DAY 1 – TUESDAY 14 MARCH
1.30 – The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Invariably this is run at a strong pace being the first race of the festival. Crowds and jockeys are pumped up raring to go which therefore usually results in a strong pace and suiting horses able to gallop and jump at speed.
Facile Vega – Blotted his copybook last time out though found to be lame post-race. Not exactly what you want to see from a ‘prep’ race. 23 of the last 26 winners had won LTO and only Labaik had come in the race having been unplaced on last run… and that was only because he virtually refused to race. Barring that, the horse is very good for the trends, so wouldn’t give up hope. Personally, never been a fan this year having felt everything has been geared to get him to win. Would also worry about how he handles the pre-race excitement having got worked up a little before his last run.
Marine Nationale – Just the two hurdle starts, with a couple of bumper wins added in for race experience. Very rare for a horse to win this on the back of just two hurdle starts. Constitution Hill managed it and with just the one point to point run as well, but then he promises to be something special and therefore an exception. Maybe Marine Nationale is special also, but it would be very rare to see something that good two years in a row! Official Rating currently only 147 is lower than most years winners, though that would be in part down to just the two hurdle starts.
Constitution Hill was only rated 148 going into the Supreme last year and came out the other end with a mark of 170! Been racing less than a year having made his debut at the end of May last year. I think the lack of experience and in a fair race is enough to put me off, especially when considering price as well.
Gaelic Warrior – The suggestion has been that he will go Ballymore but if Facile Vega was ruled out then he would be of some interest here as his handicap form entitles him to go close. Never won a graded race would be a big negative for me, let alone not even run in a grade 1. Has the kind of profile you see from Betfair hurdle winners who end up here. Has place chances but invariably don’t win! Does have a habit of jumping to his right, which isn’t ideal either on this left-handed track.
Il Etait Temps – Looks good on general trends, only negative is a current official rating of 148, which is considerably lower than his Racing Post Rating which I like to use as a guide. Like I said earlier though, Constitution Hill was rated 148 going into the race and there is always a chance it will increase again nearer the race. Looks to be well suited to a strongly run two miles as we saw from his Dublin Racing Festival win. Only concern is his hurdling which despite his experience can leave a bit to be desired. Does seem to be improving on that front. There is also a small concern he has run his ‘Gold Cup’ at the DRF and may struggle to repeat that just over 5 weeks later. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was to start favourite however.
Impaire Et Passe – Another which could well go for the Ballymore instead of the
Supreme. Is a grade 2 winner but yet to contest a grade 1 is a personal concern.
Another with just two hurdle starts with that experience added with a flat run in France at the end of last March. RPR of just 153 adjusted for the race leaves him with a bit to prove and form is so far on soft ground. However, his win in a grade 2 was easy and could be capable of more.
Tahmuras – Grade 1 winner when landing the Tolworth, invariably a race with a poor record in this (Though Constitution Hill did the double). That saw it given a rating of just 138 which leaves it with a fair bit to find with the protagonists here. Form is therefore suspect considering what it has beat but does seem green still so can continue to improve. Official Rating has actually been bumped up to 142 on the back of the 3rd and 4th from the Tolworth finishing 1st and 2nd in a grade 2 at Kelso, giving his form a nice boost. Clear pick of the British horses on all known form.
High Definition – Often if a horse is to bust the trends then it does so on most counts (See Labaik in 2017) and this year this could be the one. Flat bred, just two hurdle starts, completing once, not won a graded race, just the one win, beaten, failing to complete last time out. Is the right age of most winners though…
Luccia – Feel like I have to put her in here with the suggestion that she may come for this instead with the allowance. Just the two starts over hurdles and not raced in graded company would be immediate red flags in my book, especially when comparing form with the protagonists here. Have to respect the trainer and his record in the race, but on everything we know it isn’t one I could entertain backing.
Subsequently she has been taken out of the race at the 5 day stage.
Doctor Bravo – Beaten in to 3rd last time out at Gowran behind Fil Dor and Sharjah, but he did travel very well for a long way, despite the ground probably being a little heavier than he’d ideally like it. He made a bad mistake two out but still kept on well and wasn’t beaten far in the end, on what was only his 3rd hurdles start. The feeling is that he will be suited by a quickly-run race on genuine good/soft ground, which there’s every chance he will get, and he is sure to come on again. I know the Elliott stable are quietly sweet on his chances and if there is one that could run into the places (or better) at a price, then this could be the one.
There are a few other runners that we could talk about such as Diverge and Hunters Yarn from the Mullins yard but I am a strong believer in horses improving and benefitting from racing in strong competitive races. Winning a maiden or weak novice (Where several are running for their handicap mark) isn’t the ideal preparation for winning the Supreme as history has shown.
I’ve got to be against Facile Vega at the prices albeit he could turn out to be the best horse in the race. Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior are likely to be pulled in favour of the Ballymore so the markets may shorten a little. The horse with the form in the book is Il Etait Temps and his current price of 13/2 looks big. Would be tempted to wait and see if four places is available as e/w at that price should be a very safe bet. However, the concern is whether he will bounce from the Dublin Racing Festival run considering the improvement he found. Therefore will limit my liabilities with a small win bet. Doctor Bravo is the e/w play.
1pt win – Il Etait Temps @ 6/1 (General)
0.5 pt e/w – Doctor Bravo @ 25/1 (General – 3 places) Already advised
2.10 – The Sporting Life Arkle Chase
Usually, a fascinating race where the winner always has to be considered for the following years Champion Chase, as is the case again with last year’s winner Edwardstone. Favourites have a very good record winning 8 of the last 11, though 7 of those were odds on, the exception coming last year in a competitive race where Edwardstone started 5/2 fav. Unfortunately, this year it is looking likely to be a small field affair with only 4 ‘definite’ runners I can see, three of which are from the Mullins yard! May well be a couple of others go for the prize money from smaller yards but likely the winner will be one of four.
El Fabiolo – Always promised to make a better chaser than hurdler with anything he did over hurdles a bonus. Fulfilling that potential now as a good winner of the Irish Arkle, a race which looked a hot contest beforehand and proved a very competitive affair. Fits majority of trends, the only thing letting him down is the lack of course experience. Just how crucial that is in this race is debateable. 14 of the past 19
winners had run at the Festival the previous year but when you consider majority of times this race goes to a previous top novice hurdler, it is no surprise they would have been at Cheltenham the previous year. I therefore don’t see it as a reason to rule a horse out but is a bonus for those that have. The other negative is just the two starts over fences. However, that could well be irrelevant this year with two of the three to head the betting only run twice and the exception being in uncompetitive races. Has the best form in the book, strong on trends and the leading light from a top yard, there is lots to like.
Jonbon – Unsurprising that Jonbon meets all the trends I can find for the race, having been 2nd to Constitution Hill in the Supreme last year. Winner of all three of his chase starts though beaten only 6 rivals in doing so and nothing of the calibre of what El Fabiolo competed against in the Irish Arkle. An exceptional hurdler, I was somewhat surprised how natural he was over the larger obstacles as well. Jumping not really been tested though, barring a couple of fences last time out when the runner up tried to kick on and catch him out. Don’t think Coleman will be quite so relaxed on him in the Arkle. Did jump a little to the right which he hadn’t done before. Doesn’t concern me so much in the race itself but could be a sign of a
niggling issue. Can get worked up beforehand as well, like at Aintree and
Cheltenham last year. The one on trends but still have doubts about him.
Dysart Dynamo – Could be the one to benefit from a small field Arkle as a natural front runner in the race. Beaten last time out doesn’t do it well on the trends with 18 of the last 22 winners all victorious last time including past 13. Doesn’t have a graded win over fences either and a winner just once in Chases from two starts. But ran well for a long way in the Irish Arkle, fading late on after setting a strong gallop and will be a furlong and a half shorter at Cheltenham. Assuming Danny Mullins rides, a lot will depend on how well he can get the horse to settle as he does so well on front runners.
Saint Roi – Could provide an interesting e/w angle in a race where you can get three places though unlikely on the day I feel. Hold up horse who I fancied to run a big race in the Irish Arkle. Never got to see what he could do as he seemed to stumble and unseat his rider after the 5th. Faster they go the better as he will be staying on strongest of all. Just worry about him getting too far behind. But then you wouldn’t be surprised in him ridden to pick up the pieces. Doesn’t rate highly on trends as an 8yo (Though Edwardstone was last year), just the one win and beaten when last seen. But, he is a big price for a grade 1 chase winner who was placed in a grade 1 over hurdles and seems to be improving according to RPRs. Since I wrote this the horse has been picked up by a few shrewdies and his price is shortening all the time. Now 9/1, he isn’t far off where I think he should be because at the end of the day he is likely the 4th best horse in the race and would still need one of the three horses in front of him to run below par. It was fair at 10/1 as you were getting evens the place with the small potential of a win.
Final Orders – The ‘outside the box’ possibility. Has graduated through handicap ranks, first winning off 120 before his most recent victory off a mark of 140 putting him officially on 149. That rating still leaves him with 10lb to find with Jonbon and El Fabiolo, but having won his last five starts then who knows what more he is capable of. I’m not one for handicap winners being chucked into grade 1s though, the racing style and pace is so much different that horses can just struggle with a dramatic rise in class. Interestingly he is flat bred failing to win in 16 starts and only won 2 of 20 hurdle starts. Has finally come of age over these bigger obstacles though! Just not a horse that I can contemplate winning
I keep changing my mind on this race between Jonbon and El Fabiolo as Jonbon has the more potential I feel but El Fabiolo has proven more. When you throw in it could be a small field, Dysart Dynamo could get an easy lead but if he goes off too quick then he could set it up for Saint Roi to run on. Logic would be to back Saint Roi each way but his price has been shortening all the time and does he have a serious chance of winning? Not convinced. Personally, I will leave the race from an Ante Post perspective but on the day I think Jonbon/Saint Roi & El Fabiolo/Saint Roi forecasts could be the best play in the hope that there is a strong pace and one of the fancied runners blows their chances.
No bet currently.
3.30 – The Unibet Champion Hurdle
Could be another small field affair with the challenge of Constitution Hill and State Man to overcome in the race. We have already heard how the trainer and owner of the reigning champion doesn’t fancy taking the pair on so it doesn’t bode well for what else may show up in the race. It’s a tough betting heat as well with Constitution Hill such a short price and whilst state Man has looked good and done nothing wrong, you wouldn’t be confident of him beating the favourite. Assuming they take two of the places then you are just betting on third place with any each way bet finding the win part pretty defunct.
Constitution Hill – Perfect fit on trends. Only very minor doubts about his form. Very much doubt Epatante has been fully wound up for either of her runner up spots this year, ridden to do so. He’s never had to come off the bridle to win which suggests there could be even more to come, but equally he may not find much for pressure. We just don’t know. The question is can anything get him off the bridle?
State Man – Another fit for all the trends. If there was one who could ask questions of CH then he could well be the one. No where near as stylish in his wins, but then has won his last six, four at grade 1 level and to be honest, hasn’t looked like being beaten either. Doesn’t seem to possess the turn of foot that Constitution Hill has but does have the ability to grind it out from the front and so far no one has been able to pass him in over a year. I can see him getting a lead off something before attempting to grind the finish out of CH, it will be down to CH to pick him up.
Vauban – A 5yo who has been beat on both his starts in open company doesn’t bode well. Didn’t seem to come on as much as was expected from first start. However, did win the Triumph last year so we know he can perform at the meeting. Would need to improve at least half a stone to get involved here which I don’t know is possible for him yet whilst others at much bigger prices seem to have equal chances on form.
I Like To Move It – Beaten last time out, though was upped in trip and didn’t seem to stay. Down to run on Saturday so that could well change anyway. Well beat in the County last year but does tend to go well here and does appreciate decent ground which it will get if this dry weather continues! Last win as of now was in a handicap and does tend to be found wanting upped in class. His grade 2 win came in a 3 runner race against two inferior rivals and one of them fell! Could potentially be the pace setter in the race.
Pied Piper – Written off in the betting but may have some hope in the special ‘without’ markets that are available. Is closely matched with Vauban on their run at the DRF where he finished only 3/4 lengths behind his rival. Yet, when it comes to prices, Vauban is a best price of 10/1 and Pied Piper can be had at 66/1. Can ignore his Matheson run where he was found post race to be clinically abnormal. Third in the Triumph last year where he finished only 2 3/4 lengths behind Vauban, outpaced in my view and doing best of those to be held up. If the front two run to form then I doubt Pied Piper can beat them, but I do believe he can outrun his massive odds and would be of interest in the markets without the front two.
Sharjah – Another readily dismissed in the betting and probably lost a bit of his spark. However, he has been there and done it before including when 2nd in this two years ago. Was off for a year before returning with a couple of fair efforts, beaten twice by State Man and behind Vauban last time also. How much ability he retains remains to be seen but he does tend to come alive at Xmas (Not helped by the soft ground this season) and then in the Spring on decent racing ground. Down to run in the Red Mills Trial on Saturday. Be interesting to see how he gets on especially carrying weight on ground he isn’t best on. It could determine whether he comes here for the race again.
Since I wrote the above Sharjah has disappointed again when travelling well at Gowran Park on Saturday. Was on unfavoured ground but even then it should still of been up to winning the race if we are to consider him for a decent finish in the Champion Hurdle. Looks like he could go for carrying a big weight in a handicap instead now. The opposite was the case for I Like To Move It, who backed up the promise he showed earlier in the season when winning a handicap off 142, by landing the Kingwell by 17 lengths from a couple of good yardsticks who have probably run close to their marks. Still only a 6yo, he is improving and would be deserving of a place in the Champion line up. Showed he doesn’t have to lead here as well. He would be of interest if any bookmakers price up a market without CH and SM. For an interest bet I would be tempted with a small play on Not So Sleepy e/w in the without Constitution Hill market @ 50/1 Bet365 with 3 places and 1/5th odds. The likely pacemaker who finished 6th in the race last year when there was more competition for the lead. Surely will be a single figure field this year, he may get an uncontested lead and set slow enough fractions that he can run on and hold to 4th at worst. An 11yo with nothing to lose, he still showed he was equally as good when 3rd in the Fighting Fifth when only 2 ¼ lengths behind Epatante and she is 6/1 in the same market albeit she probably won’t run. I’d be amazed if he is not at least half that price on the day.
0.25pt e/w – Not So Sleepy @ 50/1 (Bet365 – 3 places – without Constitution
4.10 – The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
Not a race I take the trends too seriously in with Mullins having won the race 6 years in a row with Quevega distorting statistics somewhat. However, there is generally a few things that still stand out that the majority of winners have attained.
Honeysuckle – Quevega has been the only winner of the race older than 7 years old, but then she was special, and so is/was Honeysuckle. She also falls down having not won last time out like 12 of the last 15 had done (Again Quevega distorts this). Potentially in decline, her RPR last time was her worst since a novice in 2019. she also looks to be at least half a stone off her best. That still gives her a good shout here and arguably she may well need further than two miles now. Has a favourites chance, but bound to be shorter in the betting as she has an army of followers expecting her to win. so highly unlikely to represent any value in my book.
Marie’s Rock – An 8yo, but barring that she fits all the other trends. Winner of the race last year when rated just 140, the 2nd lowest rated mare to win the race in its existence. Now officially rated 153 which may still be lenient considering she is unbeaten in her last four, proving this race was no fluke last year by winning the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown as well, beating Stormy Ireland and Epatante. Seen just once this year but producing her best RPR to date when winning the Relkeel by 6 lengths despite having to carry a penalty against the boys. Clearly goes well fresh so the absence is no concern, i don’t think we have seen the limit of her ability yet. The only concern is whether she goes for this, or they chance stepping her up to 3m considering the yard also have Epatante for the race.
Brandy Love – Not run all season though is entered to run at Punchestown on the 22nd. Has looked talented in her albeit limited runs to date with her running just three times over hurdles. Hung away her chances in the Solerina last year when beaten by Allegorie De Vassy, but managed to get the better of Love Envoi (Her only defeat) at Fairyhouse in a novice grade 1 when last seen. She has no form outside of racing against other mares and having missed Cheltenham last year when pulled with a vet’s certificate then to me she still has a fair bit to prove considering her price. It is argued that she will be a lot better on left handed tracks as she hangs so much, but a similar thing was said about Asterion Forlonges going right handed and he never trained on. There is no guarantee Brandy Love will improve for going left handed. Once these horses have their significant quirks, it suggests the horse has mental issues and so should be avoided at all costs in my opinion. In such a strong renewal I am happy to be against her.
Love Envoi – Official rating of 147, generally fitting the trends and to be fair has done little wrong. Has been brought along quite softly, starting this season in a handicap off 139 against the boys. Winner of the Mares Novice last year so has festival experience and has the right profile as an improving 7yo. Only defeat in 8 hurdle starts came when 2nd to Brandy Love on her 6th start of the season and just a month after Cheltenham. Her only other start this year came when winning a listed race at Sandown by 13 lengths. No easy feat to do and putting that into some context then Epatante beat the runner up by 9 lengths on the bridle. So fair to say there shouldn’t be much between the two. She won the mares novice last year so has Cheltenham experience, although that race is looking a little weak in hindsight. The suspicion is that we haven’t seen fully what she is capable of and she could well run a big race.
Epatante – 9yo and fits in the same bracket of Honeysuckle in that she is older than most winners but she is/was top class. Hard to judge just how much she retains as she has coasted in a couple of times making Constitution Hill look good (Jokes…) before winning a poor grade 2 at Musselburgh. Her best performance in the last year came over 2m 4f at Aintree so suspect that trip may be more suitable these days. Also worth remembering that she finished behind Marie’s Rock at Punchestown over 2m 3f and she is considered more a stayer so niggling doubts do creep in with her, along with finishing behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. There are further holes in her form with the Aintree Hurdle win benefitting from Zanahiyr falling at the last with the eventual 2nd and 3rd doing little also. I’m a big fan of the mare who is a fantastic hurdler, but at the prices and the way the race is panning out, I’m not sure she is better value than her stable mate Maries Rock at a very similar price.
Echoes In Rain – Useful on the flat where she is rated 102 and finally seems to be showing that ability over hurdles. Equalled her career best when winning last time in a grade 3 where Bob Olinger ran below par (Been doing that all season), giving her an RPR of 155 on her last two completed starts. Fell in the Hatton’s Grace when still in contention, she is an interesting contender. Couple of doubts in that she disappointed in the race last year finishing only 5th when coming into the race in good form (Had been 3rd in Irish Champion Hurdle) whilst she also has a habit of finding at least one or two too good at the highest level. Her record in grade 1’s reads 134352F with the victory coming when Blue Lord underperformed after falling in the Supreme a couple of years ago. Her 5th in this race was the only time she has completed over 2 1/2m (The other time was falling in the Hatton Grace when seeming to stay on) so trip is also an imponderable. I can see the arguments for suggesting she could be an e/w option in the race, but then she also comes with a lot of minor questions that still need answering.
Queens Brook – An 8yo who was beat last time out and only rated 144. Not got much going for her when it comes to trends. However, she has been to the Festival twice and placed both times, including runner up in this race last year despite her trainer admitting she hadn’t got the best of preps. Her last two runs have been her best two according to RPRs but that still leaves her with a fair bit to find with the leading principles. With her stamina proven over further I wouldn’t be surprised if they considered the Coral Cup over 2m 5f on the same course rather than take on the likes of Honeysuckle and Marie’s Rock off level weights! Would have an e/w shout as well in the race if that was to happen.
Shewearsitwell – 8yo with an Official Rating of 147. She also lacks Cheltenham experience. Has won her last two though improving her RPR both times including a comfortable win over Queens Brook when last seen. Had her problems but things seem to be going right for her this season. Another due to run at Punchestown on the 22nd, if she was to win that well, over Brandy Love then her best price of 14/1 at the moment could look very big. One to consider from an each way perspective.
Little update on this after Queens Brook beat Brandy Love on lto. Fair run from Brandy Love on her return, especially if there was one eye on her running at Cheltenham with regards fitness. Beaten 4 3/4 lengths conceding 9lb would suggest she would reverse form at level weights by 2 or 3 lengths. Add in better fitness and she is definitely capable of going well. The question is whether she can improve enough on this to run those with ideal preps and better form close. I’m not convinced. Interesting to see they did give her a Coral Cup entry which would be fascinating if she was to take that option up, depending on what mark she is given by the UK handicapper. Shewearsitwell missed that race which may be a wise choice though lacks a prep run. With Maries Rock likely to defect to the Stayers Hurdle then I am left with Love Envoi as the most likely winner, which has already been advised as a bet.
2 pt win – Love Envoi @ 11/2 (Hills) Already Advised
5.30 – The National Hunt Steeple Chase
Grade 2 race that concludes the first day. Run over just shy of 3m 6f, this is still a significant test despite cutting the trip from four miles. Saying that, the race was a small field affair last year and run at a sedate pace early. With stricter conditions of entry to the race then it would not be surprising if field sizes are smaller and this is less testing than previous.
Gaillard Du Mesnil – Literally the race revolves around this horse as at current ratings it is 8lb better than anything else that is entered on Official Ratings and 6lb better on RPR. A grade 1 3m chase winner who was 3rd last year in the Irish National off a
mark of 154 it’s current mark of 155 looks justified. A perfect fit on trends, proven at the trip and would be the ride of Patrick Mullins in the race. What’s not to like? His record of 1 win from 8 chase starts does not inspire confidence, though the majority of his defeats have come at less than three miles. Also, will he run in the race? Like I said he is a grade 1 winning 3 miler and has the best credentials of anything in the Mullins yard to be running in the Brown Advisory. Though beat in the race last year, that renewal looks stronger than this year so would make sense to go for that race. However, clearly his best chance of winning is the NH Chase though so will connections take the easy option? For me this is principle. I don’t believe a grade 1 winning 3m chaser should be running in a grade 2 race, let alone without any kind of penalty. It makes a mockery of the whole situation in my view and be very disappointing from a horse racing perspective if it was to run. If he wasn’t to run then the race would have a very open look to it with just a few pounds between the remaining principles.
Ramillies – Next in the betting but under the same trainer/owner as the favourite! Unlikely the pair will race against each other with one going here and the other for the 3m option. Lacking experience with just the two chase starts to his name, Stattler managed to defy limited experience to win last year but he is a single figure price to win the Gold Cup so it can be done but would need a grade 1 quality horse and I’m not sure Ramillies is. Would of been 2/2 over fences but for being harshly (In my opinion) disqualified in a grade 3 last time. Is a big galloping type who you imagine would be the right type for this, but only rated 144 and still has a bit to prove even without the favourite.
Churchstonewarrior – Has 4 chase starts and an official rating of 146. The starts is a little below the usual trend of a minimum of 5 but is acceptable in a race where only 2 qualify from the front 8 in the betting. Is a grade 2 winner over 3m and seems to be improving as his RPR have increased with every run. In the context of the race he has solid form… However, he is held by GDM from Xmas time when he was beaten comfortably by 7 1/2 lengths and no reason to think he would improve any more for the trip than what GDM would do. Hasn’t run at the Festival before though like 9 of the last 13 winners had done, lacking any Cheltenham experience at all.
Mahler Mission – Another with 4 starts over fences and with an official rating of 145. Has already been 2nd to Chemical Energy at Cheltenham over fences this year and also ran in the Albert Bartlett last season giving it a few positives when it comes to trends. His form ties in closely with a few of these including Churchstonewarrior who he was less than a length behind on their last meeting off level weights. Unfortunately his regular jockey has joined the professional ranks so would be unable to take the ride. Always looked like a stayer so this longer trip could eek out a bit more improvement.
Chemical Energy – The main Gordon Elliott entry in a race he has a great record in. Once again has had 4 chase starts, winning 2 and in theory is a 2nd season novice making his debut on practically the last day of last season before a couple of runs in September and October, winning them both. Returned at Naas at the end of January when only 4th of 5 in a grade 3, though that was on soft ground with the run likely to have put him spot on for this. Trainer does like to line one up at an early stage, like ‘they’ (Under different name as Elliott was suspended) did with Galvin who was kept fresh for the race after a few early season runs. This has been the target so expect him to go very well.
Mister Coffey – The other horse barring the Fav to meet the criteria of 5 or more runs. Seven in total as a second season novice and still a maiden having failed to get his head in front. Has been called a few names in the past as not always looked the most genuine in a finish though possible an extreme trip will see him at his best. Second in a handicap last time has seen his mark rise to 145 suggesting it is pretty accurate assessment. Connections ran him last time with one eye on this race after the amateur Derek O’Connor took the ride gaining good rapport with an awkward horse. Was 2nd in the Kim Muir last year so fits the trends despite not winning and closely matched with these… barring GDM.
City Chief – Third potential runner in Donnelly colours, though this time trained by Nicky Henderson. Just the three runs though has looked progressive including winning the grade 2 Towton last time. Admittedly the favourite had bled from the nose but was still visually a good performance. Looks the right type for the race as it often pays to be a horse who jumps and travels well. Only rated 142 though with there only ever being one winner rated lower of the race. Surprised they are not interested in the Kim Muir which I would of thought he stood an outstanding chance, but hasn’t been declared for. Either way it would be a shock if they didn’t want to take advantage of his mark. Maybe he will be saved for something else (Scottish National often run on decent ground). But also as a grade 2 winner who should be suited to the race then he has every right to take his place here.
Minella Crooner – Big price to me considering he was grade 1 placed over hurdles and 2nd in a grade 2 over fences, along with a creditable third over just short of 2m 4f behind Impervious and Journey With Me. Form of his last run doesn’t look good enough but was taking on non novices with a lot more experience. Another that shapes as though he will be well suited to a significant test of stamina and from the Elliott yard it should ensure he gets a good jockey booking. Does lack Cheltenham experience but officially rated 145 means he is here with the pack and so shouldn’t be ruled out. Looks to represent fair each way value.
Looks as though Gaillard Du Mesnil will be running and so will take some beating considering the class edge he has on this field and you do feel it is justified considering what he did in the Irish National. Since I wrote this City Chief has been pulled out and unfortunately from a betting perspective Minella Crooner has shortened a fair bit with him a single figure in most places. I suspect the 10/1 is worth taking before jockey bookings come out as there is potential he could be the number one selection for Elliott ahead of Chemical Energy where there isn’t much between the pair in the betting. Ideally would like four places but as this race could cut up I doubt we will get 4 places let alone at 10/1 or bigger.
0.5pt e/w – Minella Crooner @ 10/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
DAY 2 – WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH
1.30 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
A race in which I do like horses that have form at shorter. The race is usually run at a pretty steady pace as they have a hurdle early which tends to slow the horses down, as opposed to the Supreme where there is a run to the first hurdle so horses, especially keen ones can build up a good head of steam. General rule is you want a stayer in the Supreme and a horse with a turn of foot for the Ballymore.
Hermes Allen – Favourite for the race at the moment but is susceptible to something faster with his three hurdle wins coming over 2m 4 1/2f, 2m 5f and 2m 6f! Did lead in all three of those, making all, is a grade 2 and 1 winner as well so has the class. Form of its wins is questionable with the standard of horses he has beat along with the Challow win run on soft ground with horses all over the track looking for better ground. That race has a terrible record when it comes to a guide for this. Once again it was run on soft ground and was more of a test of stamina rather than speed that you need for this. The British horses have a terrible record in this race with just one win in the last nine years though if you want a glimmer of hope then the last British trained winner was Willoughby Court who also didn’t have any form at less than 2 1/2m, but that was in a 15 runner renewal and may need another big field race to prevail again. Personally though, he is a favourite I want to take on.
Impaire Et Passe – Fits all the trends I am looking for and is a grade 2 winner over 2m, beating a couple of promising mares giving weight to them. Won his debut maiden over 2m 3f in a big 24 runner field. Just the two runs over hurdles though lack of experience is not usually a negative in this race. Unbeaten in two starts you imagine there will be more to come and looks to have the necessary requirements for a winner of this. Only negative I have would be all his form is on soft or worse ground with the grade 2 win coming on heavy in the Moscow Flyer. There is still the chance he could also go for the Supreme.
Gaelic Warrior – Lacks the graded form with his only graded runs being in handicaps though on the plus side he was 2nd in the Boodles last year so is a 2nd season novice with Festival form. Comes here though on the back of a handicap win which isn’t going to give you the right experience to win a Ballymore. In fact I think he would be better off in the Supreme where his experience would be suited much better. Wouldn’t say he would win it, Betfair Hurdle winners have often gone on to the Supreme and not won (Though placing several times), but I think he would have a great chance of at least a place. Does also have a habit of jumping to his right which would be another negative but then has form at shorter so should have the speed for the race.
Good Land – Has a fair bit to find on ratings coming in with an official rating at the moment of 142 and an RPR of 148. Unbeaten when completing over hurdles, unseating when tried over 2m which suggests they may of thought he had the pace for it. However, his completed form has seen him win a maiden over 2m 4f and then landing the Nathaniel Lacy which is run over 2m 6f and usually is a better guide to the Albert Bartlett over 3m. Has been keen and shown plenty of pace in those races but pace over 2m 6f beating stayers is different to having the pace to win over 2m. Does have a bumper win from earlier in the season would be a small positive on the trends. Hard to see why his 2m 6f grade 1 win would see him have more speed than Impaire Et Passe for example who is a grade 2 2m winner. If they were jumping the last together I know who I would fancy to sprint up the hill better. However, connections do seem to believe the horse has plenty of pace and suggested they could of gone for the Supreme were it not for also having MArine Nationale for that race.
Champ Kiely – Bit to find on figures as well but is a grade 3 winner over 2m, won a 2m 4f grade 1 last time out in the Lawlor’s Of Naas, a race that has been a good guide for this, so I think he has a fair chance at the prices. Tends to front run which would be a bit of a concern in a race like this where there are other front runners. He has also been keen in the past so wouldn’t want him getting worked up at the start. Would be a good ride for Danny Mullins though who tactically rides so well and has won on the horse twice already. Not got the flashy profile but would have a solid chance and this has been the target for quite a while being his only entry at the Festival.
Inthepocket – Beaten last time out is a negative but that was a grade 1 over 2m behind a horse I think has a great chance of winning the Supreme. Is a grade 2 winner over 2m 4f and also won his maiden over 2m so still has a fair bit of pace. No bumper form but did win an Irish point to point is a small positive. Improved with every run and I think there could be more to some over 2 1/2 miles. His grade 2 win saw him beat a couple of stayers so looks to have the requisite speed and stamina. Is one at a double figure price that could represent some early each way value.
I suspected Impaire Et Passe should have been the rightful favourite for this race and the market has adjusted so at a best price of 2/1 now. Considering he actually has a bit to find on the RPRs then he seems too short to me now and wouldn’t be surprised if you could get bigger on the day. I would much rather side with Champ Kiely and Intothepocket each way. Currently they are a best price 8/1 and 12/1 but with 64 horses entered at the early stage then there is potential for this to be 12+ runners which would surely open up each way alternatives with 4 or maybe even 5 places coming available with bookmakers. So, no bet from me at this stage but I would be looking to bet both horses on the morning of the race with more places available.
No bet currently.
2.10 – The Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase
Run over three miles, the introduction of the Turners race and the increasing quality of the NH chase has seen field sizes decline in the last few years, with the last 8 having 12 or fewer runners. This has led to there appearing to be less emphasis on stamina, though you still need to get the three miles. All the recent winners have shown subsequently that they are at their best at three miles or further.
Gerri Colombe – Current favourite and unbeaten in his life as well as starting favourite for every start. Has a couple of negatives on the trends as has never raced at Cheltenham having missed last years Festival. Also French breds had a poor record in the race, though L’Homme Presse became the first to win in 16 years. There is a good chance that trend could be broken again this year with a few prominent in the betting being bred in France. Believed to want soft ground though having competed over shorter then easier ground can just help slow the horses down. The standout on form, though will need to overcome no Cheltenham experience.
The Real Whacker – Only the two chase starts is a negative, though the fact they are talking about this horse in Gold Cup terms suggests that his lack of experience wouldn’t be a problem here. Was due to run at the festival last year only to be a non runner in the Albert Bartlett. Both chase wins have been here including in the Dipper, a race used by previous winners Blaklion and Champ (Neither won the Dipper). Never contested a bumper or Point to Point would be another small negative. His form ties in with Gerri Colombe but has still taken a few knocks.
Thyme Hill – Top class staying hurdlers have a very poor record in this race especially those to have stayed more than one season in that discipline so those are a couple of big concerns on trends to begin with. Also rare to get a 9yo winner of the race (In fact is rare for any novice chase to be won by a horse 9 or older). Kauto Star novice chase it won on Boxing day has been a very poor guide with the form often reversed when it comes to Cheltenham. It looked a case of who jumped the least worse when he won that as every horse made several mistakes, some more serious than others. When you think two failed to finish and the runner up was lame then it is easy to find holes in the race. He is not for me.
Sir Gerhard – Assuming Gaillard Du Mesnil goes for the NH Chase then this could well be the first string. Has class as we saw over hurdles, but winning this on the back of just one chase start would be a shock as experience has always proved invaluable. Needless to say he hasn’t contested a graded race over fences either, let alone finished in the first two of one. Would also be stepping up from 2m straight to 3m, whilst his chase debut was after the turn of the year… another negative on trends. Did run over hurdles at the Festival last year and only had the one season over hurdles so not completely useless on trends. But, would be bucking some strong trends were he to win.
Ramillies – Does hold a NH Chase entry though hard to believe both him, City Chief and GDM who are all in the same ownership, are going for the same race. Just two chase starts is a negative though has the right history has won a point to point before going on to win a bumper followed by one season over hurdles, running in the Albert Bartlett. Yet to finished in the first two of a grade 1 or 2 over fences is another negative. His official rating is just 144 leaving him with a bit to find with the principles (GC is 155 and TH 156). Hard to see his form being good enough.
Stage Star – Does also hold a Turners entry but could well come here if the ground is on the good side. Fits all of the trends, though scraping the barrel a little. Was second in a grade 2 but that was only a 4 runner race and was turned over at 2/7 fav.
Ran at the Festival over hurdles last season, though that was pulling up in the Ballymore. I’m not a fan either of horses going into a grade 1 on the back of a handicap run last time out as the tempo and pace of races is completely different against a higher standard of horse. Does have stamina questions to answer also having yet to race beyond 2 1/2m though like I said earlier with the small fields then there is less emphasis on staying the trip or even further.
James Du Berlais – Highly thought of but yet to really see it on the track since coming from France with a big reputation. Has just the two runs over fences, finished last of six last time in a grade 1 so doesn’t have placed graded form either. Did run at Cheltenham two years ago in the Champion hurdle but missed most of last season through injury. Not seen over fences till the start of this year is another negative to add to the list. Whilst it is hard to see him winning there are still plenty of negatives with regards many of the runners.
Gerri Colombe is the most obvious selection though that is clear from the betting and there are some doubts as he is unproven on the course and though shapes as a stayer we still don’t know for definite how he will perform chasing at three miles. Maybe clutching at straws as the suggestion is he can improve for the trip and with doubts about a lot of the opposition then to my mind whatever you bet at least have a saver on this horse. It does look one of those years where it could be worth chancing something at a big price as on RPR’s then excluding Mighty Potter who won’t come here. There are 6 joint on an adjusted 167. The majority are at the head of the betting, though that does include a mare in Galia Des Liteaux. She was lightly raced over hurdles with just the three starts and quickly sent chasing where she has had another three starts, impressive in two of them. The most recent of them was winning a four runner Hampton Chase grade 2 with The Goffer well back in third who has since come out and won a graded handicap at Leopardstown. Slight concerns about jumping right and also her two wins this year have come on heavy ground. But, there is plenty of rain about so don’t see the ground being on the fast side and she is a strong stayer. She flopped in the Kauto Star won by Thyme Hill but nothing jumped well that day and she made a couple of early mistakes losing her confidence. Unsure what will turn up but she may well get an uncontested lead and as a strong stayer then she should be thereabouts if jumping holds up.
1pt e/w – Galia Des Liteaux @ 14/1 Bet365 (3 places) Already Advised
3.30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase
This is all about pace as there are potentially 4 or 5 horses that could line up that like to lead or race prominently so expecting the pace to be very fast. Therefore you could well need a horse who can stay in touch but still finish well up the hill. I have based my assessment on there being a very strong gallop, but this could change depending on ground and what horses are declared. This isn’t a strong race for trends.
Energumene – Vying for favouritism with Edwardstone though is last years champion. Was beaten last time out which on trends is a negative but as a horse is more concerning as he was just bitterly disappointing. Can make excuses but was his worst run according to RPR’s for over two years. Was gifted last years win in the race when you consider Shishkin was well below par and Chacun Pour Soi unseated leaving a 40/1 chance to come home 2nd. That poor run needs forgiving whilst hoping it can bounce back rejuvenated just 46 days later. I can be forgiving but when you consider he is less than 2/1 for the race and would need to be somewhere very close to his best to beat Edwardstone on form, then I can’t consider him a bet. Could well be ridden more prominently this time which may not be ideal if there is the pace expected.
Edwardstone – Beaten last time out, though was more down to jockey tactics I feel.
Small positives as the Arkle winner last year who have a very good record in this.
Tingle Creek winners also do particularly well in this as a tried and tested route.
Arguably is a short price for a horse with just one win in last four starts though Put The Kettle On, Special Tiara and Finian’s Rainbow all won this with just one win in the season and Politilogue had been beaten on both his starts on the year before winning this in 2020. In my opinion he is the most likely winner as a strong pace will play into his hands, has the class and the ability to lay just off the pace and sees the trip out well.
Editeur Du Gite – Fits the minimal trends there are. Improved no end from getting beat off a mark of 153 in a handicap at start of season. Possible he is better suited to dominating small fields which it has been able to do the last twice, admittedly at graded level. Uncontested leads on those last two occasions which I can’t see happening here. Does have a fair chance, but on ratings he still has a fair bit to find to match Edwardstone and Energumene whilst it did seem everything went perfectly for the horse last time.
Gentleman De Mee – 4 runs on the season is a small negative as only 1 of the last 18 winners had run that many. Well beat on only visit to Cheltenham, in the Martin Pipe over hurdles. Has a great record this time of year though as seems to come alive in the spring and did beat Edwardstone at Aintree last year, albeit the runner up may of been feeling the exertions from a long season. Does like to race prominently or lead and can be keen so looks another that will add to the early pace of the race.
Blue Lord – May go Ryanair. Ran poorly last time though possibly outpaced on the ground with a winner (GDM) making all. Beaten last time is a small negative but is a second season chaser and has form at further so if this became a test of stamina then shouldn’t be a problem. Form did dip when running at Cheltenham last year so does have a question over whether the track suits.
Nube Negra – You know you get these cliff horses, the ones that you keep backing as you think they will come good one day or know it is capable of more than it has shown. Nube Negra is one of mine! He’s very specific as he wants minimum trip, decent ground, a gap between races and a strong pace as he stays on well.
Potentially, ground remaining on the good side, he will get perfect conditions. Record in grade 1 reads 522343 so has a habit of finding at least one too good at the highest level. Certainly one to consider at a price for each way value, but wouldn’t want to get on too soon as he needs conditions to be just right.
Looks like the markets are getting this right with Edwardstone favourite on many books. A look at the betting suggests that there is little value to be had in the race with those at bigger prices all pretty much the same price with the majority of firms. That says all you need to know when it comes to value. The rain is off-putting with regarding Nube Negra whilst Greanateen is a big price for his class though you always feel this is a prep for the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April which it has won for the last two years. For me Edwardstone is one for your multiple bets but not a fan of backing singles at its price.
No bet currently
4.10 – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Limited trends again, though as a level weights race then invariably class tells with the last 6 winners all starting at a single figure price and 8 of the last 11.
Delta Work – Party pooper last year, taking the race ahead of Tiger Roll despite having no racing experience of the cross country fences. Good third at this course in January when doing easily the best at the weights considering it was a handicap and giving the field over a stone. That was on good to soft though there is a suspicion he is better with some ease in the ground (Still handles good to soft fine). Official rating of 155 though ran off 160 in the Cross Country handicap, Considering is now more experienced this year and doesn’t appear in decline, he will take a lot of beating.
Galvin – Possibly the only horse that could beat Delta Work. 4th in the Gold Cup last year and I believe is the 13th highest rated chaser in Ireland (Sure I heard that on a preview show). Official rating of 165 though has been disappointing the last couple of runs. The first of those there appears no obvious excuse though possible the race came too soon after a big run at Punchestown (Ran poorly after the Gold Cup last year). The latest in the Savills Chase I don’t think he was suited to the soft ground. No course experience but is trained by Elliott who can get them well prepared at home, you only have to look to last year for an example of that! If the ground was to come up with good in the description then it would be no surprise if Galvin ran a big race.
Franco De Port – No Cross Country experience but has been to France a few times and coped with their unique fences. Does have an Official Rating of 157 though possibly on the generous side on recent form. Trip is an unknown though the suspicion is he is being lined up at a tilt at the Grand National. However, not won since Boxing Day 2020 and Mullins has a very poor record in the race.
Back On The Lash – Worthy as a mention here after winning the handicap in January but was getting 16lb there for a 4 3/4 length victory over Delta Work. Last time out winners have a poor record so small negative there but does go well here and likes good ground so the faster the better (Pulled up on heavy last year in this race). In good form but on official ratings has a fair bit to find with the principles, a comment that will apply to the majority of this field!
Simple conclusion is that this is a no bet race, Delta Work is the one to beat but Galvin brings an interesting further class aspect to the race. The rain would be a concern for Galvin but then the Cross Country course is harder to water and is more accepting of the rain so is unlikely that it will turn particularly soft unless we got a lot of rain on the day. No bet for me.
No bet currently
5.30 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Could list any number of horses here in with a chance as no standout like there has been in recent years. However, only two double figure winners in the last seven years with 3 of the last 4 priced under 9/4 suggests the market have a much better grip on the best horses in this these days. Trends are pretty limited again though last 7 winners all raced more than once and the last 19 winners all won last time out. I am also a fan of bumper horses who have won in double figure fields by 6 lengths or more. The fact a horse can pull clear in usually very slow run races is a sign of quality and the quickening speed often required to win this race.
Its For Me – Has just the one run, so lacking listed/graded form which 6 of the last 7
winners had. Did hack up by 10 lengths in a 9 runner race looking a quality individual and clearly well regarded at home. However, form has taken some knocks and does look a short price for what he has done, considering he hasn’t raced against any horse with winning form (2nd, 3rd & 5th all raced since and were beaten).
A Dream To Share – If he was trained by Mullins he would be favourite in my view. Lots of positives with 3 runs to his name (Winning them all), ran and won a graded race in February (two further positives) and is the clear top rated on RPRs (Official Ratings not out yet but sure to be top of those also). Not won a double figure field by 6 lengths but has won by 4 lengths in a 13 runner and won a graded race by 2 3/4 lengths carrying a penalty, with a further 7 1/2 lengths back to the 3rd. For me he is the one to beat!
Fun Fun Fun – Was a grade 2 winner against other mares in February and did win a 13 runner by 10 lengths so has a few positives to take from the trends. Mares allowance could be invaluable whilst three have won in the last 20 years so not impossible. Stays well, she reminds me a little of Fayonagh who won in 2017 as a mare who you imagine will be finishing fast and late.
Chapeau De Soleil – Beaten last time out on his only start. No guarantee of getting in therefore as may be balloted out. Was considered Mullins best bumper horse in the pre season stable tours. Bumped into one on his debut in Better Days Ahead who himself is very well regarded though was turned over on debut. Surprising therefore that Mullins hasn’t got another run and potentially a win into him therefore almost guaranteeing a run in the race. Has the most to prove of the leading contenders but judging by his price then he must be doing plenty at home still.
Fact To File – Beaten last time out but was the clear best of Mullins runners in the Future Stars, a race Mullins used with Facile Vega last year as a prep. Has 2 3/4 lengths and a weight pull to reverse form with A Dream To Share but if he is able to get within 4 lengths of A Dream To Share here then it could be good enough for a place.
Better Days Ahead – Touched on him earlier. Looks like he will be Elliott’s number 1 in a race he has won twice in the last 6 years. Lacks listed/graded experience having been pulled due to a bereavement from its intended prep at Leopardstown. Beaten on debut to a more experienced rival (2nd season bumper) but made no mistake in beating Chapeau De Soleil. Those runs were in 3 and 5 runner fields so this will be a different test to those races.
As expected A Dream To Share is now favourite with several firms like it should be.
Best price of 7/2 is still fair as I expect him to be shorter still at around the 5/2 mark. If you are not on yet then he is probably worth getting onside as a saver now, though he won’t be my main bet at this stage. That is Fun Fun Fun for Willie Mullins who looks cracking each way value at her current price. Unbeaten in two starts, began racing early and has the right running style to run on strongly at the finish when held up. Also factor in the mares weight allowance and could well be the ride of Patrick Mulins who bred this mare. There is plenty of room for movement in her price as to me she should be around ther 5/1 mark. Because of this I have to have a good bet on her.
1pt win – A Dream To Share @ 7/2 (General)
1pt e/w – Fun Fun Fun @ 8/1 General – 3 places)
DAY 3 – THURSDAY 16 MARCH
1.30 – Turners Novice Chase
We have a few trends though worth remembering last years race was a farce with just 4 runners and Galopin Des Champs fell when well clear (Had been telling people for months he would go for this race!). Bob Olinger winning therefore means that only 2 of the last 12 winners of this race ran lest than 3 times over fences. Like many of the novice races at Cheltenham (Hurdles and Fences) experience can be crucial considering the competitive nature of races. At a trip just shy of 2 1/2 miles, I do like a horse that can travel at speed and jump, a prerequisite of both winners of this race and the Ryanair (Run over just shy of a furlong further). It is very hard to make up ground as the latter fences often stops all momentum.
Mighty Potter – Fits all the trends and has the right running style I would look for in the winner of this race. Didn’t come through the point to point scene would be a small negative as six of the last 7 did. Flopped in the Supreme last year would leave a concern as to how well the track/travelling suits the horse. However, with an Official Rating of 162 it would make it easily the highest rated winner of the race if he was to take this. For me with a clear round of jumping he should win.
Banbridge – The one likely to serve up the biggest challenge. A grade 2 winner who was unexposed over hurdles having won the Martin Pipe at the Festival last year off a
mark of 137 before probably finding Aintree coming too soon. Placed in a point to point before winning a bumper taking the often tried and tested route. Was outpaced in the Irish Arkle before staying on really well to nab Appreciate It late on. Held on form by Mighty Potter from their Fairyhouse run though Banbridge appears much better on faster ground than the soft encountered that day. Had raced prominently in previous races so suspect it was a lack of pace why it couldn’t go the early gallop over the 2m of the Irish Arkle. Should run well but is rated 152 so has 10lb to find with Mighty Potter.
Appreciate It – Grade one placed last time and was a top class hurdler as a novice winning the Supreme (Not the strongest renewal with Blue Lord falling) before injury struck. Gained good experience in winning a couple of novice events before coming unstuck in the Irish Arkle. May ‘appreciate’ the slower tempo of a longer trip but still hard on that run to see why he would reverse form with Banbridge who was staying on stronger. No 9yo has won this (Though obviously not many have tried) but Samcro did win in 2020 as an 8yo. Fits the winning P2P and Bumper trend but then his best form has come on soft ground, possibly due to a lack of a turn of foot, shaping as a strong galloper. Official rating of 152 over fences though is rated 160 over hurdles so potential to improve is there. Could be one to pick up the pieces if can stick with Mighty Potter.
Balco Coastal – Struggling for what else is likely to run that is capable of running well. I think this is worth a mention whilst I hear/read that Nicky Henderson also thought he was in with a sporting shout. Was placed in the grade 1 Scilly Isles last time, just outstayed by Gerri Colombe who is a strong favourite for the Brown Advisory. Missed Cheltenham last year though was a good 3rd to Langer Dan in a handicap when last seen over hurdles. Novicy on chase debut but beat Solo on next start with the form being franked. Trip and running style should suit here and only 1lb off Banbridge and Appreciate It on official ratings. Improved with every run, he certainly has an each way chance in a race that could easily cut up again.
Not going to be a strong betting race for me. The race may cut up but any each way value in Banbridge and Appreciate It has probably gone as with a 5th odds then you are taking a loss on the place and it is not as though there is a weak favourite in Mighty Potter whose form over fences looks very strong, backed up by the Racing Post Ratings. I would rather play Mighty Potter for the multiples rather than bet him as a single like I said before.
No bet currently
2.50 – Ryanair Chase
Like I said with the Turners, you want a horse who can jump and travel at speed and able to hold his position. Allaho pretty much made all on both his wins, Min sat on the heels before taking it on after 5 fences when he won whilst Frodon won in 2019 by pretty much making all. Balko Des Flos was an exception surprisingly in the smallest field though feel he took advantage of a below par Un De Sceaux (Who had led from the 5th to win it in 2017). He still travelled well tracking the leaders before taking it on between the last two fences. Immediately I would discount from a win perspective any horse who is usually held up and comes with a late run.
Shishkin – Fits all of the trends and you imagine a repeat of his run last time when winning the Ascot chase would be good enough to land another weak renewal. However, has history of throwing in a bad run having pulled up in the Champion chase last year after getting the better of a gruelling battle with Energumene at Ascot on the 22nd January and seemingly feeling the effects by the 16th March. Maybe not run such a hard race though RPRs puts the performance just 1lb off that day at Ascot. Coming here with less than a month to recover is a recipe for bouncing, though that tends to occur when a horse puts up a significant career best performance. Interestingly, the race has a history of horses needing a break before they win here with 7 of the last 9 having not run for 47+ days and 5/14 not seen since Xmas. The race does tend to go to staying types and though Shishkin isn’t proven over further, his trainer believes he would get 3m though that isn’t proven on the track yet. Official Rating of 174 he is the class horse of the race though for me it wouldn’t surprise if he was to run below par.
Blue Lord – Could well revert to this over the Champion Chase after the defection through injury of Allaho. Not won at Cheltenham like 14 of the last 18 had done, but was placed when third in the Arkle last year. Second season chaser who has been placed in a grade 1 are small positives for the horse too. Not sure this is his best trip though, with his best RPR coming over 2m and his Clonmel Oil win coming in a race run at a crawl where he was able to sprint to beat a stayer in Tornado Flyer when getting weight (Runner up got a better adjusted RPR). Not a proven stayer either having never tackled anything longer than this 2 1/2m and that was just one run with a sprint finish. Considering his price he has plenty to prove at the trip albeit he does bring a bit of class to the race with an Official Rating of 166.
Janadil – No Cheltenham win, but was a runner up in this race last year. Only 26 days since his last run and also had 12 chase starts which are both small negatives when it comes to trends. Is a grade 1 winner, admittedly in novice company and does handle any ground so has to be in with a shout, though obviously a concern as to bouncing in this having returned from 294 days off to run his third best career performance according to RPRs. Hold up horse who came from last to first to win a four runner race last time and picked up the pieces for 2nd in this last year. For me we are looking at a place at best and considering price I therefore can’t have it.
Fury Road – Third in the Albert Bartlett in 2020, pulled up in the stayers the following year but missed the Brown Advisory last year due to the rain softened ground. 3rd of 7 in a grade 1 last time out finishing behind Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs and Stattler. Actually led GDC over the last that day before getting run down and fading, suggesting a drop in trip would suit. Did have a couple of seasons over hurdles which is a small negative on trends and was 40 days since last run (Though majority of likely contenders have raced within 47 days). Bit like Blue Lord in that his form is at a different trip but unlike that rival, dropping back is usually more of a positive than stepping up. Official Rating of 161 I think he has a solid each way chance with a lot in his favour.
Envoi Allen – Interesting runner. Flopped in the King George last time though it was stated he didn’t handle the soft tacky ground. Negative in that he has had 12 chase starts. But, has a great Cheltenham record, winning the Champion Bumper and Ballymore. Off since the King George which is a common route for winners of this, especially if suggesting not staying. Last 8 winners were French bred which whilst I wouldn’t base my pick on, it does provide a small positive for Envoi Allen. Does shape as though 2 1/2 miles will be his best trip but does need his jumping to hold together in a race usually run at a good pace and on form does have something to prove at the trip albeit at least that is reflected more in the price compared to something like Blue Lord. Official Rating of 163 puts it bang there with majority of contenders.
Shishkin price is shortening up all the time which you can understand why as he is a grade 1 horse against mostly grade 2 types. However, I will still have those doubts over whether he can put another run together so soon. So, I have to be against in some aspect with the best option to me being Envoi Allen. Ran a stinker in the King George when connections thought they had him right but on his best form then he can go well here. This may be his trip and his Cheltenham record of 11F3 at
Cheltenham is good considering they are all grade 1 races including going too fast in the Champion Chase last year. Given similar time between races, he seems best fresh these days. As long as the ground isn’t a bog then he can run a good race.
0.75pt e/w – Envoi Allen @ 12/1 (Skybet, Coral and Unibet – 3 places)
3.30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
A race that didn’t look too strong until the last few weeks with Blazing Khal and Teahupoo staking bold claims along with the potential of Marie’s Rock switching from the Mares hurdle to this. Not unusual for this to go to a horse who comes off the bridle before staying on again though Flooring Porter has shown twice it is possible to make all and hold off the opposition.
Blazing Khal – Doesn’t have any Festival form though was a winner last year over both the Old and New courses. Official Rating is only 157 though is an exciting stayer who we still probably haven’t seen the best of. However, this is a quick turnaround after a significant career best last time following a long absence so has to be a serious candidate to bounce. Also he is a three time grade 2 winner but has yet to race in a grade 1 let alone win one. It would be rare for a horse to win a grade 1 at the first attempt, let alone for that race to be a Championship race at Cheltenham.
Teahupoo – 3rd season hurdling is a small negative but then has strong form at shorter. Only previous Festival run saw him well beat in the Champion hurdle but then fast conditions at Grade 1 level probably don’t suit. An exciting stayer who seemed to stay well when winning the Galmoy. It has been argued that the horse much prefers soft ground, but then the argument against that is the times it has raced on faster ground has been over two miles and at grade 1 level so no surprise he struggled with the pace. Two different camps and valid arguments for both though personally I think the ground would be an issue if on the good side.
Maries Rock – Had to resign to the thought she could well run here with the yard also having Theatre Glory along with Epatante for the Mares hurdle. She is a 3rd season hurdler but gets a 7lb weight allowance which with an official rating of 153 puts her on 160, which puts her 3lb behind Teahupoo. Winner of the mares hurdle last year so has good Festival form. Been strong at the finish over shorter though has also been keen in her races so does remain to be seen whether she is as good if not better over three miles. Breeding suggests wouldn’t be a problem anyway. Personally I wonder if this is more about convenience and an after thought with Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle forcing Epatante into the mares and then Maries Rock for Stayers, especially after their Stayers hope Buzz was ruled out through injury.
Home By The Lee – 3rd season hurdler who was beaten in the race last year which is a ‘double negative’. However, looks a much better horse this year now they have learnt how to ride him and his right trip. Not placed at the Festival is another negative along with an official rating of 157 and no run in the calendar year. However, it is the same route that Flooring Porter took last year so the absence may not be such an issue anymore. Form wise he looks solid this year without looking like a Championship horse.
Flooring Porter – Won the last two renewals and still only an 8yo. Only 4th when last seen and not raced in calendar years are negatives on trends, though has prepped the same as he did last year. The form in his races this year however according to RPRs suggest he is 10lb below the level he has been at the last two years. Would need a leap of faith to back him again this year, though at least he has been here and done it before.
Really struggling with the race now it has opened up. The head of the market is interesting but we await whether Blazing Khal will turn up or not. There are positives and negatives at the head of the field and I was always concerned whether something better from France would turn up here as Gold Tweet was unexposed but had a best RPR of just 141. He is a 12/1 for the race yet the trainer of Henri Le Farceur has said he will be supplemented also for the race and he is a grade 2 winner last time out with a 148 RPR on that occasion and so looks to be a better horse than Gold Tweet. Admittedly he has to prove that racing in the UK and Cheltenham suits like Gold Tweet has done but that is well reflected in the prices at 33/1. It seems far too big and connections wouldn’t be bringing it over if they didn’t think they had a better horse than Gold Tweet. It’s a race the French have done well in the past with Baracouda. I’m happy to take a small punt on Henri Le Farceur at the price. Would normally wait as surely there will be more places available on the day but then if it keeps raining then suspect this will shorten, especially once declaration is confirmed as well. NRMB so will have a small bet now with potential to top up nearer the time.
0.25pt e/w – Henri Le Farceur @ 33/1 (Skybet and William Hill – 3 places)
4.50 – Mares Novice Hurdle
A race which isn’t one to consider too much for trends with only 7 runnings of the race. However, what has been significant is that the race is invariably run at a very strong pace so those mares that are held up and ridden patiently to come with a late rattle are the ones you want to be looking for. Knowing that isn’t so easy to predict though if a mare has been held up in maidens or graded races there is a good chance they will be held up here as well.
Luccia – Unbeaten in 4 starts (2 bumpers and 2 hurdles) looking special in doing so. Form of her last win at listed level hasn’t been tested and has a penalty for it but her debut listed win has worked out. The runner up has won since and is now rated 126 despite beaten 5 1/2 lengths. The third has also won and is rated 120 yet was 11 1/2 lengths behind so an official rating of 142 looks fair on this. Racing style leaves concerns as she has travelled strongly and raced prominently but may be ridden more patiently with a stronger pace. Would be the first British bred horse to win the race but then has there been one as talented as her? Trainer and jockey have talked her up as potentially a Supreme horse and they know a talent when they see one.
Ashroe Diamond – Looks to be Mullins number one mare in a race he has a fantastic record in. I like the fact that she has been given experience racing against the boys at grade 1 level which could prove invaluable coming in here. Stayed on well to win the Solerina grade 3 back against her own sex when last seen. Get the impression she has deliberately been held up in her races to help her settle and learn that racing style, with this race in mind. Was stated as being one of the yards most forward mares at the start of the season. She has done little wrong with this race the goal. However, she may be susceptible to something special.
Night And Day – French flat mare, thrown in at the deep end on hurdles debut in the grade 1 mares final at Fairyhouse last season. Finished only 9th but means she came into this season as a novice still, interesting considering 4 of the past 6 winners were in their second season over hurdles. Also a sign of how well regarded she is to be given that run whilst it is not uncommon for the yard (Il Etait Temps & Gaillard Du Mesnil both 2nd season novices for the yard with strong chances in their respective races). The yard did something similar with Concertista running her in this race one season before bringing her back to win it the following year. Just the one run this year, winning cosily in a heavy ground maiden. Does mean she comes here without the penalty yet has the highest RPR from that run last year. Don’t really know how good she is, but then bookmakers not taking many chances at the price.
Lot Of Joy – Third string for Willie Mullins though interesting as has been well talked up by Ruby Walsh on the preview shows. Did take three attempts to get off the mark but is rated 96 on the flat so has plenty of ability. However, has plenty to prove over hurdles still and is taking on some strong opposition here. Personally I like to see more over hurdles but have to be wary considering connections and looks to be targeted at this. Does lack experience of racing at a higher level over hurdles compared to some of these.
Magical Zoe – Unbeaten under rules in three starts, two over hurdles and once in a bumper. Not seen since November but does go well fresh and handles any ground. Is a grade 3 winner which means she has a penalty to carry here and though the form isn’t amazing, it is solid. Won that with a good late burst showing a nice turn of foot which would be ideal for this race. Unknown just how much she may of improved over the winter, which she is going to need to do, but she would be a poignant winner of the race representing the trainers son who sadly passed away last year.
I am happy to be against Luccia considering what she has proven on the track and what she has raced against, though wouldn’t surprise me if connections are right and she could be another superstar for the yard. Got to go by value and to me Ashroe Diamond has proven more and has been set up to peak at this race I feel. I would look to be having a saver on her though in several preview shows I have seen nobody has been confident on her so I wouldn’t be surprised if she drifted in price to something bigger than the 7/2 best available. My main bet for now therefore is Magical Zoe who has been saved for this race by the yard. Handles the ground, unbeaten over hurdles so open to any improvement and her running style when held up should be well suited to a race where you don’t want to be racing prominently. Been mentioned by a few shrewd judges so expect her to go off at a single figure price.
1pt e/w – Magical Zoe @ 10/1 (General – 3 places)
DAY 4 – FRIDAY 17 MARCH
1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
Not the cavalry charge it once was as we now have the Fred Winter taking away those juveniles that are just off the top level. This means that the race is less of a lottery and class often rises to the fore. Graded form is crucial with only 1 of the last 13 winners not having contested a graded race last time out and that was Pentland Hills who was 20/1, only had one start and was a real trends buster.
Lossiemouth – Beaten last time out which accounts for only 5 of the last 25 winners, though 4 of those were in the last 11 years. May well of still won last time anyway but for how the race panned out getting stuck in behind a fading horse and having to get out and attempt to run on. Ended up with quite a hard race that day which Mullins was less than impressed with which does leave a concern as to whether she will feel the effects of that. Top on RPR getting the mares allowance, she is a multiple grade winner who should be able to emphasise her class here. Worth remembering that she has always been prominent in the betting for this race even before she had run for the yard.
Blood Destiny – 2nd season novice as run in France as a 3yo back in April finishing 2nd. Two from two since the switch to Mullins. However, neither of his runs have come in graded contests though the latest was a pretty strong affair. The 2nd horse is rated 129 and the 3rd won a grade 2. Still no comparison to racing in a graded race, at a graded pace and against graded opposition. Young horses learn significantly from racing at a higher grade against good opposition and that lack of experience could tell for Blood Destiny. Because of this and the price then I am happy to not entertain the horse.
Gala Marceau – Was beaten by Lossiemouth by 7 1/2 lengths in receipt of 3lb before turning that form round last time in the Spring Juvenile. Possibly fortunate to win considering what happened to Lossiemouth but then she still won. Three from four over hurdles having began hurdling in France last March and as a mare she gets the 7lb allowance. Has the best most recent form in the race and is potentially improving. In a race that could cut up significantly then it would make a good solid each way bet.
Comfort Zone – Grade 2 winner last time when landing the Finesse. Maybe benefitted from the runner up hitting the front too soon and idling. Ran 6 times on the flat (Rated 86) so should be fine for racing experience but according to RPRs he is more than a stone behind the leading three.
Bo Zenith – might just be the e/w angle here, and has gone under the radar somewhat. He did actually finish in front of Blood Destiny at Auteuil in April last year, which was the first start for both. Lossiemouth won on that card the same day and the race was 5 seconds quicker. He was very disappointing on his first start in Britain, when trailing in third of four at Sandown in January, but pulled very hard that day and made a couple of errors. I’m happy to forgive him that run after a decent enough performance last month at Haydock.
As a trend believer then I have to be against Blood Destiny and with Lossiemouth getting found out last time then at the prices it has to be Gala Marceau. Best price of 5/1 which looks a steal as she has so much going for her. It is hard to see her being outside of the first three in a weak race. Scriptwriter might be worth chancing he bounces back as his form through Comfort Zone suggests he should be a much shorter price. Bo Zenith rates a value e/w bet.
1.5pt win – Gala Marceau @ 5/1 (Bet365)
0.5pt e/w – Bo Zenith @ 20/1 (Paddy, Betfair – 3 places) Already Advised
2.50 – The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Always an interesting race for the future with the winner invariably making up into a useful staying hurdler/chaser. Once more graded form has proven crucial though with 16 of the last 18 winners having won or placed in a graded novice hurdle. One of the exceptions was last year with The Nice Guy landing this for Mullins. I would suggest that was the exception as opposed to the norm.
Corbetts Cross – Fits all the significant trends. Tricky to assess though as a graded winner last time but that was dropping back to two miles. His three mile form comes from winning a handicap off a mark of 130. Only 19 days between races and form suggests prefers soft ground. Connections have stated that the horse could well give Cheltenham a miss. Either way it doesn’t seem as though coming here is the original plan. Considering the doubts and the extremely poor record of favourites (last winning fav in 2013) then I am happy to pass the horse up from a betting point of view.
Embassy Gardens – No graded hurdle form with two runs in maidens and a novice race in three starts over hurdles. Only 1 winner of this in the last 18 years raced in a graded bumper (Possibly because it is the pacier horses that come to the fore in the higher grade of bumpers) is another negative on trends for this horse. Just the three runs, only 1 win and not won an Irish point are all small negatives when it comes to the minor trends for the race as well. Not a fan of this considering all the negatives and the price!
Sandor Clegane – Was a graded bumper runner and only had the three runs. Did place third in a grade 1 over 2m 6f last time. Also only has the one win over hurdles but he shapes like a stayer. Official rating is just 136 and on adjusted RPR it is just joint 21st on the list. Significant improvement needed if he was to win this and with plenty of horses priced bigger that has done more then he is no value.
Three Card Brag – Could come here but does have multiple entries. Graded placed but last run was actually a win outside of grade company. Never run beyond 2m 5f is a negative as only 2 of the last 15 winners hadn’t done so, though one is last years winner. Improving on RPRs but still only an Irish rating of 138 and may be better off in handicap company coming off a strong pace, as opposed to stepping up to three miles. Has twice caught the eye running on in smaller fields over shorter, which people always thinks means he wants further but is not always the case. I’m not convinced that the horse wants three miles.
Hiddenvalley Lake – Only the three runs but has won twice, getting turned over last time by a stablemate getting 6lb in a grade 3. Ground was probably softer than ideal that day and he still wound up as best at the weights on RPRs. Does stay well though I have a slight concern on his form not improving according to RPRs attaining the same rating from 2nd to 3rd runs. Possible the ground is the reason for the lack of improvement, but then could be down to having reached his level. Would have a solid each way chance, but then wouldn’t be surprised either if he found at least one too good.
Montys Star – Beat his above stablemate last time in a grade 3 on just his second start. However, was better at the weights that day. Debut only came over hurdles in January which is rare but once again was another trend that last years winner bust. Possibly improving but will need to just to beat Hiddenvalley Lake though does have the right connections.
Favori De Champdou – Won three from four starts over hurdles. A grade 2 winner last time out with improving RPR’s culminating in a 149 last time. Beat Letsbeclearaboutit who has always looked to be a stayer. An 8yo is a concern though
Unowhatimeanharry managed to win at that age in 2016. Does have handicap entries and gets to race off his same Irish mark so got to be tempted there, but all three runs have been at just shy of three miles and in the Gigginstown colours he may lack the pace for any of the Cheltenham handicaps. If he was to run here then he has a good each way chance at a double figure price.
Absolute Notions – Has been my fancy for this race for a while but suggestion is will now go Ballymore, possibly because the same owners also have Hiddenvalley Lake and Absolute Notions was a good 2nd in a grade 1 last time over shorter. Looks a bit paceless to me so stamina test should suit but as a 5yo they have a terrible record with just 1 winner in the last 17 years.
Shanbally Kid – Very interesting runner at a decent price. Got the better of Monty’s Star at Navan in January having not jumped very well. They were alongside each other jumping the second last and he powered clear. That form looks very strong, he’s bred for this and looks to have a big chance.
The more I look at the race the more I like Favori De Champdou especially as looking at the betting on the exchanges then Corbetts Cross is not even favourite! It means we need to get our bets in as it looks like he may be missing out. An experienced runner with a grade 2 win to his name and who stays really well. No problem with the likely ground, there are a lot of positives to be had. For me he has a very solid chance. I will also have a small bet on the horse who finished to it second last time in Letsmeclearaboutit. Always fancied him as a stayer having looked a good reliable horse in bumpers before missing a season through injury. Improved on RPRs with every run this year, he has a bit to find with a few of these but I do feel a strong gallop would play to his strengths as he does lack a turn of foot. He is worthy of a small bet and though I would rather wait for more places, if Corbetts Cross comes out as expected then we will be looking at much shorter prices. Shanbally Kid was advised last week at 25/1, and looks great e/w value now, with the selection a best priced 14/1.
1pt e/w – Favori De Champdou @ 10/1 (General – 3 places)
0.5pt e/w – Shanbally Kid @ 25/1 (Coral – 3 places) Already Advised
0.25pt e/w – Letsmeclearaboutit @ 20/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
3.30 – The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Championship race for staying chasers. Should get a good sized field but a slight concern as to where the pace will come from with no obvious front runners but two or three potential who may end up at the front. The race does have a few interesting trends which does ask the question of a few runners prominent in the betting.
Galopin Des Champs – Actually fits all the trends which is a little surprising considering his lack of racing at three miles. Does look the most likeliest winner though hasn’t confirmed that a stiff 3m 2f will suit after looking keen as a novice. Does seem to be settling much better this year now. However, fair cases will be made for the majority of the field here on form and worth remembering that he fell when well clear here last year in the Turners so not infallible. Slight concern on his jumping and how it will stand up in a big field considering 8 runner races is the biggest field he has competed in over fences. Where will he race? Laying up in behind, mistake send it further back amongst a group of horses. Or will they keep him wide and clear, taking a longer route but less likely to meet trouble? Questions that we can’t answer before the race but things that all need to be factored into the price. With that in mind any price less than 2/1 is too short and one I would be happy to lay, having the rest of the field running for me, albeit like I said earlier, he is the most likeliest winner.
Bravemansgame – In theory he hasn’t placed at the Festival which 17 of the last 21 winners had done, though was 3rd of 7 in the Ballymore. Fits all of the other trends though having come from the King George, only one winner in the last 11 years had contested that race before going on to win here and that was Don Cossack who fell in the KG. Long Run is the last one to do the King George/Gold Cup double in the same season. Only 3 of the last 17 winners won a point to point so small negative there as was a 4yo race and was soon hurdling as a 5yo. Speed no bad thing in this race especially if there may be a lack of pace like I suspect. It is also easy to forget what a fantastic jumper he is, which should keep him well in contention.
A Plus Tard – 20 of the last 23 winners had 12 or less starts though this was one who broke it already last year. That was a tremendous performance and with a repeat of that could see him win. However, questionable whether that will happen. Pulled up in the Betfair Chase then had to miss its prep race. This just isn’t a race where horses tend to bounce back from a poor run. It’s a Championship race and you need the whole season to go smoothly to be at your best here. The way things have gone it would be a massive leap of faith to return to the form he was in last year.
Stattler – Winner of the National Hunt Chase last year. though not ideal as only 2 of the last 22 winners had won over further than the Gold Cup trip. Also, every winner this century had won a grade 1 with the last not to have won at the highest level being Cool Dawn in 1998! Looks all about stamina but not convinced this will be enough of a test for him to win so enough negatives to be against.
Noble Yeats – Very much like Stattler in that he has obviously won over further than 3m 2f (Last years Grand National winner if forgotten) and not won a grade 1 either. He takes it one step further though as he hasn’t even raced in a grade 1 let alone won one! I doubt there are many horses that have ever won a Cheltenham Championship race having not even run in a grade 1 at any point beforehand. Easily the hardest opposition this horse has faced, he would be the trends buster if he was to win.
Conflated – Over 12 runs is a negative, fell on only visit to Cheltenham and is also a third season chaser so a few niggling negatives about this horse. Clear best runs have come over three miles and was good when last seen winning the Savills Chase. But, on a line through Fury Road then he has a bit to find with Galopin Des Champs. Potential improvement may still be there at this trip however and does have a bit of each way promise.
Protektorat – Only 4th of 6 last time out was a below par run and so needs to bounce back which like I said is rare for a Gold Cup. Also beaten in the race last year is another negative though was an inexperienced 7yo at the time and still managed 3rd albeit some way behind the winner in a weaker race. Jumping looks to have improved this year and that Betfair hurdle win was superb with the way he jumped and travelled. If he is able to repeat that then it should be good enough to go close, however you are hoping the trainer has got him back to his Betfair Chase form.
Ahoy Senor – Only negative is that he has had four runs on the season. Usually horses are given a very conservative campaign and brought here fresh and ready to perform. This also applies to the poor record of horses winning the Cotswold chase at the end of January as it is invariably a hard race run on soft ground only a couple of months before Cheltenham. However, like I said in the preview, there isn’t much pace likely but Ahoy Senor is one of the potential that could take the lead. We have seen before he is a dangerous horse when able to dictate and get into a good jumping rhythm. If he can ping the first four or five fences then he can run a big race.
Would rather be a layer of Galopin Des Champs, not because he isn’t the best horse in the race as he probably is, but because of the number of runners, the chances of the opposition to run well and an element of you never know what will happen. For me he should be at least 2/1 if not nearer 5/2. So if he is less than 2/1 I will lay, win and place. Four horses likely to line up in this race have an adjusted RPR of 180+ with A Plus Tard well clear on 188 (GDC 181 as comparison). Only one is priced at a double figure price and that is Protektorat who is worth a small each way from a tipping point. His Betfair chase performance was fantastic and if he can bounce back to that in a race he was third in last year and looks better this time round, then his price is a bit of value.
1pt e/w – Protektorate @ 16/1 (General – 3 places) Already Advised
4.10 – St James’ Palace Hunter Chase
Few simple trends helps to narrow the race down somewhat. Usually get a mix of ageing horses who raced under rules and promising hunter chases that have come through the ranks of the point to point. Also look for in form horses as those that won or placed last time out have won 13 of the last 15.
Vaucelet – Actually began in a maiden hurdle before switching to the point to point scene which is a small negative as 27 of the last 34 winners had began in point to points or hunter chases. He has also won over further which is unusual as only 3 of the last 16 had won over longer than this trip. Does look a class horse though and seemed just as good when winning a hunter chase on Boxing day. Price is probably too short now considering he has no course form and a couple of negatives on the trends.
Billaway – Finally got his head in front in this race last year at the third attempt. There has been three back to back winners of this race in the last 11 years so wouldn’t rule it out for a horse who fits all the trends. Is a bit of an enigma as tends to get behind in his races, makes mistakes but will stay on strong at the finish. However, lowest RPR since April 2019 when winning last time may mean he isn’t as good as what he once was.
Secret Investor – Paul Nicholls trained who won this two years running with Pacha Du Polder. Was officially rated 162 at his best under rules. British bred horses though have a horrendous record of just 0/85 in the race in the last 20 years though was only one runner last year at 50/1 (Pulled Up). Wouldn’t want soft ground and his only run at Cheltenham saw him well beat in a handicap on soft.
Chris’s Dream – Began in a bumper. Three poor runs on his three visits to Cheltenham give cause for concern. Only 1 of the last 13 winners ran in a point to point last time would be another small negative. Was rated 165 at his best under rules but now in decline. Recent RPRs don’t put it close and considering his poor Cheltenham record then happy to leave it.
Dubai Quest – Well worth mentioning this one which is each way value though probably best to wait and get more places. Did run in a point to point last time which is his only negative. Fits the trends of having finished in the top 5 in the race the previous year when 4th at his first attempt. From a top point to point yard and likely ridden by Gina Andrews who is fantastic over the fences here to the point I will back all her rides blind. She has a great way of getting horses jumping and in a rhythm around here and invariably pick up places at big prices. Dubai Quest was a comfortable winner last time, is 7/11 in point to points, handles any ground and the right age at 10 years old. 28/1 is still a big price.
As you can tell I am keen on Dubai Quest and the price of 28/1 is still available considering I wrote this a couple of days ago. Considering the lack of course form then I am happy to back it each way. I will take the price now but look to back it again nearer the time with more places available.
0.5pt e/w – Dubai Quest @ 28/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
4.50 – Mares Chase
Last graded race of the Festival. Only the third running of the race so no trends to go on. A novice won the first year but experienced Elimay stayed on late to get back up to win last year. Does mean Mullins has won both renewals of this race, unsurprising considering what a great record he has with training mares anyway.
Allegorie De Vassy – Not a fan of her. Only a novice who I find very airy at her fences as well as jumping right at them too. Possible she is being safe but I would be worried against some faster horses over this 2 1/2m trip as I feel she is a stayer for the future. Handles any ground and twice a graded winner but this will easily be her hardest test over fences.
Impervious – Three from three over fences but is another novice. Like the fact that she took on Journey With Me and the boys last time and did give weight, albeit was only 1lb more. Has the pace and did finish 6th in the Mares Novice last year. Faster ground maybe a concern as 2/2 on heavy whilst jumping wasn’t as impressive last time as had been before.
Jeremy’s Flame – Looks a solid each way bet. Plenty of experience and things seemed to have clicked this season as form has gone to another level this season. No problem with the ground or trip though the one concern would be if she is held up again as not easy to come from off the pace over this course and distance. Either way I expect she will be staying on late for at least a place.
Magic Daze – Keen going type who has never raced this far over fences so would be a major concern as to whether she gets home here. However, if she gets into a rhythm on good ground then she could prove hard to catch and hold on late. Too many risks as it seems she would need the right scenario to prevail and if it came up soft she would have no chance of seeing it out.
Zambella – Liked her each way before last time when she was put in her place by Jeremys Flame. However, on further inspection her form deteriorates significantly going right handed so could be a valid excuse. Not suited to leading the race last year and was run out late on after two bad jumps at the final couple of fences. Year before that was still travelling when hampered and falling three out. Handles any ground and best going left handed, I would be hopeful of getting at least 4 places late on which would make her a good each bet.
I am happy to back Jeremy’s Flame as a bet each way as with the likes of Magic Daze in the field then the pace will be good and hard to see her out of the frame. Like I suggested also, I will look to back Zambella nearer the time. I don’t see her being popular and her price should hold whilst hopefully able to grab more places.
1pt e/w – Jeremy’s Flame @ 5/1 (General – 5 places)
Tips at this stage:
1pt win – Il Etait Temps @ 6/1 (General)
0.5 pt e/w – Doctor Bravo @ 25/1 (General – 3 places)
0.25pt e/w – Not So Sleepy @ 50/1 (Bet365 – 3 places – without Constitution
2 pt win – Love Envoi @ 11/2 (Hills)
National Hunt Chase
0.5pt e/w – Minella Crooner @ 10/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
1pt e/w – Galia Des Liteaux @ 14/1 Bet365 (3 places)
1pt win – A Dream To Share @ 7/2 (General)
1pt e/w – Fun Fun Fun @ 8/1 General – 3 places)
0.75pt e/w – Envoi Allen @ 12/1 (Skybet, Coral and Unibet – 3 places)
0.25pt e/w – Henri Le Farceur @ 33/1 (Skybet and William Hill – 3 places)
Mare’s Novice Hurdle
1pt e/w – Magical Zoe @ 10/1 (General – 3 places)
1.5pt win – Gala Marceau @ 5/1 (Bet365)
0.5pt e/w – Bo Zenith @ 20/1 (Paddy, Betfair – 3 places)
1pt e/w – Favori De Champdou @ 10/1 (General – 3 places)
0.5pt e/w – Shanbally Kid @ 25/1 (Coral – 3 places)
0.25pt e/w – Letsmeclearaboutit @ 20/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
0.5pt e/w – Dubai Quest @ 28/1 (Bet365 – 3 places)
1pt e/w – Jeremy’s Flame @ 5/1 (General – 5 places)