It’s been a frustrating couple of days with four 2nds on Tuesday and just two winners on Wednesday. Very much a case, as is so often at Cheltenham, of what might have been! Nonetheless it’s been a decent couple of days’ racing, notwithstanding the absence of two of the main protagonists in the Champion Chase. The first two in the Champion Bumper (Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It) are no doubt destined for great things if they remain sound. My highlight of the week so far was Easysland’s win in the Cross Country.

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday

13:30 Marsh Novices’ Chase

I’m really surprised that Itchy Feet*** (9/2) is such a short priced favourite. I tipped him last time out at 8/1 and I hope that he goes on to win this well. Equally, I hope that Faugheen (5/1) puts in a clear round, regardless of where he finishes. If he wins then that will be the highlight of the week and a genuinely momentous performance at the age of 12.

14:10 Pertemps Final

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The Storyteller* (11/2) won the Plate at the Festival in 2018 on soft to heavy ground and I back him to follow up here. Another favourite but he’s obviously been laid out for this. Of the remainder I might have a little each way on Jatiluwih* at 20/1 for Corinthian amateur (but prolific winner) Mr David Maxwell. The jockey will have to be at his very best in a race like this but the field should have sorted itself out after two circuits in the home straight.

14:50 Ryanair Chase

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Earlier in the season I thought that I would be backing Frodon (5/1) to repeat his victory in this race last year. However, he’s not been quite the same horse this time round. There are many people who just will not see past A Plus Tard but I think that this ideal for Min*** (11/4) who is comfortably the top rated horse in this field (Timeform 185), who ran Chacun Pour Soi close last time out and for whom I think that this 2m 4 1/2f should be ideal at this stage of his career.

15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle

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There is absolutely no reason to look beyond defending champion Paisley Park***** (4/6) who has absolutely dominated this division and may very well be better than last year. One to watch and enjoy.

16:10 Brown Advisory Plate

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I don’t have a strong view about this race so, after deliberation and having decided that the favourite (Simply The Betts – 100/30) is much too short, I’m going to take a plunge and side with Siruh Du Lac* (18/1) notwithstanding that he was pulled up in his only outing this season. He won this race last year and is another who is likely to have been saved for the big day.

16:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

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I think that this is a head to head between the front two in the market and, having been passed on a good word (at least three times removed!) I’ve opted for the favourite Minella Melody** (3/1).

17:30 Kim Muir Amateurs’ Chase

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I really have no idea at all about this one and won’t be having a bet. As a random selection I’ll choose Cloth Cap* (20/1 e/w) as an improver.

Friday

13:30 Triumph Hurdle

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Unlike the last race I have a very firm view about this one and one of my bets of the week is Goshen***** (7/2) who I think is a prodigious talent. Unbeaten over hurdles and on a seven-timer, he can jump right (like Asterion Forlonges!) but has top class in abundance. Likely to follow up on Envoi Allen and Easysland as one of the stars of the week.

14:10 County Hurdle

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Another favourite I’m afraid but I think that Ciel De Neige** (7/1) had the ideal prep in the Betfair Hurdle, coming second to Pic D’orhy, who would have been my choice had he run in the Champion Hurdle. However, it’s notable that of the J P McManus runners, Barry Geraghty is riding another inexperienced but potentially very good Willie Mullins horse, Saint Roi (currently 14/1), so watch out for a market move for that one.

14:50 Albert Bartlett Hurdle

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I thought all season that I would back current favourite Thyme Hill (7/2) whose preparation has been exemplary. However, I can’t resist being drawn to two other contenders, Harry Senior (8/1) and Ramses De Teillee (10/1). I was very taken with Harry Senior’s win on this course over 2m 4f in January. He was staying on to win well and the step up in trip should be ideal. I am concerned about Colin Tizzard’s form so far this week but I’ve been caught out by that in the past so I’m going to overlook it. Ramses De Teillee has an unusual profile for a race like this, having previously run in the Welsh and Aintree Nationals. He was fourth in a Grade 3 chase at Cheltenham last November but is a hardened campaigner who should be in the mix if, as is entirely possible, this turns out to be a bit of a slog. However, on balance, I’m siding with Harry Senior* who I think represents decent value at 8/1.

15:30 Gold Cup

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There are so many different ways to approach this race, so I’ve decided to apply a process of elimination. There are doubts about Colin Tizzard’s horses at the moment and Lostintranslation would have to bounce back from a very disappointing performance in the King George. I’ve never been a fan of Santini or Presenting Percy. I’ve decided that Kemboy isn’t quite good enough. So, at the head of the market, that leaves Al Boum Photo, Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux.

Al Boum Photo (7/2)

The defending champion who could very well follow up. He’s had the same prep, with a nice rest before this race, and deserves to be 7/2 favourite.

Delta Work (9/2)

This admirable horse has a great CV. In his last five outings (in order) he beat Kemboy and Presenting Percy at the Dublin Racing Festival, Monalee in the Savills Chase, was fourth of five in the Down Royal Champion Chase, beat Discorama and A Plus Tard in the Punchestown Champion Novice Chase and was third to Topofthegame in last year’s RSA Chase. On balance I’ve decided that he’s just a tad below the very top level.

Clan Des Obeaux (7/1)

As an 8-y-o, he comes here direct from his easy victory over Cyrname in the King George. I think that the decent break is ideal for him. He was second to Road To Respect in the Down Royal Champion Chase but it’s reasonable to assume that this was nothing more than a pipe opener. People used to criticise Henrietta Knight for limiting Best Mate’s outings but the record speaks for itself. It was widely suggested that he didn’t stay in last year’s Gold Cup (“Looked well; tracked leaders, close 3rd 2 out, soon ridden, no extra from last”) but I think that the extra year will make all the difference.

Well, I’m sure that you’ve worked it out by now. I think that Clan Des Obeaux *** at 7/1 represents excellent value for Paul Nicholls (after having had no runners on day one) to take both of the major chases of the week. I recommend taking the price now because I think that he’ll be much shorter on the day.

16:10 Foxhunters’ Chase

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I think that this is much easier. I’ve watched all of Hazel Hill‘s**** (5/1) races this season, including the point at Sheriff Hutton, and I think that the defeat by Minella Rocco at Wetherby was no more than a blip, when outrun at the death. He won this well last year and followed up with a course and distance victory in the Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters’ Chase two months later. A confident selection.

16:50 Grand Annual Chase

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I have a nasty habit of overlooking the last two races after what has preceded them. However, as I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I had an early selection for this one, current favourite Greaneteen** (5/1), another for Paul Nicholls. It’s odd for a Cheltenham favourite to have been last seen at Fakenham but he comfortably beat a Nicky Henderson/Trevor Hemmings horse, having previously won the generously named Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh. This is by far his stiffest test but Nicholls made clear in his pre-Cheltenham stable visit that he holds him in very high regard and, for what it’s worth, I agree. By the way, he’s unbeaten this season and definitively fits the bill as “progressive”.

17:30 Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Hurdle

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I flagged this one up a few weeks ago and, for once, I do have a keen selection for the Festival closer in the shape of Column Of Fire** (6/1 – initially advised at 9/1). He ran very well when third at the Dublin Racing Festival and, quite simply, fits the bill.

Summary

So, here they are:

Thursday:

  • 13:30 Itchy Feet
  • 14:10 The Storyteller (win) / Jatiluwih (e/w)
  • 14:50 Min
  • 15:30 Paisley Park
  • 16:10 Siruh Du Lac
  • 16:50 Minella Melody
  • 17:30 Cloth Cap

Friday:

  • 13:30 Goshen (nap)
  • 14:10 Ciel De Neige
  • 14:50 Harry Senior
  • 15:30 Clan Des Obeaux
  • 16:10 Hazel Hill
  • 16:50 Greaneteen
  • 17:30 Column Of Fire

Good luck!

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