Cheltenham: Prodigious Monkfish to get the job done on Wednesday
Bob Olinger leads Ballymore market with Sir Gerhard and Kilcuit to clash in the Bumper
Monkfish can extend his unbeaten run over fences on Wednesday. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty
Just how exceptional Monkfish looks to be can be gauged by how he is already a 6-1 favourite with some firms for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
That is even before this year’s ‘Blue Riband’ is run on Friday and before Monkfish himself lines up in Wednesday’s Brown Advisory Novice Chase.
If it underlines once again how no betting firm has ever refused a mug market, then the fact their second favourite for the 2022 Gold Cup is Envoi Allen highlights how racing is possessed of two hugely exciting novice talents.
That Envoi Allen lines up in Thursday’s Marsh Chase regrettably puts any definitive clash between the pair on the long finger.
Should they have clashed this week it would have been the likely highlight of the entire festival.
As it is, rather than true championship competition between the very best, both could land a lucrative Grade 1 prize without potentially being fully tested.
What that says about Cheltenham’s status as the ultimate examination will probably hold for now as many tune for the thrill of watching Monkfish in full flow.
In three starts over fences he has been all but flawless.
A sceptic pointing out how he has twice beaten up Latest Exhibition might consider that that rival was good enough to run Monkfish to a neck in last season’s Albert Bartlett.
All signs suggest the ex-point to point winner has progressed again for fences. Willie Mullins has already made comparisons to Al Boum Photo who let’s not forget is the actual reigning Gold Cup champion. It makes for a mountain to climb for Monkfish’s handful of opponents.
The opening Ballymore Novices Hurdle contains just seven but on the face of it looks to present a much more competitive prospect.
In comparison Gaillard Du Mesnil could be forgiven for feeling ignored. However the form of his own Grade 1 success at last month’s Dublin Racing Festival is such that he’s officially rated 1lb superior to his two rivals.
It’s also worth factoring in how not everything went absolutely smoothly for the five-year-old that day when he faced quite a task in running down his stable companion Stattler.
The latter tops the betting for Friday’s Albert Bartlett and in a race to relish the Mullins runner might represent a touch of betting value.
It’s 25 years since Wither Or Which supplied a crucial festival success for Willie Mullins in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Now Mullins goes for an 11th victory in the Day Two finale with five of the 15-strong field.
The presence of such as Briar Hill and Relegate on the bumper’s roll of honour indicates how capable the stable is of striking with an outsider but it’s hard to make a reasonable case for it now.
Kilcruit versus Sir Gerhard had always promised to be a head to head to relish: it still could be but there’s no question about who holds most of the aces.
Mullins runs four in a Coral Cup which normally favours a young up-and-comer on the right side of the ratings.
Blue Sari might be the one among the Mullins quartet to fill such a role although being pulled up on his last two starts is hardly encouraging.
Upped in trip there could be value to be had in the Nigel Twiston-Davies hope Guard Your Dreams.
He was caught for toe at a vital stage of the Betfair Hurdle over two miles but nothing finished more strongly in the closing stages.
Sky Pirate’s credentials for the Grand Annual are tough to argue with in a race where last year’s winner Chosen Mate is back for another crack at it.
Cheltenham: 1.20- Gaillard Du Mesnil 1.55- Monkfish 2.30- Guard Your Dreams (Nap) 3.05- Chacun Pour Soi 3.40- Easyland 4.15- Sky Pirate 4.50- Kilcruit
Nap and Double: Guard Your Dreams & Gaillard Du Mesnil