Wednesday 15th March

1.30 – Ballymore Hurdle

The vibes around Impaire Et Passe have been incredibly strong and is now a best price of 7/4 as I type. He has a strong profile, fitting the trends I was looking for and the soft ground wouldn’t inconvenience him. If anything it takes out the concern that fast ground would have created. Whilst he looks to have a great chance, he still has a bit to prove on track and has got to a pretty short price for those looking to bet now. I’m not keen on Hermes Allen who looks a real stayer. To me he should of run in the Albert Bartlett if he wanted his best chance of winning. His form is at 2 ½ miles but this race still goes to horses with a turn of foot and on likely soft ground then the early pace I expect will be steady, turning it into a sprint at the finish. Gaelic Warrior has the pace and the class potentially but I’m not a fan at all of horses going from handicaps to grade 1’s as the leap is so big in class. His only graded experience is the Boodles from last year when he was beaten off what was clearly a lenient mark. That doesn’t bode well for me as to whether the track suits whilst he has shown a habit of jumping right handed. I have to let him pass in the race. Good Land won the Nathaniel Lacy last time run over 2m 6f which doesn’t suggest he would have the speed to win over two miles which is what you are generally looking for in a Ballymore winner. Was tried at the minimum trip but unseated at the first, giving him just two completed runs. Did beat a couple of stayers last time so does have some speed but it would be unusual for a horse to win over as far as 2m 6f going on to win this. This brings me back to Champ Kiely who is officially rated 1lb higher than Impaire Et Passe, is a grade 1 winner over 2m 4f on soft ground but also was quick enough to win a grade 3 on good ground! Looks to have the ideal combination of stamina and speed that I am looking for. The Lawlor’s of Naas that he won last time has been a good guide for this, used by Envoi Allen and Bob Olinger in 2020 and 2021 respective so is clearly a good prep. It seems because he has been considered the third string of Willie Mullins then he has been dismissed by many pundits. I’m happy with that as it means we get a bigger price. For those that want to be braver then don’t rule out the Impaire Et Passe/Champ Kiely forecast!

Advised bets:
1pt e/w – Champ Kiely @ 8/1 (General – 3 places)

2.10 – Brown Advisory

11 stand their ground for the renewal of this interesting race. Gerri Colombe has done nothing wrong with a string of 1’s next to his name, though this will easily be his toughest test to date. Double grade 1 winner who shapes as though three mile will be right up his street, with the NH Chase even considered in the early stage, but has yet to tackle this far in a race. Looks a soft ground horse but like I say, he has a bit to prove when it comes to stamina on this ground. Sir Gerhard is one of those horses who shouldn’t be winning the race, but he has plenty of class that you just don’t like to rule it out. However, I am a trends man so I can’t have him winning the race on the back of just one chase start when at the start of the season they wasn’t even sure if he was going chasing or not! I’m not sold on The Real Whacker whose form isn’t adding up. What is it this year with small yards building up their horses? Barry Connell with Marine Nationale and Good Land and then Patrick Neville and this horse, without going as far as what Charles Byrne has to say about almost all his runners! (I fully understand by this stage whilst I am typing Monday night that Marine Nationale and Good Land may have completed an incredible double for the trainer). I can’t have Thyme Hill either as top staying hurdlers have a terrible record in this. I think he was flattered by his win in the Kauto Star, agreeing with Lydia Hislop who said that he jumped the “least worst” of all the runners. In fact, it is one of the horses that pulled up in the race that interests me the most here in Galia Des Liteaux, though now the rain has come she has halved in price from the initial 14/1 less than a week ago. Gets the 7lb mares allowance, looks best on a soft surface and stays the trip well. Her jumping went to pot in the Kauto Star but was much better last time beating the 142 rated Complete Unknown by 13 lengths with a further 18 lengths back to the third horse The Goffer who won a big handicap at Leopardstown on next run off a mark of 138. You could therefore argue that Galia Des Liteaux is leniently treated off 146 and should be rated in the 150s which with her allowance would put her best in. Now this will still be a different test to what she has faced, but in a race where I have strong negatives against most of the opposition then she makes some appeal.
At the bigger prices I have to be tempted by Thunder Rock. Could of took advantage of a potentially lenient mark of 149 in the Ultima or Plate but instead lines up here for this grade 1. Not raced at beyond 2 ½ miles but has been running on in his races finishing 3 ½ lengths behind The Real Whacker and 5 ½ lengths behind Gerri Colombe. That suggests he isn’t far behind the best of these whilst the soft ground and longer trip will surely bring about improvement both in terms of trip and less pressure on his jumping which has been sketchy in the past. Finishing 5 ½ lengths behind Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory could well be good enough for a place and considering that horse is 7/4 and Thunder Rock is 20/1, or 16/1 with 4 places, then that is too big a difference.

Advised bets:
1pt e/w – Galia Des Liteaux @ 14/1 Bet365 (3 places) Already advised
0.5pt e/w – Thunder Rock @ 16/1 (Skybet – 4 places)

2.50 – Coral Cup

A decent race for trends. Like I always do when it comes to handicaps I rule out horses on age. Those aged 9yo and above are 1/34 with 5 placed in the last 10 years with only 2 winners in the last 25 as well. I also look at the ratings of winners, with the last 10 all rated 138 or higher. Therefore I have drawn the line at 138, only looking at those rated higher. 18 of the last 22 winners had run 9 times or fewer over hurdles. Last year was an exception with Commander Of Fleet at 50/1 having 13 starts with the next to have double figure runs over hurdles being Son Of Flicka in 2012. Finally, 10 of the past 13 winners had run at Cheltenham previously, with 8 of those having a top 4 finish so course form looks important. Just taking those horses with course form leaves me with 7 horses though one is a reserve.

My strongest fancy of those is the shortest price in HMS Seahorse. Fourth in the Fred Winter last year before following up with a third in a grade 1 at Punchestown behind Vauban, he has been lightly campaigned over hurdles since having run on the flat through the summer. Was gelded over the winter before returning this year with a win over Felix Desjy in a decent handicap on soft ground. That was off 132 for which he got a 7lb rise plus a further 4lb ‘Irish handicap’ for coming over the Britain. However, he is rated 99 on the flat, gelding may well help him concentrate on racing and you do feel as though he has been saved for something big. Yard is in cracking form, no problem with the ground or trip based on his most recent run. He looks to have a very solid chance. Good Risk It All runs for a yard who have had a tremendous season. This horse hasn’t been seen since November which for a horse who was stated as being too free over 3m when last season has to be a concern after such a long gap. However, he looks like he will be better suited dropping back down in trip. Has a good record on soft or worse ground, though the two times he has been well beat have come when upped in class in graded races. He has a chance albeit I can’t get overly enthused by him. Fil Dor is very interesting, though as a 5yo carrying top weight upped in trip for the first time then it will be some performance. Enough doubts just from that sentence for me to pass him over, though he was second in the Triumph last year so fits the trend of those with a top 4 finish at the Festival! Icare Allen could be worth a second chance having flopped in the Betfair Hurdle on Good ground (Stated would of preferred a softer surface). Prior to that was a decent 3rd in a good handicap carrying 11st 12lb as a 4yo which is a tough ask of any horse. Was 4th in the Triumph and gets a 6lb pull for a 5 length beating, although Fil Dor has a good claimer taking 5lb off his back. This isn’t a race that Mullins does particularly well with as his 1/39 suggests in the last 10 years which doesn’t raise hopes either. Ignoring that he does have a chance on favoured ground at a price.

Advised bets:
1pt e/w – HMS Seahorse @ 8/1 (Betfair – 7 places)
0.25pt e/w – Icare Allen @ 20/1 (Skybet – 8 places)

3.30 – Champion Chase

The absence of Gentleman De Mee is a blow for each way purposes as there are now just 7 runners, but also it is a small dent to the pace of the race as he was a potential runner who would help force the pace. Saying that Captain Guinness and Funambule De Sivola both remain to prevent Editeur Du  Gite having an easy time of things up top. It does also mean the ground has gone against Nube Negra which is a massive concern for that horse. With Energumene looking flat last time then everything still points to Edwardstone being the winner and I would be disappointed if he isn’t. However, he is not the sort of price that appeals to me as a single but can be considered for all your multiples on the day.

Advised bets:
No Bet Advised

4.10 – Cross Country Chase

The softer ground probably makes this an easier contest as to me Galvin has always been better on a decent surface so assuming the ground is soft then I feel the race is Delta Works to lose. Winner of the race last year on heavy ground, he has since gained further experience with a good spin in a handicap around here in January when having to give the field at least a stone in weight. Nothing comes close to the front two when it comes to class and though some people see the cross country as a leveller, these days that is just not the case, with the last 7 winners (If you count Josies Orders being awarded the race later on) starting at 7/1 or shorter SP with three winning favourites.

If you are someone who likes to have an interest in all the races then the Edwardstone/Delta Work double pays around 9/2 which looks very fair to me!

Advised bets:
No Bet Advised

4.50 – Grand Annual

Handicap chase run at just shy of two miles means you need to have the pace to hold your position whilst jumping smartly as any mistakes will soon see you knocked back. As always I will be ageist in ruling out those aged 10 and above. Their record is 2/45 with 4 also placed. Last year was an exception when Global Citizen won at 28/1. He was also the only winner rated lower than 139 in the last 10 years (When a trend is broken it is done in style!) so I have concentrated on those horses rated 139 or higher. Only two of the last 14 winners had run in 14 or more chases, whilst only 2 of the last 19 winners had won last time out. To win this generally you need to be coming in unexposed and having not shown your hand earlier in the season. An absence is no bad thing either with the last 11 winners all being off the track for more than a month.

After all this has been computed I was left with four horses, though typically when trying to look at handicaps so close to race time, I have the front two in the betting on my shortlist in Andy Dufresne and Dinoblue. Preference is for the former having taken in this race last year finishing runner up. 8 of the past 17 winners had contested the race previously so the race is actually a great experience for horses to come back, possibly as you don’t get many 2m cavalry charges over the larger obstacles in a season! He does have top weight but is the same mark as he ran off last year, is more experienced this time and will have no problem with the soft ground. Was given a good break last year for the race though they have decided to run him a bit more this time, possibly to get his handicap mark down. It has worked somewhat though does leave him with uninspiring form figures the last twice. However, a first time tongue tie could bring about the necessary improvement to get his head in front. This is a race his owner JP McManus has a great record in and clearly likes to win. He could do that with his other runner in the race and the second on my list in Dinoblue for the same connections. Would seem to be the owners second string on jockey bookings though she has to be of interest. Has looked a natural chaser having flopped when inexplicably made a short price favourite for the mares novice hurdle last year on the back of one novice run. Was put in her place by the 145 Irish rated Magic Daze last time who is a solid yardstick and therefore suggests a mark of 140 for Dinoblue here could be lenient. Not a race Willie Mullins tends to target he has only had four runners in the race in the last ten years and none of them placed let alone won. Whereas Elliott, the trainer of Andy Dufresne has a win and two places to his name from just 5 attempts. Considering the very similar prices then I have to side with Andy Dufresne as being the better bet of the pair.

The other two on my list are Call Me Lyreen and Dancing On My Own though neither inspire too much confidence. The former would want better ground and seemed to lose his confidence following a fall at Listowel. Dancing On My Own would be a real flyer but with plenty of places on offer and at a massive price then he is one probably worth chancing a small bet. Ran in the race last year on just his fourth chase start and on the back of falling a month previously. He was never able to get into contention that day. However, proved that he was very capable at Aintree a month later when finishing 2nd in the grade 3 Red Rum, only finding The Last Day too good, the pair pulling 15 lengths clear of the third. Was able to take things on from the front that day which suited the horse much better. Just two runs since in good handicaps at Fairyhouse when never able to get competitive. His handicap mark has thus dropped and is only 3lb higher than when 2nd at Aintree. Yard is in much better form, you can never discount Henry De Bromhead at the Festival. Not saying he is a cert but at 66/1 with 6 places then I am happy to take a small punt.

Advised bets:
1.5pt win – Andy Dufresne @ 13/2 (888sport)
0.25pt e/w – Dancing On My Own @ 40/1 (Bet365 – 6 places)

5.30 – Champion Bumper

Jockey bookings has thrown me a little in this race with the surprise that Patrick Mullins has picked Fact To File, who finished 2nd to A Dream To Share last time. I was expecting/hoping he would pick Fun Fun Fun, the mare that he bred himself. The fact he deserts her for a horse beaten last time has to be a concern, albeit this is a race Mullins has won before with 2nd/3rd/4th+ strings. I have been a fan of A Dream To Share since his win at the DRF which had seemed underrated by many including the bookmakers. They have since cottoned on and now he is favourite for the race at a best price 4/1. Whilst his experience could come into play here over the opposition I am concerned at the ground as he has never raced on soft. If you are on already then fair enough but I wouldn’t be rushing to back him at the moment. I can see why Patrick has picked Fact To File when you consider he is a 3m point to point winner on soft who won his bumper debut over 2 1/2m on soft. Looked to be beat fair and square at the DRF but looking back it could well be the case that the fastest horse won. With this looking a maximum 24 runner bumper then I expect the pace to be strong and stamina to come significantly into play. Therefore it is hard to get away from Fact To File despite the poor record of horses beaten last time out in this race (Just 2 winners from last 30 years!) Personally I am already in on Fun Fun Fun and A Dream To Share and so can’t justify another bet in the race.

Advised bets:
1pt win – A Dream To Share @ 7/2 (General) Already advised
1pt e/w – Fun Fun Fun @ 8/1 General – 3 places) Already advised