War On The Rocks
He was a decent bumper horse and novice hurdler a couple of seasons ago, and I was delighted with his comeback run when he was third over 2m4f at Wincanton last month. That was his first run for the best part of two years and we had to be chuffed with it. He steps back down to 2m here and I don’t think that will be any problem for a horse that won his bumper at Stratford and in a big field like this. I think he is fairly weighted, too.
He was in excellent form last season, winning four times, and he shot up 22lb in the weights as a result. But it could have been even better had he not been effectively brought down in the Red Rum at Aintree when still in with a shout, though he gained some compensation for that bad luck when winning at Warwick afterwards. He has probably needed his first two runs of the season – he tends to need a run or two after a break – but I thought he shaped well here last month, where Foxtail Hill set a blistering pace and only one or two other horses could get into the race. They went a mental pace there and I don’t think they will be going that quick here, thankfully. I’d like to think he will be a lot sharper and finish a lot closer today – though Paul [Henderson] also has another decent shot at this race with last year’s winner Un Beau Roman – and I think the ground will suit him, too. I don’t live too far from Cheltenham and I think the ground will ride more soft than good. It hasn’t rained much but it has been cold and damp, and not drying too much, and plenty of cut will suit Doitforthevillage. He is one of my better chances at Cheltenham, I think.
The first thing to say is that will be a tough task with his 5lb penalty for winning the Persian War, though I suppose you would rather come here having won that Grade 2, rather than not. And I was very impressed with him there. We know that he is a class act, that he goes well around here – he won the bumper at this meeting last season, as well as putting up a series of good efforts over hurdles – and the ground and trip will be fine for him. This is his toughest task to date but if he runs his race then I don’t expect him to be far away, for all that he carries that penalty.
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