Early Service – Cheltenham Antepost 2021

Part 1 (sent 28/03/20)

With the prospect of racing been off for several weeks yet and going through my Cheltenham reviews, you can’t help but think of where the horses will be targeted at next years Festival. Admittedly quite often my opinion doesn’t match with that of the trainers and so should be considered if following my advice. Hopefully though we can get ahead of the game early and pick up some good value ahead of the jumps season beginning again.

Supreme Novice Hurdle – Appreciate It – 1pt win @ 16/1 widely available

While plenty will come from left field for this race and some not even having been seen on a racecourse yet quite possibly, there are still some obvious ones who turn up here. Abacadabras was fourth in the Champion Bumper before going off 11/4 second favourite for the Supreme. Considering Appreciate It is 16/1 and was runner up then there is a good chance Abacadabras would of been 20/1 – 25/1 at this stage last year. Add in Envoi Allen (1st) who was favourite and won the Ballymore and Thyme Hill (3rd) who started the Albert Bartlett as 4/1 favourite and you realise that the Champion Bumper can be a great guide for the novice hurdles next year. The only thing is working out the right horses for the right races.

I highlighted in my Festival horses to follow for the Bumper how we could upgrade the performance of Appreciate It. Racing prominently in a race that it paid to be ridden patiently, he was easily the best of any to run up with the pace. The temptation could be to go further having already proven itself over 2m 4f in a bumper. However, Willie Mullins has already stated that he has a very high cruising speed which would immediately make me think more about the Supreme, run at a strong pace throughout, as opposed to the Ballymore which is more about that turn of foot considering they tend to start fairly steadily. Prices of 10/1 for any race with William Hill and Skybet are probably fair as from the above example, Envoi was 4/7 for Ballymore, Abacadabras was 11/4 and Thyme Hill 4/1. Admittedly you would not of got a run for your money from Blue Sari who finished 2nd in that Bumper but even then, if you can get it to the Festival and transfer ability to hurdles then there is a good chance it will start at a short price. A also suspect that though Mullins was happy to run Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It against each other in the Bumper, I don’t think that would be the case over hurdles. I think they will avoid each other, with Ferny Hollow looking more a Ballymore horse where he can use his turn of foot. Owners Cheveley Park may also be keen to follow the same route as Envoi Allen in same ownership and having retained the Champion Bumper, they could also potentially retain the Ballymore. Problem is that is just my opinion from what I saw, connections could have a different view.

If you want to play it safe then go with the ‘any race’ bet, but at a much bigger price I am happy to chance this classy horse will line up in the Supreme next year.

Arkle – Darver Star (Any Race) – 1pt win @ 16/1 William Hill

Was thinking of a separate category for those I am backing for ‘Any Race’ but then thought I may as well just put it in the race it is most likely to go for. While the current crop of novice hurdlers look a good bunch to step up to chasing there is also the potential for several to remain hurdling. Take Envoi Allen who I think would be a mistake to not stick to hurdling next season and take in the Champion Hurdle. Won the best trial for the race in the Ballymore and is unbeaten in bumpers and over hurdles. Why risk anything and go chasing? May have a couple of mares to beat in Epatante and Honeysuckle in a Champion hurdle but to me that is where it should stick for now.

Darver Star however was a great third in the Champion Hurdle this year despite being a novice. Just outpaced by the front two suggesting he is just a little short of top class over hurdles. Potentially could step up as seems to have the stamina for it, but the rewards are a lot less for 2m 4f horses over hurdles. Plus, he jumps with plenty of air over his hurdles which to me suggests the respect he shows would see him in good steed over larger obstacles. 159 rated hurdler with a 162 RPR sees it with the exact same ratings as Shishkin got for winning the Supreme. Yet, for the Arkle, Shishkin is 5/1 and Darver Star is 33/1. The suggestion after the Champion Hurdle was that Darver Star will go chasing this year so if he takes to it then looks very good value.

I have however recommended the price for any race. The Arkle could be very competitive if Shishkin, Envoi Allen and several others potentially turn up and I don’t think Darver Star will have any problem stepping up in trip for the Marsh. We could just back him at 33/1 for each but then if he doesn’t take to chasing then at least this way we have a return to hurdles covered. In fact I would love to see it attempt the Stayers though at the moment I see that option as being increasingly unlikely. This is a good, improving horse who handles any ground, can go well fresh and now boasts course form. I think its a generous price which keeps our options open.

Champion Chase – Dynamite Dollars – 1pt win @ 33/1 widely available

I hinted at this in my fairly brief review of the Champion Chase of this year. To me the market is pretty weak at the head. Chacun Pour Soi is favourite yet after missing the race this year then it still lacks Cheltenham Festival experience. Clearly has its problems, it may have the class but is not one to be taking a short price on and rely to make Cheltenham. Second favourite is Altior who will be an 11yo and to me is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Not had a clear passage this year, I suspect it will go for this race but will it be good enough to beat a younger brigade? You are then looking at 14/1 the field. That isn’t a bad price for Defi Du Seuil though I suspect they may step it up in trip for the Ryanair next time. A Plus Tard went for the Ryanair this year without success and having shown form at 2m it wouldn’t be a surprise if it went the shorter distance. However, it is debatable if it really has the speed for the shorter trip at Cheltenham which leaves it guesswork what race it will go for. Politilogue isn’t a bad price for a repeat at 20/1. Still young enough that he shouldn’t be regressing, it did enjoy the run of the race and it is unlikely it will get things so easy again. Time wasn’t great to be fair suggesting the others run below par though do believe the RPR it got was inflated.

Though it has to find 9 1/2 lengths then I think Dynamite Dollars is a big price. Ran a cracker when running on late at Newbury behind Altior and Sceau Royal despite being its first run for over a year. According to RPRs it actually repeated that performance at the Festival though it would be no surprise at all if it was actually feeling the effects of that run. A very promising novice chaser, it has yet to run a bad race. The temptation would therefore be to back it each way but losing twice your stake doesn’t appeal this early on if it was not to run or they want to step it up in trip. Two good course runs, if they can get a clear path with it next season then it could become a serious contender.

Gold Cup – Topofthegame – 1pt win @ 20/1 widely available

Admittedly this has already been put up in a couple of places but I do think they are really on the right track and the price is good, its bigger than both Champ and Minella Indo to be fair. People seem to have forgotten that this horse beat both Santini and Delta Work last year in the RSA despite also lacking experience. Nicholls clearly rate it as they have been especially careful, resting it all year rather than rushing back for the Spring Festivals, a ploy which should pay off now with the abandonment of racing. Nicholls even stated that he believed he could benefit from the rest and return better than ever. He has already proven that he can return a horse to its best with Dynamite Dollars so no fear of that here.

Of the opposition, Al Boum Photo surely can’t come back for a third win. Santini ran a great race this year and possibly could improve again though generally horses that have run in the race and lost don’t return to win. Native River admittedly was an exception there a few years ago. Champ and Minella Indo have their chances though Champ needs to improve its jumping to win a Gold Cup and Minella Indo will need to see the trip out better than it did in the RSA though was taken on for the lead that day. Wouldn’t rule out Lostintranslation either who was rushed back a bit for the race this year though now fits in the category of being beaten already. Can see it having a good year next season though and starting much shorter than the 16/1 it is now if it was to make it.

All in all I think it is worth chancing the forgotten horse here in Topofthegame.

Part 2 (sent 7/4/20)

After tipping the winner and the 7th in the Virtual Grand National, what was supposedly a ‘lottery’ but once again fit the same pattern of having won over 4 miles and was also a winner last time out. Shame we can’t have the race run every week!

It’s a fresh week though and a chance to look at some of the other races at next years Cheltenham Festival.

Ryanair Chase

This won’t be an easy race and has a history of being for horses that have failed to stay the Gold Cup before or didn’t have the pace for the Champion Chase. Min is a prime example having been beaten twice in the Champion Chase the last couple of years before stepping up to this longer trip and just holding on. It is a best price 10/1 for next year where he will be a 10yo which is fair without giving much away considering quite often horses don’t start the season targeting the race or there will be others that come into consideration for it half way through the season if other plans fail. Often horses that step up to 3m for the King George but don’t stay will get switched to the Ryanair for Cheltenham to give an example. Anyway, considering there was only a neck between Saint Calvados and Min at the finish of this years race despite the former not being the most fluent at the last couple and trying to make up ground from off the pace, it is a surprise that Saint Calvados is twice the price of Min for next year. It was only its second start at the trip and was given a patient ride held up which doesn’t help in a race that historically go to horses ridden prominently, but also is not the racing style Saint Calvados is accustomed to. Has now proven itself at this level, it is young enough to go on again next season especially with the confidence that it stays this far. If it makes it to the race then you would think it holds a serious chance.

1pt win – Saint Calvados @ 20/1 Betfred

Stayers Hurdle

I see it is blue across many of the firms on Oddschecker so would suggest it has been put up somewhere else. However, the way Gordon Elliott gets Sire Du Berlais to peak at Cheltenham for the last couple of years suggests it could be worth backing to make it three years in a row having won the Pertemps for the last two years. The issue with it now is that after this win it is rated 158 which you would imagine makes it too high in the weights to even contemplate going that way again. Will be a 9yo who has spent all its time hurdling, I don’t see it suddenly going chasing either so everything would therefore point towards the Stayers in what looks a weak division, especially after the poor performance of Paisley Park. To put things into perspective, Lisnagar Oscar was rated just 146 when winning the Stayers this year and had comfortably been beaten earlier in the season in a handicap off 141. It has gone up to a mark of 161 for this win, over supposedly the best stayers around. Sire Du Berlais therefore with a rating of 158 is only a couple of pounds off yet hasn’t raced at the high level that they have. Was much more impressed with its run this year as well, settling much better, travelling well and always having enough in hand to hold of the challenge of The Storyteller. Looks an ideal type for the Stayers though with that horses ability to peak at the Festival then a bigger price may end up being available at some point in the season. I’m happy with what it is now though with the knowledge that this race will surely be its aim to peak.

1pt win – Sire Du Berlais @ 20/1 Paddy and BetFred

Any race

The Albert Bartlett looked a good result and a race worth following. The right horses came to the fore and the form should therefore be worth following. Initially I was keen on Thyme Hill who had been unlucky in running here despite it being its first try at anywhere near three miles. However, on doing a bit of research, it suggested the horse wasn’t very big and was not the most hardy either. Certainly not what you want to hear about a horse you are planning on betting 11 months in advance. That leaves Monkfish, Latest Exhibition and Fury Road. All three look like being promising chasers next season, though with Monkfish and Fury Road looking strong candidates for big owners who will end up having several options as well then I would rather chance Latest Exhibition. Big owners want to win big races so at this stage you can see Monkfish and Fury Road having the RSA as their main target, a race likely to be hotly contested. However, I can see Latest Exhibition going down the same route as the yards previous runner Discorama, who finished 2nd in the Martin Pipe off 136 before going on to finish runner up in the NH Chase the following year. Latest Exhibition certainly was a better hurdler with its rating of 150 already higher than what Discorama had in the NH Chase. If it can just transfer that form to the bigger fences then it would be a standout for the NH Chase. However, there is no guarantee it will go down that route. If it wins a graded chase then they may well still go for the RSA, in which case then with graded form under its belt then you imagine it will be well fancied in the betting. That is why I would rather bet it for any race as opposed to pinpointing one in particular, though my preference would be the NH Chase in which it would look a classy recruit.

1pt win – Latest Exhibition (Any Cheltenham Festival Race) @ 12/1 Willhill