Tag Archives: Cheltenham

My Betting Review 2018

671.50 points profit. 28.78% ROI – 239 bets, 33 successful selections: 2018.

A fine year from a punting perspective! It’s back-to-back profitable years in fact, ever since I changed my approach to betting on horses. As last year was all about refining, tweaking and adjusting the method, 2018 was all about putting it consistently to work.

There is no doubt that the All-Weather is my happy hunting ground. It’s so by a wide margin outperforming turf in terms of profit and ROI, and has delivered the majority of success this year: 605pts.

Of course a few big priced winners helped. They always help. However, you only find long-shots if you consistently punt them, and they only turn into a long-term profit if you find value in them. The notion that any 20/1 shot is automatically value isn’t only flawed, it’s the route to bankruptcy.

The British Turf has been a different story: a lot of bets for a negative return: -49.50pts. The story could have been a different one if not for 7 furlong races. 22 selections, not a single winner. Burned a lot of money there. Take those out of the equation and it would have been a healthy profit.

Jumps delivered a minimal loss -8pts. The Cheltenham Festival, profitably for the second year running, couldn’t make up for an otherwise poor performance over obstacles.

It’s simply not where my strengths are and I don’t have the same tools available as for flat racing. It’s telling on the scoreboard.

On the international front it was yet again a fine year. From a small selection of bets, the highlights were Hawkbill in Dubai and of course for the second year running, finding the Melbourne Cup winner with Cross Counter: +144pts.

January and March 2018 contributed as the most successful months of the year to the profit of 2018. No surprise, as those are major months for the All-Weather.

The summer months were a difficult roller-coaster. August resulted in a -90pts loss, October posting minus 75pts.

Clearly there is a lot to learn from all of that, though:

  1. Despite having more selections in 2018 than the year before I found less winners and posted a smaller ROI, yet a higher profit. 2019 shall be about quality over quantity.
  2. Low grade- and 7 furlong Handicaps on Turf have been a disaster. Keep selections on this type of races to an absolute minimum.
  3. Jumps: Focus on the Cheltenham Festival. Keep money in the pocket otherwise.

One of the major issues developing over the course of 2018 has been the problem of getting on with bookies. This is nothing totally new. Many punters face severe restrictions.

Only over the last two years, though – punting higher sums as confidence in my process is rock solid now, followed up by monetary success – I have started to see my accounts become restricted. Bet365, Sky, VC or Betway – they all market their products prominently but only want mugs to join them (from a business perspective: who can blame them!).

Most firms, big an small, have restricted my accounts to meaningless amounts these days. A certain Geoff Banks – at least he had the guts to engage in a real conversation, mind – accused me of cheating. While all I’m doing is working hard and putting in the effort.

Obviously the majority of my races are lower grade, less liquid markets, mid-week. To get a reasonable stake of something like 100 quid on  to an 8/1 shot is neigh to imposible. And it doesn’t even matter whether you’re winning long term with these firms or not.

Exchanges help, but only to an extend. Betfair has high charges, particularly if you win well over a certain period of time. And markets for my races aren’t always liquid.

I’ve found Matchbook a pretty good substitute, thankfully. The markets are growing. Even though I barely get my full stake on top prices, at least I get my stake on within a range of odds that I still regard as value.

The issue of “getting on” has put me off the idea to potentially increase my flat stake – yes, I do bet with flat stake, because it simply works best for my process, particularly mentally – and considering going full time. The hassle isn’t worth it.

For now it remains a wonderful side income. Tax free. 671.50 points profit and 28.78% return of investment for around 20 hours work a week – that’s pretty decent – no bank gives you that sort of interest on your money. And I do actually enjoy the hours put in as well. A win-win situation.

  • A complete list of all 2018 selections can be found here.

Disclaimer: This website is not a betting service. I do not take responsibility for your losses. This is a betting blog where I write about my selections. If others follow, enjoy the read and get on to a few winners thanks to this blog – great, I’m happy. Please only bet what you can afford to lose!

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Saying that: happy punting in 2019 – and bringing it to an end with my personal favourite victories of 2018:

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Fighting Fifth Hurdle Preview

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2.05 Newcastle: Fighting Fifth Hurdle, 2m½f

Feels odds throwing my hat into the ring at a race at Newcastle that isn’t run on the sand…. as much as I love watching the spectacle that is jump racing, betting wise it’s no good to me – at least on a day to day basis.

Today isn’t an ordinary day, though. It’s the Fighting Fifth, the first huge Grade 1 of the season that gets the pulls raising. All the hot Champion Hurdle contenders are here – an early-season clash that’ll give us an indication if Samcro can justify the hype, after two runs that saw him a faller and then a beaten odds-on favourite.

I think, on that evidence, given the short price today again, I’m certainly inclined to take him on. Sure, the 6-year-old will come on for his recent run, but somehow that performance lacked the usual zest you would associate with Samcro, and looked more concerning to my eyes than simply being a pleasing pipe opener yielding in plenty of improvement. We shall see….

There is no doubt Buveur D’air is the one they all have to beat. He’s the defending champion in both the Champion- and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. He’s the one who ran to the highest time speed rating of all of these, by a country mile.

Granted, this is an important early-season target, I bet Buveur D’air will not be fully wound up today. A Champion Hurdle hat-trick is the main objective. March is a long way from here.

I’ also intrigued by the “routine wind op” he has undergone during the summer. Is there really such thing as a “routine operation”? Possibly. I don’t know enough about it. Nonetheless, it puts enough doubts in my mind, compared with the bigger fish to fry for Buveur D’air later the season, to oppose him at short odds.

The obvious alternative is Summerville Boy. The reigning Supreme champ, also on his seasonal debut, obviously – with his own question marks. Around trip – too sharp? Ground – not soft enough? Talent – good enough?

He was an impressive winner at the Festival for obvious reasons, but the fact he seems to have issues with concentration, in a race that’ll likely be about speed and accurate jumping, whereas he strikes me more like a grinder, is a big question mark. Will he be ready for today? I bet so! If you want to gauge how Summerville Boy measures up against the top guns you got to be ready for the fight today.

Connections are pretty bullish. On the evidence on form and ratings he has plenty to find to Buveur D’air, but not a lot to Samcro – in fact his all-time best TS is a pound better than Samcro’s. Whether that’s of significance, is up for debate. Certainly, on evidence, the six-year-old has plenty scope for improvement, if he gets his act together in the later stages of the race.

Given my doubts about pretty much any of the main principles in the race, and not having a lot of confidence in the other two in the field, at given prices Summerville Boy looks a superb bet.

I feel this race is more important for him than for the favourite. I believe, at this stage, he’s likely as good as Samcro. There are plenty of positives vibes around him as well – so I allow myself a crack at this hugely exciting renewal of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle!

Selection:
10pts win – Summerville Boy @ 6/1 MB

……..

5.15 Wolverhampton: Novice Stakes, 5f

Vee Man Ten looks a decent colt after showing promise in two starts on turf earlier this year. He looked like winning on debut at Beverly but was squeezed out eventually to finish third while only ridden hands and heels – this form looks strong judged through the winner in particular, but also the runner-up.

He blasted out of the gates at Haydock less than two weeks later, setting a brutal pace that wasn’t sustainable, particularly over 6 furlongs. However, the early speed he showed was impressive.

Now the bit wiser, first time on the All-Weather and dropping to 5f, it could be third time lucky. On pedigree this should suit, his sire has a fine record on the sand over the minimum trip, particularly with juveniles.

Vee Man Ten has a hood fitted for the first time, which may not be a disadvantage, a good draw and jockey KT O’Neill making his way here for this one ride only – strong chance.

Selection:
10pts win – Vee Man Ten @ 4/1 Sky

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.

….

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

…….

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

…..

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

…….

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