Cheltenham Festival ante-post update, 8th February

A pretty good week for our ante-post selections.

Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivanovich Gorbatrov was well beaten in the Grade 1 juvenile event at Leopardstown on Saturday, and drifted accordingly.

AP McCoy spoke publically about the risk in ruling out his chances, pointing towards improvement on better spring ground, so he’s not totally discounted now and his price seems to have levelled out around the 6/1 mark – still favourite.

This was good news for our 16/1 selection Sceau Royal, who is into 8/1 across the board without coming out of his box.

Alan King says he’s likely to stay there until Cheltenham so, if he stays healthy, that price should be stable and we’re well ahead of the market for the race.

After the Irish Gold Cup, I’m left kicking myself about letting last year’s winner Carlingford Lough go unbacked at a massive price, as he was such an obvious value bet.

Gerraghty opting for Gilgamboa put me off, much like Paul Hanagan did when opting for Adaay over the mighty Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, which serves as another reminder that connections often get it wrong.

The implications of Road To Riches’s defeat in the race were positives for our selection Vautour’s Gold Cup chances, as it appears increasingly unlikely the former will contest the big one instead of the Ryanair, and also put a small dent in Djakadam’s form in last year’s renewal to give stable jockey Ruby Walsh an easier decision in the race.

Also at Leopardstown, our 20/1 Supreme Novices’ selection Tombstone finished second once again in Grade 1 company, but not to the horse we were expecting.

Blue Et Rouge sprung a 14/1 surprise to turn over the odds-on Bellshill, and both look to be heading for the Neptune, over its longer distance.

Market response to Tombstone’s defeat was mixed, with Ladbrokes and Betfair pushing him out to 16/1 but most not budging at the 12-14/1 mark.

Saturday’s race was on terrible ground and over an extra two furlongs to the Supreme, and he looked to be outstayed by the winner.

This should confirm the Supreme as his target whilst taking very little away from his chances in the race, with the caveat of requiring better ground.

If you haven’t backed him already, I really like the 16/1 as an each-way bet as the horse is nothing but consistent.

The biggest winner in the race didn’t leave his box, as Bellshill’s flop saw Yanworth shortened to odds-on in places for the Neptune.

Good news for our ‘banker’ fourfold – Faugheen, Thistlecrack, Yanworth and Killultagh Vic – though two threats emerged from the Grade 1 novice chases at Leopardstown and Sandown on Saturday, with Willie Mullins’s Outlander finally living up to the hype and Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Bristol De Mai running away with the Scilly Ilses Chase.

Both look likely opponents for Killultagh Vic in the JLT, who was slightly eased as they both came in for support, but I remain bullish about his chances in the race given his superior form.

Despite being over a longer trip, Bristol De Mai winning that race paid another significant complement to the form of our 16/1 Arkle selection Ar Mad, who put 10 lengths between them when winning the Henry VIII at Sandown in December.

As De Mee was third in the December race and again followed Bristol De Mai home by a similar margin on Saturday, so there’s a consistent look to the form to suggest he could challenge Douvan in March.

Ar Mad could be seen next at Plumpton next Monday (15th), where he’s likely to go off long odds-on to prove his ability on a left-handed track in what is effectively a schooling session.

Worth a watch, as a clear round and easy win will bring in his price and confirm the Arkle his target.

Nothing emerged as a threat to either Faugheen and Thistlecrack this weekend, though Peace And Co flopped again at Sandown to decrease his already-small Champion Hurdle chances.

The betting for this year’s Festival has a different feel to it, with so many short-priced favourites and, mostly, they’re all there for the right reasons.

I suspect the bookmakers are very nervous about this year as the liabilities on the accumulators must be huge – it really doesn’t feel that unlikely that Min, Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power, Yanworth, Un De Sceaux, Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack would all win.

Throw in Vautour, Ivanovich Gorbatrov, Josies Orders, Limini and No More Heroes, and we could see unprecedented mayhem.

The downside of all this is it’s tough to take these favourites on and it’s hard to find value – the ante-post markets are so alive the value gets punted out of the races so fast.

That said, we’re still on the lookout in the coming weeks and look forward to advising more selections if the price is right.

Cheltenham Festival 2016 Ante-Post Selections

  • 1pt win Tombstone @20/1 (WIllHill), Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
  • 1pt win Ar Mad @16/1 with Boylesports, Arkle Challenge Chase
  • 0.5pt win Simonsig @20/1 (various), Queen Mother Champion Chase
  • 1pt win Camping Ground @10/1 (various), World Hurdle
  • 1pt win Martello Tower @25/1 (various), World Hurdle
  • 1pt win Sceau Royal @16/1 (various), Triumph Hurdle
  • 1pt win Vautour @10/1 (various), Arkle Challenge Chase
  • 1pt fourfold win Faugheen, Yanworth, Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack @33/1 (Bet365)
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