Martin Malone

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Month: February 2017

Post-weekend update

So, another eventful (and unprofitable) weekend and time for a quick check on the betting (as much for my benefit as any readers who happen upon this post).

Betting movements are from initial preview (three prices are 7 February to last week and today 27 February / two prices are last week and today).

Tuesday

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Charli Parcs (6/1 -> 7/1 ->16/1)

He ran a shocker before falling when beaten, with the result that Barry Geraghty is out of Cheltenham (may return for Aintree/Punchestown). It’s remarkable to have seen him gingerly getting to his feet when he’d broken six ribs and suffered a “slightly collapsed” lung. The horse appears none the worse, other than the puncturing of his reputation. I’ve not yet given up on him.

One to watch: Bacardys (33/1 -> 14/1)

…appears to be going elsewhere (see below).

Arkle

Choice: Altior (1/2 -> 1/3-1/4 ->1/3)

Will win.

Ultima Handicap Chase

This race is full of horses I want to oppose. Champers On Ice 14/1 favourite and Holywell 16/1. Wow!

Champion Hurdle

Choice: Petit Mouchoir (9/2 -> 4/1 ->11/2)

No reason to move away from the selection, notwithstanding the addition of Tombstone (14/1) and (possibly) Limini (13/2)

Mares Hurdle

Initial Choice: Apples Jade (2/1 -> 11/4 -> 5/2)

This is one to beware of because of possible entries elsewhere. I’m sticking with Apples Jade for the moment.

One to watch: Lets Dance (11/1 -> 8/1 -> 16/1)

I’m very happy with the drift on this one.

National Hunt Chase

Too early.

Close Brothers Novices Chase

As above.

Wednesday

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Finians Oscar (9/2 -> unchanged ->5/1)

Still my choice but Bacardys (8/1) is now featuring in this one and I might change my mind. Neon Wolf also needs to be considered.

Coral Cup

Just putting this in as a reminder for a later post.

RSA Chase

Choice: Might Bite (6/1 -> 7/2 ->100/30)

Still fine with the selection.

One to watch: Royal Vacation (20/1 -> 16/1 -> unchanged)

Might bite (sorry!) on this one before the impending rash of Cheltenham previews.

Champion Chase

Choice: Douvan (4/11 -> 1/3 -> unchanged)

Can’t see an opponent who is likely to turn up let alone challenge.

Cross Country

Choice: Auvergnat (12/1 -> unchanged ->)

No changes here.

Fred Winter

Coeur de Lion (one to watch in the Triumph at 33/1) is apparently being routed here (16/1). If confirmed, he’s the selection.

Champion Bumper

I’m unlikely to have a choice in this one until the day. As in previous years, I might well go for a big mover on the day (if it materialises).

Thursday

JLT Novices’ Chase

Choice: Politologue (9/1 -> 8/1 -> unchanged)

Still opposed to the front three (Yorkhill, Top Notch and Disko).

One to watch: Frodon (25/1 -> 16/1 -> 20/1)…remains of interest to me.

The signs are that he might go to Aintree but no harm in a NRNB.

Pertemps

Barring any big news in the meantime I’ll have a bet on the day.

Ryanair Chase

Choice: Un de Sceaux (5/2 -> 4/1)

Could be the value of the week.

One to watch: Uxizandre (7/1). Last week: “I’m still happy with this one as a place selection. Get on now because this race will cut up severely”.

No reason to change from the selections and advice to get on.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Choice: Unowhatimeanharry (13/8 ->11/8 -> unchanged)

One to watch: Footpad (33/1 -> unchanged -> unchanged)

Similarly, like the betting, unchanged.

Brown Advisory Plate

Too early. I think that we might see one suddenly emerge in this one. There are still lots of interesting entries.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

This is a pain in the arse race because it messes up other options. If Let’s Dance (3/1) turns up here, she is the selection.

Kim Muir

Another one to wait for and another with the top of the market full of horses I don’t fancy.

Friday

Triumph Hurdle

Choice: Defi du Seuil (3/1 -> 9/4) is the justified favourite.

Remarkably Charli Parcs has shortened today to 12/1 (albeit after a drift) but maybe I am not alone in my view that we should not give up hope. I still think that he’s more likely for the Supreme.

One to watch: Coeur de Lion (33/1 -> unchanged -> unchanged) …remains of interest for a place.

Foxhunters’ Chase

Choice: On The Fringe (6/4 -> unchanged)

Mon Parrain won well at the weekend but not my idea of a winner.

County Hurdle

Too early but interested in Ivanovich Gorbatov at 20/1.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

No clear choice at this stage but interested in Augusta Kate at 10/1.

Gold Cup

Choice: Cue Card (7/2 -> 3/1)

Is Thistlecrack fit? NO. What a lot of garbage on the exchanges over the last 24 hours. Skybet and Boylesports are offering 3/1 notwithstanding that, at 8.46 p.m. on Monday evening, Colin Tizzard says that the horse is “still out”. OK, there is apparently no heat in the leg, an update is due tomorrow, he’s made a late transition to chasing and this might be his only chance (ref. Coneygree) but this makes no sense. Conceivably, if the injury is not as bad as first thought, he might be fit for Aintree and/or Punchestown but the Gold Cup, no.

I’m sticking with Cue Card and agree with the market move. As I’ve said, Native River has had an excellent prep but Cue Card is proven at this level and would be a defending champion were it not for that most unfortunate fall.

I’m still hanging on to the hope of Bristol de Mai (25/1) running into a place.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

Still too early but Battleford (10/1) is one to watch for this one.

Grand Annual

We’ll be “exhausted” by the time we get to this one and I think I’ll wait for a while before taking a view.

Yet again, good luck!

 

Weekend racing

I’m taking a slightly different approach for Saturday with only a few decent races and some very short prices to contend with.

Newcastle’s Eider Chase was first run in 1952 and is one of the most prestigious long distance (4m 1f) races in the calendar. However, it has had more than its fair share of abandonments and some frankly unedifying finishes with obviously knackered horses plodding over the line. Thursday’s deluge has led to the latest going report being heavy, soft in places, with a going stick reading of (a very deep) 3.8. The average for heavy ground is 5.2 and the lower the number, the heavier the ground so it’s pretty clear what we’re in for. For that reason I am discounting the card for betting purposes.

That leaves the Kempton Park TV races, plus a couple of decent events at Fairyhouse. Regular readers will know that, from my point of view, the 1.50 Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle (2m) and 2.25 Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase (2m 4f 110yds) self-select in the shape of Charli Parcs (8/15) and Frodon (4/7).

Here is Nicky Henderson on Charli Parcs:

Matt Chapman (@MCYeeehaaa), rather like Yanworth and Yorkhill in my latest Cheltenham preview, divides opinion in the racing community. However, what can’t be denied is his form with selections in his Sun column and here is what he has to say about Frodon:

The 2.25pm at Kempton is the Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase, which is just over two and a half miles. On ratings this is a two horse race between FRODON and Charmix, with Gold Present needing to bounce back to his best. Frodon should win for Sam Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls.

He is also “Templegate’s” selection:

PAUL NICHOLLS should continue his domination of the Pendil Chase.

The champion trainer has won this novices’ contest an incredible eight times in the last 11 years.

His FRODON has plenty of experience for a five-year-old. He rattled up a hat-trick of chase wins in the autumn and he went on to land the valuable Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.

There’s no doubt he got the run of the race out in front when scoring at Musselburgh but that should have set him up nicely for today.

Charmix is the big threat. He was a bit unlucky when unseating at Exeter last time and I’m expecting Frodon to allow him to lead. But he goes very well on testing ground and today’s surface might not suit him as well.

Gold Present looked good on his chase debut. If he can put a wretched Boxing Day effort over course and distance behind him he would have to have a chance.

So the challenge is now to introduce some variables with a view to getting a decent accumulator. Trebles and a Lucky 15 look like the best options to me so our next stop is…

Kempton

3.00 Dovecote Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m

Previously won by Winter Escape (2016), Irving (2014) and Grumeti (2012), this is not a generally good pointer for Cheltenham. However, this is a good renewal and offers workable prices for today’s exercise. I was unimpressed by Peter the Mayo Man last time out. While I’m a fan of Ludlow and looking forward to a day out there on 23 March, I don’t see two wins there for River Wylde as a plan for a championship horse. I think that Capitaine is vulnerable and I was very taken by Elgin, who was a very impressive winner on Boxing Day. I accept that, with the flop of Jenkins, there is a question about what he beat but he did it in a very taking style. The currently available 4/1 puts a bit of juice into the acca.

3.35 Betbright Chase (Grade 3) 3m

I have to declare an irrational like for one in this race in the shape of Irish Saint (11/2), behind current favourite Double Shuffle (5/1). This son of Saint des Saints by a mare from Mansonnien got tired in Ascot’s Silver Cup on the same ground as today after a long break and this race looks like perfect placement. We need to make a call to add value to the combination bet and this one makes sense.

It’s interesting that Tom Segal (Pricewise) has avoided Kempton save for Aso at 16/1 which, admittedly, is a good price but not my idea of the winner.

OR…

Should we look across the water and take a look at Fairyhouse’s feature races. Incidentally, the reason why I don’t go for the subsidiary and lower class races elsewhere is that it’s too easy for people to place decent runners in them with no clue based on the form. There’s nothing wrong with that, in my opinion, but it makes no sense to plump for them from our betting perspective.

Fairyhouse

1.45 Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m

Landofhopeandglory lost nothing in his first defeat to Bapaume on St Stephen’s Day at Leopardstown, on the back of three wins. He’s now 9/4 behind Dinaria des Obeax (10/11) who Gordon Elliott sees as a potential Triumph horse. I don’t, but does that mean that we can choose the selection for the multiples?

3.30 Bobbyjo Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f

So here is the current betting: Pleasant Company (Mullins/Walsh) 9/4, Baie des Isles (O’Sullivan/Katie Walsh) 5/2, Wounded Warrior (Noel Meade/B Cooper) 11/2. Other runners include Thunder And Roses (Mouse Morris./Davy Russell), and Lord Windermere (J Culloty/ Paul Townend). I have no idea which one will win this race, save that it won’t be Lord Windermere! One to avoid.

Sunday racing

3.00 Fontwell National Spirit Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m

I have to mention this race because it’s attracted the best field for years and has a Cheltenham dimension in the shape of Third Intention (for the Coral Cup). This race is full of horses that have been touted for greatness, namely Adrien Du Pont, Different Gravey, L’Ami Serge, Camping Ground, Le Rocher and Lil Rockerfeller, the latter to win by the way.

Selections

So, I’ve faffed about with the various races and what is recommended?

Selections:

Double:

Charli Parcs and Frodon

Trebles:

Charli Parcs, Frodon, Elgin

Charli Parcs, Frodon, Irish Saint

Charli Parcs, Frodon, Aso

I’m placing bets now so Elgin, Frodon and Charli Parcs is £98.78 to a £10 stake.

I’ve bet on Charli Parcs, Frodon and Irish Saint for £110 to £10.

The Lucky 15

The bet is 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and 1 fourfold accumulator and the selections are:

Charli Parcs

Frodon

Elgin

Landofhopeandglory

Stake £2 x 15 = £30 for a potential £279.02

As ever, good luck!

 

 

 

Cheltenham update

Well, a lot has happened since I posted my initial selections on 7 February so it’s high time for an update.

Tuesday

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Charli Parcs (6/1 -> 7/1)

There are stories circulating about the wellbeing of this one and he’s been pulled from a couple of targets. He’s entered in the Adonis at Kempton on Saturday and I hope he runs. He doesn’t look like he’s got a lot to beat. A decent win will see him shortened to favourite in my opinion.

One to watch: Bacardys (33/1 -> 14/1)

A very pleasing win in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown was just what was called for. He battled well and reinforced the view that he is a good call for an each way bet. It’s pleasing to see that he remains entered after today’s latest entries update. Favourite Saturnas bombed out in the Deloitte and has to be disregarded (now 33/1). Current favourite Melon has run once this season in a maiden hurdle and is surely underpriced at 3/1. Ballyandy was an impressive winner of Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle and is respected at 6/1.

Arkle

Choice: Altior (1/2 -> 1/3-1/4)

Altior was an incredibly impressive winner of the Game Spirit at Newbury and is now (with the defection of Thistlecrack) one of the two stars of the week (Douvan is the other). Identity Thief is out of the equation and I genuinely can’t see any contenders beating Altior other than himself (which seems very unlikely).

Champion Hurdle

Choice: Petit Mouchoir (9/2 -> 4/1)
My selection has no entries at the moment other than the big one and retains my support. The redirected Yanworth (4/1) continues to divide opinion, no more so than in his last outing in Wincanton’s Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle last Saturday. Some say that he continually does just enough to win but I really can’t have him as a Champion hurdler. Apple’s Jade has drifted to 14/1 after today’s defeat by Limini (not entered – see below) and this isn’t the target. So that leaves another redirected candidate, Buveur d’Air (11/4), and Brain Power (8/1). The former is a very decent horse and should be good for a place. As for the latter, Nicky Henderson says:

I think Brain Power has done everything right and looks really well, he’s been great, the one thing you could say is there is a ground situation here.

The ground situation he refers to is that he needs good ground. If it’s on the soft side I’ll remain keen about Footpad (20/1)

Jezki (14/1) remains entered but the defeat by Tombstone on Saturday (admittedly on heavy ground) was disappointing.

Mares Hurdle

Initial Choice: Apples Jade (2/1 -> 11/4)

Today’s defeat by Limini (7/4 jf) was disappointing but, again, the ground was heavy, so it should be treated with caution. I’m nonetheless now inclining towards today’s winner but Vroum Vroum Mag (7/4 jf) remains a serious contender.

One to watch: Lets Dance (11/1 -> 8/1)

I’m sticking with this one and another to note is Rons Dream (20/1), a hardy campaigner, who ran an excellent prep in the listed Warwick Mares’ Hurdle.

Wednesday

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Finians Oscar (9/2 unchanged)

We still have 80 entries for this one but Finians Oscar impressed against albeit limited opposition in a listed race at Exeter on 12 February.

Neon Wolf (shortened to 5/1) remains the most likely best of the rest.

RSA Chase

Choice: Might Bite (6/1 -> 7/2)

Might Bite has nearly halved in price and it’s now 10/1 bar. The win at 1/7 at Doncaster in a field of three told us no more than he’s well and I’ll be looking for better odds elsewhere on the day

One to watch: Royal Vacation (20/1 -> 16/1)

This one is as short as 12/1 in places and, albeit unexpectedly, has had an excellent prep.

Champion Chase

Choice: Douvan (4/11 -> 1/3)

Douvan has been as impressive as could be in his 2016/2017 campaign and is vying with Altior as the likely star of the week. Unopposable.

Cross Country

Choice: Auvergnat (12/1 unchanged)

Urgent de Gregaine (8/1) has entered the picture after his impressive win in the Glenfarclas but Auvergnat’s win in the PP Hogan Memorial is good enough for me to think of him as the likely winner. Current favourite Cantlow (5/2) is very short and, in my view, unreliable.

Thursday

JLT Novices’ Chase

Choice: Politologue (9/1 -> 8/1)

Like Might Bite, Politologue’s outing in a two runner race at Kempton did nothing other than confirm that he’s in good order. I remain very interested in this one.

Disko (5/1) did his chances no harm in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on 12 February. Yorkhill (6/4) remains the favourite but, like Yanworth, he’s another one I can’t take to. He won last time out in a Grade 3:

Raced in 3rd, a little keen and improved to lead from 4th, not fluent next and inclined to jump slightly left after, still travelling smoothly straight, pushed out and stayed on well run-in

…and that’s not my idea of the winner.

One to watch: Frodon (25/1 -> 16/1)…remains of interest to me.

Ryanair Chase

Derided when it was first introduced in 2005, this is now firmly embedded as one of my favourite races of the week.

Initial Choice: Cue Card is out of this so there goes my strategic bet. Of course the absence of Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup makes him a leading candidate for the blue riband.

Un de Sceaux must now be the one to beat at an appealing 5/2.

One to watch: Uxizandre (7/1). I’m still happy with this one as a place selection. Get on now because this race will cut up severely

Stayers’ Hurdle

Choice: Unowhatimeanharry (13/8 ->11/8)

There’s no reason to depart from this one. Another for the “accas”.

One to watch: Footpad (33/1 unchanged)

I mentioned about the ground in my initial selections. If it’s good ground I think that this one will be diverted here so the price remains interesting.

Jezki is 5/1 after last weekend’s defeat but I’m now sceptical about whether he’s retained his form.

Cole Harden (9/1) made a super return in the Cleeve Hurdle and is interesting for a place.

Friday

Triumph Hurdle

Initial Choice: Meri Devie

This one was downright disappointing in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown and is now discounted (as was and is Housesofparliament in the same race).

Charli Parcs (8/1) may yet turn up here in which case he is the selection. However Defi du Seuil (3/1) is the justified favourite

One to watch: Coeur de Lion (33/1 unchanged) …remains of interest for a place.

Foxhunters’ Chase

Choice: On The Fringe (6/4)

Introduced following the last selections (the handicaps will follow), this looks like a head to head between On the Fringe (6/4) and Wonderful Charm (5/1), to be ridden by Katie Walsh, with Ask The Weatherman (11/2) also to the fore of the betting. As I commented after last weekend’s race On The Fringe has had his best prep for several years, thereby dispelling any notion that his 12 years have caught up with him. The general view was that Jamie didn’t push him (I’ve just watched it and he was hands and heels while Katie on Foxrock was flat out). I think that he’ll be odds on on the day so another one to get on early. I’ve watched the replay of Ask The Weatherman at Wincanton on 2 February, beating Rebel Rebellion, and the price is definitely an overreaction. Not in the same league.

Gold Cup

Initial Choice: Thistlecrack …is out for the season. What a desperate shame.

The complexion of this race has changed dramatically. Someone on Twitter reminded us what an achievement it was for Henrietta to get Best Mate back for it time after time and it’s a good point, notwithstanding that I was critical at the time about saving horses.

So, what do we make of what remains? Native River (3/1) has won on soft over 2m 7f and 3m 5f, as well as a Hennessy (the last under that name) on good to soft. It’s really hard to argue against the prep. Cue Card (7/2) was mightily impressive in last weekend’s Ascot Chase but what did he beat? Djakadam (11/2) was beaten by Outlander (10/1) and Don Poli (20/1) on yielding ground in the Lexus. I’ve just rewatched that race and Outlander was a comfortable winner.

I think that Cue Card will win and I’m keeping the faith with Bristol De Mai (14/1 -> 25/1) for a place. The last outing behind Native River in the Denman Chase at Newbury on 11 February was too bad to be true and we now know that there was a valid excuse. Here’s Anthony Bromley’s informative assessment:

The day after he ran Nigel reported he was very lame. He gave his near-fore joint a whack and it took him a few days to get over it, but he was cantering again at the weekend.

He also got a cut on the same joint and Daryl (Jacob) said that very early on he knew he wasn’t travelling and he didn’t feel like the same horse.

I think there was a combination of factors, Haydock probably took more out of him than we thought and he may have hurt himself jumping the first as he landed very steeply.

We don’t think it was his true running, he didn’t jump like he can so we think he has a valid excuse.

We’re under no illusions, he’ll be going to the Gold Cup as an outsider but it looks like being a big field and where else can you go with a horse with his rating?

Nigel thinks he can get him back to where he was at Haydock and we’ll roll the dice.

I’m keeping the faith.

Cheltenham Previews

Some of them (Ascot) have already taken place but the one that stands out for me is the Betfair preview night at the Emirates Stadium on 1 March. It’s accessible live at betting.betfair.com and the panel is Gordon Elliott, Paul Nicholls, Kevin Blake, Dave Yates and Gary O’Brien. I will be settling down in my study with a decent bottle of red wine, a pack of Dunhill International and very much looking forward to that.

As always, good luck!

 

Weekend thoughts

Well I think that I need to take stock after last weekend’s events. My little home office has been improved immensely by a push and spin ashtray (reminiscent of my grandfather) while I’m pottering around the racing news! Family will no doubt remember the floor based spin ashtray in the lounge in Belgrave Street! Les introduced me to racing.

Some of my Cheltenham picks have definitively reinforced their claims and others have bombed out. Might Bite and Politilogue did what was was expected of them and Cue Card has been scratched from the Ryanair (bad move). Bristol De Mai ran a race that was too bad to be true and I’ve not given up on him. Altior was spectacular but any value has gone. Jezki is now all the rage for the Stayers’ Hurdle and that makes complete sense.

Sunday at Leopardstown was even more interesting. Mega Fortune was very impressive and Bapaume and Meri Devie are not going to win at Cheltenham. Bacardys was a thrilling winner and the advised 33/1 is still an attractive 16/1 for the Supreme. Disko was very impressive the 2m 5f novices’ chase and Our Duke is one to note. Bellshill bombed out in the style of a horse that you cannot follow next time.

What to make of the Irish Gold Cup? It’s a Grade 1 but, let’s say it, it’s not really the Irish equivalent of the Cheltenham highlight. So, Sizing John beat Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the race was that More Of That ran so well. I think that the winner has won his first race at the correct distance for him but I don’t think that this is relevant for the March highlight. The winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup was not in this race.

Foxrock won the Hunters’ Chase well but I agree with the word from the Walsh’s that the best target for him is Aintree. This was the best prep that On The Fringe has had for years and I’m very keen on him for Cheltenham. He’s obviously up to his best. Notable that the Racing Post summary reported a “hands and heels run-in, kept on well”.

So, on to today (or tomorrow if you’re very keen!). I’m being picky because, as I pointed out last weekend, most of the Cheltenham candidates have now had their outings.

Ascot

1.15 2m 3f Novices’ Hurdle Celebrated

I’ve already made clear my like for Topofthegame****, a huge horse and a confident choice at 3/1, notwithstanding an unbeaten opponent, De Dollar Man (8/1). We all know that this one is a chaser in the making but he should have the measure of these, including the Nicky Henderson favourite. Well there’s a big call to shape the day!

1.50 2m 7f Novices’ Chase

I’m a big fan of Arpege D’Alene*** and recent form makes the current 2/1 very attractive. Time for Paul Nicholls to emerge from his January slumber and start with his Saturday winners.

3.35 2m 5f Ascot Chase (Grade 1)

This is the right distance for Cue Card*****, who will win this with loads in hand at a current 1/2. Someone who tends to do a lot better than me thinks that Taquin du Seuil will do better at the shorter distance and I can’t disagree with that so the 13/2 looks good. As I pointed out above I’m unhappy that Cue Card has been been scratched from the Ryanair.

Gowran

Ballycasey*** should win the Red Mills Chase (Grade 2) and Jezki**** should win the (Grade 3) Red Mills Hurdle. Both make sense for multiples.

Haydock

Without trying to be too local, I’m always interested in Haydock jumps meetings, notwithstanding the destruction of the chase course, not least because runners in the decent races tend to do well. There’s a reason why Nicholls and Henderson run their horses there and I think it’s because it’s a level track similar to Newbury, but the downside is that Newbury and Haydock runners won’t translate to Cheltenham winners. However, they are often serious candidates for Aintree. So, on to Saturdays’ races.

1.30 Victor Ludorum 2m

The name suggests that this should be a proper test. The reality is that it isn’t. Most Celebrated is the favourite but this is one to avoid for me.

2.05 Rendlesham Hurdle 2m 6 1/2f  (Grade 2)

I think that Agrapart** (2/1 jf) should win this one. Aux Petit Soins is a good opponent but you have to make a choice!

After Call To Order qualifies for the Pertemps we can then move on to what is called and this time deserves to be the Grand National Trial:

3.15 Grand National Trial 3m 4f and a bit (Grade 3)

Called a trial, this is a £75,000 race worth winning win its own right.

Although a great race in its own right, I suspect that it will deliver the winner of the big race in the shape of Blaklion (9/2) or Vieux Lion Rouge (7/1). Neither needs to win tomorrow/today but if they run well they should be considered for the big one. I think that you can discount the Irish contingent.

As always, good luck!

 

Early Cheltenham selections

As usual, here are my thoughts about the championship and other leading races a little over a month before the Festival. If you are betting at this stage make sure that you go for Non Runner No Bet (NRNB) and, if also available, Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG). Most are either/or but bet365.com are currently offering both for all 28 Festival races. Having said that, beware the prices and always check.

This year I’ve added video links for those that are available. Previously, most links were to unlawful downloads but common sense has prevailed and most of the links are to mainstream broadcasters.

This has not been a good season for WP Mullins and the Riccis. Their dominance last season has been diluted by the demise of Vautour and the Cheltenham absences of Annie Power, Faugheen and Min. However the undoubted star, Douvan, demonstrated last weekend that he has lost nothing for the new season and is my idea of the star of the week. While I tend to avoid odds-on the current 4/11 looks a good way of making money quickly.

Super Saturday at Newbury will be informative for some of these this weekend but now is the time to get on before (relevant horses: Bristol De Mai, Native River, Fox Norton, Altior), as will Sunday at Leopardstown (relevant horses: Bapaume, Housesofparliament, Meri Devie, Bacardys, Blood Crazed Tiger, Invitation Only, Riven Light, Saturnas, A Toi Phil, Bellshill, Bleu Et Rouge, Nambour, Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt, Sizing John, Foxrock, On The Fringe). By the way if the decs match the entries Sunday is going to be one hell of a day’s racing. I will be glued to ATR (Sky 415/Virgin 535).

A word of warning: I have a funny feeling that the weather may play a part this year. It’s been a strange winter and we might just end up with soft ground. Habitués of the Festival will remember that it wasn’t that long ago (2013) when temperatures plummeted to -11C the week before and in 1987 races were run with snow on the track (The Thinker’s Gold Cup).

I’ve added YouTube videos where available (click on the names of the horses). This video ( a tribute to Cue Card) deserves a particular mention. Watch this one as well from Equidia: “RRRubbyy Waaalsh”!!

Tuesday

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Charli Parcs (6/1)

One to watch: Bacardys (33/1 e/w with a run)

Arkle

Choice: Altior (1/2)

No others

Champion Hurdle

Choice: Petit Mouchoir (9/2)

One to watch: Jezki (12/1 e/w with a run)

Mares Hurdle

Choice: Apples Jade (2/1)

One to watch: Lets Dance (11/1 e/w with a run)

Wednesday

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Finians Oscar (9/2)

One to watch: Lough Derg Spirit (20/1 e/w with a run). The excellent pundit Paul Ferguson has pointed out to me that this one is not entered. Thanks Paul. By the way I recommend his online updates. Detailed, informed, impressive, and very good value.

RSA Chase

Choice: Might Bite (6/1)

One to watch: Royal Vacation (20/1 e/w)

Champion Chase

Choice: Douvan (4/11)

No others

Cross Country

Choice: Auvergnat (12/1) (The video is not of the horse but – just for Gerry – Georges Brassens singing Chanson Pour L’Auvergnat!)

One to watch: Third Intention (25/1 e/w)

Thursday

JLT Novices’ Chase

Get on now because this one will cut up (Min (non-runner) still quoted at 16/1).

Choice: Politilogue (9/1). I’ve been let down with this one but I see him in the mould of Silviniaco Conti. Worth sticking with.

One to watch: Frodon (25/1 e/w)

Ryanair Chase

Derided when it was first introduced in 2005, this is potentially the race of the week. An intriguing middle distance challenge which is likely to attract a top field.

Choice: Cue Card (7/2) I think that this is a great price on the basis that he didn’t run his race in the King George and will relish this distance with a dominant run. This is another race that is likely to cut up so now is the time to get on.

One to watch: Uxizandre (7/1). A really taking return last weekend and knows how to win at the Festival. The video is well worth watching as a good reminder.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Choice: Unowhatimeanharry (13/8) had the perfect prep in the Cleeve Hurdle and is many people’s idea (me included) of a pretty safe choice.

One to watch: Footpad (33/1 e/w) has good form at Auteuil which provides a good test for a potential stayer.

Friday

Triumph Hurdle

Choice: Meri Devie (9/1) is a surprisingly big price given her impressive win at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

One to watch: Coeur de Lion (33/1 e/w) battled well at Sandown last weekend on heavy ground and showed real willingness.

Gold Cup

Choice: Thistlecrack (7/4) would be much shorter were it not for the defeat by the valiant (to the end) Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase. That was arguably his best run yet and the potential challengers have fallen away. I think that he will be a good deal shorter at the off. I’m not worried about him staying (the ground did for him last time out). The video is well worth watching as a reminder.

One to watch: I think that Thistlecrack will win so I’ll select Bristol De Mai (14/1, place only). I’m really keen on this one. This is worth watching as well.

And I’ll leave you to make of this what you will! It’s another way of tipping!

Summary

So these are the ones that I’m settled on:

Tuesday: Charli Parcs and Altior

Wednesday: Douvan

Thursday: Politilogue, Cue Card and Unowhatimeanharry

Friday: Meri Devie and Thistlecrack

My views about the other races will follow.

Good luck!

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