Another Cheltenham Festival is upon us and has there ever been one with so many high-profile casualties dropping out of important races in the run up to it!
The going is currently good to soft but with drying conditions still likely we could be in for a good ground week. With so much immediate form on softer conditions this winter we could see a few surfacing this week who improve a lot for these conditions
Onto a run down of day 1:
Unfortunately two of my main fancies for today, Movewiththetimes in the opener and Value At Risk in the finale have joined the casualty list in the last 24 hours.
It’s made this a bit less of a betting day for me but will try to narrow down the principals a bit from what we have left
*****(Tuesday morning update added at end of each race where applicable)*****
1.30 Skybet Supreme Novice Hurdle 2 miles
Odds available here:http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2017-03-14-cheltenham/13:30/winner
Odds are headed here by Irish raider Melon representing the Willie Mullins team (successful in 2 of the last 3 runnings). Melon has only been seen once on the racecourse this season with an easy win in a fairly ordinary event at Leopardstown. That at least proved he is alive after so much speculation about his ability for months preceding the race. He looked fairly babyish in the paddock to me but did the job well. I do wonder with his inexperience how he will cope with the huge crowd and preliminaries here. He could win but his price is priced on what stable he is from and on home reputation – it is nothing to do with form and there is no value in his odds.
Mullins also has Bunk Off Early who has been mixing it in better company. He looked all over the winner last time before being outstayed by Neptune fancy Bacardys over a slightly longer trip. It’s quite astonishing to see his sire Zebedee have a runner here as he was a precocious 2yo sprinter. There have to be some question marks on breeding therefore about how he will stay on up the hill here. I can see him tanking along into the home turn but wonder if something else will finish off the race better.
Crack Mome also appears for the Mullins squad. Another with a big reputation earlier this season, he has something to find on what he has achieved so far but could improve for the better ground
Ballyandy boasts the strongest piece of form here in winning the Tote Gold Trophy where he seemed to flourish for a strong gallop. He should get that here. There have been some rumours coming into Cheltenham about the general well-being of his stable but a big priced winner on Friday seemed to scotch that a little. He is a previous winner here having won last seasons Champion Bumper – the double has been achieved before
High Bridge was 6th in the Bumper beaten just over 4 lengths. He’s unbeaten over hurdles this season where his rider amateur Alex Ferguson was able to claim his 7lbs allowance. He can’t claim that tomorrow and that has to be a big negative to his chances – I would have had him as the value bet in the race if he had an experienced jockey on board.
River Wylde showed his liking for decent ground at Kempton last time but is 3lbs worse off with the second Elgin here. I’m not sure if the difference between the two in form merits the difference in odds between them here. The latter found Neon Wolf much too good previously at Haydock but that one would have been favourite if he turned up here
Lastly a quick mention for Labaik. He has talent but is highly quirky and would be odds-on to plant his feet at the start and not run at all based on his recent visits to the racetrack!
Ballyandy is the most solid pick for me and hard to see him out of the frame. Elgin appeals of the big prices as one who could run into the frame but at current odds I won’t be getting very heavily involved in this race
Tuesday Morning Update
Doesn’t seem to be too many big moves int the market here. Just a small ew play for me when 33/1 Elgin appeared with 1/4 odds a place
2.10 Racing Post Arkle Trophy 2 miles
Odds available here:http://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/2017-03-14-cheltenham/14:10/winner
Altior stands head and shoulders above these on form and it’s very hard to see him getting beaten as long as he completes. He’s looked fairly proficient in his jumping this season and the only thing I could see threatening him would be a slow tactical pace. (His least impressive win over hurdles came in such an affair at this course)
I wouldn’t be surprised if Nico de Boinville controlled the pace from the front to deal with that as he did last time at Newbury.
Of his rivals, Charbel was the highest rated over hurdles of the rest and looks the main challenger here. He could make the pace also but I’m sure connections don’t want to make him the sacrificial lamb in this race either. Taking on Altior too much could cost him dear if he does.
As long as David Bass plays it sensibly he would be my choice to follow the favourite home. There are a few in the race who might have already decided to ride for a place here
Selection (unsurprisingly) is Altior (far too low in odds to tempt me to bet though!)
2.50 Ultima Hcap Chase
Quite a big race for stats in the past here. Novices have perfomed quite well and the higher weight have been at a disadvantage.
The Druids Nephew has slipped back to the same mark that he won this race impressively off in 2015. He has to be a player on that basis but his form was much better coming into that race and I just wonder if he’ll be sharp enough this time.
Noble Endeavour has run well at the course before and had had positive comments from his trainer at preview nights. The 11st 11lb he has to carry is what puts me off even if his actual mark could be reasonable enough
I have a feeling this trip may stretch the novice Ibis Du Rheu a little and so the one that stands out to me is another novice chaser, Singlefarmpayment.
He was unlucky to be brought down last time but looks well handicapped on what he has achieved this year (including an impressive course win). Tom George could have run him in the RSA chase tomorrow but obviously feels his mark needs exploiting here
First recommendation of the day here:
1pt ew SINGLEFARMPAYMENT 15/2 (Bet 365 and Bet Victor currently offering ¼ odds 12345
Tuesday morning update
Definitely ahead of the price here. Singlefarmpayment now a top price 6/1 on Oddschecker (7.4 to back on Exchange in win only market)
3.30 Champion Hurdle 2 miles
The highlight of day one but sadly missing it’s last two winners, Faugheen and Annie Power through injury:
Runner by runner analysis here:
Disposed of a competitive handicap field at Ascot in impressive fashion despite a high weight. That immediately meant he was ready for this grade. Good ground should suit and handicappers have made such a jump before in the same season (Celtic Shot and Make A Stand immediately springing to mind). Definite contender though would have liked to see him perform better than he did on the course at the beginning of the season – does it suit him? – the jury is out on that one
Third in last year’s Supreme Novices then a narrow winner at Aintree from Petit Mouchoir. Started the season chasing but switched back as some of the principals dropped out. His sole hurdle win this season is a mile away from Championship form. Has undoubted potential but price is very skinny on what he has achieved. Even the trainer admits he needs softer ground and a prime candidate to see his odds drift on the day of the race
No crabbing this horse from me as I explained in my blog this week!. Has come out of a small wind operation well since beaten by Yanworth last time. Prior to that I thought that he might not quite get home on a stiff track like this but maybe he might now that this little issue has been sorted. He’s a very slick jumper and a better horse on a decent surface. I’m hopeful he will run on from the back to grab a place
Looked a potential new star when skating up at Aintree in his novice season. Unfortunately injury ruled him out of most of last season. Hasn’t done enough yet this year to make me think he is a contender at this level
From last years juvenile crop which it has to be said have looked distinctly average last year. I did see him at Leopardstown both this year and last and was impressed how much he had strengthened up over the 12 months interim period. Probably flattered last time to get so close to Petit Mouchoir last time while a 2 way battle was going on up front. I think he’s up against it here
Champion Bumper winner in 2014 but has had a few problems since. Unbeaten this season and could have run in the Supreme Novices. Rerouted here probably as he is 8 already and has left it late to get here. Nothing in his form that merits his current price in my view and not for me
THE NEW ONE/MYTENTORYOURS
I’m putting these two together as they represent past Champion Hurdle form which could have been a higher level than this year’s race. Neither are getting any younger and have had their chances
Both beaten by Yanworth at Kempton over Christmas (Ch’tibello 3rd) and hard to see how they will turn that around.
Mytentoryours has been the subject of some glowing gallop reports lately and is the one of the pair who might just spring an upset. He’s always been his own worst enemy by pulling too hard and if age has finally calmed him down – and the talent he undoubtedly has has come back – then they should all be a little bit frightened
The New One seems to be slowly regressing on the other hand. Connections have talked about sending him chasing or going to the Stayers this season which indicates they think his time might have gone in this race.
Boasts the best Irish form this year courtesy of two wins at Leopardstown. He looked hard fit to me for his last win and not sure if there’ll be much improvement from that. I’m also concerned about him on this track and whether he will come up the hill.
Another from last season’s juvenile crop. Started the season well but has found his limitations since and beaten by Yanworth and Ch’tibello last time
The 2016 Irish St Leger winner would be the classiest of these on the flat. His preparation for this is hardly conventional with his last run being in the Melbourne Cup.
Can have two ways of running over hurdles – and more often than not it’s the negative side that turns up as he seems to want things to go his own way.
Has the ability to be a contender but it will be something of a shock to see him win (Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Footpad in preference)
The favourite and deservedly so. Didn’t win by far last time at Wincanton but the way he pricked his ears on the run in suggested he was only doing as much as he had to. That course, and also Kempton over Christmas, would both be very sharp for him and this course should suit much better
The negative with Yanworth is his jumping. It might well have cost him a win in the Neptune last season as he was kept wide to have a clear view of his hurdles (Yorkhill nipped up the rails saving much more ground and got first un on him)
He did look better at Kempton but still doesn’t have as fluid a technique as others
Petit Mouchoir has made the running on his last two runs so he looks the most obvious front-runner here. I don’t think he’ll want to make it an end to end gallop though and I wonder who will share the honours up front – Moon Racer and The New One are probably most likely.
I can see the winner coming from one who sits just behind that pace but without being right at the back.
Yanworth at the top of my shortlist but the ‘elephant in the room/ that is his hurdling just prevents me from making him as a solid bet. Brain Power is a big danger if he handles the course. Mytentoryours is perhaps the value option at around 16/1 for those looking at the bigger prices if reports of his homework are true. Ch’tibello should do himself justice – I struggle to see him beating Yanworth but he makes some appeal in the ‘Betting without Yanworth market at around 20/1
Tuesday morning update
Sadly Ch’tibello misses the race with a minor foot infection. He’ll probably be fine tomorrow so it’s gutting for connections for this to happen on the day. Probably Punchestown for him now. Strong money for Yanworth so far see him down to around 9/4 from around 3/1 last night
4.10 Mares Hurdle 2ml 4fur
3 horses dominating here and all from Ireland. Limini and last year’s winner Vroum Vroum Mag from team Mullins and Gordon Elliott’s Apples Jade.
The vibes about Vroum Vroum Mag really haven’t been very positive recently since she struggled to win at Doncaster. She is the one I would most easily pass over with Ruby Walsh also making the same decision and riding Limini.
Limini beat Apples Jade last time well enough to suggest it would be hard for the Gigginstown runner to turn the form around. There is a suggestion that Limini may be best fresh though and I didn’t think she was that impressive when winning the Mares Novice race last season.
At the prices, Apples Jade has to be the each way bet for me with ¼ odds being available.
These three are someway ahead of the UK team on form. Lifeboat Mona and Colins Sister have both looked good but are both stepping up to a higher grade. I think the latter mare in particular could be up to this level in time but to me she wants a softer surface than she will encounter here
2pts ew APPLES JADE 9/2 Bet 365 (be sure to take ¼ odds 123 rather than 1/5th)
Tuesday morning update
Pricewise went for Apples Jade the selection which probably prevented any hope of 5/1 appearing. Still 9/2 available in places which is better than can be found on the exchange. Sadly, Colins Sister bruised a heel and is out – it would have been nice to see how she fared in this grade but there will be other days for her!
4.50 JT McNamara National Hunt Chase 4 miles
I can see JP McManus wanting to win this race badly as it is named after a rider who won so many races for him until his life was tragically cut short.
If the British handicapper is right, his Edwulf is a 159 rated horse and some way ahead of these. The trip should suit, he has one of the best amateur riders possible on board and he was very impressive last time up. A fall in his previous race is the one nagging doubt about him but the race was won by Minella Rocco last year who had a similar question mark coming into the race. He just needs to get settled into a nice rhythm early
Champers on Ice appeals as the main danger from the home team. He was totally outpaced here over 2 and a half miles last time and this trip could be right up his street.
I think win only is the more prudent way to go here so the recommendations are:
2pts win Edwulf 11/2 (WillHill)
1pt win Champers on Ice 8/1(generally available)
5.30 Close Brothers Hcap Chase
I had Value At Risk marked firmly down for this one but nothing leaping out for me now he has dropped out. I may do an update closer to the time if things become clearer. While it is a handicap there is only 4lbs separating all the runners so it’s almost a conditions race in reality
I went through this race a bit overnight but nothing really shone out. Foxtail Hill might be well in but had his own way in the lead last time off a low weight. He has much more on his back now and strong likelihood that others will take him on. This could set it up for something to come from the back. Most of the field seem to be in the grip of the handicapper. I really liked Bun Doran‘s win at Ayr earlier this year but would be very concerned about the ground for him. Tully East performed well at the meeting last year and could do again back on decent ground. If I had to pick one it would be Double Ws at 16/1, who should like the ground and is still relatively unexposed at this trip. The North don’t get too many winners at Cheltenham these days but Malcolm Jefferson’s strike rate here must be one of the best for them. He did get a very positive mention from the jockey Brian Hughes at one of the preview evenings. Not a confident selection by any means and a race for low stakes
Monday Evening Update (8.50pm)
Pricewise in the Racing Post has put up two of the selections from earlier today:
Singlefarmpayment has been put up at a rather incredible 10/1 with Boylesports and 8/1 generally. At the moment 15/2 is the best available anywhere and there is no 8/1 even on Betfair exchange. Good luck to anyone who can avail themselves of 10/1 tomorrow morning!
Apples Jade has also been tipped at 9/2 so that price will be lucky to hold unless there is strong support for the Mullins pair.
A few firms going 1/4 odds a place in the Arkle has made it meat and drink for a ‘filthy each way bet’ Bet 365 in particular are appearing in black type on Oddschecker for many with their win odds. Charbel for instance is 12/1 1/4 odds 1-2-3. You get 3/1 for the place part of the bet here. On the place only market on Betfair Exchange the same horse is 5/4 to lay just to illustrate what value can be taken here. There are similar stand out place odds for all of the other runners so perfectly possible to back two and still come out with a profit if only 1 places. Charbel would be my strongest recommendation for an each way play with these place terms. Whatever you fancy, I would also recommend perming each way doubles if you have a selection or two in Wednesday’s Champion Chase also (Simply Ned remains my main each way play here). If you can get 1/4 odds a place as well here you are increasing the place odds in your favour even more. Your account may suffer for this kind of bet in time though!
Thanks for reading – and here’s hoping we can get off to a good start with the meeting
I will do quick updates later this evening and at lunchtime tomorrow if more value appears. Firms will update their odds again later and there may be some better place terms available then also
Good luck with whatever you back!
Summary of recommendations so far:
1pt ew Singlefarmpayment 15/2 (1/4 odds 12345)
2pts ew Apples Jade 9/2 (1/4 odds 123)
2pts win Edwulf 11/2
1pt win Champers on Ice 8/1
1pt ew Shattered Love 25/1(1/5 odds 123)
0.5pts ew Simply Ned 66/1 (1/5 odds 123)
0.5pts ew Forth Bridge 33/1 (1/4 odds 123)