The wait is over, spring has turned up and it’s Champion Hurdle day at Cheltenham Festival.
The big race is a curious punting puzzle this year and we’re sitting on a 25/1 each-way ticket on runaway Relkeel Hurdle winner Camping Ground, who it might surprise you to know is the highest rated hurdler in the lineup.
He remains a big price and very backable, so that ship hasn’t sailed and we’d still advise getting on board.
It’s very difficult to oppose Annie Power given her mare’s allowance, but she’s too short at 2/1 and, whilst there is certainly value behind, it’s just anyone’s guess which of the others is the one to take her on with as very few arrive without a significant chance.
I’m certainly leaning towards The New One, the only horse to have run in last year’s renewal, and will admit to taking a bite of the 12/1 available shortly after Faugheen was scratched.
Connections are making all the right noises and I’m having a hard time not envisaging this ultra-consistent bona fide Grade-1 performer running his race.
He’s now a popular 6/1 second favourite and, whilst still fair each-way value, that’s one ship that has sailed value-wise.
Good luck to the Twiston-Davies team, as I can think of no more worthy winner.
Shock horror, we won’t be opposing the Douvan in the Arkle and recommend no bet in the race.
His odds are very skinny and we’re just as thin on options to take him on with, though The Game Changer for Gordon Elliott makes the most appeal after he described him his ‘fastest horse’.
In the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle we’re faced with a tricky decision.
It’s easy to get carried away and take three or four from the field, but year after year it goes to the favourite wearing Rich Ricci’s pink silks.
We don’t know how good Min is yet and I’m not sure his trainer or jockey do either, though he’s considered good enough to force the classy Yorkhill towards Wednesday’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and couldn’t have done more to back up the hype on his two appearances this season.
My advice is you’re either with him or against him, and if you do fancy Min I suggest you take full advantage of the many generous concessions offered by the bookies on this race – SkyBet’s in particular – and go for Min and Min only.
I couldn’t possibly recommend him as a value bet at a drifting 2/1, but with the promise of refunds and whatnot he’s a good bit better value than the bare price suggests.
Followers of our ante-post tips will be pleased to see Tombstone declared for the race, and they should also be pleased to see the sunshine dry the track.
Good to soft, soft in places is the current official going but I’m one of many who believe it’ll ride far quicker than that would have you believe.
The ground has been largely untouched since last year and recent winners of the Supreme have made a mockery of the official going.
Better ground will help Tombstone and he looks an each-way bet at his current odds of 14/1, but we won’t be going back for more with our 20/1 win bet already open.
Vroum Vroum Mag is another skinny-priced lady in the mare’s race, and she’s – rightly or wrongly – been priced up as if she were Annie Power.
Unbeaten and prolific since joining Mullins, she’s still no value at that price, though I’m in no hurry to take her on.
In summary, I’m going to be mightily boring and not select any more for the first four Grade 1 races of the Festival, but I’d be a hypocrite to put you off the Min, Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag fourfold, which would bring unprecedented carnage to the bookmakers.
The National Hunt Chase however looks ripe with value.
It’s an amateur riders’ race and we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of a solid jockey booking.
“If you’ve got Jamie Codd or Nina Carberry or Derek O’Connor in these sort of races it’s worth a stone straight away.”
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Noble Endeavour
If Mr. Elliott is to be believed then his Noble Endeavour (Jamie Codd), Southfield Royale (Nina Carberry) and Minella Rocco (Derek O’Connor) are three for your shortlists.
This is a marathon four-mile trip and will go to the stayer most effective on the ground and the track.
Elliott sounds bullish on Noble Endeavour’s chances of staying and his Cheltenham form really catches the eye.
He gave 5lb to the high-class Killultagh Vic in last season’s Martin Pipe and only lost by a head, before his conqueror went on to Grade 1 glory at Punchestown.
My concern is his form this season is a little patchy and I’m not sure 7/1 is worth taking in a 20-horse race.
The other one I like is DEFINITLY RED – unfortunately that isn’t a typo – who has had a bout of seconditis this season but remains a player.
He was last seen chasing home one of the RSA Chase favourites, Blaklion, in a competitive Grade-2 trial at Wetherby.
He had Native River and Bitofapuzzle ahead of him in the betting but behind at the post that day, and had previously got to within a couple of lengths of Black Hercules – long-time ante-post favourite for this race who now looks set for either the RSA Chase or JLT – at Warwick.
Whilst he was receiving weight in most of those races and won’t in this, he’s run very well and arrives in good form.
The concern is how much his intense campaign has taken out of him, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll improve for better ground and the 38-day break might be enough to get his legs back.
His family is full of good ground performers and he is very unexposed on a sound surface – he’s only raced on it twice, coming seventh in the Champion Bumper at the Festival a few years ago and winning a hurdle at Catterick.
If we excuse a dud run in last year’s gruelling Albert Bartlett, his course form on the whole is good, with a bumper win at the track in 2014.
Part owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, his Gold Cup-winning son Sam takes the ride, which is a plus given his good record in similar marathon trips like the Grand National.
If he runs his race I’m inclined to believe he’s a good each-way bet at 16/1 and well worth a small wager.
Best of luck with the rest of your day one bets.
0.5pt each-way Definitly Red @16/1 (Bet365, 4 places), 16:50 Cheltenham, 15th MarchLeave a comment