Thursday 26 April 2018

Spring in hello bud's step can reap valuable reward

Julian Muscat

The Cheltenham Festival, at which horses are targeted for six months, is portrayed as the climax to the jumps season. In reality, however, it sounds the starting gun for a spate of "mini-festivals" at Fairyhouse, Aintree, Ayr, Punchestown, Perth and finally Sandown, which officially closes the English season this afternoon.

One constant theme at all these venues is the contrasting fates of horses which ran hard at Cheltenham. While Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander flunked badly at Aintree, his stablemate, the Champion Hurdle runner-up Khyber Kim, strolled to victory two days later. It's exasperating in the extreme.

Cheltenham is an arduous test of any horse. At this time of year it goes against the grain to side with any chaser that gave its all at Prestbury Park -- much less one that subsequently ran in the Aintree Grand National. Yet the case for Hello Bud in the bet365 Gold Cup Chase (3.05) is too compelling to ignore.

Hello Bud was a revelation at Aintree, where his bold jumping kept him in contention until he weakened into fifth place. A similarly adventurous round today could pay dividends at a venue that rewards good jumpers more than any other track.

Hello Bud is at his best on a sound surface, which he encounters today. And with Sam Twiston-Davies excellent value for his 7lb claim, which he wasn't entitled to draw at Aintree, Hello Bud will be racing here off 9st 11lbs.

Further encouragement comes in the detail that the 12-year-old won twice in April last year. He seems best in spring, as he showed when making all to beat 16 others in the Scottish Grand National over four miles. Given these circumstances, he warrants support in an ordinary renewal of what used to be the Whitbread Gold Cup.

Ruby absence opens door for 'de nuit'

The "how will they run post-Cheltenham" conundrum is taken to an entirely different level by Twist Magic, which showed the cussed side of his nature by refusing to race under Tony McCoy at Punchestown on Tuesday. For his sins he is turned out again in the Celebration Chase (2.30) at Sandown.

That Punchestown debacle wasn't the first time Twist Magic has threatened to plant himself. Yet, even when he consents to race, a spate of top jockeys have failed to win on him in the last two years. McCoy (twice), Robert Thornton (twice), Sam Thomas (twice) and Noel Fehily have all experienced Twist Magic's darker side.

It's a fitting tribute to Ruby Walsh that he seems the only man capable of getting Twist Magic to perform. But with Walsh injured, Thomas takes over today in a race where Twist Magic will not have the easy lead on which he thrives.

Fix The Rib and Chaninbar both like to force it, and, with a strong gallop assured, Oiseau De Nuit could capitalise. Although the selection finished behind Chaninbar at Aintree, the latter effectively stole that race from the front. Oiseau De Nuit is also 12lbs better off here.

Gary Moore, who trains Fix The Rib, emphasised the health of his string when sending out a Flat winner at Epsom on Wednesday. Moore's runners in handicaps always warrant consideration, and in Wade Farm Billy, the Brighton handler has a livewire for the competitive bet365 Handicap Hurdle (2.00).

Wade Farm Billy, which goes best on a sound surface, returned from a five-month absence to run third in a novices' event at Kempton earlier this week. That run should have tuned him nicely, but one with a similar profile is Mohanad.

Lightly raced over hurdles, Sheena West's novice was given a long break when the ground turned soft and returned with a pipe-opener on the Flat two weeks ago. A fresh horse, and one with the ground now in his favour, Mohanad can make the most of his light weight.

'MIST' TO defy weight

TWO HORSES catch the eye at Haydock's evening meeting.

Rio Mist is improving rapidly and can defy a 9lb hike in the five-furlong sprint (6.0), while Think Its All Over, highly regarded by connections, should take plenty of stopping in the one-mile handicap (7.35).

Irish Independent

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