Tag Archives: Cheltenham

Betting Preview: 2018 Irish Grand National

Katie Walsh and Thunder And Roses, winner of the Irish Grand National

Irish Grand National day – a dire day weather wise, if I have a look out of the window. Heavy ground at Fairyhouse – this will be some tough slug! You got to enjoy this type of deep ground and staying is the name of the game.

So, is it smart to be sweet on two horses that do have to prove they can last the National distance? Remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I do fancy Bellshill quite a bit. He would have been interesting for Aintree as well, however, Willie Mullins decided, despite an 8lb penalty for his last win, it’s going to be home sweet home.

Bellshill won the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase in February, bypassing Cheltenham for a crack at the Irish National subsequently. Up for debate how much this form is worth. Still, he looked like the trip is certainly no issue and further to that he enhanced his fine record on deep ground.

Off 158 effectively today, I feel this mark could still treat Bellshill lightly. He’s a class act – let’s not forget he finished a good third in the RSA behind Might Bite twelve months ago!

From the bigger prices I also quite like the look of top weight Outlander. Off 11st 10lb it’ll be an almighty uphill task, no doubt, and you have to get back quite a bit in history to find a winner off top weight.

The fact that Outlander was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup isn’t ideal. On the other hand his runner-up performance in the Irish Gold Cup sets quite a high standard and says he is still worth every pound of his rating.

It is also fair to say Outlander is a different horse at home soil. He’s also enjoying deep ground, though, his stamina, albeit winning form over three miles, will be tested to the limit today.

I quite like the fact that an excellent 7lb claimer is booked, who will take off valuable pounds. Rob James is one of the leading riders on the Irish Point-to-Point scene, so that looks a significant jockey booking.

Selections:
7pts win – Bellshill @ 11/1 VC
3pts win – Outlander @ 40/1 VC

Saturday Selections: March, 17th 2018

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The week-long Cheltenham Bonanza is over. Native River crowned as the new king. A thrilling finish up the legendary hill of Prestbury Park saw the eight year old edge out favourite Might Bite. While I enjoy the replay of this epic battle one more time, it’s back to bread and butter later on….

……..

8.45 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

A really poor race, even for this class. Given that I’ll side with Emigrated once more. I did so on two different occasions already this year.

Still a maiden after 13 career runs, there is little in his bare form to suggest he can win. However, closer examination suggests that with a tiny bit of improvement, particularly in a poor contest as this, he can go very close.

Actually, his last two starts on the All-Weather were a lot better than the naked result might tell. Last time out at Chelmsford he finished well among much higher rated horses. Three 60 rated horses only three lengths or less in front of him, a 68 rated individual a nose behind him.

Back in January at the same venue he travelled very strongly and for a moment looked like to be in with a massive shout. He faltered late to finish 6th eventually. He clearly has an issue seeing out his races, so the slight step up to the 8.5f does not seem necessarily ideal. On the other hand, races at Wolverhampton over this trip in smallish fields can be run at a slow pace.

That, plus the appliance of the tongue-tie can help. Main question remains: if he can win with a tiny bit of improvement based on recent runs, where is the improvement coming from?

Surface. This is Emigrated’s first try on Tapeta. While Tapeta isn’t all that different from Polytrack, it still seems some horses tend to prefer one or the other. Emigrated is a son of Fastnet Rock. A key piece in this case I gonna make.

Fastnet Rock offspring has an excellent record on Tapeta, regardless whether it is Newcastle or Wolverhampton. A better one than at any other All-Weather surface. Compared to his overall AW record, Fastnet Rock actually produces profit and solid positive ROI on Tapeta.

So there is it: if Emigrated is ever going to win a race, today is his best chance. A poor field, he has solid enough form in the bock, track should suit and trip may not be an issue either.

Selection:
10pts win – Emigrated  16/1 VC

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day 4 + Gold Cup Fancies

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Delta Work (12/1) lit up the day! In a thrilling finish, driven out by brilliant Davy Russell, won the day, and the week. Back in the profit, and with less races to come than needed to erode the accumulated profit, it’s already, before the final day, a profitable week. Now the question is: is a noteworthy profit or pocket money? On to  Gold Cup Friday….

……

14:10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle

The trend horse, the sexy horse…. the winner? Smaoineamh Alainn must go close. This lightly raced six year old has won all his hurdle starts and got up here at Cheltenham over this trip in December – a piece of form that has worked out incredibly well.

Eight pounds higher than that day; he seems very well handicapped. Connections opted against from running him again. It certainly protected his handicap mark.

With the track and trip not imposing any fear, the ground shouldn’t either. He’s won on very soft ground already.

Selection:
10pts win – Smaoineamh Alainn @ 16/1 Skybet

…….

14:50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

I take a swing at two pic prices: Fabulous Saga wasn’t right when last seen at Leopardstown. Leaving that form out he won a Grade 2 and Grade 3 on the bounce over this sort of trip on deep ground.

Mulcahys Hill went desperatly close in a the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle. Can be a tricky character and bombed the next, but that may came too soon. Step up to 3m should be perfect and ground is in his favour.

Selection:
5pts win – Fabulous Saga @ 33/1 VC
5pts win – Mulcahys Hill @ 54/1 Matchbook

…..

15:30 Cheltenham – Gold Cup

As open a Gold Cup as I can remember in a while.  Personally I don’t trust Might Bite yet. He has to show it here that he stays professional and can get home in a competitive top class field in the noisy environment that Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham is.

That means, without a clear cut favourite, you can make cases for plenty in the field. I give Our Duke a big chance. However, he’s not a price I want to get involved in. Simply because I feel Killultagh Vic nearly double the price is much better value.

The question is how he has mentally recovered from the crashing fall in the Irish Gold Cup. We won’t find out until he runs. That says, without being able to say for sure whether he would have won, given Edwulf, the eventual winner that day, travelled strongly approaching the last fence too, it’s fair to say Killultagh Vic would have gone almighty close.

Despite his age of nine, the Willie Mullins charge has only nie starts to his name and only three over fences, of which he won two, and the other one the mentioned Leopardstown race.

That means Killultagh Vic may still have a bit of improvement left. That he is up to Grade 1 standard he showed last month. The ground is sure to be to his likening. So, if he has recovered from his fall, he must rate a huge runner.

Another interest I have is American. Not for win purposes. He’s likely not good enough, however, will relish the ground conditions. He has been supplemented for the race and his runner-up performance behind Definitely Red here in the Cotswold Chase at the end of January is a fair piece of form.

He travelled really well for most parts of the race, however might have done a bit too much too early, I felt. So there is a chance he could finish closer to Definitely Red on another day. That should be good enough to see him in the mix. He’s also one who is still open to progress.

Selections:
5pts win – Killultagh Vic @ 10/1 VC
5pts Place – American @ 8/1 Matchbook

…….

16:10 Cheltenham – Foxhunter Chase

Foxrock can make this a true test for the hype horse of the race: Burning Ambition. It’s true, in the past Foxrock didn’t enjoy the best of runs at this venue. However, in my mind, it was down to bad jumping. He’s older now, wiser, a better jumper and this not as good a race as those he used to run in.

Says, the ten year old is still class. He won four times in this sphere last season and had a fine reappearance at Thurles in January when runner-up behind Gilgamboa. Both jumped the last locked together, but Foxrock got very tired, as he was entitled to after his break in bad ground as it was that day.

Trip and ground conditions will be ideal for him here. Hope he can make it third time lucky – he certainly is the price of the race in my eyes.

Selection:
10pts win – Foxrock @ 8/1 WH

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Three Fancies

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What an unpleasant day. Raining cats and dogs – at least here in Ireland; Ruby Walsh most likely broke his leg (the same!) again and Douvan took a bad fall…. oh, and I shall mention that none of my selection got close to smelling success. I won’t dwell on it, though….. onwards and upwards.

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13:30 Cheltenham – JLT Novices Chase:

Graham Wylie says he’s his best chance at the Festival this year, so you have to take Invitation Only very seriously in the JLT. Even more so as his one lengths third behind Monalee has been franked in a fine way in the RSA Chase on Wednesday.

This piece of Grade 1 form is certainly the best on offer in this field, I feel, and there is no reason why the seven year old can’t improve again, for what is only his fifth start over fences.

He’s a rock solid favourite and a bigger price than I would have expected.

Selection:
10pts win – Invitation Only @ 3.5/1 Matchbook

…….

14:10 Cheltenham – Pertemps Final:

Davy Russell won this last year on board of Presenting Percy, he can do the same this time on Delta Work. This five year old Gigginstown inmate looks open to further improvement after a season full of promising performances – without winning, that says.

Key piece of form is his 4th behind Total Recall at Leopardstown last month. Turning for home his progress was stopped for a brief but decisive moment thanks to a shifting rival, he still finished well.

Ground and trip is fine. The emphasis on stamina will suit. Top rider on board and a handicap mark that offers opportunity.

Selection:
10pts win – Delta Work @ 12/1 VC

…..

14:50 Cheltenham – Ryanair Chase:

Un De Sceaux deserves to be the favourite – what a superstar he’s been over the years. He proved twelve months ago that the Ryanair trip is certainly within his range.

Yet, I feel he is a skinny price in a race that looks potentially stronger than last year. Also ground conditions are totally different and will put much more emphasis on stamina. In my book Un De Sceaux is vulnerable here and I’m happily to look elsewhere.

You don’t need to look far: Cue Card will be a massive threat. His recent Ascot run puts him right there, the drop to the Ryanair trip is rather a positive than a negative and given he still looks nearly as good as ever with all the spark retained, he’s got to go very close.

Still, he’s not my selection. Indeed, I am sweet on the perfect bridesmaid: Cloudy Dream. Second in hist last four starts, eight times filling the runner-up spot over fences so far, while winning three of them.

In fact, Cloudy Dream was never outside the first three in any of his 18 career starts, and even more impressive: never outside the the first two in his eleven chase starts.

Yes, he doesn’t win many of these. However, he ran with plenty of credit in hot races behind classy opposition, so he did in last years Arkle when second behind Altior.

He tried to stretch out to three miles this season, finishing second – although a good deal beaten – behind Native River and Definitely Red. Nonetheless, pretty solid efforts, given these two are leading lights for the Gold Cup on Friday.

Cloudy Dream didn’t stay three miles, however. Certainly not at Cheltenham and certainly not on soft ground. Nonetheless, his record with considerable cut in the ground is quite excellent, so I don’t worry about that part, at least.

In truth, I love the fact he drops in trip, to what could easily turn out to be his optimum. Given, for long enough he travelled incredibly strongly in both his last races over further, may suggest that 2.5 miles on soft ground is an ideal scenario.

As a seven year old he can still improve. Particularly over this trip. He is not yet the finished article, whereas the two market principles very much are what they are.

Selection:
10pts win – Cloudy Dream @ 14/1 Matchbook

…….

15:30 Cheltenham – Stayers Hurdle:

Two fancies in the race: the major one is Yanworth. Here’s hoping he can make up for his disappointing performance in last years Champion Hurdle.

That says he clearly can stretch out to 3 miles. He beat Superdandae in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree last year what was hist first and only try over this sort of trip. So there is potential improvement yet to come. He’s had a good preparation, He won the Dipper on New Years Day in heavy ground here.

So ground, course and trip aren’t holding any fears to Yanworth. of course 3 miles on rain softened ground around Cheltenham is an unknown, in fairness. At given odds, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The other one I like at a massive price is Let’s Dance. She hasn’t sparked this year as Willie Mullins said, though has shown some signs of finding back to her form. She won a Grade 3 at Loeopardstown over Christmas but dropped away tamely in the Gowran Park race mentioned before.

It was her first try over three miles and she was most likely nowhere near her best that day anyway. It’s highly speculative if she ever will again and if she can get home over this trip on this type ground. At a massive price I feel she has, pretty much like Augusta Kate, a better chance to go close than the market suggests.

Selections:
10pts win – Yanworth @ 8/1 Matchbook
1pt win – Let’s Dance @ 99/1 Matchbook
2pts Place – Let’s Dance @ 20/1 Matchbook

……

16:10 Cheltenham – Brown Advisory Handicap Chase:

Whether the ground is too soft remains to be seen, however his record suggests Oldgrangewood can act on it. This second season chaser has progressed nicely through the ranks, was a fine Novice and has also been in the winnres circtle this season.

After his Newbury success at the beginning of December he was put away with this race in mind as the goal for his campaign. Only 2lb higher in his handicap mark, he should be competitive off 147.

This is obviously a highly competitive race in nature and a bit of in-running luck is needed too. I see it as a vote of confidence, nonetheless, that Dan Skelton has given Oldgrangewood positive mentions leading up to the Festival as one of his main hopes.

Selection:
10pts win – Oldgrangewood @ 26/1 Matchbook

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day 2 Fancies

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Off to a flyer! The opening race of the week – and bang, there is first the winner (9.5/1) to ease the pressure right from the start!

In truth, I fancied Summerville Boy ever since his Sandown win, yet think it was the right thing to wait – and let the big prices go – to decide as close as possible to the race in order to know ground conditions as well what is going to turn up.

Stamina clearly won him the race today. While he clearly enjoyed the pace, his jumping was poor, particularly in the closing stages, where he missed a couple, including the final jump! Yet, he outstayed Kalshnikov in a dramatic finish.

Hot favourite Getabird faded away quickly went it mattered most. The first hype horse of the week well and truly beaten.

My other two selections didn’t fare quite as well as Summerville Boy. At leasr Pylonthepressure gave a run for the money. In fact, if he would be able to jump a fence, he may have gone really close. Only 5th in the end, after a torrid round of jumping that saw Katie Walsh performing acrobatic acts on several occasions.

Same can’t be said about Yorkhill. His enigmatic character can make life difficult for himself and his jockey. Today, it seemed, there was nothing of his usual spark at all. Only a lifeless performance.

Stablemate Faugheen also looked so far off his best that the word “retirement” made the rounds on social media. Mullins has none of it: Punchestown and the Stayers Hurdle is for the former machine the target.

Buveur D’Air landed back-to-back Champion Hurdles in a thrilling finish up the hill against Melon. He’s the best around at the moment, though, it was far from a vintage renewal.

Performance of the day, no doubt, was delivered in the Arkle by sensational Footpad. One scary jump midway, that’s all you had to fear if backing the odds-on favourite (I didn’t). He made it look easy in the end. WOW!

Well, that was day one – on to Champion Chase Wednesday.

…..

13:30 Cheltenham – Ballymore Novices Hurdle:

Not much you can say against either Samcro or Next Destination. Both have proven their class this year, both won Grade 1’s, as well as over the trip and are unlikely to mind the ground.

Though, it’s the Gigginstown inmate who could turn out to be a special one. Hence all the hype is, as far as I am concerned, justified. I saw Samcro in flesh at Leopardstown – he really looks the part!

In terms of prices, I’m not drawn to them, though. For the simple fact that there is a horse that ran well in defeat behind these two makes plenty of appeal: Duc Des Genievres.

This lightly raced grey had only three starts to date; two of of those this year since moving over from France to the Mullins yard. He travelled strongly on debut when third behind Next Destination in the Lawlor’s of Naas Hurdle, and made quite eye-catching headway at Leopardstown weeks later when beaten only by Samcro.

On both occasions, the slowly ran race may not have been to his liking. The prospect of a decent pace, with a step pup in trip and ground to suit on what will only be his fourth ever career run is reason to believe that there is a fair case to be made for Duc Des Genievres to finish closer to the two market principles.

Selection:
10pts win – Duc Des Genievres @ 15/1 Matchbook

……..

14:10 Cheltenham – RSA Chase:

The Irish lead the way, not surprisingly. Presenting Percy with possibly the strongest piece of form overall. Followed by Dublin Racing Festival winner Monalee. Both will relish the step up in trip and the ground.

At a much bigger price and probably open to considerable amount of improvement that should see him being at least in the shake-up, though, is British raider Ballyoptic.

He’s been beaten earlier this season a couple of times by Black Corton, the number one challenge of the British. That says, Black Corton was then and still is a vastly more experienced individual.

Ballyoptic, in contrast, only has his fifth start over fences here, while having won two already, including a Grade 2 at Newbury when last seen in tough going, doing so in pretty fine style.

He had ample time to recover and be ready to go for Cheltenham since then. More time then the market principles had. He is open to improvement over fences, given he was a fine staying hurdler and with a good pace assured and ground conditions to suit, I can see him running a huge race.

Selection:
10pts win – Ballyoptic @ 16/1 Matchbook

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14:50 Cheltenham – Coral Cup:

Keep it simple: Max Dynamite is the answer. Not particularly original in a field of 27, however, the 2017 Melbourne Cup third has proven to have retained all is class. Given he is also quite a decent hurdler on a fair mark, he should be a big chance.

Max Dynamite finished 4th in the County Hurdle in 2015, when quite clearly not having the run of the race, and was an excellent runner-up in the Galway Hurdle the same year, staying on strongly, suggesting the step up in trip could well suit.

Ground is not an issue. He has form on softish going. With Ruby Walsh in the saddle Max Dynamite will have every chance to be in the right position when it matters most this time.

Selection:
10pts win – Max Dynamite @ 9/1 Matchbook

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15:30 Cheltenham – Champion Chase:

The less than ideal preparation for Altior is well documented. He may well turn out to be the superstar he promised to be in the making. However, I can’t have him at the ridiculous short odds that seem to crown him to be a superstar without proving it, yet.

If Douvan, after a year-long break, does not return at his old brilliant, the laughing third can be Min. He is rock solid over this trip, track and ground. Yes, beaten by Altior at the Festival before, but he had a much better preparation, hence seems to be a good bet….

….nonetheless, I side with Douvan. Simply because 4/1 is way too big for this horse that is, in my eyes, a confirmed superstar. He bombed 12 months ago in the very same race, but was found to have sustained a pelvic injury during the race. Recovery took a while and we haven’t seen him on a racetrack ever since.

It would be a massive training performance by Willie Mullins to bring Douvan back to form good enough to win a Champion Chase. However, if one can, he is the man. Also Douvan is still only an eight year and was only beaten twice in his career: on his French debut and here last season.

Vibes from the Mullins camp are positive. Ruby Walsh has opted for Douvan. I see that as a vote of confidence. Douvan is a two times Festival winner with a superb record on soft ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Douvan @ 4/1 Matchbook

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16:10 Cheltenham – Cross Country Chase:

A four-timer for Cause Of Causes? The much talked about Tiger Roll on the money again at the Festival? Probably not. Class will prevail. And the class act in this field is The Last Samuri. On his way to the National he can pick up this race.

I really fancy his chances. He’s still a generally young horse in the context of this field. He is worth his high rating as proven this season. On weights he is favoured to win this if it would be a normal race. Of course it isn’t. It’s the Cross-Country, a unique test.

Connections report The Last Samuri schooled well over these type of fences. Generally he is a fine jumper. He is a pretty decent hurdler, a pretty good chaser and also acts over the National fences.

With that in mind, ground, trip and track not too much of a worry, I believe he will go very close.

Selection:
10pts win – The Last Samuri @ 6.6/1 Matchbook

…….

17:30 Cheltenham – Champion Bumper: 

A graveyard race for me personally over the years and this edition looks a competitive, wide open affair once again. That says I was immensely taken by the two performances Blackbow put up this season.

He was gutsy on debut staying on strongly, and even more so impressive was his turn of foot in the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival when beating a smart horse in Rhinestone.

These two renew their feud today; plenty are of the opinion Rhinestone was a bit unlucky the other day and can reverse the form. I don’t have that. He wasn’t miles off Blackbow, in fact he was right on his ass for most parts of the race and simply didn’t have the pace when Blackbow turned up the heat over two furlongs out.

True, Rhinestone stayed on, however Blackbow idled in front and eventually held his rival with ease, or so I felt. That doesn’t mean the Joseph O’Brien trained Rhinestone can’t improve to a level that see him go past Blackbow. On the other hand Willie Mullins’ charge has a wonderful scopey frame, who looks well able to progress himself.

I love the fact that Blackbow not only has put up the best piece of form in the bumper sphere this season, but also that he is an uncomplicated individual, who should sit close enough to the pace to not get into in-running trouble, which can be the case in this race if you sit too far back.

In terms of running style, I can see how his turn of foot combined with his ability to pull out when it matters works well in combination with how the bumper is run at Cheltenham.

Selection:
10pts win – Blackbow @ 5.5/1 Matchbook

Cheltenham: The Future Starts Here

The Festival it was – a crazy week flew by in a blink of an eye. A proper review of all the Cheltenham action is due, though at another time. Nonetheless a big shout out to Sizing John and everyone connected with the new king of jump racing!

What a gutsy performance, he stayed every inch of the Gold Cup trip. A sensational, patient, cool ride by Robbie Power. A horse that was campaigned over two miles where he couldn’t get past the almighty Douvan, but upped in trip and his class could finally shine to its full extend!


Horse racing is the game that keeps giving. It never stops. Only one week then it’s Dubai World Cup day, one week after the flat season starts…. it comes thick and fast. Cheltenham is over and one might think the world ends. But no – the future starts here! Isn’t that beautiful?

So let’s keep the momentum rolling and have a look what racing has to offer on this Saturday. Two races in particular are of interest to me.

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2.40 Kempton: Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle

An ultra competitive race with nearly half of the 2o runners in with a fair shout. However I do like quite a lot Dan Skelton’s Bandsman off a lowly mark on his handicap debut.

The six year old took his time to get off the mark, but was massively impressive once he did it. He followed up with another success at Market Rasen, when he fought gamely to be on top when it mattered most.

This form looks strong through the runner-up who since then went on to win a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle. An opening mark of 129 may well underestimate Bandsman’s true class, particularly with ground sure to suit and potential improvement to come for the step up in trip.

He’s not a slick jumper yet, so has certainly to do be better in that department against classier opposition here. But if he learned and if he stays the trip then he’s a good chance to be in the shake-up I feel.

Selection:
5pts win – Bandsman @ 9/1 Bet365

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3.20 Limerick: Handicap Hurdle (80-109)

Top weight Hareth looked worth for more than his narrow success in a Handicap Hurdle here at Limerick under a stylish Carberry ride back in April. Off the track for nearly three years subsequently, he made a pleasing comeback at Naas last month when a fair third.

Back at Limerick, he’s probably a good deal better than his current rating and can make that count against very beatable opposition. Slight concern over the soft ground and the 2m trip, given he won on fast ground over further in the past, but class can see him through.

Selection:
10pts win – Hareth @ 7/2 Matchbook

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017 – FRIDAY PREVIEW

There you go: the finale, the last day – it’s nearly over, gone, history. Time’s flying and these four days of Festival craziness fly by in a blink of an eye. This is Friday, the day were the champ of champs is crowned. Who’ll make history, who will it be, the new king?

…..

1.30: Triumph Hurdle

The home team has a strong hand in the race with the unbeaten Defi Du Seul and progressive Master Blueyes and French recruit Charli Parcs but I feel it’s the Irish that will take home the price.

If Bapaume would line up I’d be certainly interested in him but the market trend suggests he’s not going to be declared. So it’s left to the horse who has beaten him in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle last month: Mega Fortune.

I really do like the progression this good looking Soldier of Fortune son has made this season.He got closer and closer to the big guns in Graded races until eventually getting his head in front.

In the Leopardstown feature he jumped well but was most impressive once he put the foot on the gas pedal. He jumpedthe second last and wooosh off he went, in the end running strongly to the line.

I’ve got slight worries about the fast ground as he seemed to relish the juice in the ground the last time, but at given prices he’s a bit over here with only a handful of runners having a realistic chance to go close. Further progression must see him go close.

Selection:
10pts Win – Mega Fortune @ 7/1 PP

……

2.10 County Hurdle

Gordon Elliott has a massive week so far and it might get even better because with Mick Jazz he has an exciting runner in the race. He won well on his first start for Elliott in October and was a fine runner-up behind Labaik, which looks brilliant form in hindsight.

He then went on to Fairyhouse Handicap where he travelled strongly behind a wall of horses but in the home straight then getting hampered twice, also making a mess of things at the second last, yet staying on strongly. Impressive!

After a break he produced another strong staying performance beating an odds-on Mullins horse at Punchestown. He looks the type ready made for Cheltenham. Even the ground is no worry. He could easily be better than his handicap mark.

Another one I really like to run big is Twiston Davise’s Crievehill. He’s probably getting in off a light weight. He’s progressive, his 3rd place behind Neon Wolf when last seen looks strong form and he might be still able to progress. The ground is a big worry as he never encountered anything less than soft, but at a big price he’s worth a punt.

Selection:
10pts win – Mick Jazz @ 10/1 Bet365
5pts win – Crievehill @ 40/1 Betfair SB

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2.50: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Death Duty may look like a good thing to many – but not to me. He could easily be too good, though at shortish odds I’m against him given he’s unproven on this ground and trip.

Two bigger prices are certainly of interest and seemingly underappreciated: there is the lightly raced Constantine Bay, who stepped up to 3m at Doncaster and produced a strong travelling yet incredibly game and tough performance in a ding dong finish, staying on very strongly. Traits you want to see in an Albert Bartlett contender.

Ami Desbois is the other one: Already  a seven year old, bit more experienced, he’s been improving this year, was only a lengths behind Wholestone over course and distance in December but the price difference in the betting would imply there is a whole world between the two.

I really like Wholestone, but if I do so, then I have to like Ami Desbois even more, given his progressive profile and much bigger price.

Selection:
5pts win – Ami Desbois @ 33/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Constantine Bay @ 16/1 Bet365

…..

3.30: Gold Cup Chase

Who’s the new champ? Native River most likely. Hard to be against him? He put in some big performances, is clearly on the up, has Cheltenham form and is only seven. Even if there is no rain arriving, the ground may not necessarily be too big an issue.

But at the given price I can’t have him. Plain and simple he’s got to prove it all now for the first time in Grade 1. He hasn’t done that before. This is the toughest test to date which he may pass with flying colours. But I have to see it to believe it.

The standard is set by Djakadam. Twice a runner-up in this race; seemingly enjoying a better preparation this time and the Mullins yard is bullish. Fact is he’s been here before and ran extremely well, but fact is also his win record is only average. He had a lot of hard races for a horse of his age, so I’m not convinced he is even able to run to his form of the last two years.

He may well, but again, price dictates that he’s not for me. Even at double the odds he’d not be my choice, I have to admit. And that might be unfair to the poor horse and he could easily prove me wrong. If he does: great for Willie Mullins and well deserved.

Looking elsewhere I cant have Cue Card either. The old boy seems to be nearly as good as ever. But does he truly stay the Gold Cup trip? I still have a few doubts. Another one who’d be a well deserved winner, don’t get me wrong. But there are good reasons to oppose him, at least at a shortish enough looking price.

Sizing John is an interesting case. He won’t see the backside of Douvan here, but will he actually have the stamina to get home? Big question mark in my book.

Lexus Chase winner Outlander is a serious horse, though one you never can be sure whether he’s on a good or a bad day. It concerns me that he has not been seen since Christmas. Maybe to keep him fresh. This quirky character is not for me.

Neither is More Of That, even if Jonjo is blullish. Maybe unlucky the last time when he fell in the Irish Gold Cup, but overall his form over fences is below the standard required to land a Gold Cup.

Brings me to the two I fancy – though as it is with each and everyone in this field, you can blow big holes into their form.

After landing the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock, Bristol De Mai was odds-on to land the Denman chase, where he was then a long way beaten by Native River. That form is not his true class and I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s clearly better than that.

Still only a six years old he could easily improve and develop into a top chaser. He may not, of course, that is also possible. At given prices I’m rather backing him to close the gap to the favourite.

Speaking of form that ties in with Native River: he was second at last years Festival behind Minella Rocco in the National Hunt Chase!  For Minella Rocco things did not go well since then. A decent comeback run followed by a fall and unseating his rider in his next two other starts this season.

Hard to know what to make of that. Confidence might be an issue. But if he can get his act together, which is more likely to happen at a place over a trip he has proven to be successful at, then he could be in the shake-up.

Selection:
5pts win – Minella Rocco @ 25/1 WH
5pts win – Bristol De Mai @ 25/1 WH

……

The Foxhunter is a race I find impossible to solve. Yes, On The Fringe is the most likely winner, but he is also a very short price. I would love to find an alternative but I rather focus on the last two races of Festival.

…….

.4.50: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap

There is no doubt that Battleford ticks every box for me. Granted he gets in to the race, which looks rather likely (otherwise it’s money back anyway), he’ll be a big market mover come Friday I believe.

He had the perfect preparation in my mind, showed excellent form this year – his runner-up effort behind Monalee rates highly in my book. Most importantly he was here last year, finishing an agonisingly close second in the Champion Bumper.

Off a really nice mark he’s got a tremendous chance to win this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Battleford @ 8/1 Bet365

……

5.30: Grand Annual

Having fancied Le Prezien to have a chance to have a place chance in the Arkle and subsequently in the Brown Advisory, I have to fancy him for this, right?

The French recruit has had a good – albeit – light season so far, including a Grade 2 success here at Cheltenham. Hi seasonal reappearance when second behind Charbel looks increasingly strong form after his excellent performance in the Arkle on Tuesday.

Ground is a slight worry, but he looks potentially well in on handicap debut, so it’s the risk I take.

However there is another horse I even more fancy: that is Velvet Maker. I was incredibly keen on this lad last year in the very same race, where he bombed out. But he scoped badly- and had his issues in the aftermath, which meant he only made a reappearance last month.

That was an encouraging spin over hurdles where he travelled well and finished a nice third without getting a hard time. He should come on allot for the run – hopefully – with a 2lb lower mark than last year, fit and healthy this time around, I sense he’s a massive chance to lead from start to finish.

Selection:
5pts win – Le Prezien @ 10/1 Bet365
10pts win – Velvet Maker @ 14/1 Bet365