Well, a season of following National Hunt racing has come to this so it’s time to pin my colours to the mast.
Here are my selections for this year’s Festival. Only Tuesday’s runners have been confirmed so the rest are subject to change.
1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Unlike many this week this is a wide open race and my selections are Trifolium * (12/1; 13.5) and Prospect Wells ** (16/1; 18). Both were selected last week and have come in for support. The former has very good Irish form and the question is whether he will perform on good / good to soft ground. If he does his improving profile makes him a major player. The latter was a good flat horse and has a rating to win this. This season’s form has not lived up to expectations but Ruby has chosen him and I’m happy to do so.
This is the smallest field for a while and with good reason. Sprinter Sacre **** (10/11; 1.93) is a star and already favourite for next year’s Champion Chase. He’s always been a chaser in the making and was a weak horse when not getting up the hill behind Al Ferof in the Supreme last year. Barry Geraghty, who is not normally one for doing so, has sung the praises of this one and although he’s not been pressured in his chasing career he should have much too much in hand and ths could be over with two to go. Cue Card may give him a lead but I see that as a positive in settling him.
2.40 JLT Specialty Handicap Chase
This is a bit more tricky but, again, I’ve been with Quantitativeeasing * (13/2; 7) for a while. He’s a big horse and able to carry justified top weight with course form. Co-favourite Hold on Julio has done well on flat tracks and is very progressive but has missed a couple of intended engagements and his occasionally dodgy jumping will see him found out. The Package hasn’t been seen since November 2010 and Our Mick is nowhere near good enough.
3.20 Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly ***** (10/11; 1.88) really could be another Istabraq.There is nothing good enough to beat him here and 10/11 is excellent value. He’s the safest bet of all the short priced top race favourites this week and should be in all combinations.
4.00 Cross Country
Scotsirish *** (7/2; 4.6) is another strong selection. He would have won here in the last cross country race which turned into a debacle and has been campaigned at Grade 1 level. There’s no problem with the trip; they crawl for three quarters of the race and then need a fast finish which suits him. He’s also taken very well to the obstacles.
4.40 Mares’ Hurdle
This race was made for Quevega ***** (8/15; 1.62) and, yet again, there’s no serious opposition. This one really does fit the bill as a “banker”.
5.15 Pulteney Novices’ Chase
I don’t have a strong view about this one and have just today changed my mind from Hunt Ball to Bless the Wings * (15/2; 8.8). Hunt Ball is from a small yard and massively progressive but Bless the Wings is very consistent and, critically, has good and recent Cheltenham form and is a good jumper – just what’s required for this.
I’ll expand on the selections for the rest of the week in further posts. Some engagements are not yet confirmed so it’s a bit speculative.
National Hunt Chase Allee Garde * 7/1
Neptune Simonsig ** 5/2 (Make Your Mark 10/1 e/w)
RSA Chase Grands Crus ** 7/4
Champion Chase Sizing Europe *** 10/11
Coral Cup Carlito Brigante * 16/1
Fred Winter Vendor ** 7/2
Champion Bumper Moscow Mannon * 7/1
Jewson Sir Des Champs ** 4/1
Pertemps Saphir River * 20/1
Ryanair Great Endeavour ** 12/1
World Hurdle Oscar Whisky * 4/1
Festival Plate Tullamore Dew * 20/1
Kim Muir Baile Anrai * 14/1
Triumph Hurdle Baby Mix ** 7/1 (Urbain de Sivola – 18/1 e/w)
County Hurdle Snap Tie * 14/1
Albert Bartlett Boston Bob **** 7/4
Gold Cup Burton Port ** 7/1
Foxhunters’ Roulez Cool * 14/1
Conditionals’ American Trilogy * 20/1
Grand Annual Kid Cassidy * 10/1
Given the number of short odds favourites it’s important to get combination bets on. Have a look at my star ratings (1-5) for some guidance with this.