Below is the previews and tips send to subscribers on the Friday of the 2018 festival.
The recommended bets are all with bookmakers and are the only bets that will be included in the official results, but I will add some extra advise as well, which may be in the form of a bet on the exchanges, and I will also list horses that were close to being a bet, and the price I would have backed them at, as well as the stake if they had been that price.
So for an example – Singlefarmpayment (min price 9/1, 2 Points each way) means the minimum price I wanted to back Singlefarmpayment was 9/1, and he would have been a 2 points each way bet if he was that price before I send the email. This is useful if they drift to that price after the email is sent.
Best of luck
1:30 Cheltenham – Triumph Hurdle
The grade one that Mr Adjudicator beat Farclas by a length and a quarter at Leopardstown compared favorable both in overall time and sectionals, with the race Samcro won the same day. They were quicker throughout, and while a quicker overall time can often just mean they went a more even pace, the pace was actually pretty similar and it was late on that Mr Adjudicator and Farclas gained most of the six lengths they ran quicker than Samcro, so while Samcro wasn’t all out, and was carrying ten pounds more than the juveniles, it also means they ran much faster than Duc Des Genievres and Paloma Blue who have both run well at Cheltenham this week already. I think that piece of form is very strong, and both look to have a great chance in this. Mr Adjudicator had much more experience than Farclas on the flat, which seemed to help him when it came down to a battle close home, and of the pair Farclas appeals as a type to improve the most.
Redicean didn’t beat much but was impressive in winning his first two hurdle starts, but he beat a useful sort last time, and looked to have plenty more in the tank. The worry would be all three of his hurdle wins were at Kempton, and the way he travels and quickens, suggests that type of flat track may suit him best. His first two hurdles wins were on heavy and soft but his latest win has more substance to it, and it was on good ground. He doesn’t appeal as the type that will be at his best in a slog.
Stormy Ireland won by a distance on her only hurdle start in Ireland, but the horse she beat went off 80/1 on the exchanges, and was having it’s third run for a mark, having been down the field in it’s first two starts, so the form is impossible to weight up. A horse twenty pounds shy of winning a Triumph would have won that race by a long way, so while it’s doesn’t mean she isn’t good enough, she looks very short given the massive step up in class this is.
Saldier won a minor race on the flat in France, and his flat rating probably flatters him as it was achieved running in small field, slowly run group races, when he finished in rear. He won easily on his hurdles debut, but he beat a 50 rated flat horse, who has got thrashed in his only run since. This is a huge step up in class.
I think the betting is all wrong for this, Apples Shakira looks much too short. I think Farclas is one of the bets of the week, as he really does look like a type that will improve, but that Leopardstown form is so strong that Mr Adjudicator has to be backed as as well. If they both stay over say 6/1 nearing the off it would be worth doing a reverse forecast on them too, as if the form is as strong as I think they could easily be first and second.
3 Points Win Farclas at 15/2 with William Hill, Sportingbet +more
2 Points Win Mr Adjudicator at 9/1 with Sportingbet (9/1 for good money on exchanges too, but 8/1 is fine if you can’t get 9/1)
2:10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle
Meri Devie was second in a valuable handicap at Fairyhouse in early December, and also fifth in another hot handicap at Leopardstown in early February, before beating the winner of that race on much more favorable terms in a listed race last time. The second from that Leopardstown handicap, Barra, was a close third in the Coral on Wednesday off four pounds higher, so Meri Devie is fairly treated off two pounds higher, and she is lightly enough raced to still improve.
Smaoineamh Alainn has won her three hurdle starts, the most recent when going into handicaps off a mark of 129 at Cheltenham in December. Her jockey was taking a chance leaving her with over two lengths to find jumping the last, when she was still going well, but she justified his confidence by picking up well when asked. The pace was steady so margins were compressed as a result, and she left the impression she had a good bit more in hand. She is eight pounds higher here, but the form of that has worked out quite well, with the second home since running well in good races off seven pounds higher. She is totally unexposed, and the one worry would be that slowly run affair won’t have provided her with the experience needed for this, but on the flip side if they had gone a gallop that day, she may now be rated much higher, as I think she would have won a good bit easier.
At a huge price Sternrubin looks worth a half point each way bet. He was third in this race off one pound lower in 2016, and won a good handicap at Ascot the following season off that mark too. He hasn’t taken to chasing this season, but performed well on the flat last summer, and there is no real reason to think he’s not as good as he was.
Spiritofthegames has only had seven hurdle starts, yet is compiling a decent record, coming a close second in the Lanzarote at Kempton on his penultimate start, and then third in the Betfair hurdle last time. The Lanzarote has worked out really well, and while he was eight lengths behind Bleu Et Rouge last time, that one has gone up eight pounds for that second, were as Spirtofthegames gets to run off the same mark. Of that pair the latter looks to have more scope to do better.
1 Point Each Way Spiritofthegames at 16/1 with Bet 365, William Hill +more
1/2 Point Each Way Sternrubin at 50/1 with Bet 365, William Hill +more
Meri Devie (min price 16/1, 1 Point Each Way)
Smaoineamh Alainn (18/1, 1 Point Each Way)
2:50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
Santini is two from two over hurdles, and last time he stayed on well to get the better of Black Op by three quarters of a length, over two and a half miles at Cheltenham. That form looks better now after Black Op came second to Samcro on Wednesday, but Black Op did go like the best horse that day, and would likely have won had he delayed his effort longer off a decent pace, or if he jumped the last better, so the form may not be quite as good as it looks, as you’d imagine Black Op improved, but that win was backed up by a good time, so it is definitely strong form with the promise of more to come at this trip, as the way Santini stayed on having been outpaced when the second went for home suggests he will improve for this extra distance.
Chef Des Obeaux has improved for the step up to around three miles the last twice, which is no surprise given he looks a really strong stayer at that trip. He beat little when winning at Kempton, and while he had Golan Fortune sixteen lengths behind in third, when winning at Haydock last time, Golan Fortune who had been second in a decent handicap off 137 on his previous start, made a bad mistake three out when looking like given him more of a race. He is steadily progressive, but his form is likely still a little behind Santini and he has had more races, so has slightly less scope to to better.
Chris’s Dream seemed to improve a good bit when winning on his first start for Henry De Bromhead last time, but nothing else ran there race, and he was chased home by a horse who was well beaten off a mark of a 100 on his previous start, so while he’s clearly useful, you wouldn’t want to be getting too carried away with that performance, and he would have been big odds for a race like this prior to that run.
At a big price Ballyward is worth a look, he will need to improve a good bit on either his fourth in a maiden at Leopardstown, or his recent half length win at Naas, but in both of those he looked sure to appreciate this step up in trip, and he was also quite green in front at Naas, so there is plenty of reasons to expect improvement.
1 Point Win Ballyward at 25/1 with Sportinget (also on exchanges, 22/1+ is fine)
Santini (min price 5/1, 3 Point Win)
3:30 Cheltenham – Gold Cup
Might Bite burst onto everyone’s radar when falling at the last in the Grade One novice chase run on King George day in 2016. He looked set for a wide margin win, and sectional and overall time analysis suggested he would likely have beaten Thistlecrack in the King George that day if he had been in that race, and stood up of course. He put up an even more remarkable performance when winning the RSA at last years festival, going a pace that meant anything that tried to go with him was beaten a long way out, but even then the patiently ridden horses couldn’t make any inroads into his lead, until he idled badly and almost ran out on the run in. After nearly coming to a standstill he somehow rallied to get back up, and shaped like by a mile the best horse in the race, and the runner up Whisper hasn’t done the form any harm since.
After a win on his comeback at Sandown, Might Bite was a workmanlike winner of the King George over Christmas, and to tell the truth I was a little disappointed with him. He settled better than last year, which is a plus, and it could be he was doing nothing in front the whole way up the straight, although it wasn’t as if he cantered into the lead in the first place, and he had been niggled upsides Bristol De Mai before he went on.
Maybe he’s just racing lazier this season, and the fact he didn’t mind taking a lead is a plus, as the extra trip at Cheltenham is a concern, as is the fact he also idled badly, and hung left in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham on the run in before. He did compete two other times at the track, and was fine, but crucially also wasn’t in front. It was the old course he ran over in last years RSA, and if the theory that he was looking for the chute back to the stables holds water, then at least this year he will be a good way further from that chute on the new course, and thus it’s far less likely a problem. It does still present a problem for his rider, as to minimize the chances of him ducking out, you surely have to try hold onto him until as late as you dare, and take a lead over the last, but given he normally bowls along at his pace, rather than one set by others, which could effect his momentum if he had to constantly rein him back, that is far from ideal too. The ground is a big concern though, as for one, the two times he’s looked a real star, was at Kempton as a novice when he fell at the last, and at Cheltenham last year, and Timeform called the ground good both times. The softer going will also make it more of a stamina test, and he needs to show he can be as effective over further, and his run style would leave doubts. He is still a fascinating horse, and while the bare form of his King George win wouldn’t be good enough, it’s hard to forget the impression he made last season, and he could still be a superstar in waiting.
When Native River won the Hennessy last season, he was off the bridle before a few others, but stayed on really strongly, and as such the extra trip of the Welsh National looked sure to suit, and he duly won that quite comfortably. He surprised me a bit by being quick enough to win the grade 2 at Newbury in February after, off what was a slow pace, but it was just a three runner affair, and he still looked to have plenty on his plate in a good ground Gold Cup, but ran a cracker to be third, staying on well, having again come off the bridle well before a few he ended up beating. He has only run once since, and that was when winning the same Newbury race as last season, there was only three runners but this time they went a good gallop, and he actually recorded a decent time-figure when winning easily.
I’ve read some claims about him being likely to bounce because he ran a good time that day, having not run in almost a year. I’ve seen no proper analysis that shows anything much in the bounce theory, which is basically a horse running fast after a layoff, and then regressing next time The fact he was able to win like he did without getting a slap, means he must have been fairly fit, so it’s not like a half fit horse having a really hard race, and him winning like that is no different to another horse that had ran in December, doing the same, yet we wouldn’t hear any bounce theories about them. His layoff also wasn’t due to an injury but because he had a hard season last year, so they started him back later. In fact he showed on a few occasions last season that he was able to bounce back from a hard race and run to form next time, and if anything I see his preparation for this years Gold Cup as almost perfect. The big plus this year is the ground as he stays all day, and the more of a stamina test the better, so the fact he could go close on good, in an admittedly below average Gold Cup, suggests he has a hell of a chance on soft, and at Newbury he looked like he might be an even better horse this year.
Our Duke is all about stamina, he battled back really well after a slow jump at the second last to beat Coney Island at Leopardstown in December 2016, before finding two miles and five too short at the same track next time, but still ran well. He looked certain to appreciate the extra trip in the Irish Grand National, and he duly outclassed his rivals. He was suffering from an injury when running poorly at Down Royal on his comeback, but his fourth place finish in the Irish Gold Cup in early February, was much more promising. He is not a slick jumper, and doesn’t need much excuse to slow into a fence, so needs an aggressive ride in that sense, I’m sure if given another go, his jockey would have asked him for one at the second last when still travelling well, but instead he slowed into it, and ended up making a mistake that ended his chance, as he landed very awkwardly, and staying on his feet would have had a big energy cost, as well as the seven lengths or so it cost him straight away. He did well to stay on into fourth after, and given how well he stays, he would almost certainly have gone very close had he jumped that fence well.
I tipped him for the Gold Cup at 16/1 in an Ante Post piece after that race, but I didn’t fancy him when he turned up for a two mile and four grade two at Gowran two weeks later, as although the trip was also far from ideal for his market rival, Presenting Percy, that one has looked pacy enough for a horse who stays much further, and the race also contained proper two and a half milers like A Toi Phil. Our Duke needed every yard of the trip to get the better of Presenting Percy, who he was giving seven pounds too, and the pair were clear of the rest. That looked a fine effort at the time, and looks even better after Presenting Percy ran out an easy winner of the RSA on Wednesday. He again made one or two mistakes, but he can jump when he’s asked for one, and it’s a plus that Robbie Power who knows him, is ridding him again, as he surely won’t let him away with slowing into his fences. The ground is perfect as it should ensure it’s a real test, and Our Duke looks like he’d gallop all day, and as his win over two and a half showed last time, he has a bit of class to boot.
Killultagh Vic was very progressive over hurdles and then fences in 2015/16, before injury kept him off the track until a hurdles win at Punchestown on New Years Eve. He progressed plenty for that, and looked set to win the Irish Gold Cup when falling at the last. He still has plenty of scope to do better, but the concerns would be if his jumping will hold up, and if that fall will leave a mark, as he stayed down for a good while afterwards. He will also need to prove his stamina for the Gold Cup trip.
Definitly Red only beat a non stayer at Aintree but seemed to show improved form last time when beating American by eight lengths at Cheltenham last time. I don’t think that form will be good enough though, and it’s hard to think he’s much better than that, and if anything looked like a potential Gold Cup winner in that race, it was the second, American.
American won his only three chases last season, and although pulled up in the Ladbroke Trophy on his reappearence, the good ground was a valid excuse. Having initially been settled near the back last time, he jumped so well he was in front passing the stands, and was soon pressing on. He landed going best over the third last, and looked set to win, yet his jockey allowed the winner go past on the bend without moving, suggesting the tank was empty, yet he rallied to stay on for second. They finished quite slowly in that race, and his mid race move definitely had a negative effect on him late on. They way he traveled and jumped suggested he was potentially top class if he used his energy more efficiently, although it wasn’t entirely the jockeys fault, as the horse was quite free.
Road To Respect won the Lexus at Christmas but his three main rivals ran below form that day, so I think he’d need to improve on that to figure here. Balko Des Flos chased him home, and he won yesterday’s Ryanair, but that race fell apart a bit, and I wouldn’t use that win to upgrade the Lexus much, if at all. I’d also have doubts about him staying the trip, as while he won over three miles and one at Punchestown, that was a slowly run race on good to soft, while he looked to find three miles on soft far enough at Down Royal before that Lexus win, which was also on good to soft, and just three miles.
Edwulf would need to improve on his neck beating of Outlander in the Irish Gold Cup last time, but he should stay this extra distance, and he hasn’t had much racing for a nine year old, so he could still have more to give.
Total Recall has improved a bundle for the switch to the Willie Mullins yard, he would need to improve a good bit more to have a chance. Djakadam wasn’t beaten far last season, and would have been closer but for a mistake at the second last. I think at this trip better ground would suit more though, and he hasn’t been in the same form so far this season either. That said he has run to his best here the last three years, so he could run well again, although it’s hard to see him winning. He’d be more of a possible place only bet.
I really like Might Bite but these conditions are a big worry, and I think Native River and Our Duke are more likely winners, and are both worth backing, as well as American at bigger odds. Backing all three works out at fractionally under 2/1 coupled, and that looks a good bet to me.
2 Point Win Native River at 5/1 with Bet 365, Ladbrokes +more
3 Point Win Our Duke at 11/2 with Bet 365, William Hill +more
1 Point Win American at 33/1 with Bet 365, William Hill +more
4:10 Cheltenham – Foxhunter Chase
Hunter Chases wouldn’t be races I’d be keen on as a betting medium, and I can’t find anything I’d be confident about recommending in this. Balnaslow was better than the result when fifth in this last year, going like the best horse for a long way, and still looked like going close until getting in close to the last. He went on to come second at Aintree and win at Punchestown. He hasn’t run since but all the main hunter races are at the end of the season so is likely readied for this. The worry is the ground as all that improved form last season was on much better ground, and it would be enough to stop me recommending him as a bet.
4:50 Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle
Diese Des Bieffes was second in a good Kempton novice, run in a good time over Christmas, shaping like he’d appreciate the step up from that two miles. The third horse that day won a handicap off 130 next time, so Diese Des Bieffes looked to be on an exploitable mark of 135 when stepping into handicaps last time. He got a little outpaced on the home bend before staying on nicely to be fifth, beaten just four lengths. The form of that race has worked out really well, with all of the four who beat him either running very well or wining in valuable handicaps since then, so off just a two pounds higher mark, with that experience sure to have benefited him, Diese Des Bieffes looks to have a big chance here.
Deal D’estruval was made to work hard to win on his Irish debut at Tramore over around this trip, but showed much improved form when second in a valuable handicap at Leopardstown last time, staying on well in the straight to come second, beaten just over a length. He shaped like the extra trip today was sure to suit, and while he is ten pounds higher here, he is open to plenty more improvement, and having had that big handicap experience should be a help today too.
Melrose Boy won a handicap over two miles and five at Cheltenham back in November, and last time at Sandown he was a good third to Topofthegame, having briefly trading odds on in running when challenging between the last two. He looked to get that nearly three mile trip fine, so I’d rather an extra furlong or two today, but that Sandown race looked strong form. The second came into it on a roll, the fourth won next time, albeit in a handicap chase, while the winner was only just pipped in the Coral Cup off eight pounds higher, so Melrose Boy who is still unexposed, and was only beaten three lengths, looks fairly treated off just two pounds higher. They often go a real good pace in this race, which should help bring his stamina into play.
2 Point Each Way Diese Des Bieffes at 9/1 with Unibet, 888 (8/1 is fine too)
1 Point Each Way Melrose Boy at 20/1 with Ladbrokes, Coral +more (18/1 is fine)
Deal D’estruval (min price 10/1, 2 Points Each Way)
5:30 Cheltenham – Grand Annual
North Hill Harvey won the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November 2016, off a mark of 141, and went off one of the favorites for last years County Hurdle off 149, but ran poorly, with the better ground possibly to blame. He already looks a better chaser than hurdler, jumping really well for two wins at Cheltenham, beating Sceaux Royal in the first of those, and although that horse gained his revenge when beating North Hill Harvey by ten lengths in the grade one Henry VIII at Sandown, he got into a bit of a duel with Brain Power from a long way out, and they paid for it late. He ran poorly last time at Warwick, but if he bounces back, and in general he’s a consistent sort, he looks to have a good chance of his chase mark of 150. Compared to some of the handicap hurdles at the meeting, this race is full of mostly exposed sorts, and he is one of the few with pretensions to being on the up.
Three Stars seemed to be revitalized by the application of check-pieces and a forceful ride back over two miles and one last time. He was up there throughout and kicked for home looking the winner as they came around the final bend, but a slight mistake at the last, and perhaps the effects of going for home too soon, meant he had to settle for a two and three quarter length second. The time and sectionals of the race compare well with the grade one two mile races run the same day, with the time only around eight lengths slower than Footpad, and even though carrying twelve pounds less weight it still looked a good effort from Three Stars.
2 Point Each Way North Hill Harvey at 9/1 with William Hill, Skybet
1 Point Each Way Three Stars at 18/1 with William Hill (16/1 is fine too)
Each Way means a win and a place bet, so €10 each way will cost €20 in total