Racing: Thisthatandtother the answer to conundrum
A grey outlook is forecast for Cheltenham, which should be rather in keeping for what will be a poignant day.
First, chronologically at least, will be the final journey for the horse who made, and was made by, the modern Cheltenham Festival. Best Mate's ashes will be laid to rest behind the winning post during late morning.
Later comes another sad memory, when the main race of the day is run for the first time under the guise of the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup.
The former foreign secretary, who died suddenly in August, would not have been a comfortable political bedfellow for many in the conservative pursuit of National Hunt racing, but all recognised an enthusiast when they met one.
Now Cook is commemorated by a race which those approaching the period known kindly as middle age will remember as the Massey-Ferguson.
It is a Grade Three contest in which a fancied horse usually wins. The last nine winners have been at single-figure odds. Yet, at the same time, there are no certainties. Even Arkle managed to finish third in 1964, albeit off 12st 10lb having won the Hennessy seven days earlier.
The buzz horse of the week has been Fondmort, largely because Trabolgan's Hennessy success proved the Nicky Henderson machine was fully up and running. The nine-year-old has much in his favour: namely his familiarity with the course and distance, as well as the fact that he won this race three years ago. The last fact, however, is two-bladed, as no horse has collected this bauble twice and Fondmort remains 2lb above the mark of that last career victory.
Our Vic, the topweight, is favourite because he proved in the Paddy Power Gold Cup that he was more than a big girl's blouse. He is up 9lb for that feat as he aims to be the first horse since Senor El Betrutti to do the double.
Whatever the outcome, it seems the winner will have to come from a line through Our Vic. After the sieving, the name, a long and ugly one, which emerges is a horse which should at least be the same price as the favourite on lines through Monkerhostin rather than almost three times as big.
As Paul Nicholls yesterday said that his main representative had come on greatly as a consequence of his seasonal debut, then all the indicators point to THISTHATANDTOTHER (nap 2.40).
The first televised race is available to Celtic Son (2.05), who should outclass these, while the main back-up race is the most valuable hurdle race at Cheltenham outside the Festival.
The Bula Hurdle is a famed Champion Hurdle stepping-stone and Rooster Booster was the last horse to go on from victory here to win the timber Blue Riband. There are the many who believe that this afternoon's running should be featuring a horse with a Champion already tucked under his breastgirth.
Harchibald, in some eyes, was beaten as much by Paul Carberry's hubris as Hardy Eustace last spring. He remains a horse who permanently appears to have disaster in his slipstream, but the cruising ability of Harchibald (3.15) is difficult to challenge.
At Doncaster, the first offering for the cameras has cut up horribly to five runners, among which the forerunner for much of the race, as well as at the line, is likely to be The Kew Tour (2.55). After that we must rely on an old devil in Kelrev (next best 3.30), who has managed the not inconsiderable trick of coming down in the weights while not running that badly. Today looks the day.
Nap: Thisthatandtother (Cheltenham 2.40)
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