Note: This article was first published on 15 January and has been updated (where indicated) on 8 and 9 March.
I know that a lot of people think that the NH season is too focused on the Cheltenham Festival but, for me, and evidently many trainers and owners, this is the pinnacle. So, whether it should be or not, it’s time to take a view on the big races. Needless to say all these must be taken on NRNB (no runner no bet). The picture is, of course, the incomparable Arkle.
Tuesday 15 March
Altior (6/1) is massive value to beat Min for an initial British win in the exciting first race. There is a pattern of Irish hot pots being beaten in this one.
8 March update: Altior has rightly shortened and there is still some 9/2 out there, now NRNB.
Ar Mad is a scarily good horse but Douvan (4/6) is even better and will win this.
8 March update: Ar Mad is out of the picture and Douvan (2/5) doesn’t now have any serious opposition. By the way, Henderson announced today that L’ami Serge goes for the JLT on Thursday (see below).
9 March update: Donn McLean in the Sky preview about Douvan: “He jumps, he travels, he has course form”. Warren Greatrex: “He’ll win easy”. Alex Hammond: “He’s a superstar”.
The first four in the betting are Irish and quite rightly so. Faugheen (4/7) will win so that’s the WP double within three races.
8 March update: Faugheen and Arctic Fire have gone so that makes this one much more interesting. Annie Power (see below) has been put in this for the owner but I’m unconvinced that she is the champion hurdler of 2016. Identity Thief is interesting at around 5/1 and Sempre Medici is an each way gift at 25/1.
9 March update: Very pleased that Mark Howard agrees with me in the Sky Sports preview (currently live) about Sempre Medici as a live contender.
My intuition says that Annie Power will be taken out for the season. That will clear the way for Vroum Vroum Mag at an outstanding 10/1.
8 March update: Vroum Vroum Mag is now evens. Congratulations to those of you who got the 10/1.
Wednesday 16 March
This is a new entry and there is no real opposition to Yanworth (evens). The potential opponents will run elsewhere.
9 March: Mark Howard: “It’s difficult to see what’s going to beat him (Yanworth)”.
As previously advised Pont Alexandre is an outstanding candidate at a great 10/1.
8 March update: I’m not a fan of any of the betting favourites and I’m sticking with Pont Alexandre (class will prevail on good ground) at a super 20/1. This is an article from 2013 but the point about good ground is still valid.
Un De Sceaux needs to do well in his prep, after the last outing, and will do. Get on now at 6/4 before he goes odds on.
8 March update: My view that he would follow up well was vindicated. Widespread reports from Lambourn that Sprinter Sacre is “as good as ever” but unconvinced, hence the 4/6 for the selection, Un De Sceaux.
9 March update: Willie Mullins: “I wish he was running tomorrow”. Donn McLean: “Look, he’s just fast…like Moscow Flyer”.
9 March update: Denis O’Regan: Watch out for Cantlow in the Cross Country.
Thursday 17 March
JLT Novices’ Chase
8 March update: Nicky Henderson announced today (8 March) that L’Ami Serge runs in this rather than the Arkle. Why? Well, in my view because he’s not good enough for the Arkle as reflected by the current 10/1 for this. Here lies my bet of the week. I was lucky enough to be at Haydock on 23 January when Bristol de Mai was mightily impressive over 2m 4f and he comprehensively franked the form at Sandown on 6 February. The prep is perfect and the current 3/1 average is an absolute gift. Lump on!
Surely Vautour (6/4) should go for this and it makes sense for the owner, given his other options. If he does, he wins. No nonsense about him staying 3m 2f 110y. Nonsense! Get the odds now. There is no serious opposition.
8 March update: Notwithstanding the reports I think that he (Vautour) might still run in this. A superb betting opportunity because the main betting varies from 4/5 (Totesport) to 9/2 (32red). You know where to go.
Lump on Thistlecrack (9/4). This horse has emerged and his last win was superb. Good to soft found will suit and there are no serious opponents. This one is the bet of the meeting in my view.
8 March update: That 9/4 for Thistlecrack was a gift. Now evens. The obvious threats won’t turn up.
Friday 18 March
Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran
Let’s just wait and see for the Triumph. I suspect that the winner has not yet run.
8 March update: They’ve all had their outings. Lots of hype involved in this but I think that Footpad‘s campaign has been impressive and I very much like the current 10-12/1 (will be shorter).
I’m not carried away with Barters Hill as others are. This is wide open and far too soon to take a view.
8 March update: If Long Dog goes here I’ll take all the 16/1 available!
People have got carried away about this being the best Gold Cup in years. It isn’t because many of those touted are not suited to the race. It’s down to two. Forget the Dons. One’s too slow and the other is unsuited and lazy, unsuitable for a race that is invariably run in recent years at a serious pace. We can therefore narrow the field to Cue Card (6/1) and Djakadam (7/2). I think that the former will win and, remarkably, win a £1 million bonus for the Betfair Chase, King George and the big one. 6/1 is superb value right now and I would have him beating Djakadam every day of the week.
8 March update: No reason to change here. The 5/1 is for Cue Card is still excellent value.
8 March update: Over the Gold Cup course and distance here’s an opportunity to benefit from a slightly distorted market. In a Twitter poll on Sunday I voted (with the majority) for Victoria Pendleton not to ride in this, even though she is arguably on the best horse. Just imagine the rush to the first fence! This could end up very unpleasantly for her and/or the horse. Pascha du Polder is probably the best horse but that’s not the point. I know that other amateurs have defied their riding style, never better demonstrated than by the 1982 renewal(!) but this race now features good horses and, more importantly, good amateur riders and none better than Nina Carberry on the proper favourite, On The Fringe, who happens to be J P McManus’ selection of the meeting from his own horses. This used to be a race to avoid for betting purposes but, for the reasons that I’ve set out, this is now one of the best bets of the meeting at an excellent 5/2. How many times have you bet on Nina at the Festival and she’s won. Here’s another one. Will be massively shorter than 5/2 at the off (while everyone’s faffing about VP and P du P). You know what to do, sooner rather than later.
Lucky 15s will follow each morning. Good luck.