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Cheltenham Festival 2019 – Thursday Selections

Cheltenham Festival

2.10: Grade 3 Pertemps Final, 3 mile

The Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas could be the key to this race: Favourite Sire Du Berlais qualify under a shrewd ride and looks perfectly laid out for this race – but he is a shocking price.

The first three of this particular race are of a lot of interest to me. The winner Cuneo made a big impression with his excellent attitude in the closing stages. He was still green, quite raw, travelling wide throughout, but made nice headway with three out, hit the front turning for home and found plenty under pressure.

He ran once more in another hot contest, though the fast ground wasn’t quite to his liking, so was the the way the race was ran. He looks bound to improve for the stiffer test at Cheltenham.

One had to be impressed with Walk To Freedom also, the way he finished late was eye-catching. Nonetheless I liked the performance of Thermistocles equally, and he’s a better price. He also is one who is still learning his trade quite obviously.

Thermistocles travelled strongly, throughout, maybe saw daylight a little bit to early after jumping the second last and just got beaten in a tight finish. He was 3rd in a Maiden Hurdle behind Dortmund Park last year, which reads good form and he has steadily improved ever since.

Selection:
5pts win – Thermistocles @ 16/1 MB
5pts win – Cuneo @ 16/1 MB

…….

2.50: Grade 1 Ryanair Chase: 2m 5f

Everyone keeps saying this is such a strong renewal – stronger than last year, most certainly. But is it really? More runners, yes. But more runners doesn’t always equate for more quality.

At the top of the market we have last season’s star novice Footpad. His reputation took a massive tumble this season when beaten in two starts. In truth, we were probably fooled by the impressive visuals: his jumping at speed looked simply stunning!

Form wise those achievements are less than stunning. Particularly in open company against the best in this division those runs don’t compare as impressively. With softer ground sure to suit it’s not impossible to see him improve, but stepping up to this longer trip is a concern on the other hand.

His prominent racing style should suit the nature of the Ryanair, on the positive side. So, with the ground for his liking and giving him the benefit of the doubt to stay the trip at Cheltenham, Footpad remains one the more likelier contenders. At 7/2 that is an awful lot of trust you have to have, though.

Last years winner Balko Des Flos has never after or ever before ran to the level he did this one magical day in March 2018. Suspicion is that simply everything went pinch perfect for him in this race twelve months ago. The pace, the ground, the ride from supreme Davy Russell. Not again – I’m pretty sure.

Road To Respect would be better running in the Gold Cup now that he settles better. I doubt he has the speed required in this field. Frodon is interesting. But he’s on the go for a while and I wonder: how much more can he improve? He may not have to but was well beaten in this last year.

There’s plenty of support for Monalee. In fact he’s touch and go for market leader at the moment of writing. It makes sense. This intermediate trip will most likely be his optimum. He ran well this season and has still relatively few miles on the clock, compared to some others.

On pure form I don’t think he should be up there, though; I find the hype unwarranted. That says, he could be the most solid choice – meaning, Monalee is likely to run a rock solid race. There is a case to be made that it’ll be enough to land the Ryanair this year.

The somewhat ‘forgotten horse’ is former champ Un De Sceaux. A lot is made of his age. True, and 11-year-old now, how much longer can he keep producing the goods? He was beaten in this race last year fair and square.

However, it was obvious he lost the race in the middle part when he made way too much, way too early. He set it up perfectly for Balko Des Flos. There’s the risk the same happens again. We know UDS. Once lit up he goes. No stopping.

On the other hand, as pretty much the only one in this line-up, he keeps producing the goods indeed. Certainly on the ratings front, everything he’s done this last season or in this single run this season – a highly credible 2nd behind Altior – is pretty much in line with his best, or close to.

By that standard there is no doubt Un De Sceaux is the best horse in the race. One last hurrah for the popular gelding. Ground will be perfect for him I reckon. He gets the trip.

He won here before – even though, judged on RPR’s he’s never produced his best at Cheltenham, which is the one niggling concern, more than his age, to be honest.

Selection:
10pts win – Un De Sceaux @ 5/1 MB

…….

3.30: Stayer’s Hurdle, 3 miles

On the surface Paisley Park is hard to oppose. He’s the right favourite, has the right form in the book and has clearly a good chance to put unbeaten run of four successfully to the line. But at odds of 6/4, with at least one viable alternative in the line-up, I happily oppose him.

Horses beaten in this race the year before have a dreadful record when they return. Nine-year-old horses upwards have a dreadful record also. But trends are there to be broken and Supasundae may well have returned as a winner if not for bumping into smart 2017 Albert Bartlett champion Penhill.

Supasundae travelled incredibly well throughout the race in ground conditions probably not to dissimilar to what he’ll encounter on Thursday and clearly stayed the trip without a problem – in fact without Penhill we would say he stormed up the hill, leaving the third placed Wholestone 5 lengths behind.

Trained by Jessica Harrington, Supasundae is a rare sort as he is so versatile to be good enough to compete in either a Champion- or a Stayer’s Hurdle.  In fact he is an Irish Champion Hurdle winner already but has been placed in multiple Staying Hurdle races as well as having landed the Coral Cup in 2017.

This season saw him clash with the brilliant Apple’s Jade multiple times. He was chasing in vane but shouldn’t be judged too harshly on that because the fact is he was runner-up in all his three start this season, all in Grade 1 company.

To round it up, I love the quote and bullishness of Robbie Power as he says:
“The English are ranting and raving about Paisley Park but he’s only beaten West Approach who I’ve ridden and is a very, very ordinary horse. Barry Geraghty rode in the race that Paisley Park won at Cheltenham and he came in and said that Penhill and Supasundae will eat him up.”

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

……..

4.10: G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, 2m4½f

Very excited about this one: Eamon An Cnoic looks ready to rumble! The 8-year-old ticks all the boxes: an improving sort, coming here in nice form. Already ran well at this course and has Festival experience. Right level of experience, acts on the ground and trip and is trained by Martin Pipe who has a super record in this particular race.

Eamon An Cnoic travelled well for a long time in the Ultima twelve months ago, although the whole experience and 3m 1f trip was a bit too much in the end.

He returned to Cheltenham in November, running with plenty of credit in the ultra competitive Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

Eamon An Cnoic had a wind OP in the meantime, returns from that and a little break at Chepstow over sharp 2 miles. He travelled powerfully and produced a nice turn of foot to win which ensured he made the cut for the Brown Advisory.

Only 7lb higher over a longer and more suitable trip, with soft ground no worry, I feel Eamon An Cnoic is the answer to the puzzle.

Selection:
10pts win – Eamon An Cnoic @ 16/1 PP

……..

4.50: Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, 2m1f

Short priced favourite Epatante is already a French NHF Grade 1 winner but has only done what was expected in a couple of hurdle starts since switching to Nicky Henderson. She’s open to more improvement, particularly on softer going, but at given odds is easy to take on.

Particularly if you have such a strong opponent in Posh Trish. This classy looking individual has quite a physical presence and has clearly the best form in the book when beating Indefatigable at Taunton. According to TS and RPR’s still is by far the strongest piece of form on offer.

Posh Trish is still pretty raw and learning her trade, but with soft ground likely to suit her as well, and the fact she is already been to Cheltenham in the past, when she won a listed bumper, means that she should be a lot closer in the betting to Epatante than she currently is.

The Taunton form is interesting also because the runner-up Indefatigable ran a mighty race too. She made a mistake at the last, so we don’t know how much closer she could have got, but she went on to follow-up with another strong performance nearly collaring much more experienced – and 4th in the Mares Hurdle on Tuesday – Lady Buttons on the line.

Indefatigable has only won once and has to prove her ability to act on proper soft ground. At a big price I have a little saver on her as I feel she is well capable to outran this massive price tag.

Selection:
6.5pts win – Posh Trish @ 6/1 Coral
3.5pts win – Indefatigable @ 33/1 WH

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Cheltenham Festival 2019 – Tuesday Selections

The Festival

“It’s Christmas for horse racing fans…” they said in the radio this morning. How true a statement this is! Particularly the opening  Tuesday is arguably the finest day the sport has to offer. This year is no different with the renewal of the Champion Hurdle shaping like a race for the ages.

Enjoy the sport and bet responsibly… a mantra we’ll also hear often this week. One I personally can’t emphasize enough: you don’t need to have a bet in every single race in order to love the magnificent show on offer over the next few days. In fact, you probably shouldn’t if you want to maximize your winnings.

Cheltenham is incredibly competitive. Horses are primed to run for their life. That should ensure enough opportunities to find value in the market. But: there are also plenty of races where little secrets are hidden. The never ending trail of preview nights, the mere fact that every little piece of information is chewed endless times now, means few details are still hidden from plain sight come Tuesday half past one.

It’s gonna be a much better strategy to identify those races where a few things are up in the air, where you find question marks about runners, particularly those near the top end of the betting, and where form is more difficult to judge for the random betting folk.

And most importantly: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s four days. It’s not the end of the world leaving Tuesday without a winner. A 20/1 shot in the Grand Annual could swing the pendulum right back into profit.

……..

1.30: Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 2m½f

There is little wrong with favourite Al Dancer. In fact, he is a bigger price I would have expected. What I don’t like about him is the fact you can easily question the value of his Betfair Hurdle success. It’s his best piece of form, he did it nicely, but so would have done most in this field.

Furthermore, Al Dancer is a rather free going sort, spotting a hood the last two times for that reason. Given the nature of the Supreme, there’s a relevant question to be asked: could the occasion get to him?

Lightly raced Angels Breath will have learned plenty from his recent Kempton runner-up performance. He is clearly talented having won a Grade 2 on his rules debut. Only two starts under his belt is a major concern, though.

The hype horse, judging the market and social media, is clearly Willie Mullins’ charge Klassical Dream. Easy to see why: he stepped up from a maiden to win a Grade 1, beating a well fancied stable mate. He’s a class act. I’ve slight reservations, though, over the likely soft ground, even though most feel he’ll be suited by it given he knows it from France. Let’s see that firsthand tomorrow.

I love the attitude of Elixir De Nutz. The Tolworth Hurdle winner goes for a four-timer. He’s a front-runner, though. It’ll be tough to make all in the Supreme.

Certainly not the forgotten horse, but the hype has slowed: Fakir D’oudairies. The only 4-year-old in the field. He looks quite forward, however, as you would expect for a French import.

He’s got experience on his side, looks physically strong, and JP McMaus took a punt on him after a 13 lengths romping over course and distance in January. He followed up on a fair maiden success at Cork, on his first start for Joseph O’Brien.

The form of both races is debatable. Nonetheless, the impression Fakir D’oudairies gave here at Cheltenham, leaving a rather decent 147 rated Adjali well behind him, is one of a significant talent. The weight allowance he gets is a massive help as well. Soft ground is sure to suit – I feel Fakir D’oudairie is the one to beat.

Selection:
10pts win – Fakir D’oudairie @ 13/2 MB

…….

2.50: Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase, 3m 1f

I missed the hype train, regardless, I remain firmly in the Willie Mullins camp here: Up For Review is still a tasty price at 10’s. He’s already a ten-year-old, but quite lightly raced for his age, with scope to improve over fences.

He was quite a good hurdler back in the day, given he won a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle and was 148 rated – he’s 2lb lower rated over fences currently and comes here with an incredibly strong piece of recent form to his name.

After a good 17/18 season as a novice, resulting in two wins, he made his seasonal reappearance in the Gowran Thyestes Chases. Up For Review was trailing the pace, which wasn’t an advantage that day. He jumped well, made stylish progress throughout but couldn’t match the speed of the eventual winner and runner-up, and probably got a little bit tired in the end as well.

However, a third place behind Gold Cup contender Invitation Only rates quite strongly, now returning to a handicap, with ground and trip likely to suit – even though he has slight stamina questions to answer as the last time at Cheltenham, in the 2016 World Hurdle, he was pulled up.

I’m aware Willie Mullins is yet to win this race, so that is a slight concern, whether his horses are in the right weight bracket to be successful. However it’s a new year and I strongly believe Up For Review is on a mark he’s well able to defy, as long as he gets home over 3 miles and the additional furlong.

Selection:
10pts win – Up For Review @ 10.5/1 WH

………..

4.10: Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle, 2m 4f

Benie Des Dieux is a poor favourite here. Yes, Willie Mullins has done it before, but this mare isn’t Quevega. Quite clearly she didn’t have the preparation connections had in mind and you can know holes into her form left, right and center.

I’m feeling a little bit uneasy backing her stable mate, running the same colours as well. But on ratings there is nothing between Benie Des Dieux and Limini. On official ratings there is a single pound separating them. And that despite Limini not having been at her best lately.

However Limini’s highest RPR is a 158 compared to Benie Des Dieux’s 152. Limini will need to find back to her best. Potentially she can do that at Cheltenham where she excelled in the past. Her 4th place finish behind Presenting Percy when last seen rates fair form too, albeit over 3 miles rather than the shorter 2.5 miles.

The ground will suit her tomorrow, and in truth, the fact she ran incredibly well, in fact winning, on the flat during the summer, currently rated a 103 there, shows she is still high class.

Selection:
10pts win – Limini @ 9/1 WH

…….

4.50: Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, 2m 4f

While I can clearly see the case being made for favourite A Plus Tard, he’s short enough in the betting. The two I favour here will both enjoy the cut in the ground while having some high class form to their name already, though, it seems less appreciated by the market.

Highway One O One is an experiences sort, who travels and jumps well, usually right up with the pace, who remains unexposed over this trip as well.

He was found out in graded company, but ran a massive race on handicap debut over course and distance here back in January. He made all from the front, setting a strong gallop while jumping for fun and was only caught with two out by classy Kildisart who is now a leading JLT chance.

Red Indian is the other one who appears overpriced. H seems harshly judged on his latest effort when unseating his rider as a 1/4 favourite. True, it’s not an ideal preparation; on the other hand he showed plenty of promise earlier, as his 4th place, albeit a good deal beaten, behind La Bague Au Roi, Topofthegame and Santini, leaving a subsequent Grade 2 winner a long way behind him, also.

He drops in trip here and it remains to be seen whether he has the pace. Every inch of rain will be appreciated, that is for sure. Nonetheless his 131 TS rating is the best on offer here, so at the price it’s worth to take the risk.

Selection:
5pts win – Red Indian @ 22/1 MB
5pts win – Highway One O One @ 13/1 MB

Preview: 2019 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase

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I gonna treat myself to a rare bet on a National Hunt race today. That is because the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase shapes as a wide open renewal, that offers value in the market, given there is no clear favourite, and the one that is at the top of the market right now, is certainly one the take on.

In saying that, you can hardly point to anything with a lot of confidence and say “win material”. However, Captain Redbeard is the one who looks most likely to run to his form, given he has never been out of the money at this track and was a fair runner-up in this race last year.

It’s probably fair to forgive him the latest Aintree performance, and rather judge him by his other two fine efforts this season, back in November over hurdles and fences two 3rd-place finishes subsequently.

Captain Redbeard is not incredibly well handicapped. On the other hand, with his course form in mind and the fact he does act on faster ground, he looks ready for a big run.

The other one at much bigger odds I do like here to bounce back is Three Musketeers. He’s been badly out of form and takes a big step up in trip as well. Though, on past form he could be well in at the weights, granted he stays the trip and finds back some enthusiasm.

I feel on this better ground he has a chance to be competitive over this trip; in a wide open contest it isn’t out of this world to see Three Musketeers causing an upset.

Selections:
5pts win – Captain Redbeard @ 13/2 MB
5pts win – Three Musketeers @ 17/1 MB

Tuesday Selections: February, 6th 2018

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4.40 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

A poor race, where the favourite looks solid, but vulnerable after a 4lb hike in his handicap rating after a recent success. This race could well turn into a muddling affair and I’d rather be a layer at odds-on for Star Ascending.

A speculative punt on Clayton Hall looks more interesting. Visor is back on for the second time, the five year old finally has the aid of a good draw here at Southwell, and that could help him to be in a better position than certainly five days ago over course and distance.

He didn’t start all that quickly from the second widest draw but also got bumped by the horse drawn beside him; subsequently Clayton Hall raced wide throughout. Turning for home widest of all, he didn’t seem to go anywhere, however, the gelding stayed on quite well in the closing stages, finishing the last two furlongs fastest of all.

Clayton Hall is five pounds out of the handicap and on overall form has a lot to find with the market principles, nonetheless. However, he won a class 4 handicap on turf off 72 back in May 2017, so there is clearly a bit of talent there.

With his recent slight improvement, a low weight, a better draw and a trip he seemingly stays, he could be the one causing an upset in this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Clayton Hall @ 14/1 VC

Wednesday Selections – January, 3rd 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

Beaten on the line…. oh so unlucky, Waarif, this afternoon at Newcastle. No. He wasn’t unlucky. Simply beaten by a better horse on the day. Yes, agonizingly close it was, however Waarif had no excuse and every chance being gifted a soft lead.

……

3.10 Southwell: Class 6 Claimer, 1m

Not the type of race I tend to find winners, however question marks over each and every single one of this group of largely veterans, makes it an interesting betting proposition.

Favourite Tatlisu can be opposed on the fact he has to overcome two “firsts” in surface and trip, plus does not stand out on ratings as much as the price would suggest.

Last years winner Vivat Rex has a lot to prove after a dismal comeback run, nine-year old Athassel should find the trip too far.

Top weight Pearl Nation has equally to prove that he still wants it.  His reappearance in a claimer at Wolverhamption four weeks ago looked only good on paper – a runner-up effort in a poor field suggested he’s nowhere near as good as his handicap rating suggests, and subsequently he bombed out in handicap company.

To be fair, that was a class 4 handicap over sharp 6f – probably beyond him at this stage in his career. However overall hi profile gives me the impression he is still as good as the rest in this field – with the advantage that he clearly loves Southwell and certainly stays the trip, given he is a CD winner.

He’s got to give a bit of weight away, nonetheless, this race seems the best chance for Pearl Nation to find back to the winning ways.

Selection:
10pts win – Pearl Nation @ 4/1 Bet365

…….

5.10 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 7f

Still a maiden after 14 starts, yet Arnarson heads the market in this race, and is probably still slightly underestimated. While yet to get off the mark, in Handicap company he’s been placed in two from three starts and overall on the All-Weather in 70% of his starts.

His last three starts, all in 6f handicaps, have been more than solid forms, particularly his runner-up- & 3rd placed effort at Chelmsford and Wolverhampton. Those results have been franked and rating wise are strong form, suggesting a win is only a matter of time for Arnarson.

He steps up to 7f here, which should help, given he stays a mile alright. The fact that he is still a colt – the only one in the line-up – and that connections gave him time before to get off in a maiden, and haven’t gelded him yet, gives the impression that Arnarson must show something at home that promises something.

He certainly promises to have a prime chance to win this race, from a fine draw, with seemingly everything in place for a bit performance.

Selection:
10pts win – Arnarson @ 9/2 Bet365

Monday Selections – 14/08/17

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4.45 Ayr: Class 3 Handicap, 1m 2f

Kentuckyconnection has won only once in fourteen attempts however showed promise when finally dropped to a more realistic mark the last two outings. He contested Group races earlier in his career and was fifth in the 2000 Guineas last season, a result that flattered him, as a consequence he had to race beyond his actual capabilities.

He can build on a strong runner-up performance at Newcastle in June, dropping in class while stepping up to 10f again. It’s his first realistic attempt over this distance and on pedigree looks possible. Cut in the ground, as long as it does not become bottomless, should be okay.

Graham Lee on board is in red hot form is a bonus. Kentuckyconnection has only to repeat his last two efforts to have a big say in the outcome of this race and as such is a big price.

Selection:
10pts win – Kentuckyconnection @ 11/1 Bet365

———

7.10 Windsor: Class 3 Handicap, 1m 2f

Don’t Give Up looks rock solid and in this field very hard to beat. He’s lightly raced with a strong pedigree and won well on debut at Kempton’s All-Weather. He followed up with a strong Handicap debut when runner-up at Newmarket.

Stepping up in trip is sure to suit him and there is potentially plenty of improvement left in him-. Only one other 3yo to fear in the field, I expect Don’t Give Up to use his WFA allowance to full advantage.

Selection:
10pts win – Don’t Give Up @ 15/8 Bet365

Saturday Selections – 24th June 2017

1.35 Redcar: Novice Stakes, 6 furlongs

David O’Meara has generally a healthy record in these type of races. So Gabrial The Devil is interesting. Seemingly in need of the pipe opener at Chester a fortnight ago he should be sharper today dropping into an easier race as well. There is a bit of money arriving this morning, which looks a good sign.

His sire, albeit a small sample size, has a very fine record over this sort of trip and ground with offspring so I do expect improvement from Gabrial The Devil, which could see him go very close in an open contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Gabrial The Devil @ 16/1 bet365

……..

3.20 Newmarket: Class 4 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

Top weight Fleeting Motion makes plenty of appeal in a weakish race. Ignore her last form at Newmarket in softish conditions which never suited and also came possibly too soon. She looked gutsy when landing a fair maiden at Doncaster and followed up with a nice 4th place in a good Conditions race at Ascot.

She came off a break that day and travelled like the winner just to get tired in the final furlong. A repeat of that performance should enough to be very competitive in this race.

Ground and trip will suit and a mark off 84 offers hope as there is potentially still a bit of improvement left in this daughter of Sepoy.

Selection: 
10pts win – Fleeting Motion @ 6/1 Coral

……

3.40 Ascot: Hardwicke Stakes, Group 2 , 1m 4f

Dartmouth over 12f on fast ground? Possible, but not a 5/2 chance in a big and hot field like this. Most intriguing runner is Wings Of Desire for obvious reasons. Runner-up in the King George last year, hasn’t been seen since a subsequent off effort.

The solid horse who surely appreciates conditions and is very likely to be good enough and have trained on is Ballydoyle’s Idaho. This is his second start after a decent comeback run – this seems the ideal opportunity to land a top level prize.

He was 3rd in the Epsom Derby and close runner-up in the Irish Derby, subsequently scored in the Great Voltigeur Stakes last season. All rock solid form and as good as anything in this field.

I have slight concerns whether he’ll be ridden with too much patience but hope they are positive and use his stamina as otherwise he may get rolling too late. That worth a risk to take.

Selection:
10pts win – Idaho @ 9/2 Bet365

……

4.40 Newmarket. Class 2 Handicap, 5 furlongs

Favourite Jumira Bridge could easily have too much on his plate in this race. He landed the odds as expected in a Brighton maiden when dropped to the minimum trip and followed up with a strong win at Sandown in a hot Cl2 Handicap.

Things did not go his way at the start yet he was authoritive eventually. When last seen in a Listed event at York he was clearly not suited by the softish conditions, however fast 5f today will likely see him to his best.

He looks still capable of better and both speed- and RP ratings back this up. It’s only his seventh run, the fourth over 5f, two of those he won – he’s a good thing today.

Selection:
10pts win – Jumira Bridge @ 13/8 Bet365

……

9.05 Haydock: Class 5 Maiden, 1 mile

Race fit Najashee sets a good standard and will improve from his experience, however Godolphin’s Big Tour makes more appeal to me in a race that shapes as one between the two market leaders.

This expensive purchase is obviously well bred and should be reasonably talented judged on a fine debut run at Kempton last season. It’s fair to assume he is ready to go today with the yard having a strong record in maiden races this year and Bin Suroor enjoying a near 40% strike rate in Haydock maiden races over the years.

The step up to a mile will suit this Dubawi son quite a bit, so should be the decent ground. It’s a bit of a gamble sometimes on these type of Godolphin runners, however at 15/8 I feel there is a bit too much juice in the price.

Selection:
10pts win – Big Tour @ 15/8 Bet365