2.50 Cheltenham – Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase
As usual this is a very competitive handicap chase, and I like two at the prices. Out Sam is joint favourite, but I still think 7/1 is too big. He had just four starts over hurdles, running well off a mark of 142 in the last of those. He was always likely to end up chasing sooner rather than later though, and after a third of six in a grade two on his first chase start, he has won small field races at Carlisle and Newbury. At Newbury he was hacking all over his other two rivals, from the moment he was sent on turning into the straight. The second horse Milansbar has since won off a mark of 137, and considering Out Sam was giving him four pound that day, he looks potentially thrown in off 139 for this.
A slight note of caution is that the time of that Newbury race was over twelve seconds slower than the graded open chase on the same card, and closing sectionals were similar in both races. Given how much slower they were in the first part of the race, you would have expected the novices to gain some ground late on, and it’s possible the other two horses were below form. The novice race was run much later in the day though, and with the ground heavy it’s likely it was much more cut up at that point, negating the worth of any overall time analysis.
The other horse I’m interested in is Un Temps Pour Tout. He had some very decent hurdle form last season, coming third in the Aintree Hurdle, before winning a grade one at Auteuil over three miles and one furlong. He showed some decent form in two novice chases, without replicating his hurdle form, and last time was a staying on fourth in a novice handicap off a mark of 152. He probably didn’t like the really heavy ground that day, and the extra trip tomorrow is a plus. The handicapper has kindly dropped him four pound for that, and he now looks very well handicapped on his hurdles form, and with just three chase runs so far, there’s no reason he can’t be just as good over fences.]
2 PT EW (5 places) Out Sam at 7/1 with Skybet
1 PT EW Un Temps Pour Tout at 16/1 with William Hill (The good start gets better when Un Temps Pour Tout comes home in front)
3.30 Cheltenham – Champion Hurdle
This years Champion Hurdle had a major twist when last years winner Faugheen, was ruled out due to injury, and Willie Mullins then switched Annie Power to run in this instead of either the Mares Hurdle, or World Hurdle. The fact that she had choices over trips ranging from the two miles of the Champion, to the three miles of the World Hurdle, shows how versatile she is, but also hints that her best trip is likely in the middle of the two.
Annie Power was second in the World Hurdle two years ago, beaten by a very good winner in More of That, and while she got the trip well enough, the way she tanked through the race, before not finding as much as the winner from the last, strongly suggested she would be better over shorter. She has been campaigned very negatively since then, running in the Mares Hurdle at last years festival, a race she was set to win easily, only to fall at the last, before winning another non event at Punchestown at the end of the season.
She recently made her comeback at Punchestown and duly hacked up, again taking a strong hold despite the application of a hood. Her form over three miles is at least as good as anything else has achieved over any trip, bar maybe My Tent Or Yours, and she is surely capable of better if she settles, and this trip gives her the best possible chance of doing that.
Take out Annie Power and it looks a terrible Champion Hurdle, Nichols Canyon is second favourite, despite having no form that would see him go close in even an average Champion Hurdle, Identity Thief is in the same boat, although he may be the more likely to find a few pound improvement of the pair, while The New One couldn’t win the Champion Hurdle when he was a better horse two years ago, although he may have done so if he hadn’t got badly hampered by a faller.
I tipped up My Tent or Yours non runner no bet for this in my ante post preview at 25/1, with the logic being he had the second best form, and would surely only run if he won his trial. As it turns out he never made the racetrack, and the vibes seems to be more, we have no other race to run him in, so we might as well come here. I wouldn’t put anyone off the 11/1 currently available, although the worry is freshness will see him pull very hard, but I’d prefer to back his stablemate Peace and Co at 25/1.
Peace And Co won a good edition of the Triumph Hurdle, despite pulling quite hard last season, and looked like he could go right to the top. He has disappointed in two runs this season, last time finding nothing off the bridle at Sandown. He is reported to have had a wind op since that run, and he certainly ran like he had a problem that day. If that does work, then he doesn’t have much to find with the favourites here, and could still resume his progress. At 25/1 he definite looks worth a saver, but the main bet has to be Annie Power. She may be better over two and a half miles, but I do think two miles will suit her better than three, and her three mile form could well be good enough to win this.
5 PT Win Annie Power at 5/2 with Paddy Power (Annie Power makes it three winners in a row)
1 PT EW Peace And Co at 25/1 with Skybet
4.10 Cheltenham – David Nicholson Mares Hurdle
Vroom Vroom Mag could be different class to these, but given she’s been relatively untested in her career so far, her price is based mainly on potential, rather than on what she’s actually done. All her form since moving from France is on very soft ground, and is also left handed. In a recent article I did on Interesting Stats and Potential Angles for Cheltenham I found that horses that had their last run right handed didn’t perform as well as market expectations at Cheltenham, and that effect could only be larger for Vroom Vroom Mag, whose last eight runs have been right handed. So she’s going from very soft ground, to decent ground, right handed to left handed, and the hustle and bustle of a big field for the first time. Add in the fact she doesn’t yet have the form in the book, and she looks a bit short around even money.
I wouldn’t be really strong on anything in this, but Bitofapuzzle was only beaten half a length in this race last year, on just her fourth hurdle start. She then won another hurdle and a chase, before unseating when looking like making it two from two over fences. Last time she ran poorly, but back over hurdles here, there must be every chance she will bounce back to form, given her overall very consistent record, and at odds of 16/1 looks worth an each way bet.
1 PT EW Bitofapuzzle at 16/1 with Betvictor
4.50 Cheltenham – National Hunt Chase
The National Hunt Chase is a race for amatuer jockeys, and is run over four miles. It is confined to novice chasers. Stamina is the big question mark for plenty of these. The favourite Minella Rocco shaped last time over three miles like he’d be better over further, but he didn’t look short of pace when hacking up over hurdles last February, and it could be he’s just not putting it all in, as you’d have to say he’s chasing career has been a little disappointing so far, given the impression he made last season.
I’d worry about the trip for Noble Endeavor, and don’t see why he’s a shorter price than Measureofmydreams who beat him last time, and is at least as likely to appreciate this test. Pont Alexandre is another who I think may find the trip too far. I think Local Show will stay the four miles, but the worry with him is the ground, as all his form is on soft, and he has an action that suggest that will be his optimum going too.
One I really like is Ballychorus. She has fallen in two of her last three starts which is obviously a worry coming to Cheltenham, but both falls were at the last when she just got in too close, having jumped well to that point, and last time she showed no ill effects when winning easily at Thurles. I thought she was just idling a little in front when she came down at Navan, while last time at Leopardstown, she was coming with what looked a winning challenge to me, when she again got in too close and tipped up.
She was running off a rating of 138 that day, and given she gets a seven pound mares allowance tomorrow, she looks to have an outstanding chance, and unlike a few of the others, I think she will appreciate the extra distance, as she has always finished strongly over three miles. She goes on any ground, and if her jumping holds up, she must have a right chance, and looks much too big at 14/1. Measureofmydreams is unexposed over fences, his form is as good as anything ahead of him in the market, and he has just as good a chance of getting the trip as any of them, and more than most, so I think he’s worth a bet at 12/1 too.
2 PT EW (4 places) Ballychorus at 12/1 BOG with Betvictor
1 PT EW (4 places) Measureofmydreams at 12/1/ BOG with Paddy Power
5.30 Cheltenham – Festival Novices Handicap Chase
A handicap chase for novices, run over two miles and four furlongs, rounds off the card for day one of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. Twenty runners are set to face the starter, but the favourite, Aloomomo stands out like a sore thumb to me. He’s progressing fast over fences, and although he’s now eleven pound higher than when winning at Newbury in November, the form of that race has worked out really well, with the third, fourth and fifth winning since, and giving it a really solid look.
This race has clearly been the target, as connections, having got a mark of 140 didn’t run him over fences since, instead giving him a prep over hurdles at Ascot when he shaped well, and while the fact he stayed the two miles six furlongs of the Newbury race, means this drop to two and a half miles is a slight negative, they should go a good pace, and the way he travelled at Newbury suggests he will be fine over the shorter distance. He’s no huge value at 13/2, but is worth a small bet.
2 PT EW (5 Places) Aloomomo at 6/1 BOG with Betfair Sportsbook
Stakes are on a scale of 0-8 points. A 20/1 shot will generally be a 1 point bet, were as at the opposite end, a 6/4 shot will generally be an 8 point bet. The aim is to return around 20 points on the win part of each bet. I will aim for higher than 20 points with stronger selections, and lower for ones that I’m not as strong on.
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