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Tuesday 11th March
1.30 Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle 2 miles
It would be no surprise to see Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and the Irish get off to a winning start as they have done so often in the past but whilst Vautour would be a good winner my problem is that his best form is sighted as being the beating of a below form Tullow Tank, who I wouldn’t have been backing for this race even if he was fit. As far as the Irish are concerned I am keen to be with Wicklow Brave (7-1) as one of my 3 against the field. I like everything about the favourite, Irving (9-4), except his jumping and sadly that really counts in this race. He did get better as the race went on but I cant part with my hard earned on the chance he gets it right on the day. So who are we looking for?
Winners Profile – Won at least 50% of all races, Ran within last 52 days, Rated within 13lbs of top rated, Won last time out, Contested a graded race last time out. – Winner : Wicklow Brave, 8 -1 Skybet Outsider : The Liquidator 25-1 Betvictor
2.05 Racing Post Arkle Chase 2 miles
This isn’t the race that it normally is. I just don’t think the quality of jumping has been established by these novices in number. Yes, Rock on Ruby is a great horse but we haven’t seen enough of his jumping to know if he really is top class – he could be. Champagne Fever (3-1) has a proven Cheltenham record but doesn’t impress with reliability. I could make a case for Dodging Bullets because Paul Nichols says he is good, is that enough? – maybe. The best novice jumping I have seen this year, from a proven Cheltenham winner, with class and guts is by Trifolium and at 5/1. I’m keen to be with him. My other to back in this race at a bigger price is Valdez (9-1), who I think has a touch of class about him, with Alan King in outstanding form and would be a worthy winner of a race that might be slightly below par – or indeed could light up Cheltenham on the day.
Winners Profile : SP No bigger than 9/1, Aged 5-8, 3-5 runs over fences, Winner: Trifolium 9/2 Sportingbet, Outsider : Valdez 10/1 Bet 365
2.40 Festival Handicap Chase 3miles ½ Furlong
When a race at Cheltenham is 9/1 the field it’s because quality horses who are incredibly evenly matrched are taking each other one at their optimum trip. Assuming they all declare to run I don’t fancy the favourite Hadrians Approach (9-1) as I think the handicapper has him and this is as good as he is – good but not good enough. I cant be with Cantlow (10-1) as he just doesn’t seem to have sparkled like the horse he was last year – is it the ground we have been running on or has he not quite kept developing. Holywell (10-1) looks a player, who won the Pertemps last year and if his jumping were better would be a much shorter favourite. The horse I want to be with in this ultra competitive handicap is Annacotty (14-1) who, whilst beaten by Indian Castle after winning a weak Feltham, showed real courage and maybe undervalued byb the Handicapper. We assume Indian Castle will run in the Fulke Walwyn, where, if Annacotty wins this race he will go much shorter for that contest.
Winners Profile : Aged 7-10, Carried no more than 11-2, Officially rated 129-145, Won over at least 3 miles, Top three finish in either of last 2 runs. Winner : Holywell 11-1 Betvictor– Outsider: Tour Des Champs 16-1 Betvictor
3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle
What the Arkle lacks in pre-publicity the Champion doesn’t not. On paper this is a belter. The undisputed, I am the Greatest, Hurricane Fly, versus the Young Guns from 2013, The New One, Our Connor, Festival winners, Jezki, always thought of as a champion. My Tent or Yours who gave a panic ridden New One a beating at Kempton and sitting outside the mainstream is the brave, genuine and tough Melodic Rendezvous, who if it rained would really come in to his own. So how does it pan out. Hurricane Fly wins, maybe for the last time but this is it. The resolve he showed to win last time out was just incredible. Below his best and he refused to be beaten. He comes here in better form than that win and they couldn’t beat him then so nothing in Ireland gets in front of him. That just leaves the UK’s best. Well in my opinion but for a bad bit of jockeyship by WTW, The New One would have beaten My Tent or Yours, he didn’t need that big jump to beat My Tent and sadly I don’t think Melodic Rendezvous has the pace to stay with them when they quicken, on this ground. I am going to go for a tricast here. Hurricane Fly (7-2 Betvictor) beats The New One, beats Melodic Rendezvous. Now what does that pay? To win this race Hurricane Fly has to become the first 10 year old to do so and that would be a fitting end to the legend of a true Champion
4.00 OLBG Mares Hurdle 2mile 4 furlongs
I’m not going to waste too much time on this one. Quevage at 10/11 Coral wins and this will also be her last Cheltenham victory and what an amazing horse and training performance she and he are. Who follows her home? Probably Cockney Sparrow (8-1), and Glens Melody (14-1)
4.40 National Hunt Chase 4 miles Amateur Riders
Ted Walsh has targeted this race for Foxrock (4-1) for some time and I haven’t see anything form this horse to say he doesn’t deserve to be the favourite. Shutthefrontdoor (11-2) has all the credentials for Jonjo O’Neil who knows a thing or two about winning this race and Donald McCains horses, who are now in their best nick of the year looks to have a good-un with Corrin Wood (7-1) who really fits the profile of a winner for this race, liking to lead as he does.
Winners Profile – Run at least 3 times over fences, Finished 1st or 2nd over 3 miles. Top 3 finish last time out, Aged 7 or 8. Winner : Sutthefrontdoor 4-1 Betvictor, Outsider : Shotgun Paddy 11-2 Betvictor
5.15 Rewards 4 Racing Novices H’Cap Chase 2 mile 4 furlongs
Charlie Longsdon started the season in blistering fashion and then just came off the boil. Well guess what? He’s back and in Pendra (7-1) he has a smart novice running in the right race. Excuse his last run as just a blip, without which he wouldn’t be running off this mark and you have a well treated, quality bet. If Ericht (10-1) lines up against him then the clash becomes tasty. Erichts jumping at Musselburgh was electric but this is Cheltenham and he has to improve again to take this race, which he just might do. The Romford Pele, for the all-conquering, Queens of Saturday’s, Venetia Williams comes with a good chance and is tempting at 14/1. I can also make a strong case for Manyriverstocross (10-1) and feel these 4 may produce the winner.
Winners Profile : Top Two finish last time out, Officially rated 132-142, Won over at least 2m2f, Carried no more than 11-4, Finished in the first four on all completed starts, No more than one win over fences – Aged 6-9, Winner : Ericht 10-1 Betvictor, Outsider : Buthelezi 28-1 Betvictor