Welcome back to my annual blog for jump racing’s premier fixture!
I started this site several years ago to accommodate the number of requests I used to get for my thoughts. It’s been a bit of a labour of love in that time and as I’ve usually taken the week off I’ve been able to update during the week.
This week I have other commitments though and will be unable to add daily posts.
Consequently, I’m putting everything on one post to cover the week this year. I’ll only mention the races where I have more interest at this stage. There will be slightly more emphasis on Tuesday and Wednesday since declarations are finalised for both at time of writing – we still to wait for final confirmations for the other two days.
The ground conditions are still slightly up in the air as I write. Good to Soft or Soft look likely for Tuesday at the moment – dependant on what both wind (to dry) and rain (to soften) hits the course in next 24 hours. Please bear in mind notes for what conditions will suit which horses most for those later in the week especially.
As usual also look for enhanced place terms being available later in the week. There can be some very attractive offers added the night before or on day of race
Onto the racing:
The Champion Hurdle is the main race. I’ve been following the Festival since the mid 1970s and saw a ‘golden age’ of hurdlers then. Constitution Hill would easily stand tall into that elite category on what he has shown so far. I hope to see him cement his position as the best hurdler seen this century here. His short price reflects this though and so this can only b a race to watch and savour.
Races with more of a betting angle for me are:
130 Supreme Novices Hurdle
I might give a second chance to a horse who disappointed badly last time out and was subsequently lame if the price was high. Facile Vega is the hype horse at front of the market here and his price is certainly not attractive given his effort last time. He won at the Festival last year but the form hasn’t worked out and his last race was the first time another horse took him on in a race, It didn’t end well and I’d need far more than 2/1 or 5/2 to consider him here.
Marine Nationale looked an excellent prospect before Christmas but hasn’t raced since (by design from trainer). I’d prefer if he did have more match practice as he almost lost that last race by one poor jump.
It’s the perceived Mullins number two – Il Etait Temps – who interests me most here. He has all important course experience and has progresses this season. I dont think he was allowed to be ridden too effectively when beaten by Facile Vega before Christmas – but it was him who shone the next time when able to sit behind a stronger pace.
Another strong pace looks likely here and I can’t see him being far away here. At 5/1 or bigger he represent the value to me and with some firms offering 4 places that represents an ideal each way opportunity (providing money back if placed which is a struggle for me to see not happening)
The only downside might be if we get heavy rain and the ground gets really soft. That looks unlikely right now but if it does then Tahmuras might be the one to benefit most of the other runners
Recommendation – Il ETAIT TEMPS taking 5/1 or more each way with firms offering 4 or more places)
250 Ultima Hcap
This race has been kind to me over the years and always draws me in.
The Big Breakaway is my Grand National pick at this stage. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from him at 33/1 currently as I think he’ll run well here. Stable jockey Brendan Powell wont want to lose the ride with that in mind but this is a trial for him after all and connections probably are leaving something to work on with a bigger prize in mind, The same applies to last years winner Corach Rambler (fav for Grand National currently and less value in my eyes)
It’s also important that low weights have traditionally prospered in this race so with soft in the description I’ll be focussing more on those carrying less than 11 stone.
Two horses stand out for me.
Oscar Elite was 3rd in this race last year off a 1lb lower mark. He had been placed at the Festival as well the year before and with a recent return to winning form he looks primed for another good run. I’m not surprised the stable jockey isn’t riding him for reasons stated above – but Harry Cobden is the deputy I hoped to se and gets on really well with this horse. He has a great chance for me with the small caveat again that really soft ground might be a slight negative
The low weight also makes last year’s 7th Fantastikas stand out at double figure odds. He was racing off a 10lb higher mark then having dipped in form a bit this season. Contrary to the first race though this one’s price does tempt me to give him another chance. There were signs of a return to form last time on ground that wouldn’t have suited. The rain has definitely helped this one and it’s very interesting to see connections have fitted first time cheekpieces.
OSCAR ELITE and FANTASTIKAS each way with firms offering 6 places or more
530 National Hunt Chase
Another short priced favourite here in Gaillard du Mesnil. He has the best form for sure but with some strong stayers in thsi race his stamina should be properly tested
Mister Coffey has had this race as his aim since finishing 2nd at the Festival last year and the fact that connections booked top amateur Derek O’Connor so long before the race speaks volumes.
His stamina isnt proven but he looks for all the world to me that he needs a trip like this – he can just gallop without having a turn of foot thats needed over shorter.
The recent rain has been a godsend here. Connections have withdrawn him several times this season on unsuitable good ground. I think he’s been fine tuned for this race and is another I struggle to see finishing out of the frame
MISTER COFFEY each way – 10/1 or more ideally
Only one race here where I’ll be strongly involved at this stage…
130 Ballymore Novices Hurdle
We have another short priced Willie Mullins favourite here in Impaire Et Passe. He’s looked impressive but his price is more about hype and he hasn’t beaten horses of the calibre that others have yet. His stablemate Gaelic Warrior has a tendency to jump to the right which must be concerning here.
Then we have Mullins also fielding Champ Kiely. There is much less to knock him and I see him as the one who will add the pace to this race to make it a good test.
This should suit both Hermes Allen and Good Land and its the latter who is by far the most attractively priced runner in this race for me at 5/1 or better
I really cant pick any holes in his form this season and his proven stamina over a longer trip should see him right there at the finish. Another who I struggle to see finishing out of the frame at the very least
GOOD LAND ew 5/1 or better
Ground notes for all here added
130 Turners Novices Chase
Mighty Potter has looked very good this year but its a huge worry that his worst performance came at this venue last year. He needs to prove himself outside of Ireland and on this course. BANBRIDGE is proven and has to be my selection here BUT….soft ground is more of negative here. Good to Soft or better makes him a better bet
330 Stayers Hurdle
A small interest here on French raider HENRI LE FARCEUR as the price seems a bit big at 20/1 or more. His French form reads very well against fellow raider Gold Tweet who is half the price. Softer the ground the better here.
410 Magners Plate
DATSARIGHTGINO went straight into my notebook for this race after his January second here when beaten by a very well handicapped rival. I loved the way he devoured the hill – even if his jumping wasnt quite as efficient as the winner. It was a slight blow that he got a 4lb rise after a recent second at Kempton (a course that shouldnt suit him as much) but if he gets good to soft or better ground I still think he has a great chance
450 Mares Novices Hurdle
LOT OF JOY is my strongest fancy for Thursday currently. She first hit my radar after going close in the Irish Cesarewitch despite a really bad draw. I had her in mind for this years Ebor (premier handicap race on the flat) soon after that but once I saw she was going jumping I’ve been watching closely.
A last flight blunder probably robbed of a win first time out (beaten by a very useful type in any case) – and I think a longer trip counted against her next time. Back over 2 miles she showed what she could do next time with a confidence building prep race
I think she is at least a listed class performer and seems to go on all ground.
The key for me is she gets 5lb here from her main rivals Luccia and stable mate Ashroe Diamond
130 Triumph Hurdle
GALA MARCEAU has to be the value here. She might have had things go her way against stablemate Lossiemouth last time whwn the latter got badly hampered but I still like to way she ran to the line laving others trailing in her wake. The other stablemate Blood Destiny is harder to gauge but Gala Marceau is the only one of the three that offers a price where each way becomes attractive at 4/1 or bigger. She was very fizzy and pulled very hard when baten by Lossiemouth previously but settled far better last time. Hopefully Danny Mullins renews this partnership as he think he can get the best out of her
330 Gold Cup
The softer the ground the more this centrepiece of the meeting becomes a stamina test. The final hill in the Gold Cup has so often found out those who looked like winners before the home turn
Galopin Des Champs is just too short a price for me and there are three – all with proven stamina in a race that should be strongly run
NOBLE YEATS stamina assured here with his Grand National win. There was a definite WTF moment at Aintree this eason when he seemed to engage a turbo boost on the run in. I don’t think he was at all fully tuned up last time out and with his cheekpieces now reapplied they should all be fearful if he is within a couple of lenghts at the last
STATTLER also has proven stamina and festival winning form. The faster the pace the better here and he has to go close, A srong each way candidate
MINELLA INDO has won this before and is the most attractively priced here of the trio right now. His form can be in and out elsewhere but his Cheltenham Festical record now reads 1212 – enough said!
I’d be hopeful that some firms might offer 4 places for each way on this race later this week to make each way plays even more attractive
Thats my run down of the meeting complete.
Hopefully its useful to some and pinpoints a few winners
In summation, for those looking for each way multiples this week I’d be focussing most on these as things stand today:
IL ETAIT TEMPS
LOT OF JOY
Good luck to whatever you back and enjoy the week!