Earlybird – Tuesday 13th March – The Cheltenham Festival

It has finally arrived. Months of anticipation and build up leads to tomorrow and the start of the Cheltenham Festival. Anyone that has been following from the start will be in some very good positions. What it needs to be remembered is that I treat every situation differently. What I thought 1, 2, 3 months ago can change. What I thought was value then doesn’t make it value now. I treat every moment in time differently. Therefore I will be assessing each race again to see whether I feel a horse is value. Whether it is one I have already backed or if it is something different all together. I will advise as I see it.

Having done a complete review of all the graded races a few days ago and the handicaps completed today, in some cases I may decide that it warrants no bet unless you haven’t backed what I recommended recently. In those instances I will make things clear. I will also detail every bet that I have advised already over the past few months to make it clear on my position and advice.

One thing I will say is that too much will now be made of the ground. There will be too much emphasis on horses with heavy ground form with there being a good chance they will be over-bet and shorten up further than it should do. The point is, class horses win class races. Admittedly horses with all good ground form and flop on soft regularly will do the same again, but in most cases good horses will handle any ground. Also remember when reading this, it isn’t about trying to find which horse will win the race, it is about providing the value over the long term. If I think a horse should be 10/1 but is 14/1 in the betting I will back it as in the long run you will win. That is always the way I have worked and is why I have such success at a meeting like this.


Having been the first race I approached when I began my study for my graded race analysis I was of the opinion that all would come good with the ground (literally). However, the rain continued and it looks like being soft, heavy in places for the start. Does this change my view? In some ways it does, though with both market leaders proven on soft ground then it shouldn’t be a hindrance for either of them. Getabird quickened away nicely to win at Punchestown on soft/heavy ground showing a nice turn of foot considering the ground. Not got much experience with just two runs over hurdles, though in a weak race Melon went close on the back of just one last year. Debatable this is much stronger with few boasting grade 1 form including the second favourite. That is Kalashnikov who I advised for this before its Betfair hurdle win. Runner up to Summerville Boy on heavy ground in a grade 1 it then went and won well in the Betfair, stretching the field out well. Kalashnikov is an improver but it was a hard race he had 31 days ago and it is questionable whether it is able to repeat that.

Summerville Boy is the one that will be popular having won the grade 1 on heavy and has the form over Kalashnikov. Being realistic though, it had been beaten 3 times prior to that, twice on soft ground and fully improved by 13lb on anything it had previously achieved. To me it was a one off that it may not be able to repeat. First Flow is another with heavy ground form and has coasted home in the conditions in a couple of relatively easy races. This will be a significant step up in grade.

The two horses that interest me are Mengli Khan and Sharjah. Mengli Khan was rated 96 on the flat though was no surprise to see it move to hurdling considering it had an affliction for easy ground. Is a grade 3 and 1 winner though could well of made it two grade 1 wins but for running out when leading. Travelled well last time before not finding anything when Getabird moved clear. Hard to see it turn form around though the application of a tongue tie could well help and has been given plenty of time. Yard won’t want to give up its title easy so it would be no surprise if we saw an improved display.

Sharjah is another that had shown plenty of potential and been much shorter in the market for this only for a couple of bad displays see its price push right out. It was originally touted as being Mullins horse for the race before a fall, when travelling much the best was followed by a disappointing 7th. We don’t know how much Sharjah would have found however when falling but it did get the same RPR for when winning a novice as it did for its 7th last time, so that may be the extent of its ability.

In my opinion the market has overreacted on the basis of one run between Getabird and Mengli Khan. Prior to that last race they were Evens and 7/4 the pair, now they are 15/8 and 14/1. Yes, Getabird was less experienced and did beat it by 9 lengths. However, it doesn’t account for the fact a tongue tie is going on this time, with breathing issues maybe the reason behind why it found so little last time, and that Gordon Elliott can get a horse spot on for this, finding that improvement needed. Getabird is still inexperienced for a race of this nature and on heavy ground in a field like this anything can happen. I know what I believe the value is.

0.75pt win Mengli Khan @ 14/1 widely available

Already advised:

0.5pt win Samcro @ 16/1 – Lost

1pt win Apples Shakira @ 12/1 – NRNB

0.75pt win Kalashnikov @ 20/1

1pt win Kalashnikov @ 5/1


I have already said plenty about the Arkle and with it turning into a five runner race it has lost the element of trying to find some e/w value. However, at the prices it may be surprising to learn that I am still having a bet. I just can’t believe the price of Brain Power having drifted considerably. A horse that fit the trends that I like for the race though let my personal opinion get in the way. That was when there was a viable alternative to back in Sceau Royal at the time. That horse is out yet Brain Power continues to get bigger. Would prefer faster ground, there is no denying that, but it was still running a big race behind Un De Sceaux when falling. I have watched that race over and over and often Brain Power outjumped Un De Sceaux despite being the novice. He was keen early, taking a pull before jumping alongside its rival up until the straight. Tried to go with the favourite but didn’t have that quickening speed, got a touch close and knuckled on landing. Hadn’t shown any signs of jumping right handed up until that last jump where it fell. Maybe when its breathing becomes difficult is when the horse begins to jump right. Either way, if it cleared those last couple of fences I don’t think it would have finished many lengths behind one of the greatest 2m soft ground horses we have seen. Yes it remains to be seen how it recovers from the fall, though in many of the novice handicap chases falling can be a help as it becomes more of an education for the horse. Obviously we don’t know how the horse will act after that and the wind operation though it is sure to have been well schooled at home and generally it is such a good jumper. Its not going to be easy for the novices to get their feet out of the soft/heavy ground so clearing your fences with plenty of air and at a decent pace will be a help.

0.75pt win Brain Power @ 14/1 widely available

Already advised:

1pt win Petit Mouchoir @ 12/1

Ultima Handicap

Not got much more to say about this race as the weights and declarations were known before I sent the attachment earlier in the day. Coo Star Sivola has a good chance with some luck in running and with past history suggesting those towards the fore of the market do best then you can’t criticise its chances. Ramses De Teillee has continued to come in for support though and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up at single figures.

Already advised:

1pt win Coo Star Sivola @ 5/1

0.75pt e/w Ramses De Teillee @ 12/1 1/5th odds 5 places

Champion Hurdle

My advise on taking a potshot on John Constable in this looks a lot less likely with the ground how it is. Was hoping for something that had dried out considerably, but the rain just kept on coming. Still a chance in a big field like this that it can pick up some pieces and with several horses questionable with regard fitness or the ability to continue its form at the top level then I am not binning my ticket just yet. I do start to look elsewhere though as we have a short priced favourite and doubts about the second favourite whilst personally I have ground concerns and whether it will even start after almost refusing last year with Wicklow Brave. Therefore I think connections can be rewarded for supplementing Elgin. Record on soft reads 1211 including its best performance by far when giving weight and a beating to Ch’tibello. That horse is no world beater but is a solid yardstick to compare horses. Considering that it is a surprise to see that Elgin is now 4lb better off yet is still only marginally shorter in the betting. This horse has Festival experience unlike Ch’Tibello and Mick Jazz who are all priced similar, having finished an eyecatching 7th in the Supreme having got outpaced but stayed on under a relatively easy ride. It was enough for me to make a note of it and for us to profit from earlier this season. Sadly I stopped after the first win and not the two further wins it had! Elgin is now a course and distance winner who has improved throughout this season. Will likely be ridden patiently and can pick up the pieces late when those that try and compete with Buveur D’Air fall apart.

0.5pt e/w Elgin @ 20/1 Bet365 1/4 odds first 3

0.75pt e/w Elgin without Buveur D’Air @ 8/1 Bet365 1/4 odds first 3

Already advised:

1pt win Melon @ 14/1

0.5pt e/w Cilaos Emery @ 50/1 Lost

0.5pt e/w Melon @ 16/1

0.75pt e/w Melon (Without Buveur D’Air) @ 7/1

0.25pt e/w John Constable @ 50/1

0.5pt e/w John Constable (Without Buveur D’air) @ 20/1

Mares Hurdle

Can’t say my opinion has changed too much on the mares. Benie Des Dieux still has to prove herself at the highest level whilst La Bague Au Roi improved for the step up to 3m so a little surprised to see her turn up for this. Though it may be prize money in mind as outside of Apples Jade this race is any bodies. Pleased with my recommendation on Jers Girl and don’t think it needs topping up, especially considering it is almost half the price in just a few days.

Already advised

1pt e/w Jers Girl (without Apples Jade) @ 10/1

NH Chase

I always say start with the NH chase by looking at the RPR as invariably whoever tops that goes on to win. Last year Tiger Roll did it at a great price and this year Rathvinden looks to have a solid chance… if it stays. The trip is the question as this is going to be some attrition of a race! Has won over 3m 1f but that was on good ground and has done a lot of its running at around 2m 4f. So trip is a concern, the other is how it reacts having been brought down then unseating the last twice. Certainly there will be less emphasis on the jumping in a 4m race than over shorter and it has a great record on soft or heavy ground of 11F2112U. This is also the one that the Mullins family want to win with Willies son riding the horse. As the best horse in the race on RPR as well it is still a fair price to see whether it will see the trip out or not. Still think Ms Parfois will run a big race but having advised at 11/1 she is now as short as 6/1 in places.

1pt win Rathvinden @ 7/1 Coral and BetVictor

Already advised

1pt win Tin Soldier @ 25/1 Lost

1pt e/w Presenting Percy @ 33/1 Lost

1pt win Black Corton @ 12/1 NRNB

1pt win Fagan @ 14/1 NRNB

1pt win Ms Parfois @ 11/1

Close Brothers

Like with the ultima there has been very little change since I sent the email earlier with my handicap recommendations having known the declarations for this before it was sent. Pleased to see Mister Whitaker has continued to be backed whilst Kayf Adventure still looks value with a bit of 50/1 at Sportingbet. it surely won’t get bigger than that. I don’t want to advise any more bets though.

Already advised

1pt e/w Mister Whitaker @ 11/1 Boylesport 1/5th odds 5 places

0.5pt e/w Kayf Adventure @ 50/1 Paddy Power