Noel Fehily: Native River can strike Gold while Charli Parcs has Triumph squeak
AT the beginning of the week I had been describing the cruel and ruthless nature of jumps racing when it came to missing out on big winners at the big meetings.
Barry Geraghty was the most high profile jockey to be forced to sit it out this week. Luckily for me, I was one of the jockeys to benefit from Barry's misfortune.
I may well have ended up riding Buveur D'Air anyway in the Champion Hurdle, if Barry had been fit and selected Yanworth, but there's no doubt that fate, destiny, luck, whatever you call it, has been kind to me this week, while poor Barry is probably sat at home tearing his hair out, and nursing an injury too.
Mark Walsh was another to suffer the slings and arrows when he was injured during racing on Wednesday and was forced to miss the rest of the week.
Again, I have been one of the beneficiaries, with Aidan Coleman moving off Minella Rocco and on to More of That, leaving me with a ride on Minella Rocco in today's Gold Cup that I wasn't expecting to have.
A year ago, Minella won the four-miler at the Festival, beating Native River into second, but their career paths since have contrasted greatly, and while Minella goes off a 16/1 outsider today, Native River starts second favourite behind Djakadam, having been ante-post favourite for a long time.
I'd be slightly worried about Minella Rocco's jumping but he's there with a chance at least, although I'd probably be sweeter on the chances of More Of That, given that he has beaten Annie Power at the Festival before.
Despite his drift in the last 24 hours, though, Native River is still the one they all have to beat.
His form in winning the Welsh National is excellent. For any horse to carry top weight and win a Welsh National like he did, you can't be anything other than very impressed.
Ok, it's only a handicap but to do what he did you have to have class.
He just hasn't stopped improving all year and I think he can go again today.
His stablemate Cue Card would be the most popular winner but age is catching up with him and he may have missed the boat, while Djakadam has been very well backed after Willie and Ruby's dream day yesterday, though I suspect he might not get enough of the rain that's forecast to fall.
Native River to win for me, with More Of That to sneak a place.
MY best chance of a winner on today's card comes in the very first race, in the shape of Charli Parcs in the Triumph Hurdle.
JP McManus won this race last year with Ivanovich Gorbatov and has the front two in the market today, with Defi Du Seuil a worthy favourite ahead of Charli Parcs.
My boy will run a big race. He won on soft ground at Kempton around Christmas for me and he went back there last month, but shipped Barry Geraghty just as he was getting the upper hand of his rivals.
Barry's injuries from that fall eventually ruled him out of the Festival, so Charli owes him a big run today, at least.
He ran a strange race that day. He was odds-on favourite after his previous win but got into a bad position and Barry really had to work hard to get him back into the race.
However, he was doing that, and looked to be getting back on the bridle just as he came
to the hurdle at which he shipped Barry.
Master Blueyes went on to win the race and he's third favourite today, but I would hope that we have him covered.
Defi Du Seuil has the best form in the race and has just kept on winning, and I have a feeling that if there's plenty of rain overnight it might just suit him more than Charli Parcs.
In saying that, though, I don't think it will inconvenience Charli Parcs at all.
The rest of my rides today look no more than lively outsiders – Minella Rocco in the Gold Cup (see right), Any Dramas in the Albert Bartlett, Dodging Bullets in the finale and Air Horse One in the County Hurdle.
I'm quite sweet on the chances of the last-named as he is progressing nicely. He won well at Ascot last time out and has beenin fine form.
He's coming back in trip a bit today but I don't think that will be a problem as you need to stay to win a County Hurdle so he can do that OK.