Below you’ll find our ante-post selections for Cheltenham Festival 2018, along with key updates regarding their chances.
- 13th Jan: despite the market suggesting the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on the Wednesday is his intended target, we backed him for the two-mile opener after connections hinted at a tilt at the Supreme by entering him in the two-mile Irish Champion Hurdle and two-mile Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s been hyped as the new wonderhorse of the sport and if he were to run in the Supreme he would likely go off even money or odds-on.
- 3rd Feb: declared for the two-mile novices’ hurdle and wins in stunning fashion, prompting his Supreme price to collapse to 5/1 and 6/4 NRNB. Owner Michael O’Leary was interviewed after the race and suggested the longer trip of the Ballymore is still his intended target, however trainer Gordon Elliott refused to rule out the Supreme.
- 8th Feb: Elliott again says he’s being aimed at the Ballymore. Realistically he looks less likely to now run in the supreme than his new price suggests.
- 19th Feb: O’Leary declares him a certain runner in the Ballymore, with just the prospect of testing ground offering any glimmer of hope. Do not back him now.
- 19th Jan: backed after his good fourth in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, where he looks to be one of many second-season hurdlers underestimated by the handicapper. Looks like he wants three miles and the Coral Cup looks ideal.
- 3rd Feb: wins a valuable handicap hurdle at Sandown and goes up 8lb in the ratings. Trainer Paul Nicholls said in the aftermath he might be put away from the season with a view to going chasing in the autumn. Slashed to 14/1 in the NRNB market for the Coral Cup, but doesn’t look a likely runner.
- 22nd Feb: his trainer says “I entered Topofthegame in the unlikely event or the course getting torrents of rain in the days before the race and he will not be going to Cheltenham unless the ground is seriously testing.”
- 31st Jan: backed in anticipation he’d get beaten by Min at Leopardstown over two miles and one furlong and be rerouted to the Ryanair.
- 3rd Feb: beaten 81 lengths by Min in the worst performance of his career. Hardly encouraging ahead of the Festival but the Ryanair now looks his most likely race. Remains at 7/1 NRNB after initially being slashed to 4/1. Not certain to run at all.
- 19th Feb: friendless in the market, he’s been eased to 8/1 and looks an increasingly unlikely runner – which would see our full stake returned.
- 19th Jan: backed for the Stayers’ after William Henry and Topofthegame – two horses he easily beat last season at Cheltenham – ran blinders in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. Wholestone had already won the Relkeel Hurdle this season and his generation of second-season hurdlers keep winning big pots. Looks underrated and overpriced at 16/1.
- 27th Jan: outstayed by Agrapart, who he had comfortably seen off in the Relkeel, when pulling eight lengths clear of the third in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle over three miles. That was run on very heavy ground and he didn’t stay up the hill, which raises a few stamina doubts for the Stayers’ Hurdle, however this was still very good form and he remains at 16/1.
- 3rd/4th Feb: Topofthegame, who he easily disposed of last season, wins a valuable handicap hurdle at Sandown, while Monalee, who was one place and four lengths ahead of him in second in the Albert Bartlett at last year’s Festival, wins a Grade 1 novices’ chase at Leopardstown. Both results again frank Wholestone’s overall form.
- 7th Feb: Yanworth strongly fancied to be switched back to hurdles from his RSA Chase target for the more valuable and prestigious Stayer’s Hurdle, as a horse he’s already beaten over three miles in Grade 1 company, Supasundae, is now 3/1 favourite.
- 20th Feb: confirmed by Alan King as a runner in the Stayers’, with his two other casing entries removed. Backed into around 6/1 and likely to shorten further given Supasundae remains favourite with most bookies.
Gold Cup: 0.5pt win Fox Norton @50/1 (non-runner)
- 26 Dec: backed to win the Gold Cup ahead of his tilt at the King George, where he never traveled and didn’t look like he stayed the three-mile trip. Almost a certain non-starter in the Gold Cup. Do not back now.