Tag Archives: Altior

Cheltenham 2017 – Champion Hurdle Day

Cheltenham 2017 – Champion Hurdle Day

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:

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:

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

brain power


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


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


Tuesday update

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:

Day 1

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

Day 2

1pt ew Shattered Love 25/1(1/5 odds 123)

0.5pts ew Simply Ned 66/1 (1/5 odds 123)

Day 4

0.5pts ew Forth Bridge 33/1 (1/4 odds 123)







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Cheltenham 2016 – Day 1

Tuesday has ‘Good to Soft’ as the expected ground but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s riding nearer to Good given the weather forecast

The weather has certainly been fine over the last few days as this interesting PR shot that appeared today testifies….


Short but sweet – here’s the selections with some already covered in the Preview blog
Already covered in the Preview, I’m happy to see some 9/2 available for Altior and the best option is to go with Paddy Power who offer 1/5th odds a place 1234. The extra place offered counts for a lot
Recommendation 2pts ew ALTIOR @9/2 (Paddy Power)


Douvan looks an exceptional novice and given a clear round it will be a shock if he’s beaten. Odds of 2/5 reflect this and with now only 7 runners there isn’t really an each way angle to play with. Vaniteux and Sizing John should be fighting it out for second from a form basis but there’s always a danger that if they try to take on the fav they could suffer for it and let the way in for one of the outsiders to jump into the frame. A race to watch but no bet for me now


Out Sam was my choice yesterday and I’ll stick with that although I won’t put him forward as a recommendation as the hoped for price of 8/1 is no longer there now. I do think he’s very well handicapped but it is in the back of my mind that he may not be streetwise enough for such a big field. It’s a very hot race with Holywell, Southfield Theatre and Morning Assembly all capable of performing well off their respective marks. Southfield Theatre would be marginally the pick of these for me from a price perspective at 20/1 with the prospect of the ground now getting close to the good he prefers

3.30  Champion Hurdle

Again covered in the preview and 6/1 still there for The New one so that is where the recommendation lies.

Preview night chat seems to suggest that Sempre Medici will be held out back and ridden to place rather than win so he could be the one for anyone looking for a long priced outsider.

Sadly Old Guard didn’t make it into the race due to a muscle problem
1.5pts ew THE NEW ONE @6/1 (Betfred ¼ 123)


Covered in the preview again and the ground would seem to be coming right for Polly Peachum (and quite possibly against Vroum Vroum Mag)

Stephanie Frances is interesting at a big price. Dan Skelton has stated he’ll only run her if she gets her beloved good ground and that seems increasingly likely. The trip is a question mark but if this was a slow pace (has happened in this race before) she does have a potent turn of foot. With trailblazer Desert Queen in the field however, we are more likely to get a proper stamina test

1.5pts ew POLLY PEACHUM @13/2 (Coral ¼ 123)


No bet here. Minella Rocco looks to be plotted up for this but still has to questions to prove on jumping around this course. If I were forced to pick one it would be Measureofmydreams but I could easily make a shortlist of 7 or 8 possible winners in this tricky marathon event.


This is a handicap but with only 4lbs separating the 20 runners you would be forgiven for knowing that!

I’ve had this race in mind for Double Shuffle for some time and he’s jumped around the course with aplomb already twice this season. He’s only been raised 4 lbs for a win on ground that was probably a bit too soft for him and the surface here should suit much better. He was a decent hurdler but chasing was always going to see him in a better light and hope he can get Paddy Brennan off the scoresheet on what could be a good week for him. Enhanced place terms available here with Betfair Sportsbook if you can get on with them

Double Shuffle

Aloomomo is feared and had a nice prep over hurdles at Ascot for this. He’s ben raised 11lbs since his last chase win and may well be up to that. The ground will be quicker here than what he has won on before however. At a best price of 6/1 I think the market has him plenty short enough already.
Recommendation: 1pt ew DOUBLE SHUFFLE @11/1 (Betfair Sportsbook ¼ odds 12345)

Thanks for reading and good luck!






Main news this morning was the almost nonchalant aanouncement that Vautour would head for the Ryanair on Thursday instead of Friday’s Gold Cup by the owner (last week he was quoted as ‘Gold Cup’ or nothing). This will have sent the Ryanair market into disarray. It’s good news for Cue Card supporters like myself and I imagine that Smad Place backers will take most heart from this announcement. That one is now far more likely to get the uncontested lead he seems to enjoy (Road to Riches could possibly keep him company)

As for today’s bets. Unfortunately the blog went up just last night after Pricewise (Tom Segal) put up his selections which included Double Shuffle in the last. Consequently the odds weren’t around for long on that. The 9/2 on Altior has gone but I’m surprised to see that Polly Peachum has gone out to 15/2 with some firms (giving 15/8 on the place despite that being no higher than 11/8 on exchange place only markets). This is largely due to strong support for the favourite Vroum Vroum Mag.

In the 2.50 Out Sam has hit the desired 8/1 price with a few firms and with 5 places available that is now an extra bet for the blog.


1pt ew OUT SAM @8/1 1/4 12345 (Bet 365, Bet Victor)

Day 1 selections summary

2pts ew ALTIOR @9/2

1pt ew OUT SAM @8/1

1.5 pts ew THE NEW ONE @6/1

1.5 pts ew POLLY PEACHUM @13/2 (15/2 now available)

1 pt ew DOUBLE SHUFFLE @11/1

Total stakes on day 14 pts

Wednesday preview will be online this evening – hopefully before the Pricewise beast is unleashed this time!


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Cheltenham Festival Preview 2016

The blog has had to take a lengthy holiday due to work commitments but is back for the big week of the year – the Cheltenham Festival – where it’s had most success over the past couple of years.
I’ll put up some quick previews for each day the night before – starting on Monday.
Here are my early thoughts on some of the selections I am already with over the 4 day period.
I won’t put up a staking plan on these today – merely selections. In many cases, I think there may be more value to be had on the day when prices and place terms are often more enhanced. Generally speaking if a horse is 4/1 or more and ¼ odds 123 or more are available I will probably be playing each way – less than 4/1 and it’ll be win only (there will always be a few exceptions but I will detail those if we come to them)
The ones listed below are the ones I’d be more inclined to be using for angles in multiple bets (doubles, trebles,etc).over the week ahead. A staking plan will be added to the daily blog to analyse profit/loss over the 4 days.
Do always check the place terms if betting now – ¼ odds a place should be widely available next week on most races. Some bookies have already reduced the riskier each way races to 1/5th odds. This makes mathematical sense but it would be no surprise to see them revert next week to be more competitive and lure in more bets.

Onto the week ahead and the early selections….
Ground will hold sway on some of these. At the moment the course is reported as soft but with drying conditions likely over the next few days I’m largely assuming the ground will be good to soft on Tuesday with prospect of it getting better still as the week progresses.

TUESDAY (48 hour declarations due out later today which may cause market movements)

1.30 Supreme Novices
A lot of ups and downs in the market here recently with doubt concerning the participation of Yorkhill. Right now it looks like he will be running in Wednesday’s Neptune instead.
Willie Mullins/Rich Ricci have won this with favourites Vautour and Douvan for the past two years and Min is a shorter price currently than both of those two. That doesn’t mean he is as good and on what he has achieved he is too short. He is a free going sort who has won his races easily so far this season but beaten nothing of the calibre he meets here. The preliminaries are a concern to connections.
I’m much more taken by second fav Altior, who has also displayed keenness in his racing earlier this season but still found plenty of reserves to win his first couple of races. He has winning form on the course – it wasn’t impressive in beating Maputo but that was a very tactical and slow run race. He was much better of a better pace at Kempton over Christmas. I feel he will thrive here off a strong gallop and with the uphill finish and he should be favourite. He probably wouldn’t want to ground too soft but as long as it dries out as expected I’ll be cheering him on

Stablemate Buveur D’Air hasn’t faced any strong opposition this season. He has closely matched form with Altior in bumpers last season but that’s hard to take at face value now. He appeared then as a strong travelling type who didn’t finish of his races quite as well as others and I wonder whether the hill might find him out here. He may prefer the ground to stay soft also
Supasundae has been well talked up at preview nights as an each way bet. Henry de Bromhead doesn’t waste his runners here but this one has to improve his jumping and didn’t get home up the hill in the Bumper here last season after running freely early on.
At a Dublin preview on Thursday, Gordon Elliott was asked if punters should back his Tombstone each way for this race. He replied ‘no’ which doesn’t augur well for that one’s chances!
Selection : ALTIOR ew at 4/1 or better with ¼ odds 123


2.50 Ultima Hcap
This seems to be the desired race for Warren Greatrex’s Out Sam who has somehow got into the Festival with a mark of 139. The form of his last comfortable win at Newbury makes that mark stand out as being highly lenient and if 8/1 is available still it’s hard not to have some interest.
This race will be completely different – a big field racing against seasoned handicappers rather than novices. However this race often favours both novices and light weights (he should be carrying 10st 2lbs if weights don’t rise)
Southfield Theatre would be of interest at a bigger price given his previous Festival record. He hasn’t shown much this season but needs decent ground to show his best. The vibes from Ditcheat are that he is coming back to form but I’m not sure if the ground will have dried up for him sufficiently by Tuesday.
Selection; OUT SAM ew at 8/1


A wide open race since the defection of Faugheen and Arctic Fire.
Annie Power is too short a price for me considering her original aim was the Mares Hurdle and she has come in as a late replacement for Faugheen’s owner Rich Ricci.
She looked a possible runner two years ago but was diverted to the World Hurdle instead. When it looked likely she would run in the Champion she was no shorter than The New One and My Tent or Yours. There’s no evidence she has progressed since so the disparity in odds against those two is a little strange to me.
My Tent or Yours probably has the most talent but hasn’t run for a long time and that’s a major concern for a horse who has had a problem settling. Twice he has finished second at the Festival after his early exertions have left him vulnerable to a stronger stayer up the hill.
The New One appeals most at current prices. He wasn’t suited by a tactical pace last year and had an interrupted preparation. The year before he was an unlucky loser after being badly hampered early in the race. He is effective on the course though – the way he accelerated up the hill to win the Neptune in 2013 shouldn’t be forgotten. Jumping has always been a bit of an issue with this horse but he can really come up this hill well and this is the easiest opportunity to win a Champion Hurdle he will ever get. (Nice pointer for the form of the stable with Flying Angel winning the Imperial Cup yesterday)
Nichols Canyon probably has the best form this year and he could get an easy lead up front (Camping Ground the only other possible front runner by my reckoning). I’m not convinced he acted on the course here last year though and wonder if he needs a flatter track as his form at Aintree afterwards looked much better.
At bigger odds, I much prefer Old Guard who has improved a lot this year and has plenty of winning course form. The better the ground is the more I give him a chance. I wouldn’t take his Kempton form literally – wrong track and ground too soft. He holds Sempre Medici and Hargam on earlier Cheltenham form. An issue developed here at the Sandown Park preview last night when trainer Paul Nicholls said his latest piece of work had been ‘dire’. I was going to add him as a second selection but best to wait for further news emanating on his well-being for now
Sempre Medici has been put up as an each way bet by several judges at preview meetings. It seems he may be ridden quietly out the back and aiming for a place more than a win. Similar types have been placed before so it wouldn’t be the biggest shock for him to hit the frame
THE NEW ONE ew at 6/1 or better


***Sunday evening update – Old Guard withdrawn from race due to muscle problem***


4.10 Mares Hurdle
Team Mullins has had a stranglehold on this race for several years.
Vroum Vroum Mag is their short priced favourite this time. She’s won a lot of mares races very easily but for me has yet to do anything to suggest that she is a 160 type of horse as her price suggests – her actual rating is 154 and not that far ahead of anything else in the race ( no course form for her either)
I much prefer another Henderson second fav, Polly Peachum, who looks a really solid each way at around 6/1
The more the ground dries out the better for her and she was narrowly beaten in this race last year when rated 155 (now dropped to 149). The ground was far too soft for her when she still managed to beat The Govaness at Sandown (latter an obvious non stayer behind Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot so wouldn’t be taking that as a collateral form line). She is capable of a higher level than that and is proven over the course
There wouldn’t be much to choose between Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle on last year’s form but the latter (if she runs) comes here from a couple of disappointing chasing efforts and apparently has had breathing problems.
The selection goes off to the paddocks after this race so am very hopeful she can end her jumping career on a high.
Selection: POLLY PEACHUM ew at 6/1 with ¼ odds 123


1.30 Neptune Novices Hurdle
I haven’t seen a better novice hurdler than Yanworth this season. He’s not a great price now but will be shocked if he is beaten such has been his superiority against decent opposition in his last two victories. Earlier in the season his jumping technique was in need of polishing up but the work on that seems to have paid off and I can’t find any negatives. One of the weeks bankers
Selection; YANWORTH win


4.50 Fred Winter Hurdle
There seem to be a lot of potential plots here in this competitive handicap for 4yo hurdlers. The handicapper might have scuppered the chances of Campeador who was an early talking horse.
I attended a preview in Dublin on Thursday where there were subtle hints that Missy Tata was well fancied before Gordon Elliott put her up as his charity bet.
The one I most want to be with though is Paul Nicholls’ Diego du Charmil who there has been a strong whisper for over the last couple of weeks and is now fav.
This race used to have a strong stat favouring highly rated flat horses but things have changed a little in the last couple of years with Nicholls having success with unexposed French breds like this one.
He has supposedly been doing very well on the gallops with much higher rated types and has been saved for this. He could be very well in here – it’s hard to judge him on his French form but his second in this race linked below looks to show a horse that had plenty more to offer….

There are a couple of others at much bigger odds I also have my eye on but will wait until the day for those.
For now the selection is DIEGO DU CHARMIL ew 7/1 or better



Not looking the strongest of the four days for me and will largely leave this until the night before
THISTLECRACK has very little negatives in the World Hurdle at 3.30 except a very small concern if the ground has become good by that time. He should be odds on and would be if he were trained by someone like Mullins.
In the new Mares Novice Hurdle at 4.50, SMART TALK appears a solid ew proposition. She’s improving with every race and would have won with a lot more in hand last time but for a blunder in the home straight.
She could be up against a very classy recruit in short priced favourite Limini but that one does have some questions to answer with her jumping. Her flat race class could carry her through but I’d be surprised if Smart Talk was out of the frame so an each way bet appears far better value

***Sunday evening update. 3rd fav Myska withdrawn from Mares Novice Hurdle. 6/1 really shouldn’t be lasting on Smart Talk now if 1/4 odds 123 are available, An each way bet becomes even better value if you can get those odds and place terms***


1.30 Triumph Hurdle
I believe the strongest trial for this may have been run over this course in January event though it probably didn’t throw up the right result at the time.
Who Dares Wins and Clan Des Obeaux finished 4th and 2nd respectively (behind Protek Des Flos) but these two started racing each other a very long way out on some very sticky ground. They paid for those efforts up the hill but in so doing kept themselves at attractive odds.
If the ground were soft on Friday I’d be inclined to be with Clan Des Obeaux who has the look of a future high class chaser.
However, with conditions likely to be quicker, I have to be with Alan King’s Who Dares Wins. He was too keen early on in that Cheltenham race and had to make the running. He still came out as marginally the best horse in the race as was giving away weight all round. On better ground and with a faster pace to come off, this decent ex-Flat racer should be a much better proposition.


It seems possible that Richard Johnson will ride given comments at Sandown last night. Alan King knows how to win this race and I think he will be the stable’s number one here on better ground over Sceau Royal.
Zubayr has to be feared after his win at Kempton recently – the same route taken by recent winners Zarkandar and Soldatino. He appeals more than Ivanovich Gorbatov who didn’t jump well enough last time at Leopardstown and is an awful price on that form
Selection; WHO DARES WINS ew 12/1 or better

3.30 Gold Cup
The highlight of the Festival and I think Kempton’s King George result is by far the strongest piece of form to go on here.
It’s debatable whether Don Cossack would have won that day if he had stayed up at the second last but I do question his effectiveness over this course given his previous record here (3rd and fell)
That leaves Vautour and Cue Card. Vautour was outstayed that day but is expected to be fitter this time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win but reports of a lack lustre gallop recently aren’t encouraging. The stamina question over further and with an uphill finish to contend with remain. On the plus side it’s hard to forget how he came right at the Festival last year with a spectacular win in the JLT.
I’m firmly in the Cue Card camp for this race to pick up a fairytale win and secure a £1 million bonus fund in the process.
Given his breeding (dam Wicked Crack as a very good stayer) it was always a surprise to see him display so much speed when he burst onto the Festival scene winning the Bumper in 2010.
He was one of the stars to develop from a stellar year of novice hurdlers in 2011 and got another Festival success in the 2013 Ryanair. He is a proven Festival performer.

Cue Card lost his way last year but after a breathing operation has come back a completely revitalised horse. He no longer runs freely out at front and can be settled comfortably off the pace – he now looks the stayer his breeding promised him to be. In Paddy Brennan he has found a new partner and they look to be a match made in heaven. His Kempton win proved he was back at the top of his game but I believe he can be better than that. His jumping there wasn’t as good as it can be and all of his best form has been on left handed courses like Cheltenham
I’m taking him to beat off a strong Irish challenger.
Don Poli is some way behind these on form but is a bit deceiving as he is the sort who keeps on winning by doing just enough. That is an admirable trait but I think he may lack some pace against others here on what is likely to be decent ground on Friday. In much softer conditions, he would be one to fear more

Selection; CUE CARD ew 5/1 or better


The blog will be back during the week with updates and quick race-by-race synopsis
Thanks for reading and good luck to all over the week ahead with whatever you back


(comments always appreciated)


Some useful links

To compare odds with all firms I use (though check individual websites as changes don’t always come instantaneously)

For further write ups on many of the Cheltenham preview nights that have occurred over the past couple of weeks:

A really interesting read (as always)from Timeform’s Simon Rowlands on sectional times for many of next week’s leading contenders


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