Cheltenham Festival Preview – Day 3 / Part II

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Part II of my preview for Cheltenham Thursday takes a look into the races with the big field sizes. Always on the hunt for value, I belive to have found some interesting overpriced horses.

Pertemps Network Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Grand National winner Pineau De Re shows up today with a big performance but I like Trustan Times a bit more and trust him to run a very good race at a big price. Less than a lengths beaten in fourth last year, he followed on with a third in the Scottish Grand National. Wasn’t seen at his best this season so far, but good ground and return to Cheltenham will definitely suit.

Trustan Times @ 20/1 PP – 2.5pts EW

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Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Grade 3 Handicap)

David Pipe’s favourite looks hard to oppose but offers zero value. Jessica Harrington in contrast brings over the excellent mare Burn And Turn who was runner-up in the Galway Plate last year and who won off 138 a good Chase at Limerick over 2m4. Out off depth in Graded company, this drop in class will help and key to her is the good ground. She arrives fresh, what can only enhance her chances.

Burn And Turn @ 20/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

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Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

Benbane Head has a p proven track record over course and distance and if you can forgive him his recent antics at Warwick then you see a nine lengths CD triumph in a Grade 3 Handicap Chase. He’s seven pounds higher today but could be up to it at this venue with ground he clearly likes.

Benbane Head @ 25/1 VC – 2.5pts win 

Cheltenham Festival Preview – Day 3 / Part I

Vautour

Tuesday was great, Wednesday even better – thanks to two winners on this second day of the Cheltenham Festival! Don Poli obliged in the style of a future Gold Cup star, while Rivage D’or went in @ 20/1 in the Cross-Country Chase. Under a patient ride by Davy Russell, he was all over jumping the last, though may have also profited from a crashing fall of two strongly travelling rivals. Don Poli is a very lazy sort and didn’t look too interested halfway through, but once set alive there was no stopping. That makes it another whopping 62.5pts profit for the day and now 100pts+ for the Festival overall! 

JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

Vautor is the clear favourite but I feel this is more down to his hurdling form than what he has shown over fences. You can pick holes into the form and his jumping can be slightly worrying. He may well be the star everyone thinks he is and he promised over hurdles at the Festival last year, but this game is about jumping and not every top class hurdler is a top class chaser.

Looking elsewhere, Ptit Zig is a very talented individual and if fully recovered from a recent fall he can run big but I don’t like backing lto fallers. Valseur Lido has a touch of class but not too many excuses the last time at Leopardstown. May need softer ground to be seen at his best anyway. Apache Stronghold chased Don Poli home over 3m, so clearly has class and loads of stamina. I liked the way he won at Leopardstown over 2m5 the last time. He should relish Cheltenham and the good ground and is a better chance than his current price tag suggests.

Apache Stronghold @ 11/2 PP – 5pts win

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Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)

Competitive renewal but Taquin Du Seuil looks hugely overpriced if you can forgive him some below part efforts over 3m in tough conditions. He didn’t seem to relish those stamina tests, so the drop in trip and good ground should help. His record over 2m5f speaks for itself, so does his love for Cheltenham. He won the JLT last year, and another win in addition to a close runner-up effort in four starts here means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back at the venue of his biggest success.

Taquin Du Seuil @ 12/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

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World Hurdle (Grade 1)

No Big Buck’s in here this time and last years winner hasn’t made it to the Festival either. That opens up the way for improving Saphir Du Rheu who looks the new bright star in the staying division. A tough winner at Cheltenham in January, he could have still more to offer on what is only his third start over three miles. He’s also  rather low mileage for a jumps horse in general. Says he could be still on the up.

Dark horse for me is Dedigout. He remains in the World Hurdle despite the good ground potentially against him. He is hugely progressive as well and has won two nice races this season. He was once quick enough to win over 2m4f in graded company on yielding going, so that gives hope that the ground is not as big a deal as some may thing it will be. He looks certainly a huge price and is worth a nibble.

Saphir Du Rheu @ 6/1 PP – 5pts win
Dedigout @ 25/1 PP – 5pts win

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW – DAY 2/PART II

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Part II of my preview for Cheltenham Wednesday – I’ll have a closer look into all of these very competitive looking races with huge filed sizes. There might be some value to find, though, and if only one wins for me, I’ll be big in the profit today.

Coral Cup (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle)

Prices are quickly diminishing for Lac Fontana but he is still big enough to have an each-way interest in him. He loves it around Cheltenham, won three out of six starts here and was progressive last season, culminating in a triumph in the Country Hurdle at the Festival. He has been not quite as good this season, well held in two of his three starts, though he ran in hot company and a third behind Faugheen at Kempton looks good form. He’s a fresh horse today which should work, he has his decent ground and is back at his beloved Cheltenham. I expect a bold bid.

Lac Fontana @ 18/1 Coral – 2.5pts win

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Cross Country Chase

I love this race. Visually it is most compelling. Some strong runners with excellent experience in this type of race are at the top of the market and it is not easy to oppose them, but they offer little to no value in their prices. From the rather unexposed looking animals I like Rivage D’or. He needs decent ground and looks on a fair mark with potential improvement to come. He fell when last seen but usually jumps well. Trip is an unknown but possible. He has won as a fresh horse before, and could outrun his price .

Rivage D’or @ 20/1 PP – 2.5pts EW

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Champion Bumper (Grade 1 Standard Open NH Flat Race)

Some lovely bred sorts in this race. I think some of the bigger prices are underestimated, however. Very well bred indeed is the only mare in the race, Montana Belle. She has a bit of experience in bumpers and shaped well in most starts. I loved the way she quickened here at Cheltenham over CD when last seen. She finished runner-up behind very useful mare Bitofapuzzle who won a couple of races subsequently and finished 3rd in the Mares Hurdle yesterday. The decent ground should suit Montana Belle who looks big and scopy. Worth a nibble.

Montana Belle @ 66/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW – DAY 2/Part I

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It’s been a spectacular opening day of the Cheltenham Festival! Willie Mullins was utterly dominant, as many did expect. Well, he didn’t quite made it a four-timer though, as Annie Power crashed through the last fence when she looked a sure winner. The bookies probably cried tears of joy that moment. A Mullins four-timer would have cost them millions. Nonetheless it was the Mullins Show on day one. It all kicked off with Douvan in the Supreme, half an hour later Un De Sceaux stamped his authority on his rivals in the Arkle, and Faugheen duly lived up to the hype in the Champion Hurdle – with Artic Fire and Hurricane Fly producing a one-two-three for the all conquering Irish trainer.

One a side-note: Our selections produced a whopping near 40pts profit on the day! Can be continue like that on day two? Well, let’s try. Part I of my preview for Wednesdays action is below – short and snappy once again.


Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Wide open race. Question marks all over the runners. Parlour Games is an improving sort, usually very strongly travelling. Should go close with good course form. If Nichols Canyon gets the trip, he rates a big danger. Will his jumping hold up, though? Windsor Park is an all improving sort as well, but looks short enough for what he showed so far. Vyta Du Roc may enjoy this test and can progress as well.
Hard to distinguish the better fancied horses. Looking for value, I like to think Ordo Ab Chao is overpriced. Won a trial over course and distance and seemed to enjoy the hill. Has obviously a bit too find and will have to improve to feature, but has the right profile and could well be the one to spoil the party.

Ordo Ab Chao @ 14/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

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RSA Chase (Grade 1 Novices’ Chase)

Don’t pretend to be smart here – Don Poli looks the real deal and has the best form in the book. He won at the Festival last year, but looks a stayer through and through. Reportedly lazy, he never shows too much but once asked for all, he usually finds plenty. His most recent Leopardstown win over 3m is the strongest form any horse has to offer here and he looks to be a class above the rest.

Don Poli @ 2/1 Bet365 – 10pts win

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Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)

This looks as open as it gets and it evolves around the winners of the last two renewals. If either Sire De Grugy or Sprinter Sacre can run to something close of their brilliant best, they are hard to beat. Consistent Champagne Fever and Dodging Bullets could capitalize on any flaws in the big two’s performance. It would not be totally out of the world to see a big price going well approaching the last either. It’s very tough to call what happens here but even though I don’t fancy him to win, I believe he’ll run a fair race for a very big price…

Talking about old boy Sizing Europe. Key to him seems to be to bring him fresh to a race. He won all his last starts when off for more than 100 days. That’s the case here. He goes well at Cheltenham, and retains some ability as he won over 2m5f this season on his seasonal debut. His legs may not be quick enough and he may get outpaced, but I can see him staying on for a place.

Sizing Europe @ 50/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

Cheltenham Festival Preview – DAY 1

The Festival

Finally it’s here – the Cheltenham Festival! It feels like the build-up to it would never end, with all the talk (and hype to an extend) about the biggest four days in jump racing effectively starting as soon as each new jumps season gets under way. But let’s jump right into it now and concentrate on what this is all about: The great sport we all love so much!

I’ll be previewing each day in advance over the course of the week. But no worries, I’ll keep it short and snappy. I’m sure you have heard and read so much the same horses and races over and over again, be it on TV, on other blogs, Twitter or on one of the countless preview nights!

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Two standout horses here: Willie Mullins “supposed to be banker” Douvan and Nicky Henderson’s L’ami Serge. Both haven’t done much wrong in their young careers. Douvan been mightily impressive in two starts since moving to Ireland from France. He’s beaten some smart horses with ease and Cheltenham will tell us more about how much he has left once off the bridle. L’ami Serge has been equally impressive thanks to a couple of wide margin wins. He has an awful lot of potential.

From the bigger prices, Qewy is interesting and looks talented. He may be better suited to Aintree but could still run into a place here. I feel Douvan is a rock solid selection, though, and should prove very hard to beat. His form looks stronger to my eyes and he looks such a huge, imposing individual, with plenty of scope – I just can’t look past him, particularly not at 2/1.

Douvan @ 2/1 William Hill – 10 pts win

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Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1)

Un De Sceaux will win this. Full stop. He looks a superstar in the making, and while I was still a bit unsure before his last run at Leopardstown, I’m now pretty sure he is the real deal, after slaughtering two smart rivals in breathtaking fashion. If he jumps well tomorrow, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t, then he must rate “banker material”.

Main danger should be progressive Vibrato Valtat. He always seems to travel well and nowadays also seem to finds something off the bridle. Not sure if he really would stick his neck out in a tough battle up the hill though. Clarcam finished a long beaten runner-up to UDS recently, but if ridden with more restraint, he may finish in the money. Looking elsewhere for a bit of value, I particularly like the 40/1 for God’s Own. He comes here as a fresh horse which seemed to work best for him in the past. The last two runs were poor but he didn’t have the ground he needs to be seen to best effect. That should be different tomorrow and he should show a much improved effort.

God’s Own @ 40/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

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Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

This looks a straightforward race to my eyes. Faugheen is better than anything else in this race. It’s that simple. There are no worries about match fitness due to his lack of run since December. Connections did the same last year, when he won so impressively at the Festival. He may miss the odd jump here and there, but he is learning and certainly has a touch of class about him. Some say he didn’t beat much this season, and yes that is true to an extend. But Blue Heron, who was 17 lengths behind Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, was subsequently a runaway winner in Grade 2 company.

What about the rest? The New One won’t be quick enough. Too much has been made of the trouble he meat in-running last year in the Champion Hurdle. Jezki got a super ride last year but even with his Cheltenham form and liking for decent ground, it’s hard to see him good enough this year. I’d love to see The Fly doing it for a third time, but he isn’t getting any quicker and for me it’s proven that he is not quite the same horse at Cheltenham, despite two Champion Hurdles. The ground is certainly against him.

Kitten Rock is one I like from the bigger price. He has a lot to find on form and ratings, but is an improving sort and may be better than the price suggests. Nonetheless, it’s Faugheen all the way!

Faugheen @ 6/5 Coral – 10pts win

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Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Another race with a red hot favourite trained by Willie Mullins. Make no mistake, he has four “bankers” on the opening day of the Festival, but none is a bigger one than Annie Power. She is the highest rated horse in the race and has a proven her class last season. She is simply a league or two above the rest in this field. The vibes from the yard are good, Annie is in fine form and while it is slightly disappointing to see such a high class animal in the  below Grade 1 level Mares Hurdle (despite the status as one), it makes sense to give Annie a potentially easier race than in a tough World Hurdle. If nothing unforeseen happens, she’ll win.

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Toby Balding National Hunt Chase (Listed Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)

This looks a wide open renewal. Noel Meade has the very promising favourite Very Wood in the race and this former Festival winner must have a big chance as he’s getting his ground here. Sego Success looks to have the right tools to run a big race too. Nonetheless this looks an open enough contest and I feel the mare Theatre Queen is a big price and worth an each-way nibble. She can be a tricky customer but has Cheltenham form, looks a stayer through and through and goes on decent ground with a nice weight here.

Theatre Queen @ 33/1 PP – 2.5pts E/W

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There are two more Handicap Chases on the card. Plenty of runners there, hard to distinguish form in those races for me. I don’t want to pretend t be able to solve the puzzle in those races and leave that up to the National Hunt experts. My advice would be: Sit back and enjoy these races. They’ll be competitive and probably pretty exciting to watch.

I like to make a call for one double bet: Annie Power and Un De Sceaux look unbeatable for me. And while there is no such thing as certainty in jump racing, combining these two short prices gives us odds of about @ 2.79. Do I think there is a better than 36% chance that both win their races? Yes, absolutely.

AP + UDS @ 2.79 Betfred – 10pts win

Another Round for Frankyfourfingers

This race looks certain to evolve around the first three in the betting: African Story, Prince Bishop and Frankyfourfingers. Those three renew their rivalry from the recent Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2, where Frankyfourfingers prevailed under a canny front-running ride by Mickael Barzalona.

The French gelding has rapidly improved since his first start on the Meydan Dirt, which came in January in the Round 1 of this race. That day over 1m, he travelled well but couldn’t quite match the speed of eventual winner Surfer. However he looks a horse naturally suited to the Dirt, and he proved that when he took Round 2 in excellent style. Critics would say he got tired in the end and the additional half a furlong could find him out today. I would rather think the opposite. He looked to idle as he was alone in front and in fact the slight step up in trip should very much suit on pedigree. More improvement is not unlikely to come.

What about Prince Bishop, who came very close in the very same race after staying on in extremely eye-catching fashion? Yes, he is a big player, certainly. He proved to be able to cope with the new surface and his past form rates a very strong one. He may stripper fitter today, and must be in with a big shout. However there is a valid concern, given the fact that he seems to develop a habit of starting slowly and lazily these days. He won’t be able to allow that to happen again today. With this risk in mind, he looks a very short price.

Stable mate African Story is the reigning Dubai World Cup champ and naturally warrants plenty of respect. His Dirt debut was okay I thought, given the long break. He didn’t look like really enjoying to get Dirt into his face, though, and I would rather like to see another run of him performing really well on this surface before I would back him. US runner Long River makes his Meydan debut and has fair form in his native country. He surly will enjoy the test but if he is quite up to the standard required here remains to be seen.

As touched on already, I feel Prince Bishop is too short in the betting given his habit to blow the start. If he could get it right this time, he is obviously a very big runner. I can’t trust African Story today but I’m interested to see some improvement. Natural choice is Frankyfourfingers with the right form in the book and the right profile to take this. He looks overpriced and would have thought that he is at the top of the market.

3.30 Meydan: Al Maktoum Challenge R3 (Group 1)
Frankyfourfingers @ 4/1 VC – 10pts win

Halation can defy career highest mark

No surprise to see this Handicap as competitive as it is with more than half of the field in with a legitimate win chance. Right at the head of the market is the recently so impressive Lingfield winner Mindyourownbusiness. A progressive colt, he improved nicely from run to run and got his game very much together the last time to win with a bit of authority. He had quite the run of the race, though, and up 7lb in the handicap mark, more is needed. Though, given his profile, he could easily be up to it.

Melvin The Grate finished a gallant fourth that day, following on from some excellent performances. He tracked the eventual winner all the way but couldn’t cope with the acceleration of Mindyourownbusiness. Not impossible that he can improve again, but he will have to as it looks to me as if he may be in the grip of the handicapper now. He certainly will need a quick pace and probably a bit of in-running luck if connections decide to revert to the successful hold-up tactics.

Always consistently competitive is Marco Botti’s Solar Deity. In his last five starts he has never been beaten by more than three lengths and finished was in the money in the majority of those races. That is reflected in his handicap mark, which stand stiff at 105. For that reason he has to carry a very big weight today as the highest rated horse in the field and may find one or two too good once again. Godolphin’s Billingsgate had a quick trip to Dubai, but finished last in a competitive Handicap there. Shipped back to the UK, he must rate a good chance here, based on last seasons form, though the travel stress is a slight worry.

David Simcock’s Halation is an interesting runner. This Azamour gelding is clearly progressive, and had excuses when he finished down the field behind Mindyourownbusiness at Lingfield on his seasonal reappearance. The handicapper gave him a big chance subsequently and he obliged duly. He was in the right position that day, but also travelled beautifully and looked like a horse with much more to come. Consequently raised in the mark, he will need to improve, but the trip should suit well as on pedigree he is supposed to get further as well as get better with time. A fine 7lb claimer cancels effectively out the 6lb rise of the the handicap mark and therefore I would expect Halation to be very competitive today – if he is able to overcome his wide draw – which has to be a slight concern.

Veteran Santefisio hasn’t been seen to best effect in recent starts, however he is on a very long losing run and simply need more help from the handicapper. Jack Of Diamonds ran with loads of credit in his last starts. Expect him to be competitive today. He has a bit to find with the more fancied rivals, though. Don’t Call Me looks as good as ever, but that says looked unlikely to be able to win off a mark as high as the current one in this grade. Pearl Nation is better suited to Southwell, though has Wolverhampton form. He did well lately, however it’s much more required here today.

On balance, I feel Halation is the dark horse to an extend and is overpriced. He is on a mark that gives him a chance to win if natural improvement would kick in for this lightly raced gelding. He showed nice form recently, has a good 7lb claimer on board and should like the trip.

2.50 Wolverhampton:Lincoln Trial Handicap (C2)
Halation @ 6/1 PP – 5pts win

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