AT the Cheltenham Festival back in March, I was having a fairly rough time of it early on and I went to bed on the Thursday night feeling quite despondent.
I'd little to show for the small fortune I'd spent over the first three days but, thankfully, I was handed a get-out-of-jail card on the Friday. Much to my relief, a number of my bets came good on day four and I somehow managed to escape alive in the end.
I often wonder what those looking in from the outside must think of it all. The life of a punter would appear to be that of stress and strain, occasionally punctuated by moments of joy. But redemption is sweet and that's what makes this game so exciting and, if the truth be told, addictive.
One of the horses which saved my bacon that day was At Fishers Cross and, as a result, I have a soft spot for Rebecca Curtis' six-year-old, which runs in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot (2.25) today. But sentimentality has no place in the betting ring and just like in his latest race at Newbury, his short price today has put me off backing him again.
With Celestial Halo ruled out with a foot infection, At Fishers Cross has been slashed right down to 1/2, but you'd have to question the logic in such a change considering he could only finish second last in the Long Distance Hurdle three weeks ago at Newbury, despite going off as short as 10/11.
Although he may have been a little rusty, his jumping left a lot to be desired and a blunder at the second-last probably cost him the race. He was eased off in the end and I've heard it being argued that he could have won had he not made a number of errors.
But he did make those errors, and we now have to take that on board. Yes, he clearly has buckets of talent and he went through last season unbeaten, but I don't think backers are wise to brush Newbury under the carpet so easily. He just didn't seem right to me and while I genuinely hope he comes back as a top-notch stayer this term, I don't feel comfortable backing him at such short prices until I see him back to his old self.
At Newbury, I backed Nick Williams' Reve De Sivola (which finished third behind Celestial Halo and Medinas), and a chance is taken on the eight-year-old again today, priced around 'Burlington Bertie' (100/30). Admittedly, the selection also jumped poorly at Newbury and he'll have to be a bit more fluent if he's to make his mark this afternoon.
However, running on good ground last time didn't help at all and I've no doubt he'll give a better account of himself today with the going expected to be soft. Indeed, he took this race last year by 14 lengths in heavy going and any extra rain can only aid his cause.
Paul Nicholls will be disappointed to leave Celestial Halo at home, but his six-year-old Salubrious is worth a mention as a live outsider. Around this time last year, his mark was 129 but this progressive gelding put in plenty of good performances since (including a win in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham), and the assessor now gives him a rating of 153.
DAN Skelton's Willow's Saviour has taken a hike in the ratings following back-to-back victories in a couple of handicaps last month and gets in at the bottom of the weights in the Ladbroke at Ascot (3.35). He's clearly in great shape at the moment and despite the extra pounds, I've a sneaky suspicion he may actually have more to come. At 14/1, he can be taken each-way.
1.0 Haydock: Carole's Spirit
2.25 Ascot: Reve De Sivola
2.35 Lingfield: Galician
3.0 Ascot: Cedre Bleu
3.35 Ascot: Willow's Saviour (e/w)