Cheltenham Festival 2016 ( 15th-18th March)
The festival is here and we have been counting the days for it to begin.The hard work was done throughout the season and let’s hope we are as successful as we were in the last couple of years. I am looking forward to four days of class racing and we are guaranteed of a great spectacle. There will be joy,tears,tantrums etc but what we must remember is to have fun too. Let’s all enjoy the greatest showpiece on earth.We won’t win every single race as horses are not machines.
Be prepared to see a few big favorites getting turned over as it’s the case every year.Always be gracious in defeat and remember jockeys/horses lives are more important than the money you have gambled.There are many ways to make profit during the festival.You don’t have to win by trying to find the winner.You can make good profit if you bet in place market ,w/o fave market (if you hate backing short priced/odds on fave or missed the prices),to bet in top 3 etc. Don’t get sucked into signing up with idiots affiliated with bookies promoting and tweeting 1000’s links every second on twitter as they get commission on losing accounts( around 25-30% from bookies). If you want to open new bookie account go directly on their site to do so.
There will be some good bookie offers throughout the festival and make good use of them. Also I can’t stress the importance of not doing too many multiples and relying on them during the festival. The odds are stacked against you in multiple bets hence why i always tell people to bet singles too as it’s only way you make consistent profit over time. Of course it’s nice to land a lucky or trixie but it doesn’t happen too often and no need to lump if you doing multiple bets. Do cover your bets so you always come out with profit if 1 or 2 don’t win in your multiple bet.
There will be many rumours/info flying too but always trust your own judgement and brains. Don’t get sucked into believing everything you read on twitter .Everyone want to win a race at Cheltenham whether owners,trainers,jockeys etc so they will be all trying and dying to win for the prize money and prestige.
I will put up a daily blog during the evening with the races I haven’t bet in yet especially the handicaps where many horses have multiple entries over the 4 days.Once declared I will be having a bet. I wish everyone the very best of luck and hope you don’t get too bored reading the blog 🙂
Day 1 – Tuesday 15th March
1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle
This is the race that kick off proceedings at the Festival with the famous ‘roar’.There is no denying that this race has been a graveyard for favorite backers.14 out of 17 horses that have started 3-1 or shorter have been beaten.We all remember the likes of My Tent or Yours,Dunguib and Cue Card getting turned over at short odds.Last two years we saw two of our favrite horses in Vautour and Douvan destroying the field to win easily.The Irish have an outstanding record in race having won 14 out of last 24.Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci have won the race 3 times together and have a strong hand again in the race.
Min has been the talking horse since last August. Most of us are on at fancy odds like 25-1/20-1 and looked good in the 2 races we saw him this season.In his 1st race at Punchestown he beat very good horse in Gurteen by 14 lengths.The latter franked the form by winning his next 2 races very easily. His next start would be in the Moscow Flyer and again he won very easily.He jumped really well and was very fluent throughout.Only slight concern is he tends to pull a bit but he has a high cruising speed that will be very helpful.The 3rd in that race namely Ball D’Arc went on to win his next 2 races.Clearly the form is in the book and Min should give a good account of himself. He is very short now around the 7-4/13-8 mark and represents no value whatsoever.You might get bigger odds on the day.
The horse that may give Min most to think about will be Altior,the unbeaten horse in 4 starts over hurdles. He was 5th to Bellshill last season but has been impressive since then.He won at Cheltenham back in November by beating the ill fated Maputo.Despite the lack of pace he showed a good attitude in the latter stages to win. He then went to Kempton on Boxing Day and destroyed Open Eagle and Marracudja. He has been kept fresh for the race and his useful Cheltenham course form will be valuable.He is an each way bet to nothing or could be played on place market.
The other horse from the Henderson yard is Buveur D’Air. He has taken to jumping in good style by winning by 11 lengths on his debut at Newbury and then by 7 lengths on his following start at Huntingdon.He traveled really well ,jumped beautifully n scampered clear of his rivals in devastating fashion.The interesting stat for Henderson yard is that he hasn’t saddled a winner in this race for last 24 years yet he has been responsible for 10 places(2nd,3rd or 4th) in the last 9 years.
The Deloitte is an interesting pointer as it has thrown up 2 of the last 3 winners.Bleu Et Rouge this year’s winner beat Bellshill recently but is likely to be rerouted to the Neptune.Tombstone was highly touted at the start of the season and won his 1st 2 races easily.He was then beaten by Long Dog(Royal Bond winner) in the Future Novice Champion Hurdle race and again 2nd in the Deloitte. He responded positively to the application of a 1st time hood ,jumped beautifully till he was outstayed in latter stages on unsuitable ground.The drop back in distance and running on faster ground will suit at Cheltenham.He is another one with a very good each way chance at big odds.
Yorkhill is another one from the Mullins yard that needs to be considered if he runs.He won his maiden at Punchestown before landing the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown by proving he has stamina in abundance as well as speed.The 2nd(O O Seven) and 3rd (Agrapart)in that race have won their following races.There have been good vibes about Yorkhill recently but connections haven’t decided whether he is running here or in Neptune.
Agrapart demolished the field in the Betfair Hurdle under Lizzie Kelly and won by 11 lengths.The form of that race is working out well.My 1st AP bet in race was on Bachasson and he might be the forgotten horse in race if he ever runs.He only had one bad run in the race at Leopardstown won by Long Dog. He need to get his ideal ground to perform and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him sneaking a place. Supasundae was beating Yanworth not so far ago and we know what Yanworth has achieved since. Petit Mouchoir and Moon Racer are others in race but they have a lot to prove.Moon Racer was a lovely winner for us in the bumper last year but hasn’t been seen on the racecourse.There have been positive vibes coming from the camp recently about his well being but hard to bet a horse that hasn’t jumped a hurdle in public.
Selections – Min 25-1/20-1/16-1/12-1/8-1 (Ante Post) ,Tombstone 14-1 e/w
2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
This is a race for novices over the 2 mile distance on the old course.It is a race designed to test horses ability to jump efficiently and go as fast as possible.Normally the formbook is a good guide for this race and we don’t have many surprises excluding Wesstern Warhorse 2 yrs ago winning at 33-1.Of the last 25 winners, 23 had started at no bigger than 11/1 with 15 of those being sent off as either the second, third or fourth favorite.
Douvan is one of my bankers of the festival.The 7-2/3-1 we took last year is looking really good and I will be disappointed if he loses.He has been one of the best horses in the yard since last year and was beating Faugheen on the gallops.That tells you how good he really is. He is a fluent jumper , attacks his fences with precision and is a relentless galloper with a high cruising speed as we saw last year when he won the Supreme.He will be really hard to beat bar falling.He had 3 runs this season and won all three in devastating fashion.He won the Racing Post Novice Chase on Boxing Day by thrashing Sizing John by 18 lengths. He then thrashed Velvet Maker by 15 lengths last January.Other thing he has is course form and that will help him a lot.
Those who missed out the prices on Douvan can look for alternatives in markets such as w/o Douvan or place market where you will get better value.Vaniteux represents the Henderson yard and he made a smooth transition from hurdles to fences. He won nicely on his seasonal debut at Kempton in a small field and he jumped really well there.He was quick in the air and very fluent. He was then stepped up in grade next time but he was narrowly beaten by a very good horse from the Moore yard in Ar Mad.Sadly the latter got injured recently or he would have been a contender for the places.He then won again on his last start in the Lightening Novice Chase at Doncaster.They were not brilliant that time but got the job done in a race where Shaneshill was the big disappointment.
L’Ami Serge was regarded as the main rival to Douvan this season but he didn’t see a racecourse till Jan due to minor injuries.He won easily in his first two races in small fields beating monkeys by many lengths.But he let connections down on his last start by getting beat at odds of 1-5 by Violet Dancer.His jumping let him down that day and he also hanged up badly in the straight.Clearly something wasn’t right that day but he will have to improve a lot to frighten Douvan. Sizing John could represent decent each way value at current odds of 14-1.
I think De Bromhead will send him again to face Douvan rather than going for the JLT. He won his first two starts of the season but then got thrashed by Douvan where he didn’t jump that well especially when he was put under pressure. Fair play to connections if they decide to have another go at their nemesis in Douvan. He isn’t a bad horse but has been made to look very ordinary whenever he has ran against Douvan.Garde La Victoire represents the Hobbs team and he has won his 3 races he has ran this season.He won on his seasonal debut at Uttoxeter by beating a useful horse in Bristol de Mai by 7 lengths. He then went to Cheltenham and recorder another nice win in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.His latest win came at Ludlow where he jumped really well to beat Doctor Harper.The latter could be one of the horses for the handicap races during festival as he looks to be well handicapped. I can’t see the others troubling the above mentioned horses.
Selection – Douvan 7-2/3-1/5-2 (Ante Post)
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3 )
As it’s always the case this is one of the toughest and trickiest handicap races during the festival.The winners are most of the times double digit and four of the last five winners had odds of 10-1,28-1,14-1 and 33-1.
Only 2 favorites have won this race since 1977 and 11 winners could be found in top 4 of the betting.Two of the last 5 winners were successful off bottom weight while 12 of the last 17 winners carried less than 11st. Other stats to note are that eight of the last 19winners had finished in the first four at this meeting before.Also we have to respect last-time-out winners as they have provided the winner on seven occasions in the last 14 years
There are plenty of connections who like to target this race such as Alan King,Nicky Henderson,David Pipe and even J P Mcmanus.I haven’t had a winner in race since 2009 when Wichita Lineman under a terrific AP McCoy rallied near the end to take the honors.If you haven’t seen that race you better do as it’s the best ever ride you will ever see in your lifetime.
I will leave this race till day before as for now I don’t really know who is running or not as a few horses have been entered in 2-3 handicap races.The ones I am interested are – Noble Endeavor,Champers On Ice,
Selections-Kruzhlinin 10-1 & Beg To Differ 14-1
3.30 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1 )
This is one of the most anticipated races of the festival and most eagerly awaited.It’s one of the most prestigious in the racing calendar and one I look forward to every year.I knew exactly what I was going to write here since last May.It was prepared one year in advance as there isn’t a horse right now that could beat him over 2 miles jumping hurdles.The news that he had a suspensory injury on the 17th Feb sent shockwaves among the racing family.We invested for months in the ‘machine’ but they do break down at times.I had a similar experience with Hurricane Fly before when he got injured and missed Cheltenham. But he came back the following year and won the Champion Hurdle crown. Nothing to worry though as health of horses and jockeys are more important than anything else and he will be back soon.
At the time of writing Annie Power hasn’t been supplemented for race though it’s certain that’s the route she will be taking instead of going to the Mares. Annie Power had only one run this season as she got injured. She will be getting the useful mares allowance but every time she ran at Cheltenham she has been beaten in the last 2 years. This will be another tough test against the boys and she should be thereabouts as long as she settles during the race.Nichols Canyon lowered the colours of Faugheen in the Morgiana last November but the latter wasn’t fit.He was then sent to Leopardstown over Xmas and won by beating Identity Thief on very testing ground. He showed a really likeable attitude that day by getting back up to win.His last run was in the Irish Champion Hurdle and he was destroyed by Faugheen that day.The revenge was sweet.Being an ex flat horse Nichols Canyon has good speed and I reckon he could be even better on good ground.He is a slick jumper and attacks his hurdles at speed.He also stays and has stamina in abundance.
Arctic Fire would have had a big chance in the absence of the Champion but injury did rule him out too.Next in the betting is Identity Thief for the De Bromhead yard.He started his campaign at Down Royal where he won the WKD Hurdle and won comfortably.Next stop would be the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.He did improve a lot from hi 1st run and battled bravely on the run in to beat Top Notch by a neck.He then went down fighting in the Ryanair Hurdle but was beaten by Nichols Canyon.After a titanic battle he only went down by 2 lengths on ground that didn’t suit him that day.On better ground he would surely turn around the form I reckon and is an each way bet to nothing in race or solid bet to place.If you like his chance then you are even more likely to be encouraged given that the Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner has gone on to hit the frame in four of the last five years.Let’s now take a look at the English trained horses.The New One has come short in the last 2 Champion Hurdles and at the age of 8 I can’t really see him winning to be honest.He had injuries last year and I don’t think he has overcome them.During the Christmas Hurdle he was simply destroyed by Faugheen and didn’t jump fluently at all.
My Tent Or Yours hasn’t been seen for nearly 2 years and he has been beaten twice at Cheltenham.Some of you will remember he was my lay of the festival in 2014.Surely you wouldn’t put money on a horse that hasn’t run for 2 years.He could prove me wrong but I can’t have him at all.Peace and Co is another horse from the Henderson yard that needs to bounce back from 2 poor runs this season.He was such a classy horse in the Triumph last year.He needs to settle better in his races to start with and also needs good ground.He had a wind op recently and he could be a player at big odds if that op had the desired effect.
Top Notch was 2nd to Peace and Co in the Triumph last year and 2nd to Identity Thief in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle,form that ties him closely with Nichols Canyon.He was beaten by Irving on his seasonal debut at Haydock and was disappointing in the Relkeel Hurdle ,a race won by Camping Ground.His latest race was in a mickey mouse one at Kelso where he made mince meat of his 3 other rivals.The 3rd in last year’s Triump Hargam completes the Henderson’s contingent .He was well beaten in the Christmas Hurdle and also in the International Hurdle.He will need to improve to feature here but I will give him a small each way squeak.
Old Guard could be the dark horse in the race.He started his campaign with a nice win in the Greatwood Hurdle before winning the International Hurdle at Cheltenham beating the likes of Sempre Medici and Hargam.On his following start in the Christmas Hurdle he was simply outclassed by the machine but he is an improving horse .His course form is a massive plus and better ground will deffo help.Sempre Medici has to find something with the above mentioned horses and I can’t see him winning.It’s a wide open race this year and I will have my bet day before for better odds.
Selection -Annie Power 9-4
4.10 OLBG Mares Hurdle
Despite the probable absence of Annie Power in the race (will be supplemented for Champion Hurdle with the injury to Faugheen) ,Willie Mullins still holds the key as he goes in search of an eighth consecutive victory in the Mares’ Hurdle with Vroum Vroum Mag the likeliest winner.She won the best British guide, the Warfield Mares Hurdle at Ascot over 3m in mid-January, which has produced four Festival seconds in its last seven runnings.The Irish have a stranglehold in the race and in addition to Quevega’s 6 wins,Glen’s Melody win last year ,they have also registered one runner up,three 3rds and a 4th from their other 23 runners in the race.
Vroum Vroum Mag is head and shoulders above the rest and the vibes coming out last few days have been positive.She goes in the race unbeaten having won her 8 previous starts.This season she made mincemeat of her rivals in her 2 races at Clonmel before destroying the field at Ascot back in January.I really cannot see her beat bar accident.
Polly Peachum’s defeat of The Govaness at Sandown in January looks the best form of the British contenders this season in addition to her run in last season’s Mares’ Hurdle being the best form on offer from the previous season.She was only beaten a head in last season’s race where she was lightly unfortunate as had to swerve the stricken Annie Power.At 7-1 she could be a decent each way value play or solid place market banker as she has vital course form and experience.
Out of the others I will give a mention to Bitofapuzzle and The Govaness who could fill up the places.In summary I can’t see past Vroum Vroum Mag and she will be one of the bankers on Ruby Tuesday.
Selection – Vroum Vroum Mag 5-4(NRNB)
4.50 National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders Novice Chase )
The National Hunt Chase is ran over 4 miles and is the longest race during the festival.It is reserved for novices and amateur jockeys.Three of the last four winners had all contested a Grade 1 Novice Chase earlier in the season.We have to look at horses who have Newbury or Warwick form normally as most of them are targeted at this race.Four of the last eight winners had experienced Cheltenham’s fences earlier during the season.
Four of the last eight British-trained winners contested a novice chase at the Hennessy Gold Cup Meeting with a fifth having its final prep at the same course in February so Newbury form has been a notable factor of late.Two of those five winners contested the novice chase over an extended 3m at the Open Meeting. Two trainers to look for normally in this race are Alan King or Jonjo O’Neil. The Irish sent over 2 winners and three runners up between 2011 and 2013 . Paul Nicholls is 0-16 of which ten started in the first five in the betting.
Nina Carberry must wonder what she has to do to win this race having led over the final fence in three of the last six editions.Other trends to note are that the last 13 winners had run at least three times over fences, ten of the 14 winners either won or finished second last time out and three of the last nine winners arrived here very fresh having not run during the same calendar year.I haven’t had a bet in race yet so will keep it as late as possible when the official declarations are out.Keeping my eye on few horses though- Native River,Local Show ,Measureofmydreams,Southfield Royale
Selection – Pont Alexandre 10-1 & Measureofmydreams 12-1
5.30 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase
This appears to be another tricky handicap race but recent results in the last few years have been kind to punters. Eight of the ten winners have been in top five in the betting of which 2 started favorite. Five of the last six winners won last time out and eight of the ten winners had won at least one of their last two starts.
An interesting stats is that eight of the ten winners have failed to win on either of their first two chase starts.Six of the ten winners were having their handicap debut.This further underlines the requirement to be on a progressive horse peaking at the right time.Nicky Henderson,Jonjo O’Neill and Jp Mcmanus like to target this race.
Pay attention to horses wearing any type of new headgear.I had Irish Cavalier last year as he was fitted with cheekpieces for the first time and other horses with similar profile had finished placed at big odds in the last 5 years up to 2014.No idea yet which horse/s I will be betting yet but am keeping tabs on Bouvreuil,Out Sam,Killala Quay and Katgary
Selections -Aloomomo 6-1 & Bouvreuil 14-1
Day 2 – Wednesday 16th March
1.30 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle
This is a race for novices over two and a half mile and in recent years the Irish have dominated this race.They have won the race 18 times since 1971 and 6 out of those came in the last 10 years.It’s a race that has been very kind to punters with just two of the last 30 winners outside the first five in the betting.During the last seven years only three horses who did not start in the first four in the betting have finished in the first three so do not deviate too far away from the obvious.
Yanworth heads the betting such is the dominance he has displayed in his 4 races so far this season.He was 4th in the Champion Bumper last year behind Moon Racer and then won his next 3 races very impressively.His last 2 wins at Ascot and Cheltenham came in Grade 2 events.He is a straight forward horse,jumps fluently and has fantastic speed.He will be very tough to beat and unless something has improved significantly I really can’t see him getting beat.Willie Mullins challenge in the race comes from the next 5 in the betting.The only worry is that Alan King is 0/15 with favorites at the festival but stats are there to be broken.A Toi Phil is a lightly raced horse and he ran out in his 1st start in December.He then won his maiden on Boxing Day by beating a good horse in Vigil.Maidens in this particular race often become very good horses so it’s worth paying attention to his chances of winning in future.He was then sent to race in Grade 2 company at Leopardstown and he was very impressive in winning by 7 lengths.He did win with ease that day,traveled supremely well and was very fluent at his fences.The 2nd in the race that day Acapella Bourgeois has gone to frank the form in his following race.I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him each way or place market as he is highly regarded at yard.
Long Dog is a horse that I backed last year for this race but he was withdrawn.He is now unbeaten in his last 6 races.He started his campaign in July and his last 2 wins have come in Grade 1 races in Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.In The Royal Bond he showed a fantastic attitude to repel the challenge of his stablemate Bachasson and battled gamely to the line.His last race came in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle when he just beat an unlucky Tombstone but again he showed he is a fighter and keep finding when under pressure.The form of that race has been boosted when the 4th that day namely Bleu Et Rouge (3 1/2 lengths behind him) went on to win the Deloitte.The latter won easily by beating Tombstone,Bellshill and Petit Mouchoir.His latest wins have come over trips short of his optimum and I think the Neptune distance will play to his strengths.At 12-1 I would say he represent decent value for the each way thieves or those backing on place market as he is a horse that can still improve a lot.
Another Mullins horse is Yorkhill and his Tolworth form was franked by O O Seven at Carlisle and Agrapart at Sandown.The latter destroyed the field in the Betfair Hurdle and Yorkill did beat him by 10 lengths.But I reckon Yorkhill will run in the supreme but wherever he runs he has good chances.Bellshill is another one from the Mullins army and he has been aimed at this race all season.He won his 3 mickey mouse races very easily this season but then flopped in the Deloitte.He could be forgiven as ground was heavy but what concerns me is he made a few bad mistakes.If he does that at Cheltenham he will be cooked.
Bleu Et Rouge is next in the betting and I feel he is an improving horse.He won the Deloitte in gutsy fashion on his last start at Leopardstown beating the likes of Tombstone and Bellshill in the process.If he runs here he has obvious place claims but only problem is the owner JP Mcmanus has the favorite in Yanworth so he could be rerouted to the Supreme as a result.Shantou Village represents the brilliant Mullholland team and his only defeat came at the hands of Yanworth at Cheltenham on Trials Day.The loss came on heavy ground and it’s hard to see him reversing the form next week.I reckon he will be better suited to the Albert Bartlett but so far he has been entered in both races.Out of the others Ma Du Fou and O O Seven could run well at big odds.
Selections – Yanworth 2-1 (Ante Post )
2.10 RSA Chase (Novice Chase )
This is a race over the standard 3 miles and there are 19 fences to be jumped.The standout guide to finding winners in this race in recent years has been to look at those horses who won the Albert Bartlett the previous years.In fact four of the last six winners in the RSA had won the AB the year before.It could have been five out of six if Boston Bob didn’t fall when holding a lead at the final fence.
That’s a great stat for No More Heroes who finished a close-up third in last season’s Albert Bartlett.For the best guides , four of the last seven winners ran in the Flogas Novice Chase won by Outlander.Three of the last eight winners finished 1st or 2nd in the Reynoldstown won by Vyta Du Roc.Three of the last six winners finished in the 1st two in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase won by No More Heroes.The latter head the betting after some impressive displays this season winning all his three starts.He made his chasing debut at Punchestown and jumped accurately to win heads in chest.His next race will be in the Drinmore Chase where he was once again brilliant and beat the likes of Monksland and Sub Lieutenant.The form of that race worked out well as Monkland was 2nd to Outlander in the Flogas while Sub Lieutenant won the Plate Novice Chase at Naas.He is the stand out horse in the race and could make amends for being unlucky last year when getting beat by Martello Tower.
More of That is the other class act in race.He has been beaten only once in his career in 8 starts in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in 2014 at odds on.But he wasn’t right that day and he was injured for the rest of season on the back of that race.He made his chasing debut in November at Cheltenham and it was a pleasing one.He jumped fluently for a novice and was very slick.He beat As De Mee going away towards the end.His next start will be at Cheltenham in the Raymond Mould Chase in a small field.But he did beat a good horse in Sametegal by 13 lengths that day.The latter gave the form a boost recently when winning the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury with ease.More of That is unbeaten at Cheltenham with 4 wins next to his name.It will be a good battle between More Of That and No More Heroes. Might even go down to the last.Can’t wait to see this titanic battle next week,
Vyta Du Roc could represent some decent value in race at 12-1.He was 4th in the Neptune last year and then finished 2nd to the World Hurdle favorite Thistlecrack at Aintree.He made a winning chase debut at Bangor before getting turned over by Bouvreuil at Doncaster at short odds.In The Reynoldstown recently at Ascot he beat Minella Rocco by 1/2 length but a slick jump at the last suggested there was more in the tank if required.He is a lazy horse but can get stuck in a battle.
Blaklion is such an adorable horse and one we have been following last 2 years.He has 2 wins to his name from 5 starts,one among which he fell at Cheltenham.His most recent win came at Wetherby and it was a gutsy win as it showed fantastic battling qualities during the race.He jumped really well and beat the likes of Native River in the process.He has solid course form and experience.Wouldn’t put anyone off having few quid each way or place market.
Next in the betting is Seeyouatmidnight.He made his chasing debut at Carlisle but was turned over by Silso.He then won his next 3 races and the most important one came at Cheltenham when he made all to beat Blacklion by 4 lengths.He isn’t bomproof but if he jumps well he could be the dark horse in race.Of the rest I will give Pont Alexandre ,Native River and Southfield Royale small chances. .
Selection- More Of That 5-2 (NRNB)
2.50 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle )
This is one of the toughest and trickiest race of the festival.Most of the races last few years have been to the benefit of the bookies.Aux Ptits Soins became the ninth second-season hurdler to win in the last 11 years and 12 of the last 22 winners won last time out.The Irish have a very good record in the race and they win on average once every three years.Four of Ireland’s last five winners had not run since early January with two of those not seen for over three months and another for over four months.
Here we need to look for a horse that hasn’t been too busy during the season.In fact, 19 of the last 26 win-and-placed horses had run no more than three times earlier in the season. With four of the last ten winners not having run during the same calendar year,it’s an interesting angle to narrow the field.
The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury can be used as a guide since it has featured three winners from last nine and 2 out of the last three runners up.Trainers that have a good record in race are Nicky Henderson( 2 wins in last 6yrs) and Phillip Hobbs( 2 wins and 5 top 6 finishers from 22 runners).Few that are on my shortlist till i see official entries next week – Politologue,Different Gravey,Sqouoateur,Great Field,Desoto County.
Selections-Politologue 12-1 (NRNB)
3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
This is one of the races of the festival and it is run over 2 miles.It provides the thrilling spectacle of seeing the best 2 milers jumping the fences at speed.The Tingle Creek chase has always been the best guide to this race having provided 11 of the last 15 winners of this race.Another good trend is that 19 of the last 30 winners have won at the Festival before.Winners of the Arkle have a fantastic record in the race.The last 14 Arkle winners to run in QMCC the following season have all finished in the 1st 3 ,of which as many as seven won.Other trends to bear in mind are that ten of the last 13 winners won a graded chase last time out and 19 of the last 31 winners had won at the Cheltenham Festival before.
The stand out horse in the race this year is last season Arkle winner Un De Sceaux.He started the season with a fall at Leopardstown but it was only minor.On his following start in the Sodexho Clarence House he destroyed the field with some accurate jumping and was a joy to watch.His jumping doesn’t concern me even if it’s heart in mouth moment everytime he attacks his fences.He is a very intelligent horse and if he stays on his feet I simply cannot see him getting beat.The way he put distance between him and the in form Sire De Grugy was simply breathtaking and I can’t see the form being reversed.The latter is a 5 time Grade 1 winner and it was good to see him back to his best recently.
He started his campaign in the Haldon at Exeter but he jumped like a pig that day and was tailed off .He then bounced back in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and was a bit fortunate to beat Special Tiara that day.He then went to run in the Desert Orchid but was beaten by the monster that is Sprinter Sacre in one of the titanic battles to the run in.It was great to see 2 former QMCC Champions fighting it out on a cold afternoon.He was no match to the brilliant UDS on his last start but at odds of 14-1 he could be value for each way thieves.
Sprinter Sacre aka The Black Aeroplane has proved critics wrong this season by winning both his starts.He has been jumping brilliantly and is something back to his best.But whether he has the speed to go with UDS is another matter.He has been kept fresh for this race and is an each way bet to nothing in race.His form ties in closely with Sire De Grugy but the latter was well beaten in the Clarence Chase last time.Special Tiara comes from the De Bromhead yard and he was 3rd in this race behind Dodging Bullets.He beat a not fully fit Sprinter Sacre in the Celebration Chase at Sandown last April and was unlucky in the Tingle creek where a last fence clash with the winner cost him the race.There is every chance he could turn over the form on better ground.
Dodging Bullets been injured this season but made his appearance after a year out recently in the Betfair Exchange Chase.He was beaten by 10 lengths giving weight away.He is the reigning champion but I can’t have him for this race as there is always a worry he isn;t fully fit judging from the way he jumped in his last race.This is a much stronger race than the one he won last season.God’s Own is a massive price on last season’s Arkle run behind UDS but there is talk of him going to Ryanair at present.
Felix Yonger is another of Mullins entries but I can’t see him winning the race even though he has won 6 of his last 7 starts.He won the Boylesports Champion Chase last April and he was 3rd to Road to Riches in the Clonmel Oil Chaseover 2m4f.He then went on to win 2 Grade 2 races .At 16-1 I will give him a little each way squeak.
Selection- Un De Sceaux 7-4/6-4 (Ante Post )
4.10 Glenfarcas Chase ( Cross Country Chase )
For the first time this is a conditions race rather than a handicap one.It should help the classier horses that have always been giving weight away before.Of the 47 races to have been run over this course, 29 winners had won or finished placed over these obstacles before. Of the two cross country races run at Cheltenham earlier in the season, it is the handicap that now takes place in November which has been a significantly stronger guide than the conditions event now switched to December having featured six of the 11 winners compared to four for the former-named event despite also missing a year through an abandonment.
Enda Bolger specialised in training horses for those type of races and he will want to win it again this year.He has won four of the last 10 runnings of this race with three different horses and has won 17 of the 47 races that this cross-country course has staged.Josies Orders is the likeliest favorite and is one that we have followed all season.He has won both races over the Cheltenham X Country course this season with Nina doing the steering.He also has a turn of speed for a few strides that we are used to seeing from winners of this race.He comes alive on that hill and his experience will help him.
In Ireland the best guides to this race has been the La Touche Cup and the P.P Hogan Chase.The latter has thrown up three 1-2’s at the Festival and four winners in total from its nine runnings.Balthazar King is the 2nd favorite in the race but is coming back after being injured for almost a year.He is the KING of Cheltenham but whether he is fully fit after his injury is another question.He always runs well when he is fresh though.Other horses to note in the betting are Foxrock,Cantlow and Ballybroker Bridge
Selections- Josies Orders 5-2
4.50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
This is another tough handicap race to solve for punters.The last 4 winners of this race won at 33-1,25-1, 40-1 and 25-1.Funny enough those last 3 winners have all won on their hurdling debuts.This indicates that many trainers do target this race and hide them during season over chases. All 11 winners from the 12 runnings of this race had run from February onwards, nine in the previous 25 days. The first seven winners failed to win on either of their first two starts over timber but three of the last four have so that’s a trend to now be wary of.
French-breds or French imports have won six of the 11 runnings from approximately one-third representation so they are over-performing. In fact, 20 of the last 32 win-and-placed horses were French-bred .Pay attention to any Paul Nicholls trained contenders with French origins having saddled two winners and five placed horses including Qualando winning and another 2 places in race last year.
David Pipe(1 winner,2 seconds and 2 thirds from 12 runners in last 8 yrs) and Gordon Elliot also have good records in the race.Mullins had 11 runners in race but all have failed to place.There has been lots of whispers for the Nichols horse Diego Du Charmil recently and he has been backed accordingly.Others to note are Voix Du Reve ,Frodon and Kasakh Noir.Will decide nearer time about my bets.
5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Open National Flat Race)
This should be renamed as the Irish Champion Bumper as they have won 9 of the last 12 renewals of this race.In fact they have won 17 out of the 23 runnings of the race.The last five winners of this race have won at 16-1,25-1,16-1,14-1 ,40-1 and 9-2.As you can see it’s not an easy race to solve.There was a rare 1-2-3-4 for the British last year and that was a real surprise considering the Mullins horses in the race.He likes to target this race and will be looking for his 9th win in race.
One interesting stat about Mullins winners in that race is he has won it four times when he had only one runner in race.From those 8 Mullins trained winners six had won their only bumper start.The last 12 winners also all won on their previous start. In fact, only two of the 22 winners were beaten last time out.Seven of the last 13 winners had run in at least three bumpers.The bumper race help during the Leopardstown Xmas festival is a useful guide as it has produced 6 winners in recent years.
I did have a flutter on Augusta Kate at 16-1 earlier being it’s one I followed all season. Ballyandy is another one that has been very impressive this season winning 3 out of his 4 races.He has course form at Cheltenham and that will be of good use too.Augusta Kate has won both her starts so far and has been impressive.She is one to keep an eye closely along with Avenir Dune Vie ,Castello Sforza and Bacardys.
Selections – First Figaro 16-1 & Augusta Kate 16-1
Day 3 – Thursday 17th March
1.30 JLT Novices Chase
This race has a very short history and as such we don’t have many stats and trends to help us find the winner.The Irish have been dominating the race in recent years.Four of the last winners were Irish trained horses and the most recent one was our beloved Vautour.He simply destroyed the field and put up the performance of the festival when jumping those fences like a stag.He galloped them into submission and the race was won at halfway.This year’s race looks a very open affair.
Connections of More of That have suggested this race in mind for their horse instead of the RSA but at time of writing nothing has been decided yet.Killultagh Vic the favorite for many months is missing the race due to injury.Those who follow me will know I have a soft spot for Bristol De Mai.He has sauntered to the top of the betting due to some impressive jumping recently when winning.He started his campaign at Uttoxeter but was beaten by a very good horse in Garde La Victoire.He got off the mark at the second time of asking by winning at Warwick.I then went to Sandown and saw him in the flesh in the Grade 1 Henry V111 Novice Chase but he made some jumping mistakes that day that were costly and the winner Ar Mad was better on the day.That wasn’t bad form at all since Ar Mad went on to win his next 2 races at Kempton and Plumpton.He then won his next 3 starts with the most significant coming at Sandown in the Grade 2 race.He beat the consistent As Du Mee by 6 lengths with Tea for Two,a Grade 1 winner behind by a further length.The only problem with him is he needs some cut in the ground and has also never ran at Cheltenham. I have said it many times you need course form over there but he has enough class to put on a classy show.
Outlander represents the powerful connections of Gigginstown and Willie Mullins who have won that race before with Sir Des Champs in 2012.He won on his chasing debut by beating a Grade 2 winner in Free Expression very easily.He then went on to win the Grade 2 race over Xmas at Limerick where he stayed powerfully in the run in to beat Avant Tout with Free Expression well beaten again.He was then stepped up in grade to contest the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.He was ridden clear to beat the likes of Monksland,Pont Alexandre,Zabanaa etc.He likes soft ground and the one time he encountered quick ground he was 6th at Cheltenham last year in the Neptune won by Windsor Park.
Garde La Victoire is another one entered in the race that has taken well to fences this season and one we follow.He is unbeaten this season and has won 3 times.His 1st win came at Uttoxeter when he beat Bristol De Mai by 7 lengths.He then went to Cheltenham and gave a good beating to Fox Norton.His latest win came at Ludlow in a mickey mouse race.But he has been jumping brilliantly so far and attacks his fences at speed which is a great asset to have.He does travel well throughout his races and must have an each way squeak if he turns up here.
Shaneshill represents the Mullins army here and he was 2nd in the Supreme behind the monster Douvan last year.He won his 1st 2 races this season but those were not strong races.He jumped well and seemed to have taken well to fences.He then disappointed in the Lightning stakes at Doncaster on his last start and made a lot of jumping mistakes.He could be forgiven on that heavy ground and Townend reported that he wasn’t happy at all with him during race.Whether he can bounce back from this bad performance remains to be seen.At 10-1 he represents some value for each way thieves.Also he has course form at the track and Willie mentioned his horses could have caught a chill that weekend when they traveled over to Doncaster.(All his horses were beaten that weekend).Of the rest Zabana and Lami Serge could be given small chances.
2.10 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle )
This is another tough race at the festival to solve for us punters due to its competitive nature and big field.Despite the higher standard of horses the Pertemps is now attracting the horses towards the top of handicap.Favorite backers were only rewarded once in the last 11 years and that was when Fingal Bay won off top weight.10 out of the last 12 winners have been double figure odds.We have to look for a horse aged between eight and ten as they have won seven of the last 10 runnings.
Call The Cops did win for us last year at good odds of 16-1 .The best guide to this race must be the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle with three of the last seven winners finishing in the first five.Baradari won it this season beating the likes of Definitly Red,Batavir,Yala Enki etc.Jonjo O’Neil has won this race four times ,two of which for JP Mcmanus that were 50-1 shots!!
The Irish don’t do too well in this race as they are still waiting for a first win.Paul Nichols hasn’t won race yet but five of his 12 runners were placed.Mullins has only saddled 3 horses but 2 were placed.Favorites have a very poor record in the race with only one of the last nine maker leaders finishing in 1st 8 places prior to Fingal Bay winning 2 years ago.
Selections -Arpege Dalene 14-1
2.50 Ryanair Chase
The Ryanair is run over 2 miles 4 furlongs and it has always been a very competitive race.At the time of writing it’s very hard to know which horses are running as most of those at the top of the market are not sure of turning up here.Ten of the 11 winners had won at Cheltenham before as had seven runners-up so previous course form is a big positive.The Irish have a very poor record in race as they are 0/32 since 2005.It will be interesting to see if Gigginstown decide to run Road To Riches or Valseur Lido here. The best individual guide has been the King George VI Chase as six of the last eight Ryanair winners ran at Kempton on Boxing Day and another was second in the King George the previous season.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Betfair Ascot Chase have provided four winners each in recent years and are useful guides.You need to find a horse with stamina in abundance and also that travels /jumps fluently.If Vautour was running in this race he would have won by half the track but his target all season has been the Gold Cup.Road To Riches was 3rd behind Coneygree in last year’s Gold Cup when the ground went against him.He started the season by winning the Clonmel Oil Chase where he beat the likes of Bright New Dawn and Felix Yonger.He was then 2nd to Carlingford Lough in the Irish Gold Cup on his latest start.He made a couple of mistakes but other than that he traveled well throughout his race on ground that wasn’t ideal.He will have a good chance if he runs here.
Gigginstown already have 2 live contenders in Don Cossack and Don Poli in the Gold Cup.It will be interesting to see where they send Road To Riches.Same problem applies to Valseur Lido who was an unfortunate loser last time out when he took the lead but fell at the last fence.Running Valseur Lido here will be the correct call as he has stamina in abundance,travels well and is a slick jumper as we saw last April when he won his Grade 1 at Punchestown.He was 3rd to Vautour in last year’s JLT too.On his 1st start this season he finished 2nd to an excellent Djakadam but he was in need of the run that day.He was then sent to the King Georges where the jockey Jacques Ricou took it easy and gave him a bad ride till he fell at the last.Ma Filleule ,one of our fave horses would have had a big chance but just heard she has been sent to Norway for breeding purposes.
Another horse worth noting is Al Ferof for the Skeleton yard.He made his debut in the Peterborough Chase that he won easily.He then ran at Kempton in the King Georges where he wasn’t disgraced behind Cue Card and Vautour.But he is an 11 yr old now and they have a poor record at the festival.They are 0/138 in non handicap races since 2006. Another stat against him is horses ages 11 or older are 0/12 in race. He has also won only 1 race from 9in Group 1 company and that came when he was a novice.All those stats put me off Al Ferof. Of the others Smashing and our beloved Dynaste are worth a mention if they run here .Will bet in this race nearer time.
3.30 Ryanair World Hurdle
It is one of the leading long distance hurdle event at the festival.It is the highlight of Day 3 and we have seen the likes of Big Bucks dominating this race for years recently.The Long Walk Hurdle had been a strong guide recently and has featured more World Hurdle winners than any other race in the last 20 years.The Cleeve Hurdle is also one that has delivered 4 winners and 3 runner ups in last 9 years.The Irish have a poor record in race since 1995 and only had one winner in last 20 years in Solwhit.
There is little doubt that the horse to beat in this year’s race is Thistlecrack.He made his entrance on the big stage in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices Hurdle last April at Aintree when he won at 25-1.He was then sent to Punchestown but finished runner up to a very good horse in Killultagh Vic.He started this season at Newbury in the Long Distance Hurdle and he won in the manner of a really classy horse.He beat the reigning champion Cole Harden by over 7 lengths while Whisper was chilling 24 lengths behind.He then went on to demolish the field at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle where he had the likes of Reve De Sivola,Karezak and Saphir Du Rheu behind.His latest success came in the Cleeve at Cheltenham where he made mince meat of his rivals.I will be surprised if he loses next week as he is that good and I can’t see any horse running to his level.He travels well throughout the race and is a fluent jumper.
Cole Harden is the reigning champion but he hasn’t won since.He went to Aintree and got beat by our beloved Whisper.He started his season in the Long Distance but he needed that run despite being beat by Thistlecrack.He then ran in the Relkeel over 2mile4 but was beaten by Camping Ground and Lil Rockfeller.They were clearly using those 2 races to get him fit and he will be better next week on better ground.I wouldn’t put anyone off having money on him each way or to get placed.He will need to improve a lot to beat Thistlecrack though.
Next in the betting is Alpha des Obeaux for Gigginstown.He was alongside Thistlecrack at Aintree coming into the last but he fell.He has finished 2nds in his last 7 starts but has always been beaten by the classy horses like Douvan,Nichols Canyon,Thistlecrack and Arctic Fire.He made his seasonal debut in the Hatton’s Grace but was no match for Arctic Fire.He was then beaten in the Christmas Hurdle by Prince of Scars with Martello Tower behind.His win came on his latest start in the Galmoy where he was very impressive and was very fluent.That was his first win over 3 miles under rules.I reckon he has very solid place claims next week.
Saphir du Rheu finished 2nd in this race last year behind Cole Harden and has always been a highly regarded horse in the yard.He then went on to win the Mildmay Novice Chase at Aintree.He started his chasing campaign at Carlisle and beat donkeys there but jumped well in what was a warming up exercise.His next assignment would be in the Hennessy Gold Cup where he finished 5th behind Smad Place.Theatre Guide and Fingal Bay.He made too many mistakes that day and was never travelling.Giving weight away didn’t help his cause too.He reverted to hurdles in the Long Walk at Ascot but was comprehensively beaten by Thistlecrack.Paul Nichols mentioned recently he had a wind op and if that op has the desired effect then he could become a contender for the places.
Whisper is one of our ante post in the race and one we have been following for years.Some will remember his win at Cheltenham for us in Coral Cup at 22-1 and his double Cheltenham-Aintree in that same year.He is a fragile horse and as such he often has some niggling injuries.He has only ran twice this season and both runs were disappointing.Nicky Henderson mentioned he had a wind op and he was back to his usual self.To be honest I think he has place claims but his main target will be Aintree just like last year when he won for us .
Out of the rest I will give a small mention to Martello Tower and Aux Petits Soins if they run .But the horse they will all have to beat is Thistlecrack and this will be one of my bankers of the week.
Selections – Thistlecrack 2-1 (Ante Post) ,Whisper 12-1/16-1/20-1 (Ante Post)
4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase)
This is another tricky handicap race at the festival and one that hasn’t been too kind for punters in recent years.Only 1 favorite has won in the last 15 years and winners in the past 6 years have been 12-1,50-1,18-1,66-1,33-1& 33-1.There were 14 winners that were sent off over 20-1 + in the last 26 years.Only 2 winners in the last 20 yrs carried over 11st.
It is a race that the Pipe’s like to target.They have won the race 7 times and 3 of those wins have come in the last 6 years. Monetaire would have been another winner for them last year but was very unlucky in running.Ventia Williams has also a good record in race with 3 winners and 5 other placed horses from 16 runners. Nicky Henderson has 4 winners in the Plate while Nichols is still looking for his 1st winner in the race after only 2 places from 24 runners.On my shortlist in that race are Village Vic,Doctor Harper,Taquin Du Seuil,John’s Spirit and Aloomomo.
4.50 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Handicap Chase )
This race is reserved for amateur riders and is run over 3 miles 1 furlong.It’s another tricky race but The Package won for us last year at 16-1 under a great ride from Jamie Codd.I reckon this race is more about the jockeys riding who have the more experienced.In fact, 24 of the last 27 win/place positions were filled by non-claiming amateurs as were eight of the last ten winners.
Jamie Codd was winning the race for a third time last season on The Package while Nina Carberry has 5 places from 7 horses she has ridden.Donald McCain likes to target this race as five of his last eight runners have finished in the top five and he has won twice for leading owner Trevor Hemmings.Six of the last ten winners have contested a handicap chase at Cheltenham in the season.
Gordon Elliot horses also need to be monitored as he had two seconds and a third in the last 3 years.If Pipe is sending horses that had a break over 3 months you do take note.Nichols on the other hand has a poor record in race with only 1 place horse from 17 runners.A few on my shortlist are Doctor Harper,Cause of Causes,Indian Castle,Thomas Brown.
5.30 Trull House Stud Mares Novice Hurdle
This is the new race at the festival for mares that is run over 2m1f. Willie Mullins has been the dominant force in those type of races in Ireland or at the festival with the mighty Quevega.This year he is set to run both Limini ,the market leader and also Myska.The latter is one of our ante post bets in the race at 14-1.No stats to go in the race so we will look at some of the leading fancies chances.
Limini has only ran twice in her career winning both and is well regarded in the Mullins yard.She won nicely at Fairyhouse on her last start despite one or 2 mistakes but that could be due to the fact she was running after a long time.As long as she has settled in the race she will be the one to beat in race.
Myska won her first 3 races in brilliant fashion.She won on her debut at Clonmel last April beating a very good horse in Miss Dynamic.She then went to Thurles and won very easily.Her next start would be her first real test and she passed with flying colours.at Taunton.She was very fluent and jumped beautifully.She had the Harry Fry’s good horse Jessber’s Dream aa further 3 lengths behind and the latter gave the form a boost recently by winning at Sandown.She disappointed on her last start when beaten by Ball D’arc (Min Form) but we learnt after race she was put on antibiotics due to injury suffered during race.Hopefully she does run here instead of going somewhere.
Nicky Henderson is likely to be represented by Bloody Mary and Chocca Woca.I would give them both place claims if they run.At bigger prices Katie too and Tea in Transvaal could outrun their odds.But i really can’t see past the Mullins horses in the race.
Day 4 – Friday 18th March
1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
This is a tough race for novice hurdlers and is ran at break neck speed over 2 miles 1 furlong.It’s not an easy race to find the winner but nine of the last eleven winners could be found in top four in the betting.Favorites have a poor record in race and only 2 managed to win in last 14 years.17 of the last 21 Triumph Hurdle winners have won on their last start prior to the Triumph Hurdle.In the last 16 years the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (won by Zubayr at 9-1 for us recently) and the Spring Juvenile Hurdle (won by Footpad, our ante post horse) have provided the Triumph Hurdle winner between them on 9 occasions in the last 16 years.Nicky Henderson likes to target this race and has won it 6 times while Alan King won it twice with 4 places the last 10 yrs.
Ivanovich Gorbatov heads the betting.He won his maiden at Leopardstown beating Let’s Dance by 2 lengths.He was very impressive that day showing a blistering turn of foot when it mattered.He was then sent to the Spring Juvenile Hurdle where he disappointed on heavy ground.Let’s Dance(3rd) did turn around the form with Ivanovich Gorbatov (4th) in a race won by Footpad. He made a few jumping mistakes that day .I am not totally convinced by him and why he is favorite.Zubayr won the Adonis last week impressively last week.Despite drifting to 9-1 in the market he powered clear in the run in. He was a talking horse by the Nichols yard all season and he goes to Cheltenham with his reputation enhanced.
Sceau Royal represents the King yard and has won his last 3 races very easily.He is a very slick jumper and after his Huntingdon win Alan King mentioned he wasn’t sure of having trained one that’s quicker getting from A to B over a hurdle.That was a huge compliment to Sceau Royal considering he trained Katchit to win the Champion Hurdle few years ago.He also won the Trial race at Cheltenham on his penultimate start by beating a very good horse in Adrien Du Pont that won on his next start.Connetable represents the Nichols yard and he was 2nd on his debut at Ascot to Gibralfaro.He then went to Sandown and gave a beating to Rayvin Black and Peace N Co.Rayvin Black gave the form a big boost when he won the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton recently.I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs a big race next week.
Let’s have a look at the 2 Mullins horses in the race which happened to be our 2 Ante Post bets backed at big odds months ago.Footpad won on his debut at Gowran Park in a mickey mouse where he jumped fluently in what was an educational race for him. He was then sent to the Frank Juvenile Hurdle on Boxing Day but he was beaten by his stablemate Apples Jade.He drifted markedly before the race and he could be forgiven for that run on very heavy ground.He then ran in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle where he was brilliant throughout the race.He was fluent on ground he liked and stayed on strongly before powering clear of his stablemates Allblak Des Places and Lets Dance.This was his best performance to date and if he reproduces that kind of form he will be thereabouts.I was told he was Mullins No 1 hope at start of the season too .
Let’s Dance started his campaign over Xmas where he finished 2nd and then he was 3rd to Footpad on his last start.He is another one for Ricci/Mullins and I will give him an each way squeak if he gets his ground.Of the others Gibralfaro and Protek des Flos are worth mentioning as they could run well.
Selections – Zubayr 7-1 ,Footpad 25-1 ,Let’s Dance 20-1 ( All Ante Post prices)
2.10 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
Punters used to like this race before as you could find the winner quite easily but it has become very tricky recently.Five of the last eight winners were sent at odds of 20-1 + compared to 32 of the previous 33 winners being sent off at no bigger than 16-1+.First or 2nd season hurdlers have fantastic record in the race having won 11 times in the last 12 years.The Irish have a great record in race too having won 7 times in the last 9 years.I think they had 1st 6 last year too when Wicklow Brave won at 25-1.
We need to look for a horse aged (1) no older than 6 (2) is Irish (3) is progressive (novice preferably) , (4) we take particular note of 5 year olds with nine wins in the last 17 years from approximately 20% representation (5) Trained by Mullins and Nichols (won 6 between them in last 10 years), (6) pay attention to the Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown (won by Henry Higgins) as it has provided 4 winners recently, (6) not trained by Nicky Henderson (29 of his runners were out of the places since 1997) .Horses on my shortlist for next week – Desoto County,Wait for Me,All Yours ,Sqouateur.
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Stamina is a key issue in this gruelling 3 mile novice chase.If the ground is soft that day you can get some really funny results.You basically need a horse that stays all day,is a fluent jumper and travels well in his races. Experience counts which is no better illustrated by the fact that although this is a race restricted to novices, five of the 11 winners had run over hurdles the previous season. Nine of the 11 winners finished first or second last time out.
The best guide to this race is the Classic Novice Hurdle in which Yanworth (The Neptune favorite) won impressively by beating Shantou Village with 3 of the last winners going on to win the Albert Bartlett.The novice hurdle at Leopardstown ran in late January (won by A Toi Phil-engaged in Neptune ) is a good guide for the Irish as two runners up went on to win here.Barters Hill head the market and rightly so as he is still unbeaten in 7 starts.He was a top bumper horse last year that culminated in winning the Aintree bumper where he had Bellshill behind.
Previously he won at Newbury beating the likes of Buveur D’Air and Altior and looking back this wasn’t a bad race at all considering what those horses have achieved since.He won his maiden hurdle at Huntingdon by grinding out like Barters Hill normally does.He then went to the Challow Novice Hurdle at Newbury and won easily.His latest success came at Doncaster where he battled all the way till the line to repel the challenge of Ballydine.He made 1-2 mistakes that day but he was not for passing as he kept finding more under pressure when he was pressed.Might be a similar story next week as he is a lazy horse,in the same mould as Don Poli.But what they both have is a fantastic attitude,a never say die attitude and will give you a run for your money.He is the one to beat in race with his form looking very good now.
Shantou Village could be the one to chase him home if he runs in this race as he is ground dependent.He only lost his unbeaaten horse to the classy Yanworth last time at Cheltenham.He won his 1st 2 races of the season in the manner of a very good horse.The 2nd one came at Cheltenham when he made mince meat of Champers on Ice (went on to win his next race) and Penglai Pavillon.His only defeat came on very heavy ground but it was nice to see him jumping well that day and pulling well clear of the field.At 6-1/13-2 he represents some decent value in my opinion.
Up For Review was 3rd to Yorkhill in the bumper at Punchestown and has won his 1st two starts over hurdles.He has shown a really good turn of foot in those races but he was very disappointing on his latest start at Doncaster.He never traveled and blundered at 2 fences which was costly.He needs to bounce back though and has place claims.Mullins did report after race that he scoped badly which could explain his bad run.At 12-1/10-1 he is a nice price for each way backers.
Gangster is another horse from the Mullins yard and there have been whispers about his chances recently.He had only 4 runs in his career winning 3 of them.The only defeat came on unsuitable ground at odds on.He has been well backed recently too. He has an eye catching pedigree being a half brother to Rite of Passage (Gold Cup winner) and travels really well in his races.
Uknowhatimeanharry could run here instead of the Pertemps and he is decent value at 20-1 too.He has been a great horse for us this season winning his 4 starts.He won on his seasonal debut in a big field at Cheltenham where he was brilliant jumping those hurdles.He followed up at Newbury and then won the Albert Bartlett Trial at Cheltenham.He was made to work by Final Nudge but he kept pulling more at the end.His latest win came in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Exeter where he was very impressive.I reckon he is worth a few quid on the place market if he ever runs here.
Thomas Hobson is another one with place claims if ever he runs here.The two best horses in the race are Barters Hill and Shantou Village.I will leave it as late as possible in this race due to the fact am unsure whether Shantou Village runs here or elsewhere.
3.30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1 )
This is one of the highlights of the festival and feature race on the last day.It’s one of those races that owners,trainers and jockeys want to win once in their lifetime.Second season chasers have a very good record in race having won 50% of races since 1990. 11 of the last 15 winners had finished first or second at the Festival before while ten of the last 11 winners were running in the Gold Cup for the first time.RSA winners the previous season have a good record in race having won it 8 times since 1980.Mullins has yet to win this race but had 3 runners up in the last 3 years.
The King Georges at Kempton and The Lexus Chase are the best guides as 14 of the last 16 winners have ran in one of them.Cue Card and Don Poli won those races this season.You basically want a horse that has won a Grade 1 race as the last 16 winners won at least one at the highest level before competing in the Gold Cup.Fourteen of the last 15 winners could be found in the first three in the betting with Lord Windermere being the exception.
This year’s race could be one of the greatest races ever staged with the likes of Don Cossack,Vautour,Don Poli,Djakadam,Cue Card etc.The only absentee is Coneygree the defending champion ruled out due to injury.Cue Card has been a revelation this season and is the form horse going into the race.He has already won twice at the festival winning the Champion Bumper and the Ryanair.He was 2nd to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle too.He started his season by winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby where he jumped his rivals into submission.He then went to Haydock and won the Betfair Chase in impressive fashion.He jumped brilliantly that day and was a much improved horse from his 1st run.His next stop will be the King Georges where he broke my heart by nailing Vautour on the line after coming from behind.He got up in the dying strides and produced a career best that day.Both Cue Card and Vautour pulled well clear of the field with Al Ferof in 3rd.Cue Card needs to be respected with his excellent course form and unblemished record this season.But the only slight worry is whether he will get the Gold Cup trip but like I have always said good horses can overcome any obstacles to win.
Vautour would have been unbeaten if the 26th December didn’t exist in the calendar year.Since his demolition job in the JLT last year which was arguably the best jumping display I have ever seen for a long time he has only run twice this season.He made his seasonal debut at Ascot where he wasn’t that brilliant but still managed to win.After a few weeks we learnt that he was heavier than usual in this race and not fully fit.He was then prepared for the King Georges where he jumped like a stag throughout despite few jumps to his left.He comes alive at Cheltenham on spring ground and also goes well left handed.His target all season has been the Gold Cup and he has been prepared with this as his aim.The only concern I will have for Vautour will be if the ground becomes too soft as this could affect his speed but overall I think he is classy enough and will stay the trip.If you don’t try to win the lottery you will never become a millionaire.
Djakadam is another good horse that represent the Mullins-Ricci connections and he was runner up in that last year.He was 2nd to Don Cossack in the Gold Cup at Punchestown last April.He made his seasonal debut in the John Durkan and he won that race by 12 lengths.He was then sent to Cheltenham in the Betbright Trial Chase but he fell during the race and picked up an injury.Though he is fully fit he didn’t have the ideal preparations and at the time of writing I got told he is 3-4 days behind Vautour in his work at home.But he is a solid horse that attacks his fences with enthusiasm and as a result he cannot be discounted.
Mullins other horse in the race is Don Poli for Gigginstown.He has won twice at the festival(RSA in 2015 and Martin Pipe 2014).He is what I call a lazy horse.He will be off the bridle a long way from home but will keep grinding till the line.He will just do the bare minimum as when he showed winning for us last year in the RSA.He won on his seasonal debut at Aintree where he beat last year’s Grand National winner Many Cloud.He jumped well but raced lazily as usual.If you are backing him you would get a bigger price in running that’s for sure.He then went on to win the Lexus Chase over Xmas and it was another good effort on very testing ground.He goes into the race as a fresh horse but the 3 month break could be a worry.
Another lively contender for the Gigginstown-Mullin combo is Don Cossack.He won 6 of his seven starts last season and was the highest rated chaser too.He won very easily at Aintree and Punchestown last year but once again he lost at Cheltenham.That’s twice he lost there as he fell the year before too.His jumping can be erratic at times as we saw when he fell in the King Georges last December when coming right in contention at the 3rd last.If he can get his act together he will be a serious rival to the above mentioned horses.
Smad Place had a great season but he isn’t Grade 1 horse in my opinion.He won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury jumping like a stag throughout and he won by 12 lengths.That was breathtaking considering it was a competitive field.He proved no match to the likes of Cue Card or Vautour at Kempton but still finished 4th.He then went to Cheltenham and won for us in the Betbright Trial Chase.He gave aanother exhibition that day and galloped his rivals into submission.He has a small chance of getting.Road To Riches might be rerouted elsewhere while I would love to see oneof my fave horse in training in Sir Des Champs running well.
Selections – Vautour 9-1/8-1/5-1(Ante Post)
4.10 St James Palace Foxhunter Chase Challenge
This is a race reserved for amateur riders and is ran over the distance of 3 miles 2 furlongs.The Irish have a great record in the race having this race the last 5 years.Last time out winners have won 20 of the last 30 runnings.On the Fringe comes back to defend his title this year and he was very impressive when he won.
The Champion Hunters Chase at previous Punchestown festival(won by On The Fringe) is a useful guide as it has featured five of the last eight winners.The hunter chase at Down Royal(won by Marito) is also a nice guide as horses that have finished in top 2 have won this race for last 3 years.The best British guide is the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters Chase with 3 of the last 6 winners having contested this race.
The Willoughby De Broke Hunters Chase at Warwick has also featured 3 winners (Mendip Express won this season).The only negative against On The Fringe will be the fact he is 11 now and they have won only twice in last 25 runnings.This year’s race has an extra dimension to it as Victoria Pendleton,the olympic cycling champion rides Pacha Du Polder.Let’s hope both jockey and horse comes home safe & sound like all the others.The ones on my shortlist are Paint The Clouds,Marito,On The Fringe and It Came To Pass.Will decide nearer time.
Selections-On The Fringe 11-4 ,Paint the Clouds 8-1 saver
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
This is the handicap hurdle that is run over the distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs.There have only been 6 renewals of the race and we have been lucky enough to win 3 of those in the last 5 years namely with Sir Des Champs,Attaglance and Don Poli.David Pipe likes to target ‘Dad’s race’ but has been unsuccessful so far in last 7 runnings. Willie Mullins has won it 3 times in the last 5 years.Nichols won it with Salubrious at big price in 2013.We need to look for a progressive horse in their 1st or 2nd season novice hurdling.I normally like to look at a classy horse in the race rather than trying to identify a handicap plot.Lots of horses have multiple entries at time of writing so will bet nearer time.Horses on my shortlist – Blazer,Box Office,Ibis Du Rheu and Childrens List.
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase
This is the final race that bring down the curtain on the 4 days of the spectacular Festival.By this time we could either be drunk while trying to fill the wheelbarrows or we could be waiting for a big priced winner as it’s the #Luckylast.
Bookies love this race as they have won 5 of the 6 runnings at big odds of 16-1 ,16-1,20-1,40-1 and 16-1.It’s one of the most competitive races during the festival and not one you can play your get out of jail card.Novices have won 13 of the last 34 runnings ( 4 in last 7 years). We need to look out for a lightly raced horse that travels well during races.
JP Mcmanus has won the race twice in last 4 years and had 2 2nds.Also look out for Henderson or Nichols trained horses as they do like to target this race.I did hear a few months ago that Next Sensation had a breathing op and that race was his aim.I took some 16’s and 14’s and it has been very well backed now.Can still get 10’s in places.He did win the race last year and we have always backed him at Cheltenham too.Other horses that interest me are Rock The World,Blood Cotil & The Game Changer if he runs here.
Selections – Next Sensation 16-1/14-1 (Ante post),Rock The World 12-1
- Willie Mullins – http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/feb/29/cheltenham-festival-2016-willie-mullins-guide-to-his-team-of-runners
- Paul Nichols – http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/feb/24/paul-nicholls-horse-by-horse-cheltenham-2016?CMP=share_btn_tw
- Nicky Henderson – http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/feb/22/nicky-henderson-2016-cheltenham-festival-team-horse-by-horse-guide?CMP=share_btn_tw
- Willie Mullins – https://twitter.com/WillieMullinsNH/status/708009375223451648
Lucky’s and Multiples – https://boomteamhq.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/cheltenham-2016-luckys-and-multiples/
Ante Post Blog Link –