My email for the following days racing begin before racing even starts today. The hard work has all been done so its time to move on looking ahead.
2:10 – 1.5pt win – Copperhead @ 5/1 Paddy Power
2:50 – 1pt e/w – Protektorat @ 16/1 Ladbrokes, Coral & Betway 1/5th odds 6 places
4:10 – 1pt e/w – Urgent De Gregaine (Without Tiger Roll) @ 6/1 Bet365 1/5th odds 3 places
4:40 – 1pt e/w – Tronador @ 15/2 Paddy Power 1/5th odds 5 places
5:30 – 0.5pt e/w – Adrimel @ 28/1 Bet365, Skybet and BetVictor 1/5th odds 4 places
2:50 Coral Cup
1pt win – Birchdale @ 9/1 Bet365 NRNB
0.75pt e/w – Franco De Port @ 16/1 Ladbrokes, 888Sport & Betfred 1/5th odds 5 places NRNB
4:50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
0.75pt e/w – Night Edition @ 16/1 888Sport, Paddy & Betfred 5th odds 5 places
0.5pt e/w – Scorched Earth @ 33/1 Bet365 ¼ odds 4 places (NR)
I’m all up for taking on favourites, especially when they are only a fraction above evens. However, it is hard to see past Envoi Allen who is probably avoiding being odds on because it doesn’t win in the flashy style that many would hope considering its price. Four out of four in bumpers including grade 2 and grade 1 wins. Three out of three over hurdles including two grade 1s. Compare this with the opposition where only one horse has won a graded race and that is an outsider with Mossy Fen who took a weak grade 2 last time out. The other three horses that are a single price in the betting have yet to race outside of novice company, with The Big Getaway not raced beyond maiden company even! When you factor in that 8 of the last 10 winners had won a graded hurdle then you start to understand why it may be difficult to look beyond Envoi Allen. If you want to find a way for Envoi Allen to get beat then it may be the trip, especially on ground which is heavy on places. Connections had seriously considered the prospect of running in the Supreme but eventually opting for the longer race. However, further rain since then has made conditions more testing. But then, despite being over 2m 5f the race is still a test of tactical speed where you do see many from the Ballymore going on to the Champion hurdle in a season or two.
Sporting John despite not having tried a graded race actually comes out very well on ratings. 7lb off of Envoi Allen on Official Ratings but only 2lb on RPRs. Impressive wins having yet to be really tested. I can’t help but feel it looks a little flattered. Take its latest run which earnt an RPR of 152. Only a four runner race where the 151 rated favourite didn’t stay the longer trip. Yes, it gave Pipesmoker a beating along with 8lb but small field and last was only 15 lengths off. Could be something special but I struggle to see why it is better value at 7/2 over the 5/4 of Envoi Allen who has beaten horses of a graded level.
Both The Big Breakaway and The Big Getaway have plenty to prove though are lightly raced enough that the improvement could be there, though it is guesswork in doing so and I always value placed form in graded races over winning novices. With that in mind then the each way value could lie with Longhouse Poet. Second to Elixir D’Ainay on hurdles debut with Column Of Fire in third, it confirmed that form when finishing ahead of it once more when winning a maiden by 2m 4f on soft ground. Put in its place by Envoi Allen when only third beaten 7 lengths though the faster ground probably didn’t play to its strengths. Upped to 2m 6f in a very good looking race, beaten by a pair of strong stayers on the yielding ground. Both of those races were grade 1s in which that experience could set it up nicely for this. Hard to see it reversing places with Envoi Allen but places are up for grabs. It is not a good start though if betting with no faith in actually winning the race so it is a no bet race to me.
2:10 RSA Chase
A fascinating 3m novice chase with plenty of angles to look at. Will start by saying I am happy to be against Minella Indo. 9 of the last 10 winners had an adjusted RPR of 160+ and this is 159. Might not seem much but only one horse is rated below it on RPRs so it has a fair bit to prove. A trend buster last year when winning despite just the two starts over hurdles, it would be another buster if he was to win this after just two chase starts as only Don Poli since the turn of the century has won on the back of such limited experience. The last 18 winners had also contested a graded chase which is another reason to be against Minella Indo.
A more obvious contender is Champ. Bit chancy at its fences which saw it fall last time when looking to have the race won. Officially three starts therefore though never completed on the latest. That is a worry going into such a big race as you just don’t know how horses react to a fall and they have been unable to get a prep into it. Eight of the last ten winners ran last ran between 24-53 days ago, though Topofthegame last year defied the same absence to win. To be honest the fall could be the making of the horse as it can help a poor jumper to concentrate and focus on what it is doing. At a bigger price I would be prepared to chance it therefore but as current second favourite then its not for me.
Now, I really like Copperhead, though it is a shame it didn’t go for the NH Chase as its relentless galloping looked ideal for that test, though with conditions very much on the heavy side then they may well be glad they didn’t. Improved with all four runs this year and absolutely demolished the field in the Reynoldstown on testing ground. A repeat of that would see it go very close, though just 25 days recovery isn’t long from such an improved effort (improved by 11lb on RPR), I would be worried of it bouncing and feeling the effects of that run. As a positive O’Faolain’s Boy did the double in 2014 while Bobs Worth was 2nd in the race before winning here. Fails on a couple of the trends I have down where 8 of the last 10 had run at the Festival before and only 1 winner in that time had finished outside the first 3 when completing.
Top of the RPRs is Allaho which is a little surprising considering it was for winning a Beginners chase in a moderate time though eased down by 21 lengths. The runner up has been beaten since, finishing 2nd by 6 lengths with the RPR ratings suggesting it has run to its level again, hence why Allaho is so high. Had things its own way in front that day. It would surprise me as a novice if it was able to get anywhere near to that performance again this season if correct. It has improved by 18lb from its debut run and is 4lb higher on RPR than anything else here. Despite the 46 day absence it is a strong candidate to bounce and still feel the effects of that last run. Just the two chase starts, not run in a graded chase are both negative trends that would make me happy to take it on again.
Easy Game is another with just two runs to its name and yet to get anywhere near three miles in trip which is ominous considering the ground. Battleoverdoyen is a bigger price than it has for a long while. Doubts over the suitability of the track, the stamina test and the fact it is coming here after a bad fall when beat last time leads to questions it still needs to answer. I was a fan of Slate House and admired what they tried to do, taking on more experienced horses in the Cotswold chase. However, it back-fired as it ran no sort of race, in the end pulling up and hasn’t been seen since. Plenty of experience as a second season chaser and handles soft ground, again its a concern whether it wants a stiff test at three miles where the Marsh Chase was mentioned as an option over shorter.
While they all come with their negatives here I am prepared to chance the welfare of Copperhead. Was a great performance in the Reynoldstown and is clearly improving nicely. Can negate the fact it hasn’t been to the Festival before by having some course experience, racing in a listed bumper on New Years Day. Has improved with each run, has a graded win to its name and it looks a safer option than something like Champ. I have already shown how a couple have come from the Reynoldstown before to win this so lets hope it can do the double.
1.5pt win – Copperhead @ 5/1 Paddy Power
2:50 – Coral Cup
The race got interesting from an ante post perspective as one of the horses I tipped early in Franco De Port ended up the selection of Paul Townend in the race from the 7 that Willie Mullins entered. Suddenly the 16/1 that I advised is now down to a best price 9/1 and if the Irish get behind it then it could get even shorter. The opposite can be said of Birchdale who has took a massive walk out to 16/1 from the 9/1 it was. Opposite in jockey bookings with Geraghty choosing Dame De Compagnie so Aidan Coleman takes the ride for the same trainer and owner. If Dame De Compagnie was to win its would be the lowest rated winner since 2015. Five of the last ten years has seen the race go to a horse rated 148 or higher with the race only twice won by a horse with less than 11st. Barring the weight and official rating trends then this would have fit my broad criteria for the winner. Won a mares handicap hurdle well before Christmas and not been seen since. Has gone up 8lb in the weights and whilst the runner up has won since, the rest in behind haven’t done much. Up in class and against the boys it is no longer value in my eyes.
Alfa Mix is another been well backed for JP McManus but as a novice in this race it is a big concern. No novice has won this in the last 26 runnings of the race. Off a rating of 142 also in a race trending towards those at the top end of the weights then I want to be against it also. Canardier is the interesting one. Was on my horses to follow from this race last year and though run a couple of decent races, its jumping has often let it down. Was in with a chance before falling on chase debut and may of been feeling the effects of that mentally on next start when running no sort of race. Not seen since on the racetrack though switched from a small yard to that of Willie Mullins and makes his debut for the trainer here. Not run over hurdles since May last year, you couldn’t put anything past the master of this type. Is 4lb higher than last years 5th, beaten 2 ½ lengths, you would be reluctant to rule it out.
Despite the drift I think Protektorat is well worth a bet. The form of its controversial win has probably been overlooked. Having got its head past the post first, it was then disqualified and placed second, only to be awarded the race again on appeal. The runner up has won since, admittedly only a novice hurdle but still did the job well carrying a penalty on heavy ground. The third, beaten over 6 lengths then went and won a Pertemps qualifier and is now a single figure price in the betting for that race. Protektorat went up 7lb for that but then headed for the grade 2 Classic novice hurdle run on the new course here where he finished third behind Albert Bartlett possible Harry Senior. Beaten 4 ½ lengths it was carrying 5lb more in weight due to penalties and came out best on RPR at the weights. That race meant another rise of 3lb but meant it gets in nicely here. A second season novice who has improved with each of his last four runs there could well be more to come ridden patiently in a big field handicap.
1pt e/w – Protektorat @ 16/1 Ladbrokes, Coral & Betway 1/5th odds 6 places
3:30 – Champion Chase
A race that has taken a knock with Altior unfit to take part. Shame really as it made for a fascinating trio of top class two milers. Personally I have always been in the Defi Du Seuil camp for this. Altior has been picking up weak renewals of this and is the first time in several years that it faces genuine top class horses at the minimum trip. Chacun Pour Soi may be the equal of Defi but it just doesn’t have the Festival nor course experience. Eight times round Cheltenham and twice a winner at the Festival, has pace but stays well. This is the first time Chacun has left Ireland since moving from France and lacks the kind of experience that Defi has. I think this season will be a learning curve at Cheltenham with more interest in a years time with that experience under its belt. Of the others, Dynamite Dollars is a massive candidate to bounce after an extraordinary effort last time behind Altior on first run for over a year. Sceau Royal did well on soft last year in this but it certainly doesn’t help the horse. If wanting a bet then I would consider Politilogue for the forecast with Defi Du Seuil. Chance that Chacun struggles first time here could leave a 2nd spot open. Politilogue seems best when fresh now and has plenty of experience racing round here. It’s not really my style though and would rather watch and enjoy the race.
4:10 – Cross Country
Talking about no betting races, there is no way I want to be taking on Tiger Roll in a race it won last year by 22 lengths and at the start of the season was announced as its main target for the year, despite the prospect of a third Grand National. Not surprised to see it go odds on now, its closest rival has to improve by 19lb on official ratings and 18lb on RPR to beat it. If this was a regular graded race then Tiger Roll would be nearer ½ than even money for this. Easysland is the great pretender, likely to take over from Tiger Roll in the future but as a 6yo it is a big negative to this race in the past. 14 horses aged 7 or younger has run and not one of them has placed. This could well be the exception to that rule but the improvement it would need to find to beat a horse like this is extraordinary.
If looking for a bet then I would go with Urgent De Gregaine. Second two years ago and third last year, it is now a 12yo but it’s not always a negative in this. Ran a great race in handicap conditions here earlier in the season having to give weight to the whole field. Stays well and seems the choice of Felix De Giles who could of ridden any of the three the trainer has sent over. Last couple of runs have been preps over much shorter trips. Knowing they cannot beat Tiger Roll I suspect this hold up horse will be ridden patiently to pick up the pieces. A couple of firms are betting without Tiger Roll and can do so each way. That looks a solid bet on this horse who could well finish runner up again.
1pt e/w – Urgent De Gregaine (Without Tiger Roll) @ 6/1 Bet365 1/5th odds 3 places
4:40 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
From two tips, one horse in and another balloted out. Night Edition is the horse that is still going though hasn’t been any money for it and is out to 20/1. Handles bad ground well, has Cheltenham experience having come second in a Triumph trial and looks the type who can be held up off the likely strong pace. There is everything to like about it to me.
Aramax and Tronador are vying for favouritism and it is the latter that interests me the most. Very similar profile to the owners/trainers previous winner of this race Veneer Of Charm in 2018. Even ran in the same prep race, a Navan novice when you could easily argue it wasn’t put in the race. The plan almost backfired here with the horse just scraping into the race due to a couple of defections. 8 of the last 10 winners had raced within the last 32 days but then one of the exceptions was Veneer Of Charm and we know the yard can ready a horse given the profile. Looks a hold up horse who should enjoy the conditions of this whilst has shown it handles soft ground. It needs to improve but I suspect it is more than capable of finding the necessary improvement needed here.
Mick Pastor could easily have gone for the Triumph hurdle but instead goes for the lesser Boodles hurdle in the hope of taking advantage of its mark of 140. Would become the highest rated winner of the race to do so after Band Of Outlaws won last year off 139. A wind operation and first time hood could make a lot of difference to the horse while we know from his past record that this is a race Paul Nicholls does exceptionally well with when recruiting from France. Off top weight though it is vulnerable to something much lower down and though will probably run well it is a big fear whether it will be handicapped well enough to win this.
1pt e/w – Tronador @ 15/2 Paddy Power 1/5th odds 5 places
5:30 – Champion Bumper
A big race for me personally as I put up Appreciate It at 16/1 on our Cheltenham Ante Post thread several months ago and is now a best price 2/1. It has a great chance of winning with the right requisite of speed and stamina required. However, in a race like the bumper you just never know what any of the other unexposed horses have up their sleeve. With that in mind I am cautiously optimistic.
Those in behind Appreciate It in the betting are much of a muchness. Several closely rated on RPRs and Official Ratings though all with something to find and having their own doubts. Therefore considering the prices then I will have a little play on Adrimel. Done nothing wrong, this Irish Point To Point winner hosed up by 26 lengths in a pretty weak bumper on bad ground. However, it is still rare for a bumper to be won in such a fashion and proved it was no fluke when defying a penalty at Doncaster to beat one of Kim Baileys recording a fair RPR. That puts it right amongst the pack yet is twice the price of the majority of those around it. Possibly the young trainer having his first runner in the race is being underestimated. Not one to get carried away with but with 4 places on offer with the majority of firms it is worth a small each way.
0.5pt e/w – Adrimel @ 28/1 Bet365, Skybet and BetVictor 1/5th odds 4 places