4 on his back, he wasn’t exactly carrying the kind of feather weight that might explain the sudden late burst. He may lack the speed for 2 miles of hurdling, but anything above looks like it’ll play to his strengths. Given his local connections, it would be a big surprise not to see him turn up at Aintree for the Grand National meeting. He was a 25/1 outsider for that race so he’s likely to be decent value next time out and he’d definitely be worth a look.
Cotton Mill (Unseated Rider in Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle)
Only a sudden and bizarrely specific tear in the earth’s mantle across Cheltenham’s home straight was likely to stop Simonsig winning the Neptune, but the performance of Cotton Mill is worth taking note of. He and the eventual winner had put daylight between themselves and the equine peloton coming to the second last flight, but a strange half-slip/half-refusal sent jockey Dennis O’Regan flying out of the saddle. Even getting within ten lengths of Simonsig at the line would be enough to earn him a decent rating and although its guesswork, he looked capable of doing that. Perhaps the most promising aspect of the performance was his sketchy jumping. He was far from convincing, lost momentum a few hurdles, yet still looked to be moving nicely up the hill. He’ll improve for the experience. From a punting point of view, the negative is such a spectacular error in such a high profile race is the racing equivalent of keeping a low profile by going out dressed up as Dame Edna and shrilly making comments about everyone you meet. As a result he’s likely to be a short price next time out, but he looks like the winner of a good race in the not too distant future.
Edeymi (2nd in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle)
The horses of Cheltenham’s juvenile races are always worth a good look even in defeat on account of the amount of improvement they’re open to. Sure the horse you backed may have looked like he was carrying boulders up the hill, but at some point he’s liable to get it together and develop into something half decent. Well, Edeymi didn’t look like he was carrying boulders anywhere when finishing a staying on second in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle. He finished a length and three quarters down on the surprise 40/1 winner Une Artiste, but he was giving her just under a stone in weight, so it was a valiant effort in a typically hectic renewal of the race. Where he goes now isn’t certain, but the good ground looked to suit him and it won’t take long before he gets his head in front somewhere.
Champion Court (2nd in the Jewson Novices’ Chase)
Sir Des Champs was the undoubted star of the Jewson, but Champion Court showed plenty of heart to get within four and a half lengths of the winner. He made the running, needed to be niggled along coming up the hill, but found more coming down towards the finish and made the winner use every bit of his class to earn victory. He may not have the turn of foot you’d like to see, but he looks game and that’ll be enough to win him a good few races. He may take in a novice chase at Aintree, but keep an eye out for him making future returns to the Cotswolds venue. He’s trained locally by Martin Keighley which may partially explain why he handles the course so well. At the age of seven, he’s liable to improve substantially over the next couple of years.
Houblon Des Obeaux (4th in the Pertemps Hurdle Final)
Coming to the final hurdle of the Pertemps, Houblon Des Obeaux looked so out on his feet you’d think he was destined for a career at a seaside resort near you. You’d almost say he was ‘houblon’ home if you like your bad, incorrectly pronounced puns. But something happened when he caught sight of the winning post and it bodes well for the future. The French import has been very in and out since joining the Venetia Williams yard in late 2010, but the way he stayed on and made ground on Cape Tribulation and the others fighting out the finish was encouraging. It all happened a little too late for him to force himself into the frame on this occasion, but there were glimmers of potential if his trainer decides to stick with the staying hurdle division. Nothing’s confirmed, but it looks the 3m handicap hurdle at Aintree on the Friday before the Grand National could be his next assignment and having stayed on creditably at 33/1 last time out, there may be a bit of value about him for that race too.
Did you spot anything worth looking out for next time out? Share it in the comments section and if it wins, you won’t win a prize, but a lot more people will like you.