Cheltenham Festival 2018
Hi all! Thanks for following the blog and apologies in advance for the length of the preview that will appear here over the next few days, but for me this is the greatest week in racing and as such deserves the time and effort put in to hopefully find us all some winners. For every race there will be a breakdown of horses which I think have something to offer or are worth a mention for the race, followed by a conclusion which will explain why I am going for the selection chosen.
In terms of Profit & Loss, I will allocate either 1pt win or 0.5pts each way to each horse selected however this is only to keep a record for the festival and will be kept completely separate from the normal blog P&L – only horses added to the main selections will be counted for blog P&L purposes.
Hopefully you will find some of the stats and insights useful and together we will all have a fantastic festival – if you like what you read please retweet via twitter. Although the blog is and will always remain free… if you have a few winners thanks to the previews please feel free to buy me a beer sometime 🙂
Supreme Novices Hurdle
- Willie Mullins won the race in 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2007
- Ruby Walsh rode the winner in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011 & 2006
- 18 of the last 21 winners won their final preparation race before Cheltenham
- 10 of the last 13 favourites that started at 2/1 or less lost this race
- Nicky Henderson has had 12 runners finish in the first 4 over the last 10 years
- Look for the following:
- Horses with 3 or more runs over hurdles
- Front runners/prominent runners
- Horses that contested last years’ Champion Bumper
- Horses that have run within 45 days of the Supreme
Willie Mullins runner Getabird is unbeaten in three over the trip and is two from two over hurdles having beat subsequent winner Impact Factor by seven lengths on hurdles debut then beating Grade 1 winner Mengli Khan by 9 lengths at Punchestown in January on last run. Given the trainers record in this race it’s no surprise to see one of his runners at the head of the market and it is difficult to get away from Getabird as the likely winner of the Festival opener.
Kalashnikov looks likely to go off as second favourite and has won three from four over hurdles, all over a two-mile trip. He was second to Summerville Boy on penultimate run but that came in very heavy ground and he returned to winning ways when last seen in February, winning a decent looking Grade 3 by almost five lengths.
Others to consider include the afore-mentioned Mengli Khan who has won three from seven over hurdles although was no match for the favourite last time out so may be looking at minor honours at best here, while last years’ Cheltenham Bumper third Claimantakingforgan has a 50% winning strike rate over the trip and is two from three over hurdles, finishing third in his final run before the festival, so is another who has place claims.
That said, my main play is Paloma Blue who has made a positive start to hurdling, finishing a solid third behind Next Destination on hurdle debut before another excellent placed effort when second by just a head next time out. His third run produced a victory over Impact Factor who has since beat the likes of Gun Digger and Kesselring and he followed that up with an excellent third behind Samcro in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle last time out, finishing ahead of some big names like Debuchet, Sharjah and Le Richebourg. A prominent racer who is yet to finish outside the first three in six career runs, he may not win but has done enough to suggest that he can cut it at this level and looks a decent each-way option at odds of around 16/1.
I have personally had a play on Getabird in a couple of multiple bets as I feel he is the most likely winner of this race, however both Kalashnikov and Paloma Blue have shown in recent outings that they have the potential to get involved and maybe cause an upset. I wouldn’t try to dissuade anyone from having a bet on Getabird for win purposes but a tthe time of writing Kalashnikov is still just about available at each way odds and Paloma Blue can be backed at around 14/1 with a couple of bookies. Add to this the offers available by some bookies (money back as a free bet if the SP favourite wins – PP, money back as a free bet if you lose – Sky) and I think there is more value in looking for an each way alternative to the favourite, with Paloma Blue being my choice in the opener.
Paloma Blue 14/1 (BV, Betfred, WH) – 0.5pts E/W – Finished 4th -1pt
Arkle Novices Chase
- Nicky Henderson won the race in 2017, 2013 & 2012
- Willie Mullins won the race in 2016 & 2015
- 9 of the last 15 winners had previously won at Cheltenham
- 9 of the last 10 Irish winners previously contested the Irish Arkle at Leopardsown (won by Footpad)
- 16 of the last 17 winners were rated 142+ over hurdles
- 24 of the last 27 winners have won at an SP of 11/1 or less
- 5 of the last 6 winners were odds on favourites
Footpad is the perfect three from three since trying his hand at chasing, with two of these victories coming at Grade 1 level and all three coming over seventeen furlongs. He is yet to win at Cheltenham but that’s not to say he has a poor record here, having finished third in the Triumph Hurdle in 2016 and fourth in the 2-17 Champion Hurdle. Rated at 157 over hurdles, he fits many of the key trends for the race and looks a worthy favourite.
Brain Power leads the charge for Nicky Henderson but has failed to complete in his last two runs and has been unsuccessful twice at Cheltenham previously so arrives with a bit of a point to prove, although isn’t entirely ruled out if everything clicks on the day.
Petit Mouchoir won on chase debut and although was five lengths behind footpad last time out he should have benefitted for the run and could get closer this time round. Rated 162 over hurdles he finished 3rd in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, one position ahead of Footpad.
The selection in this race is Saint Calvados who doesn’t fit many of the trends of previous winners of the race but has been hugely impressive since joining Harry Whittington, winning three from three including when beating Diego Du Charmil by 22 lengths in a Grade 2 at Warwick last month, with North Hill Harvey even further behind. Seemingly comfortable on either soft or heavy ground, he also won over 18 furlongs in France so looks to have both the speed and the stamina to really assert in a race such as this.
As with the first race of the day, I have added the favourite in to a couple of ante-post multiples but the more I look at the race the more I am swayed by Saint Calvados. He may be the third favourite (at the time of writing) but in my opinion has been so impressive in his three runs this season he deserves to take his chance and I think could bring down a number of Willie Mullins day 1 accumulators. Footpad won’t be far away and Petit Mouchoir is also entitled to build on a decent run last time out.
Saint Calvados 4/1 (PP) – 1pt WIN – Lost -1pt
Ultima Handicap Chase
- 14 of the last 18 winners were rated 143 or below, but the last 4 winners have won off 145, 146, 148 & 155
- Look out for the following:
- Novices have a good recent record in the race
- No winner rated 150+ in over 30 years, until Un Temps Pour Tout won off 155 last year
- P Nicholls has never won this race
- Favourites don’t have a great record but the winner usually comes from the first four in the betting
- Last time out winners
- Won or placed at a previous Cheltenham Festival
As with many of the Festival handicaps there are highly fancied runners that sometimes fail to justify the market support, and others that slip under the radar but have been specifically trained with a Festival handicap race in mind. The first three in the market, Gold Present, Singlefarmpayment and Coo Star Sivola are all available at around 6/1 and all have been heavily supported prior to the final race declarations.
Gold Present (rated 155) was second in last year’s Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase and arrives here in good form having won both his races this season, both on good-to-soft ground, with one coming over three miles and one over slightly shorter. He is again partnered with Nico De Boinville who was in the saddle for both victories but I feel could be vulnerable with more rain forecast.
Singlefarmpayment (rated 145) was second in this race last year, losing out by a short head to Un Temps Pour Tout who also won this race in 2016. He has two victories and two placed efforts from six runs at Cheltenham and has won in testing conditions when racing over hurdles, although needs to bounce back following a disappointing effort when pulled up last time out.
Coo Star Sivola (rated 142) stepped up to three miles last time out and put in an improved display, winning in convincing fashion by fourteen lengths in soft ground. Fourth in last years’ Martin Pipe and with a victory here over hurdles he is an interesting runner and could put in a big performance.
A couple that catch the eye from further down the market are Beware The Bear, Ramses De Teillee and Cogry.
Beware The Bear (rated 150) has three victories over three miles, with one coming on soft and the other two coming on good-to-soft ground. He was pulled up last time out but has winning form on heavy ground when racing over hurdles so should cope with conditions and the trip and is an interesting runner.
David Pipe has won this race three times in the last ten years and looks to have a great chance of another victory with Ramses De Teillee (rated 145). The six year old has raced four times over fences, winning twice and finishing second twice, with both victories coming in heavy ground over three miles. With more rain forecast prior to Tuesday the conditions look perfect for a big run and could give the stable another winner in this race.
Cogry (rated 138) has put in some indifferent runs this season but is a course and distance winner and has plenty of soft and heavy ground form going back a couple of years. He comes with risks attached having failed to finish in two from five this season but if arriving on a good day he could still play a part in the finish.
I was impressed with Coo Star Sivola last time out but his previous runs in really testing conditions aren’t entirely convincing so I wouldn’t want to take a chance at the odds. Given the forecast conditions and the fact the Pipe yard have a good record in this race, I am happy to take an each way chance on Ramses De Teillee at odds of 14/1 and four places available.
Ramses De Teillee 14/1 (B365 – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
- 22 of the last 33 winners finished in the first 4 at the previous years’ festival
- Nicky Henderson won the race in 2017, 2010 & 2009
- Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh won the race in 2016, 2015, 2013 & 2011 (all favourites)
- 0/24 – number of winners that finished outside the top 4 in last year’s running of the Champion Hurdle
- Only 1 winner from the last 100 5-year-olds to run in this race
- Look for the following:
- Runners that contested last years’ Supreme
- Aged under 10
Buveur D’air finished behind Altior and Min when third in the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle but this is the only time in twelve runs over jumps that he hasn’t visited the winners’ enclosure. An impressive winner of this race last year, he returns to emulate the likes of Hardy Eustace and Istabraq in winning back-to-back Champion Hurdles and he looks to have a fantastic chance of doing so.
2015 winner Faugheen looks to try and get back to winning ways and if rediscovering some of his old form would definitely give the favourite a race, although at the age of ten and following his last two runs it is difficult to say which Faugheen will turn up for this race.
My Tent Or Yours has finished second in this race for the last three years and finally got a Cheltenham victory when out-battling The New One in the International Hurdle in December. He has made the frame in all six runs at Cheltenham and in seventeen of his twenty career runs but at the age of 11 he is unlikely to emerge victorious here.
The value in this race could come from another Willie Mullins runner Wicklow Brave. He has spent the last twelve months running on the flat but won the last time he encountered hurdles and is a previous festival winner having won the County Hurdle in 2015. The fact that he finished unplaced in last years’ renewal doesn’t bode well looking at previous race stats however he gave away over six lengths at the start and should be capable of a better finish this time round.
I would love to see Faugheen back to his very best and regain his Champion Hurdle crown, however he hasn’t had much racing in the last couple of years and didn’t look like the usual machine in either of his last two starts so I fear that a placed finish is probably the best he can hope for. Buveur D’air jumps superbly and is quite rightly a short price to gain back-to-back victories in this race, yet at odds of around ½ there is very little value to be had so my money will be on multiple soft and heavy ground winner Wicklow Brave to make the first three at current odds of around 14/1.
Wicklow Brave 14/1 (B365, sky, WH) – 0.5pts E/W – Lost -1pt
- Willie Mullins has won this race 8 times from 10 renewals & although didn’t win it last year his two runners finished 2nd & 3rd (Vroum Vroum Mag & Limini)
Apples Jade won this race last year, beating 2016 winner Vroum Vroum Mag, and is unbeaten since. A short-enough price but for good reason, she will take some stopping.
Willie Mullins runs 2017 Mares Novice Hurdle winner Lets Dance who has had a mixed season so far, falling on re-appearance before winning next time out, then struggling over three miles in heavy ground when last seen. A winner of three from five over the trip she has the quality to get involved and it would be a surprise if she wasn’t in the mix.
That said, I think that Willie Mullins’ best chance for this race is Benie Des Dieux who is unbeaten since joining the yard, winning in impressive fashion on two occasions over similar distances to today and beat stablemate Asthuria over two miles when last seen. All of these victories came over fences but she also has winning form over hurdles when racing in France. Whether she will be capable of beating Apples Jade remains to be seen but she has fantastic potential and should be capable of a top three finish at the very least.
A final mention goes to La Bague Au Roi who has won all three races entered this season and now boasts seven wins from nine over hurdles. A winner at listed and Grade 2 level, and with victories on good, good-to-soft and soft ground she is a likeable mare who could bag a place at bigger odds.
The news that 2016 winner Vroum Vroum Mag wouldn’t be taking her place here has had a big effect on the markets and as such I have had to slightly change my thoughts on this one. A couple of days earlier and Benie Des Dieux was available at an each way price of around 11/2 and she would have been my play, however now at around 7/2 she can really only be backed as a win option (unless playing the place markets or W/O Apples Jade). With this in mind I’m more tempted to side with La Bague Au Roi as an each way option for the race. I think that the favourite will take some beating but the a price of around 8/13 reflects that chance so again there isn’t any value to be had backing the favourite.
La Bague Au Roi 12/1 (WH) – 0.5pts E/W – Lost -1pt
National Hunt Chase
- 11 of the last 16 winners won or finished 2nd last time out
- 3 of the last 7 winners have been the top rated
- 3 of the last 7 winners were the favourite
- Jonjo O’Neill has trained 5 of the last 16 winners
- Gordon Elliott has won this race three times in the last 7 years
Gordon Elliott has won this race three times in the last 7 years and sends two in an effort to add to his already impressive strike rate here.
Jury Duty finished third in last years’ Pertemps Final and has winning form on ground ranging from yielding right through to heavy. Partnered with Jamie Codd, a talented jockey who has a great record both for the trainer and at the course, he would have to be considered in with a chance if his stamina holds out over this mammoth trip.
Mossback finished less than a length behind stablemate Monbeg Notorious in a Grade 2 race last time out and has done all of his winning in testing conditions. Jockey Lisa O’Neill hasn’t had too many rides but has an excellent career winning strike rate of 26% and has won two from four riding for Gordon Elliott.
Ms Parfois has won three of her five runs over fences, winning twice at Listed level over three miles in soft ground, before being beaten in to second by Black Corton in the Reynoldstown last time out. She wasn’t disgraced last time out but off her new mark the step up in trip could be the way to go
Rathvinden finished third to Faugheen in the 2014 renewal of the Neptune and has now has placed twice at Cheltenham. With four wins from ten over fences, on ground ranging from good to heavy, he will need to step up on recent runs but has the class to make his presence felt if returning to form.
I’d have preferred a bigger price for Rathvinden given his last couple of runs but with two previous placed efforts at the course and with winning form in heavy ground he strikes me as a horse who could really relish the trip and as such I am happy to take a chance on him here. Ms Parfois is a horse I have a lot of time for and have tipped the last two or three runs. No bet for me today but I hope she runs a great race.
Rathvinden 7/1 (PP – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – WON +4.38pts
Novices Handicap Chase
- 7 of the 13 winners won on handicap debut
- 9 of the 13 winners failed to win on either of their first two chase starts
- 9 of the 13 winners won or finished 2nd last time out
- The top-weight has won 3 of the last 6 renewals
- Only 2 of the 13 winners went off at more than 12/1
De Plotting Shed has finished second in his last two races and has now raced four times over fences, all on heavy or soft to heavy ground. He is yet to taste victory but has run very well in defeat and was only 3 lengths behind Presenting Percy on chase debut so has faced some decent rivals.
Any Second Now has had to play second fiddle to Footpad, Invitation Only and Monalee since tacking fences but has run with credit each time and has a Grade 2 victory over hurdles to his name so looks to have a decent chance of coming away with some prize money.
Mister Whitaker beat a very good yardstick in Theatre Territory here at Cheltenham in soft ground last time out, with the rest of the field miles behind, and now has two wins and a second from four runs over fences. An exciting entry for this race and very much one to consider.
Barney Dwan has won his last two in pretty impressive fashion and although both these victories came in smaller fields than what he encounters today won an eighteen runner Grade 3 race over hurdles earlier in his career and is versatile regarding conditions so shouldn’t be underestimated.
Testify is available at a decent each way price which is probably due to the fact that he’s only run in very small fields since tackling fences. That said, he has won all three with the minimal of fuss, winning in soft and heavy ground over trips ranging from two to two and a half miles, won a Grade 2 by seven lengths last time out and also won over further when tackling hurdles so is versatile regarding trip and should be suited by conditions.
I was impressed with Mister Whitaker at Cheltenham last time out and think that he is more than capable of winning a race of this nature. At the time of writing Testify is still entered in two other races as well as this one and I had him marked down for a big run in the JLT. That said, if taking up his place here I see no reason why he can’t put in a decent performance in this race instead and it will be interesting to see hope he copes with a bigger field.
Mister Whitaker 12/1 (B365 – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – WON +7.5pts
Testify 16/1 (B365 – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
Day 1 +3.88pts
Ballymore Novices Hurdle
- 29 of the last 32 winners came from the first five in the betting
- The favourite has won 10 of the last 27 renewals
- Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh won the race in 2016, 2014, 2009 & 2008
- 33 of the last 34 winners finished in the first two last time out, with 9 of the last 11 winners all winning last time out
- 14 of the last 20 winners had won a pattern race over hurdles prior to winning the Ballymore
- Look for the following:
- Started career in an Irish point-to-point
- First or second in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle
Samcro started his career by winning a point-to-point before moving to Gordon Elliott and has since won six from six, winning three bumper and three hurdle races with the minimum of fuss, beating what looked to be a decent field in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle last time out. He is considered by many to be the NAP of the whole festival and in truth does look tough to beat.
Next Destination is unbeaten in three since tackling hurdles and looks the most likely challenger for Willie Mullins, with the Mullins/Walsh partnership responsible for four of the last ten winners. That said, he is currently priced at around 7/2 which is isn’t appealing for each way purposes and I don’t think he will beat Samcro.
Vision Des Flos was well beaten when only fourth over course and distance in November but looking more closely at this race the winner has since won a Grade 2 and the third won a Grade 1. In total, five of the six runners have won since and the sixth has placed at Grade 2 level too, so the form looks pretty strong. He returned after a short break and a wind op to win at Listed level by over thirty lengths in heavy ground and although this was over a shorter trip he could be a bit of value for a place if his stamina holds out.
Black Op won over the trip on penultimate run, winning in impressive fashion by seventeen lengths in soft ground, beating a couple of subsequent winners in the process. He ran a decent race when second to Santini last time out in a Grade 2 here at Cheltenham, headed in the closing stages but almost thirty lengths ahead of third.
Many people across the world of horse racing see Samcro as a ‘cert’ to win this race. I would agree that he has a fantastic chance based on what we have seen of him so far and have backed him at bigger odds ante-post, and even at current prices I think he is a decent bet. That said, I think that Black Op is a decent each way price at 9/1. With a victory over the trip and a previous run at the course he looks a bit of value compared to other possible each way alternatives.
Black Op 9/1 (PP) – 0.5pts e/w – Finished 2nd +0.62pts
RSA Novices Chase
- 5 of the last 8 winners contested the Albert Bartlett in the previous year
- 13 winners since 2000 have been aged 7
- 3 of the last 9 winners finished 1st or 2nd in the Reynoldstown Chase (Black Corton & Ms Parfois)
- 3 of the last 7 winners finished 1st or 2nd in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase (Shattered Love & Jury Duty)
- 0/20 – amount of winners of the Kauto Star that have since won the RSA
- Look out for the following:
- Horses aged 7 or 8
- Ran 3 or more times over fences
- Ran in the same calendar year
7 year old Monalee has won two from three over fences, winning the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase when last seen in February. An excellent second in last years’ Albert Bartlett and a winner of multiple races ranging from 2 ½ to 3 miles, other both hurdles and fences, he looks to have a great chance of a top three finish at the very least.
Presenting Percy won last years’ Pertemps Final and has won two from four over fences. He was last seen finishing second to Our Duke in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February but should benefit from the step back up in trip today and also has to be considered in with a good chance.
Black Corton has been kept busy since going over hurdles, posting eight wins and two seconds from ten since June 2017, winning the Reynoldstown Novices Chase when last seen in February. Unbeaten in four over a three-mile trip, with two of these coming at Cheltenham, the 7 year old Paul Nicholls runner could prove tough a tough nut to crack although will have to overcome the Kauto Star curse as there have been twenty winners of the Kauto Star who have gone on to contest this race and we are yet to see a winner from those twenty.
Elegant Escape has made the frame in all five runs over fences, winning two including when beating Black Corton in a Grade 2 race at Newbury in December and a comprehensive thirteen length victory in heavy ground over three miles when last seen. He has failed to make the frame in two hurdle races at the course (one of them last years’ Albert Bartlett) but is a solid stayer who has conditions in his favour should be capable of getting involved over the larger obstacles.
Black Corton has had a fantastic season and has shown his battling qualities on more than one occasion, yet the amount of racing he has done and the fact that he won the Kauto Star (see stats above) is enough for me to look elsewhere. Monalee and Presenting Percy look closely matched but despite the latter having won at last years’ Festival I think that Monalee is the most likely to come out on top here. It’s a tough race with a few in with chances, so I wouldn’t put anyone off looking at Elegant Escape as an each way option, however for my selection I’m going Monalee.
Monalee 3/1 (Whill) – 1pt win – Finished 2nd -1pt
- 13 of the last 24 winners won last time out
- 15 of the last 17 winners had won no more than one handicap race
- 10 of the last 13 winners were 2nd season hurdlers
- Only 1 winning favourite since 2000 – 7 winners at 16/1+ & only 4 winners 9/1 or less
- Look out for the following:
- Irish trained horses – 9 winners from the last 24 renewals
- JP McManus runners
- No more than 3 runs earlier in the season
William Henry has three victories and two seconds from five runs over hurdles, with one victory coming here at Cheltenham and the latest coming in soft ground. As a second season hurdler and a last time out winner he features in a couple of the positive stats for this race however in a typically competitive renewal I’d prefer to look for a runner at a slightly bigger price.
Topofthegame is also a second season hurdler with a victory last time out. He was behind William Henry on penultimate run but improved to win a Grade 3 in soft ground last time out. That came over a couple of furlongs more than he encounters here but he has won over a similar trip previously so isn’t discounted and given the likely conditions his stamina could be a big asset here.
Le Breuil is a second season hurdler and has been spoken about quite positively across the Cheltenham previews. With a victory over a similar trip and in soft ground in March last year it isn’t difficult to see why he’d be considered in with a chance, although I think he will need to improve on both runs this season if he is to win today.
2016 winner Diamond King hasn’t had much luck since going chasing but put in an improved performance when returning to the smaller obstacles on New Years Eve, finishing a solid third to Killultagh Vic at Punchestown. Versatile with regards to ground conditions having won on heavy, soft and good ground and having won this race previously he has an outside chance of getting involved.
This isn’t a race I would usually get too heavily involved in, however I think that Topofthegame has as good a chance as any. He arrives in good form, has won in testing conditions and has the stamina to ensure he will run right to the line so is my choice at a reasonable 12/1.
Topofthegame 12/1 (boyles – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – finished 2nd +1pt
Queen Mother Champion Chase
- 12 of the last 18 favourites have been beaten
- 7 of the last 16 winners won the Arkle the previous year
- Nicky Henderson won the race in 2016, 2013 & 2012
- 15 of the last 16 winners of the Arkle went on to finish in the 1st 3 of the QMCC
- Three of the last five Tingle Creek winners went on to win the QMCC
- 13 of the last 14 winners had run in the same calendar year
- 20 of the last 33 winners had previously won at Cheltenham
- 11 of the last 15 winners won a graded chase last time out
A race that is shaping up to be a cracker with Altior, Min and Douvan all set to do battle. The news that Douvan could still to go to the Ryanair has soured things slightly but nevertheless I still feel we have a great match up between Altior and Min even if Douvan switches..
The favourite is Altior who in unbeaten over both hurdles and fences and has won three from three over course and distance, including last years’ Arkle and the Supreme in 2016. He returned from ten months out with a solid victory at Newbury last month, beating a fully race-fit Politologue by four lengths, and looks worthy of his place at the head of the market.
That said, Min has won five from five over fences (although was demoted to 2nd at Leopardstown on penultimate run), warming up for today’s race with a twelve-length demolition of his rivals when returning to Leopardstown in February. He has had the best preparation of the two and although was beaten by Altior in the 2016 Supreme he could be a big threat to the favourite here.
Douvan lost his unbeaten record when disappointing in this race last year, although was later found to have a fractured pelvis. Before this injury he was deemed to be pretty much unbeatable however twelve months away from racing and a return in such a tough race means that you feel he would have to be back to his very best to be able to get straight back to winning ways in whichever race he turns up in.
It was great to see Altior back on a racecourse last month, in what was an impressive enough run on return from injury. Despite his perfect racing record I find it difficult to look at backing him at current odds of around 4/6 when you consider that Min is unbeaten over fences. With a prep run under his belt, Altior could easily take it all in his stride but could also suffer from the dreaded ‘bounce’ factor so I will be playing Min as he has done nothing wrong this season and has had the best preparation of the two.
Min 7/2 (B365) – 1pt WIN – finished 2nd -1pt
- Look for the following:
- A top 3 finish over the course before
- First three in the betting
- Trained by Enda Bolger or Gordon Elliott
Gordon Elliott sends Cause Of Causes in a bid to win back-to-back renewals of this race and his course record of three wins and two placed from seven speaks for itself, especially when considering he has won at the last three festivals in three different races. His odds probably reflect his chances but there are a couple of other interesting rivals who also have decent chances and for that reason I’m happy to look elsewhere.
Enda Bolger has an excellent record in this race and runs 2016 second Josies Orders (promoted to be the winner following the disqualification of Any Currency) and 2017 third and fourth Cantlow and Auvergnat. All three have the quality to win this race and are all pretty closely matched, although of the three I would probably side with Josies Orders as he has made the frame in all four previous runs at Cheltenham.
Urgent De Gregaine was a 50/1 winner over course and distance in January 2017, beating Cantlow in to second and with Cause of Causes further behind. He proved this was no fluke when again finishing ahead of Cantlow last time out and although could only manage third it was another solid run and on that form would have to be considered in with a decent chance again here.
A tough race to be confident in any horse for win purposes. Enda Bolger runners always tend to do well but as already suggested they are tough to separate, while Cause Of Causes has such a good record at the festival that he has to be afforded the utmost of respect. That said, I feel there is more to come from Urgent De Gregaine and yet despite proven form over course and distance he is available at 16/1 with a couple of bookies. This looks too good a price to pass up on and is therefore the selection.
Urgent De Gregaine 16/1 (PP) – 0.5pts E/W – finished 2nd +1.5pts
- Look for last time out winners
- 10 of the 13 winners were beaten in their first two runs over hurdles
- 10 of the 13 winners had last run within 25 days of the festival
- 8 of the 13 winners were bred in France
- 9 of the 13 winners had raced exactly 3 times over hurdles
- P Nicholls has won the race 3 times
- Look for bigger priced options – only 1 winning favourite, 2 x winners at 40/1, 33/1 & 25/1
Looking at all of the stats above, there are a number of French-bred horses a number that have ran exactly three times and a number that had their last run within 25 days of the festival. However I have only found one that fits all of the above stats – Embole for Dan Skelton. He finished behind the likes of Act Of Valour, Style De Garde and Esprit De Somozo on first two runs but then, following a wind op, came out to beat a previous winner by seven lengths in soft ground over two miles. This is a much tougher race but he travelled really strongly throughout his last race and won with a fair bit in hand, being eased down before the line.
The only other horse to fit many of this race stats is Andrew Balding’s Night Of Glory. He last raced 27 days before the festival so doesn’t quite fit all of them, but has raced exactly three time over hurdles and did win last time out following two losses. He has been fancied in each of his three hurdles runs, going off either second favourite or favourite each time. That said, he was soundly beaten first time out and made a few mistakes on second run, before finally getting his head in front over a slightly longer trip. He was all out to hold off the final challenger but given his improvement in each race so far he could improve again here.
Paul Nicholls has won this race three times and runs Grand Sancy, Malaya and Act Of Valour. Malaya and Grand Sancy clashed at Kempton last time out, with Malaya finishing a clear second of Redicean and Grand Sancy ten lengths back in fourth. Both travelled strongly but Malaya was just beginning to assert when Grand Sancy hit the second last and lost all hope. In truth they both look closely matched but Grand Sancy has better form on testing ground so is probably the pick of the two.
Nick Williams won this race last year with 33/1 shot Flying Tiger and runs Mercenaire in an attempt to follow up. A twenty-five length winner on hurdles debut he was then pitched straight in to Grade 1 company and finished third of five, before finishing a distant second to Vision Des Flos last time out. His victory came in soft ground but he will need to step up on last two runs to get involved.
Mitchouka has form of 2112311 over hurdles, winning a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse last time out in impressive fashion. With four victories from seven, all coming over two miles on soft or heavy ground, he looks the one to beat.
A case can be made for many and a bigger priced option is often the way to go. With this in mind and taking in to consideration the race history and stats I am happy to take a chance on Dan Skelton runner Embole.
Embole 25/1 (boyles) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
- 23 of the 25 winners won last time out (the last 14 winners all won last time out)
- 17 of the 25 winners came from the first five in the betting
- Willie Mullins has won this race 8 times
- Look out for the following:
- If Willie Millins has more than one runner, do not discount the supposed 2nd or 3rd string
- BHA top rated horse
- Not run in the same calendar year
With Willie Mullins having won this race eight times it makes sense to begin with his runners. Blackbow is two from two in bumpers, finishing strongly to beat the re-opposing Rhinestone in a Grade 2 race in soft ground last time out.
Tornado Flyer has only been seen once on a racecourse, staying on well to beat a Gordon Elliott trained subsequent winner in Getaway John. The two pulled well clear of the remainder of the field and there have been plenty of positive words for this horse coming from the Cheltenham previews over the last week so he is worth consideration.
Carefully Selected was a thirty-length winner of a point-to-point before moving to the Mullins stable and beating three subsequent winners by over eight lengths, in his first bumper over twenty furlongs. He proved he also has the speed to cope with a two-mile trip when making all and comfortably beating a reasonable field by five lengths in soft ground.
Relegate is also unbeaten in two, winning a Grade 2 race in soft ground when last seen and although has gone a little under the radar compared to the above-mentioned stable runners it is worth noting that four of Willie Mullins’ last five winners of this race have won at odds of 25/1, 16/1, 12/1 and 14/1.
Moving away from the Mullins stable we have Acey Milan for Anthony Honeyball who has won his last three, winning at Cheltenham over 14 furlongs on penultimate run before stepping up to two miles and winning with ease by eleven lengths at Newbury in a Listed contest last month. All victories have come on soft or heavy ground and he looks one of the more likely types to get involved.
Didtheyleaveuoutto beat a couple of subsequent winners at Listed level last time out, travelling strongly under Barry Geraghty and putting the race to bed in just a couple of strides. Another in with a decent chance if looking away from the Mullins stable.
Felix Desjy has done nothing wrong in three runs to date, winning a point-to-point before moving to Gordon Elliott and staying on strongly in the run in in both subsequent bumpers. The trainer won this race last year and relies on just the one runner in attempt to follow up.
Gordon Elliott has been quoted as saying Felix Desjy has a superb chance in this race so given the strength of his stable across the Festival as a whole it could prove significant he has decided to single out this one. On this basis he is definitely worth an each way play although I think Willie Mullins could once again emerge victorious with five scheduled to run, four of which are last time out winners and undefeated in bumpers. I couldn’t put anyone off backing any of these four but for my selection I am going for the outsider of these four in Relegate, purely because she looks overpriced considering her unbeaten status and Grade 2 victory to her name.
Relegate 25/1 (B365) – 0.5pts e/w – WON +15.62pts
Day 1 +3.88pts
Day 2 +15.74pts
JLT Novices Chase
- The last 5 winners had all won a pattern race over hurdles
- 5 of the 7 winners won last time out
- Willie Mullins has won the last 3 renewals and has won 4 times in total
- Look out for the following:
- Horses that ran well at Cheltenham Festival last season
With early favourite Willoughby Court unable to take his place it makes sense to look in the first instance at Willie Mullins’ runners considering he has trained the winner for the last three years. Invitation Only looks likely to line up in this race and has twice won over todays’ trip since tackling fences. A solid third last time out, just a length behind the winner over a furlong further than he encounters here, should put him spot on for a big run here.
Terrefort beat subsequent winner Cyrname in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase last time out, taking his record to two from two since moving to Nicky Henderson, with both victories coming over two and a half miles. An exciting prospect for the future but also in with a decent chance of getting involved here, won’t be far away with a similar run to last time out.
Finian’s Oscar won his first two over fences but has subsequently been a bit disappointing and a switch back to hurdles didn’t work out when last seen, although it could be argued that the three-mile trip was a shade too far for him. Switching back to fences, having had a wind op, and with first time cheekpieces applied he arrives on something of a retrieval mission and would need to bounce right back to form to get involved here.
Shattered Love hasn’t been seen since December 2017 but turned the tables on stablemate Jury Duty with victory in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase and has now won four from five over fences, is proven over the trip and has won on all ground ranging from good to heavy so shouldn’t be underestimated.
Modus is unbeaten in three over fences, all over today’s trip, in ground ranging from good to soft. As with Testify above, he has only won in small fields over fences yet does have some form at Cheltenham having won a bumper earlier in his career before finishing second to Moon Racer in the Champion Bumper in 2015.
Terrefort is a hugely exciting prospect and for me fits in to the ‘could be anything’ bracket. That said, his trainer played down his chance last time out and re-iterated this even after his convincing victory. Whether this is just mind games remains to be seen and given his last run I am happy to take a chance that he can win today, although while Willie Mullins won’t be sending Invitation Only to make up numbers I’m not convinced he is a definite winner so the price looks too short for me.
Terrefort 4/1 (B365) – 1pt win – finished 2nd -1pt
- Only 2 winners from the last 21 won one of the qualifying races
- Only 1 winning 5-year-old in 40 running’s of the race
- Horses rated 150+ have struggled in this race
- Jonjo O’Neill has won this race 4 times, one with a 50/1 shot and one with a 25/1 shot
- J P McManus has had 2x 50/1 winners in this race
- P Nicholls has had 6 of his 16 runners in this race finish in the places
- Look out for the following:
- Last time out winners
- Top 6 in the weights
Glenloe has placed in all three runs this season, including when third in the qualifier at Leopardstown, a race which has proved a good stepping stone for this race. He has only won one in eight but that came in testing conditions over twenty-three furlongs so he would have to be considered in with a chance, although his price doesn’t look overly enticing given the competitive nature of the race.
Jonjo O’Neill has trained four winners of this race and relies on Forza Milan who has finished a close up second on two attempts over three miles this season. He couldn’t quite get to The Organist last time out and was almost three lengths behind Loius Vac Pouch on penultimate run but comes in to the race fresh and has won in testing conditions so looks capable of another solid effort.
Louis Vac Pouch won a qualifying race to get to this point, which is a pretty big negative looking at the previous race stats, however he has been very consistent in 2017 winning four from six and stayed on strongly to win well in soft ground on first attempt over three miles last time out. He hasn’t been seen since which suggests he’s been saved for this race and for once I am happy to go against the stats and take a punt on the Philip Hobbs six year old.
I think that all three mentioned have decent chances but I’m hanging my hopes on Louis Vac Pouch. He looks to have the best form having beat the likes of Forza Milan, Beer Goggles, Holly Bush Henry and Vyta Du Roc when winning last time out and as such should be capable of confirming the form here.
Louis Vac Pouch 9/1 (sky – 5 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
- 10 of the 13 winners came from the first two in the betting
- 12 of the 13 winners had won at Cheltenham previously
- 9 of the last 10 winners had previously won a Grade 1 race
- Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh have won the last two renewals – Jonjo O’Neill, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have all won this race twice
- Look out for the following:
- Contested the King George VI Chase (7 of the last 10 winners contested this race)
- A top 3 finish in last seasons’ Ryanair
- Prominent racers
Un De Sceaux is a multiple Cheltenham Festival winner having won this race last year and won the Arkle in 2015, with only the mighty Sprinter Sacre standing in his way of winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2016. He is the class horse in the race and with main challengers Waiting Patiently and Top Notch ruled out last week Un De Sceaux should be more than capable of another festival victory here.
Cue Card has been an absolute superstar of a racehorse and even though he is now twelve years old he showed he could still cut it at the top level when chasing home Waiting Patiently in the Betfair Ascot Chase last time out, with Frodon fifteen lengths behind. A previous festival winner with an excellent record over the trip he could make the running and ensure this is a solid test for some.
Frodon was no match for the afore-mentioned Waiting Patiently and Cue Card last tie out but is unbeaten in two over course and distance and for that reason is very much respected here, while Cloudy Dream has never finished outside the first two in eleven runs over fences and is versatile regarding both ground and distance so is another with solid place possibilities.
When first writing this preview I was toying with Un De Sceaux as my NAP of the festival. Available at the time at around 5/2 I couldn’t believe the price considering he won this race last year and his Festival form. Since then Waiting Patiently and Top Notch have unfortunately been removed and as such we are now looking at a much shorter price. It doesn’t change my thinking that Un De Sceaux will win and as such he is still the selection despite the reduced odds.
Un De Sceaux 11/8 (coral) – 1pt win – finished 2nd -1pt
- 16 of the last 17 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
- Look out for the following:
- Won last time out
- Ran in either the Cleeve Hurdle or the Long Distance Hurdle
- A five-year old has never won this race – horses aged 10+ also have poor records
Supasundae won the Coral Cup at last year’s festival, was just a half-length behind Apple’s Jade on penultimate run (his first run over a three-mile trip) and beat Faugheen over a shorter trip when last seen. He travels strongly through his races but it remains to be seen if he is a true top-class stayer and as such the price looks on the skinny side to me.
Sam Spinner boasts a career record of six wins and three seconds from his nine runs and made all to win the Long Walk Hurdle over three miles when last seen, with L’Ami Serge, Unowhatimeanharry, The Worlds End, Thomas Campbell and Lil Rockerfeller all in behind. At current best odds of around 5/1 he looks a cracking each way bet to nothing as its unlikely he will finish outside the top three, however I will be taking the bull by the horns and playing win only.
Yanworth beat Supasundae over three miles at Aintree last season and although has been plying his trade over fences since he reverts back to the smaller obstacles in the hope that he can finally get a victory at the Cheltenham Festival. He has won twice at the course but his best attempt at a Festival came when second in the Neptune in 2016. He is an interesting contender but isn’t a horse I can get too excited about and for me will only make the top three if a couple of others falter.
Others to consider include Thomas Campbell, Wholestone and Unowhatimeanharry who have all got excellent records at Cheltenham, although Thomas Campbell has disappointed in his last two runs, last year’s Albert Bartlett third Wholestone has posted four wins (2 over course and distance) and three placed efforts from seven although has found one too strong on more than one occasion when expected to win and Unowhatimeanharry could only manage third in this race last year and hasn’t looked the same horse this season. All come with risks attached for win purposes but Wholestone looks the most likely to grab a place.
Wholestone is too big a price at around 16/1 considering his record at the course and his versatility regarding the ground. I would be amazed if he isn’t in the first three and hence carries a selection. That said, Sam Spinner has proved himself to be a thorough stayer this season, showing a great attitude and heart in testing conditions so I am opting for him for win purposes
Sam Spinner 4/1 (coral) – 1pt win – Lost -1pt
Wholestone 16/1 (sky – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – finished 3rd +1.5pts
- 20 of the last 24 winners had raced at the festival before
- 15 of the last 16 winners were 12/1+ in the market – 7 winners at 25/1+ in the last 16 years
- French bred horses have a good record in this race
- V Williams won 3 of the last 11 renewals and has had a 33/1 place
- D Pipe has won 3 of the last 8 renewals
- 20 of the last 22 winners carried less than 11stone
- Only 3 of the last 31 winners were rated 143+
David Pipe runs Kings Socks who had his first run since June 2016 when finishing third of four at Kempton last month. He didn’t run too badly considering the length of the break and was only a couple of lengths behind Footpad in a Grade 1 on his last run in France so could be in with a chance if building on last months’ effort and with all three previous victories coming in soft or very soft ground he should handle conditions.
Tully East won at the festival last year and although he hasn’t won since he was a decent third when last seen and has winning form on good, soft and heavy ground so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by conditions.
Bryan Cooper has ridden the winner of this race for the last two years and Venetia Williams has won this race three times in recent years so Willie Boy is worthy of a mention. A winner of two from four over fences, both over today’s trip and with one on soft ground, he disappointed last time out but has been given a break since and has run well fresh so could be in with an each way shout.
The Storyteller won on chase debut in soft ground and wasn’t disgraced when third of six at Grade 3 level next time out. He struggled at Grade 1 level when last seen but could still be improving after only 3 runs over fences and could make his presence felt.
Movewiththetimes was a decent second behind Finian’s Oscar on penultimate run, finishing ahead of Coo Star Sivola. He is yet to gain victory over fences and is yet to make the frame in four runs at Cheltenham but rated 142 and carrying under 11 stone he fits some of the key stats for the race and as such is respected.
This is a really tough race to be confident in finding the winner and I can’t see any stand out option. With this in mind I’m opting for Willie Boy as a tentative selection as he fits many of the race stats and is partnered with a jockey who knows how to win this race.
Willie Boy 20/1 (PP – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – fell -1pt
Mares Novices Hurdle
- 2 renewals to date, both won by the favourite, both trained by W Mullins & ridden by R Walsh
Laurina has been touted by both Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh as their strongest chance of a winner at this years’ festival – some praise considering the strength in depth that they have available to them. That said, they have teamed up to win the only two previous renewals of this race with short-priced favourites Limini and Let’s Dance so despite the short price Laurina shouldn’t be overlooked. A winner of both races since joining Willie Mullins, winning a Grade 3 by eleven lengths in heavy ground last time out, she has been very impressive without needing to be over-extended and in truth does look the most likely winner here with further improvement likely.
The biggest danger looks to be Maria’s Benefit who has been a revelation this season, winning her last five in a row including a Listed contest by thirty lengths before following up with a determined victory over Irish Roe in a Grade 2 last time out. That was a tough race but she’s had six weeks off to recover and wouldn’t be winning this out of turn considering the season she’s had.
Cap Soleil has five wins and a second from six career runs, has won here at Cheltenham in a bumper earlier in here career and won at Listed level last time out. That wasn’t the strongest of races but she did it well enough in extremely testing conditions so completes the shortlist.
If you believe the hype then Laurina wins this race doing handstands. I agree she looks to have a great chance but the price offers little by way of value for win purposes. She is in a couple of my multiples but given the prices I’m happy to take an each way punt on Cap Soleil who looks too big a price considering her previous course form.
Cap Soleil 14/1 (PP) – 0.5pts e/w – finished 2nd +1.25pts
- 10 of the last 12 winners were ridden by non-claiming amateurs
- 16 of the last 17 winners all raced over 3m+ on their last run before the festival
- 30 of the last 36 winners were aged 8+, although a 7 year old has now won 3 of the last 5 renewals
- Jamie Codd has won this race 4 times
- 2 x 33/1 winners and 2 x 40/1 winners in the last 15 years
- Look for horses carrying 11stone 4lbs +
Mall Dini is a previous festival winner and was a decent fifth in this race last year. He is yet to win in nine attempts over fences but has made the frame in five and looks to have been campaigned for another crack at this race.
Pendra hasn’t been seen since finishing second in this race last year but runs well fresh and races off the same mark as when less than a length behind 40/1 winner Domesday Book so it would be no surprise to see a big run here.
Double Ross may not be the force of old and hasn’t had a particularly good season but has three wins and four placed efforts from ten at the course and for that reason alone deserves a mention.
Squouateur is partnered with Jamie Codd and he will be looking to make amends for being unseated in this race last year. He’s had a couple of placed efforts over fences but is yet to get his nose in front and for that reason looks a short enough price here.
Band Of Blood arrives here following back-to-back victories over three miles, keeping on well on both occasions. On that evidence he should be capable of seeing out today’s longer trip and he looks a decent each way option.
A race where both market principals have questions to answer so I’m happy to take an each way punt on the in-form Band Of Blood.
Band Of Blood 14/1 (WHill – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
Day 1 +3.88pts
Day 2 +15.74pts
Day 3 -3.25pts
- 11 of the last 13 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
- Look out for horses that did well in either the Adonis Hurdle or the Spring Juvenile Hurdle
- Alan King has saddled two winners, two seconds and two thirds in the last 11 renewals
- Nicky Henderson has won this race six times
- Five of the last 11 winners were BHA top-rated
- Look for a horse that has raced within the last 8 weeks
Nicky Henderson’s Apples Shakira is unbeaten in four over hurdles, including three at Cheltenham, two of which came over today’s race distance and the other over just a half-furlong shorter. Last seen at the end of January, she won a Grade 2 by eight lengths and with her 7lbs allowance looks a worthy favourite for the Friday opener.
That said, there are a couple of exciting prospects who also line up here. The first is Redicean who also brings excellent recent form in to this race having won three in a row since joining Alan King, winning the Adonis Hurdle in convincing fashion last month. Winning twice on soft ground and once on good, with an average winning margin of nine lengths over his three victories, it is unlikely he will be too far away at the finish.
Mr Adjudicator won the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle last time out, staying on well to beat Farclas by just over a length. He is now two from two over two miles in soft ground and looks a live danger for Willie Mullins. The Irish trainer also saddles Saldier who was a very impressive winner on stable debut at Gowran Park past month and is another open to further improvement having only raced once over hurdles, although this lack of experience could also go against him in a race of this nature.
I think that the winner of this race will come from the four mentioned above, and although I think that Redicean, Saldier and Mr Adjudicator are exciting prospects I have to side with Apples Shakira given her unbeaten record over course and distance.
Apples Shakira 2/1 (PP) – 1pt win – Lost -1pt
- 5-year-olds have won 10 of the last 19 renewals
- Willie Mullins has won this race 4 times in the last 8 years
- Race dominated by 5 & 6-year-olds since the turn of the century
- 11 of the last 13 winners were rated in the 130’s
- Only 3 winners since 1960 carried more than 11stone 2lbs
- P Nicholls has won this race 4 times
- 4 winners from the last 10 raced in the Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown earlier in the season
- Only one winner at less than 10/1 in the last 10 years, 4 winners at 20/1, 1 winner at 25/1 and 1 winner at 50/1
Willie Mullins has an excellent record in this race and sends five in the hope of another victory. Bleu Et Rouge heads the market and has winning form over the trip and in testing conditions. He was a solid second behind Kalashnikov last time out but racing off a mark of 154 with a weight of 11stone 12lbs the stats would suggest he can’t win this race. A similar comment applies to Lagostovegas and Sandsend so of the Mullins quintet it makes sense to concentrate on Meri Devie and Whiskey Sour. Meri Devie began this season with a couple of solid placed efforts over today’s trip in soft and heavy ground and put aside a couple of subsequent lacklustre performances with a commanding five length victory at Listed level last time out.
Whisky Sour was unbeaten in four since joining the Mullins stable before a decent fourth in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle last time out, finishing behind Ballymore winner Samcro, Duc Des Genievres and Supreme fourth Paloma Blue. That form looks pretty strong and racing off a mark of 141 with a weight of 10stone 13lbs he should be in with a decent chance here.
Others in with a chance include last year’s Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger, Smaoineamh Alainn who is unbeaten in three over hurdles, previous course winner Brahms De Clermont and Gordon Elliott’s runner Duca De Thaix, while A Hare Breath won a Listed race when last seen and has winning form both in soft ground and at Cheltenham so is another to consider.
With six winners from the last ten returning at odds of 20/1 or above, this race has been hard work for punters to find a winner. That said, the race stats suggest looking at runners carrying less than 11stone 2lbs and with Willie Mullins having won the race four times in recent years it makes sense to concentrate in this area. I’m opting for Whiskey Sour who looks to have some strong form considering the exploits of Samcro and Paloma Blue earlier in the week, while Smaoineamh Alainn looks a decent price considering he is unbeaten in three over hurdles, is a course and distance winner and has winning form in testing conditions.
Smaoineamh Alainn 16/1 (B365 – 5 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
Whiskey Sour 20/1 (B365 – 5 places) – 0.5pts e/w – finished 3rd +2pts
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
- 8 of the 13 winners had contested either the Hyde, The Bristol or the Classic Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham
- 4 of the last 13 winners were favourites
- 7 of the last 13 winners went off at odds of 9/1 or above, with 2x 33/1 winners since 2010
- Look out for the following:
- Second-season hurdlers
- A horse that has previously contested a race over 3miles or more
- A horse that has already won a pattern race over hurdles
Santini won the Classic Novices Hurdle here at Cheltenham, beating Black Op on heavy ground in January. He is unbeaten in two but has yet to tackle a three-mile trip and for me this makes him vulnerable.
Chef Des Obeaux was second to Santini on hurdles debut but has since won three in a row in impressive fashion, including a nineteen length victory over three miles in soft ground at Kempton in January before following up with a fifteen length victory in a Grade 2 race in heavy ground at Haydock last month.
Poetic Rhythm is a second season hurdler who finished third of six in the Hyde Novices Hurdle. He won a listed bumper here at Cheltenham in 2016, has also placed twice here over hurdles, has won two from three including a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 over hurdles this season and made the frame in all four point-to-point runs before joining Fergal O’Brien. Versatile with regards to conditions, having won on ground ranging from good to heavy, he looks to have a great chance of a top three finish here.
Kilbricken Storm was well beaten by Poetic Rhythm in heavy ground last time out but had previously won in soft ground over course and distance when beating Count Meribel in the Grade 2 Bristol Novices Hurdle. He will find this tougher and has put in the odd shocker but fits many of the stats for the race and therefore looks a decent each way option at the odds.
A tough race with many who look to have decent chances, however I was impressed with Chef Des Obeaux last time out and based on that I think he is the one they all have to beat. Kilbricken Storm looks a big price considering he is a course and distance winner and could be one for an each way play.
Chef Des Obeaux 5/1 (PP) – 1pt WIN – Lost -1pt
Kilbricken Storm 40/1 (sky – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – WON +25pts
- 14 of the last 18 winners were second-season chasers
- 12 of the last 13 winners were running in the Gold Cup for the 1st time
- 15 of the last 17 winners came from the first three in the betting
- 15 of the last 18 winners raced in either the King George VI Chase or the Leopardstown Christmas Chase
- Look out for the following:
- An official BHA rating of 166+ (15 of the last 17 winners)
- A horse who has previously won a Grade 1 race (18 of the last 18 winners)
- Finished in the first 4 last time out
- A horse that hasn’t raced in the same calendar year (9 of the last 16 winners)
Might Bite won the RSA Chase last season despite veering dramatically on the run in, getting headed by Whisper before rallying to get up in the last strides. He has now won his last five over fences and would have won the 2016 King George but for a fall at the last fence, however made amends with victory in the 2017 renewal, beating the likes of Double Shuffle and Tea For Two who are likely to re-oppose here. He has bags of ability and looks a worthy favourite.
Willie Mullins runs a few but Djakadam has already had a couple of chances in this race, finishing second to Coneygree in 2015, second to Don Cossack in 2016 and fourth in last seasons’ renewal so it may be best to concentrate on Total Recall and Killultagh Vic. Total Recall is unbeaten in three since joining the Mullins stable and beat Whisper over 26 furlongs when last seen over fences. He warmed up for this race with a solid victory over hurdles at Leopardstown in February and would have to be in with an each way chance given that he’s won over the trip and in testing conditions. Killultagh Vic fell at the last when leading in the Irish Gold Cup but was unbeaten in five prior to that. He won the Martin Pipe in 2015 before beating Thistlecrack at Punchestown the following month, following up with a further three victories prior to the fall last time out and although has had his injury problems he still seems to retain all his ability and should be in the mix with a clear round of jumping.
Our Duke is a Grade 1 winner and has four wins from seven over fences. He could only manage fourth in the Irish Gold Cup, finishing behind Edwulf, Outlander and Djakadam, but was still travelling well when making a bad mistake at the second-last and looked sure to make the frame prior to that. He returned just two weeks later and beat Presenting Percy over a shorter trip despite a couple of jumping errors and as a second season chaser with an official rating of 166 he must be in with a chance, although will need to put in a perfect round of jumping in order to prevail.
Native River finished third in this race last year and has only been seen once since, winning he Denman chase for the second year running, this time by twelve lengths. Another who will likely run a good race but ultimately come up short.
Road To Respect won at last year’s festival and has won four of his last five. Although most chase victories have come on a sounder surface he has twice won in heavy ground earlier in his career and he seems to have gone a little under the radar this year.
A final mention goes to Definitly Red who won the Cotswold Chase in impressive fashion last time out and has now won twice at Cheltenham. Twice a Grade 2 winner this season and with six victories at distances of twenty-four to twenty-six furlongs, he has improved this season and deserves to take his chance.
Given the results earlier in the week it would be fantastic to see Might Bite win this race and give Nicky Henderson the Championship treble. He was a selection for the festival Lucky 15 at the start of the week but I fear that the weather could end up playing a huge part in this race and with his best performances coming on better ground he could be vulnerable. Presenting Percy’s performance in Wednesday’s RSA suggests that Our Duke could run a huge race but I can’t get away from the little mistakes he tends to make during his races. A clear round of jumping would see him right in the mix but in such a competitive race I think you need a runner who you can be confident in his jumping. Willie Mullins is yet to win this race but has decent each way chances with both Total Recall and Killultagh Vic and I’d be surprised if at least one of these isn’t in the mix coming up the Cheltenham hill.
I’m going to stick my neck on the line and go for Definitly Red as an each way play. He should love the conditions, has excellent form over similar trips and has won twice at the course so looks a reasonable option at 11/1 with 4 places available.
Definitly Red 11/1 (BV – 4 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
- Only 3 of the last 27 winners were aged 10+
- 24 of the last 32 winners won last time out
- 7 of the last 14 winners raced in last years’ renewal
- P Nicholls has won this race 3 times since 2004
- Salsify won back-to-back in 2012 & 2013, On The Fringe won back-to-back in 2015 & 2016
Pacha Du Polder won this race last year and returns to try and emulate recent back-to-back winners On The Fringe and Salsify. A decent enough third on re-appearance in February, which should put him in great nick for this race, and with winning form both at the course and in soft ground he looks a big price at around 16/1.
Burning Ambition won four point-to-points in a row before winning by 13 lengths on first run under rules, on heavy ground in December. He followed this with an excellent second to Gilgamboa when last seen and with Jamie Codd taking over in the saddle its no surprise to see him head the market.
On The Fringe returns again but couldn’t make it a hat-trick of victories last year and has also been beaten and also pulled up on a couple of occasions since. At the age of thirteen it looks unlikely he will return to winning ways here.
Foxrock has winning form in soft and heavy ground and has won multiple races over trips of around three miles, but his record at Cheltenham immediately makes me think twice about his chances.
Wonderful Charm is now ten years old but was a fantastic second in this race last year, has made the frame in 50% of all races at the course and warmed up for this with a convincing victory when last seen so looks the one to follow.
Paul Nicholls has reported that Wonderful Charm has an excellent chance of going one better this time around and given his run in this race last year and his re-appearance run last month he look to have a great chance and is available at a decent price so gets the nod.
Wonderful Charm 13/2 (coral) – 1pt win – Lost -1pt
- Last 6 winners were rated 138+
- Pay attention to Gigginstown House Stud runners
- W Mullins, G Elliott & P Nicholls all tend to do well with their runners in this race
Carter Mackay arrived at the Festival last year having won two from two for Willie Mullins and was expected to do the business in the Champion Bumper but was uneasy in the markets all morning and could only manage a disappointing fifteenth of twenty-two. Returning this season he won on hurdles debut and wasn’t disgraced in either run since, both at Graded level, so looks a decent chance of getting involved for Willie Mullins. The stable also run Deal D’Estruval and Burrows Saint who both have winning form in testing conditions so in truth all three could make the frame.
Diesse Des Bieffes won a couple of races in convincing fashion earlier in the season and wasn’t disgraced when finishing second to If The Cap Fits next time out, although could only manage fifth in soft ground at Listed level last time out. He still looks a decent prospect but with both victories coming on good ground he may struggle today.
Melrose Boy has winning form at Cheltenham, has won in soft and heavy ground, and was only three lengths behind Coral Cup second Topofthegame when last seen. He has made the frame in all seven hurdles races to date and looks a big price here considering all of the above.
I tipped Melrose Boy when he was a non-runner at Sandown on Saturday and am happy to take a chance on him here with both trip and ground in his favour.
Melrose Boy 20/1 (B365 – 5 places) – 0.5pts e/w – Lost -1pt
- 14 of the last 18 winners carried less than 11st, although the 4 exceptions came in each of the last 4 years
- Previous winners at Cheltenham tend to do well in this race, also look out for runners who ran in last years’ renewal and novices rated under 140
- 15 of the last 16 runners were aged 9 or under, with 6 winning 9 year olds and 4 winning 8 year olds during this time period
- 18 of the last 19 winners had raced in less than 12 chases
With two wins and a third from four over course and distance, including a victory in this race last year, Rock The World is the obvious starting point. That said, he hasn’t won in five races since and has never won on anything worse than yielding ground so it looks unlikely he will follow up today.
Doitforthevillage, Foxtail Hill and Gino Trail are three previous course and distance winners who could all make their presence felt but I’m happy to take a chance on North Hill Harvey who won a Grade 2 race over course and distance in soft ground in November and although has been beaten the last twice he has won four from six at Cheltenham and looks a reasonable bet in a difficult finale for punters.
North Hill Harvey 8/1 (sky – 5 places) – 0.5pts e/w – fell -1pt
Day 1 +3.88pts
Day 2 +15.74pts
Day 3 -3.25pts
Day 4 +20pts
Total Preview results: +36.37pts!!