Here we go! Cheltenham is upon us…. finally! Didn’t we have to wait long enough?
It sometimes feels like a slog throughout the dreariness of the short and oh so often grey days of the winter. I for one certainly share this sentiment in regards to jump. Anything points to the Festival in March, which always seems so far away – yet if you take your eye of it for once, it suddenly approaches with rapid speed and hits you right in the face without a warning!
Anyway, all the talk is over. It’s now that matters most. Who’s going to live up to the hype? Who’s going to fail and end up a mere footnote in history? Plenty of opportunities for either fate on day 1 this year.
Last year was an incredibly profitable Festival for myself betting wise. The year before it was a disaster. The year before that it was simply sensational. Means this year is going to be….?
Well, without further due, here are my three fancies for the first day of a mad week – a day that’s often hailed as probably the finest of its kind in the whole wide world of horse racing.
13:30 Cheltenham – Supreme Novices Hurdle:
Getabird looks hard to beat on anything we know so far. How much more improvement can he find? He’ll love the ground, given he’s a point-to-point winner and the ratting pace should be in his favour, that’s for sure. Hard to imagine we have seen the best of him yet. However,….
…. on prices I prefer Tolworth Hurdle winner Summerville Boy, because on ratings there is actually very little between the two. While Getabird is likely to improve it’s hard to argue that this lad isn’t capable of getting better either.
Summerville Boy got tough ground and a fair pace pretty much for the first time in this combination at Sandown. He obliged duly, putting Supreme second favourite Kalashnikov rather easily away in the end. He should love conditions here and I believe he’ll make it a real contest for Getabird.
Stock is rising, odds are shortening – still, there is some fair prices around.
10pts win – Summerville Boy @ 9.5/1 Matchbook
15:30 Cheltenham – Champion Hurdle:
You can’t fault defending champion Buveur D’Air. He’s done everything right whereas no real rival has come to the fore this season. That says, Buveur D’Air hasn’t been really tested this season either. So, do we really know how much any of those runs is worth?
We may do – regardless, if there is one horse in the race able to beat him it has to be Yorkhill. Not too long ago he was hailed to be the best horse in training; two crushing defeats over fences later, sees his reputation in tatters and him reverted back to hurdles over two miles.
While he never seemed to have the same regard for hurdles as for fences, fact remains Yorkhill has been a Festival winner over them and is four out of five overall. The trip might be a bit on the sharp side these days, however, the ground should will likely slow things down a little bit in that regard.
Ideally Ruby would sit in the saddle. Yorkhill is a notoriously difficult ride. That, plus his sketchy jumping may easily ruin his chances before we turn for home – in terms of ability and potential he certainly can rival the favourite hence the price is massive.
10pts win – Yorkhill @ 16/1 VC
16:50 Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase:
My initial reaction to this race was “Jamie Codd, Jury Duty!” However, stamina in this heavy ground is a real question mark. Yes, Tiger Roll won last year but that were different circumstances, I would argue.
A long-shot, but by no means without a chance, is Katy Walsh’s ride Pylonthepressure. Once thought good enough to contest a Champion Bumper (taken out on the day) and receiving raving reviews beforehand by Willie Mullins, he also finished 2nd behind Our Duke in a Hurdle a good two years ago and remains lightly raced.
He went over fences this season, and after a year-long absence needed his return, though, in January won a Beginners Chase at Thurles when dropped to 2 miles. Stamina won him the race that day. He looked like a beginner making a couple of mistakes but should have learned allot.
Upped to 4 miles seems strange in that regard. On the other hand, the mantra of connections was on more than on occasion that he has got plenty of stamina. This type of race, with the ground we have on day one, could suit him really well. Least we forget he is also a point-to-point winner.
5pts e/w – Pylonthepressure @ 20/1 Matchbook