We wait all year for it to come around, the greatest horse racing festival in the world and now its the eve of Day 1 somehow I don’t want it to start. I want to just savour these moments, the expectation, the theories, the possibilities. Right now I am staring a fortune in the face, what will it be come 6.00pm on Friday. However, we are ready and we will succeed. So on to day 1.
1.30 The Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle
The Cheltenham roar is something not to be forgotten and this race signals the start of battle. Only 12 declared which takes a bit of the pressure off the real novices. We need a horse that’s won at least 50% of its races, run within the last 52 days, won last time out and no surprise we have a few of those.
1. The talking horse – Douvan. All talk or the real deal? Willie Mullins who has just the four in this says this is his best and that whilst relatively unproven, having beaten nothing special so far, he is the best they have. So assuming no errors we can now put a line through the rest of his. The question is – are you prepared to take a short price about potential? Also he hasn’t run for 59 days – important – maybe.
2. L’Ami Serge – won 60% of his races and looked terrific when doing so, winning his Grade 1 by a massive 14 lengths. Hasn’t raced for 66 days and possibly this ground might be a little quicker than he has raced on but he has some engine.
3. Jollyallan – Won 4 of 6 but as the third favourite in the race concerns me as he was beaten last time out in a listed event and we need a last time out winner.
4. Qewy – Inexperienced over hurdles but is a 102 rated flat horse who bolted up last time at Newbury. Ran in a field of 13 so does have some experience of a field this size – will he stay and will he jump. If he does he could be quite a handful.
Verdict : Douvan too short to fancy and I’m not sure the others are brilliant. I will go with Qewy at a big price against the favourite.
2.05 The Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
I wont spend a lot of time on this race as its very simple. If Un De Sceaux doesnt make a serious mistake – which he did when he tipped up at Thurles, then he wins. He is breathtaking. So the question is – do you want to take 8/13 about his chances of getting around in an 11 runner field over stiff fences and in front of a hugely expectant crowd.
Answer – yes, the best chase jockey in the world will get him around.
Our bet : 6 units win Un De Sceaux at 8-13 with Sportingbet
2 units Forecast Un De Sceaux to beat Vibrato Valtat.
2.40 Ultima Business Solutions Chase
I’m looking for a horse who has won over 3 miles, who finished at least placed in its last two runs carrying less than 11-2 and not run more than 5 times this season. So who fits the bill. I have it down to five. Ned Stark, Indian Castle, Gevrey Chambertin According to Trev and What a Warrior. Now how do we get this down to 2.
The two I am going for are Ned Stark, whose profile looks like the type of horse who just keeps improving and was strong in the finish at Wetherby and Gevrey Chambertin, whose trainer is in great nick and who performed better than our other selection on a strict line of form, when winning at Newbury latest.
What a race this could be – what a performance we could see. Hurricane Fly has looked much better this year than last year and whilst 10 years of age his trainer says he is better than ever. Look out everyone else. He is a proven fabulous hurdler with an amazing engine. The New One performed miracles to get as close as he did after nearly being brought down last year and better ground is even better for him than what we have seen him on this year. Kitten Rock and Arctic Fire in any other year would be in anyone’s reckoning – and then there’s Faugheen, the machine. I don’t think I have seen anything since Istabraq looks as smooth as him. Maybe he doesn’t jump as well but I think on the flat he would be a 115, 2 miler. Such an engine, such grace and such power. Can you see where I am going with this? Heads on the block I say he wins on the bridle
4.00 OLBG Mares Hurdle
Annie Power is all the rage and rightly so. She looks fabulous. I don’t know how to say she gets beaten on paper but something tells me she will. She has been off for nearly a year and she was beaten here last year in a World Hurdle that I didn’t think was very good. She may well win but at her best RPR of 155 I have Glens Melody only 2lbs behind her on her best, which interestingly was her last run. Her best run was her last – remember that. That tells me she is still improving and she ran Quevega, the standing dish, to 3/4l, when not as good as now. So it’s not a brilliant argument but I will take the bigger price against the banker.
4.40 Toby Balding National Hunt Chase
This four miler is a terrific race with lots laid out for it. Not easy and I think I have only backed the winner once in about 6 years. So here goes. I need a horse who finished first or second or better in its last two runs. I like Cheltenham success at some time in their career, must have won over 3 miles as a minimum and needs to be 7-8 years of age. Who are the early candidates? Thunder and Roses, Very Wood, Sego Success, Doing Fine.
My two against the field in this race are Very Wood and Thunder and Roses
5.15 Chaps Restaurant Barbados Novices Chase
A really tough one at the end of the day and the betting has it about right. We tipped up Generous Ransom when he won here latest, Thomas Crapper looks like a real improver, Bold Henry doesn’t jump great and for that reason we cant back him but if he did he would win by 20 lengths and Keltus has the look of a horse laid out for this race. At bigger prices you could make a case for Monkey Kingdom who goes well fresh, Cold March who could be a sleeper and Irish Cavalier whose trainer might be running in to form.
I need two in this race and I have plumped for Thomas Crapper and Generous Ransom. Not very original but Generous Ransom was left in front too soon when he won and is good for a few more pounds than what he got as the placed horses closed and Thomas Crapper who seems to be getting better and stronger.