Joe Mc Nally

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Long Run should skip the Gold Cup and be trained for the National
I was pleased to hear that Long Run scoped dirty and that it was nothing physical from that bad blunder he made in yesterday’s Charlie Hall. His consistency and attitude are rare and he’s still only 8. I don’t think he has gone downhill in the way his mark suggests – he was simply overrated on the two big races he won back to back.

In his King George in 2011, he met a sick Kauto Star, a two mile four horse in Riverside Theatre, then the usual suspects – Nacarat, Planet of Sound etc. He went up 17lbs for that, then three more were added when he ran down a pair in the Gold Cup who’d exhausted themselves battling from three out off a pace that had been hot throughout – SWC arguably outrode the pros that day. Remember too, that the second fav, Imperial Commander, pulled up (bled & lame).

He’s never been a 182 horse for my money. His mark now, 171, is about as good as he’s ever been, though I’d maybe allow a couple of pounds deterioration and put that down to very tough races. The Battle of the Somme he had in winning the 2012 KG would have finished quite a few horses. He’s hellish tough, though I’d find it hard to believe these constant challenges at the top level haven’t taken something out of him.

For me, he is what he’s always been; an out and out stayer. Against top class opposition he needs the desperate ground he got in the KG last year (worst going in the race since 1937), or hara-kiri performances by the other jocks in setting an unsustainable pace. In a fairly run Grade 1 on reasonable ground at 24 to 26 furlongs, he simply hasn’t got the pace at the business end.

As for Harry Topper – there’s a horse with an engine. He travelled farther than everything else in the race yesterday, walked through one fence, clattered a few more and pulled some double-jointed moves to stay upright. He looks as honest as you could wish for and if he can regain his confidence, he’d be a threat at the top level.

He was on the deck in his final two outings last season and went at many of the fences yesterday with obvious trepidation. I think an extreme close-up might have shown him shutting his eyes on take-off and hoping for the best!

K Bailey has a job on his hands in rebuilding this horse’s belief in himself, but if he achieves it, HT would be a very lively Gold Cup outsider. And if his jumping doesn’t get better, oddly enough, he’d be tailor-made for the National. With the cores gone from those fences now (thankfully), HT would just barrel his way through the loose spruce. And if Long Run were mine, that’s where he’d be going next year. I’d miss the Gold Cup and send him to Aintree. Ninety nine percent of his errors are at his back end, and he’d just pull the spruce down and stay forever. And guess which jockey currently has the best strike rate over the National fences?

Join my Skin Geoff Banks campaign with this 3,756/1 treble 


Bookie Geoff Banks is  a bit of a throwback – the arch-enemy of punters, but one with a face. We’re all used to tilting at the corporations like Hills and Ladbrokes without experiencing the pleasure of visualising the pain in their eyes as they pay out.

Geoff is bred for it, his father being the Frankel of bookmakers, the great John Banks, who died ten years ago. I remember John well; I was at my first Ayr meeting as a boy, it was a hot day, and as I stood looking at John’s board he reached down and gave me a choc ice – God knows how he kept them cool for his punters. John was cooler than any ice cream and pulled off some great PR stunts, managing, at the same time, to irritate Cyril Stein of Ladbrokes. But those tales are for another day.

I ought to make it clear now that I have no association with Geoff and take no reward of any kind for promoting his business. I admire him because he lays a decent bet and, more importantly for me, he was first to go non-runner-no-bet for Cheltenham. The majority of my punting is ante-post and the comfort of knowing your stake doesn’t go west with a non runner is worth a lot at any time never mind on the approach to the biggest meeting of the year.

Around this time I like to dig out a fiver each way treble for the festival, to try to win an amount which for many would be life-changing. Geoff Banks offers best price NRNB on the three I’ve chosen this year.

If you don’t already have an account with Geoff, you can open one here. It can take a few hours to get your account approved. Once it is, you have the option of credit or the standard deposit with a debit card. Geoff tells me that one of his most popular services is the text service – you just text what you want in plain English and get a quick acknowledgement.

Geoff has kindly agreed to hold these prices as long as he can for readers of this blog.

If you just want to get on with it, here are the selections:

Jewson Chase – Third Intention 16/1

World Hurdle – Get Me Out of Here 12/1

Gold Cup – The Giant Bolster – 16/1

Return on a £5 win treble is £18,785: a winning EW treble returns £19,285: a place treble returns £500.

And here’s the reasoning . . .

Third Intention is a horse I’ve been watching for some time; I think there’s at least one good race in him, and I believe he’s close to twice the odds he should be  for the Jewson. Two things are important to him: decent ground and a hold-up ride (he can idle badly in front).

At last year’s festival he ran well to finish 8th in the Coral Cup with 11st 10lbs. Since going chasing he’s had three unsuccessful attempts at beating Captain Conan who will probably start favourite for the Jewson if  Dynaste misses the race. But last time at Sandown I think Third Intention would have beaten Cap Conan had he not idled after being in front a long time – he was beaten a neck at levels.

Many say Captain Conan did not show his true form that day, but I always take the view that such conclusions should be treated with caution. Despite that being a substantial turnaround on earlier form, I think there’s every chance that TI was much better suited by the step up in trip (previous runs against CC were at 2 miles, this one was 2m 5f: Jewson is 2m 4f)

Third Intention is better going left-handed, better on decent ground and is improving: 16/1 is far too big and even if Dynaste runs here I think TI will be hard to keep out of a place.

Get Me Out of Here is another I’ve always liked, and one I’ve believed capable of winning good races. He’s been 2nd four times at Cheltenham, three of those being at the festival. Like Third Intention, decent ground  is important for GMOOH, much more so than TI. This will be his first attempt at 3 miles, but he stayed on for pressure when 2nd in the Coral Cup last year carrying 11.12.

Jonjo, the master of getting them cherry-ripe for the festival will have him spot on. AP rides. It’s a fairly open race and he has every chance of being placed and perhaps just nicking the race late. My main fancy here is Oscar Whisky but GMOOH definitely represents value.

The Giant Bolster. This bugger’s jumping flaws must make him horribly frustrating to train; he rarely puts in a clear round and in his early days was regularly on the floor. But he has bags of talent and loves Cheltenham. His record at the track, when he has stood up, is 6112: that 2nd was in last year’s Gold Cup (I’d backed him at huge prices and was going mental as they went for the last!).

His trainer and jock think he needed the race at Newbury when blown away by Silviniaco Conti who was giving him 4lbs. One thing we do know with him over Silv Conti, he loves Cheltenham.

My main bet here is Bobs Worth but of the outsiders I was between TGB and Cape Tribulation. TGB’s comparative youth, his fine run last year and Cape Trib’s habit of dropping in the odd poor run (never completed a hat trick) swayed me toward The Giant Bolster.

So there you are. Risk a tenner and it might just give you something to shout about. If they all get placed, come back and buy a copy of Warned Off!

Good luck