Betfair Cheltenham Preview 2016

On Wednesday 2 March 2016, Betfair will be hosting a Cheltenham preview evening featuring a number of racing heavyweights including Paul Nicholls, Davy Russell and Gary O’Brien – and you can watch it live here on Betting. Betfair. Here’s the lowdown…

The sold out event, which will start at 20:00 and run for around two hours, takes place in Dublin but don’t worry if you haven’t got a ticket – we will be live streaming it here, so be sure to bookmark this page and tune in on the day.
The panel, chaired by Denis Kirwan, will feature champion trainer and Betfair Ambassador, Paul Nicholls, leading jockey Davy Russell, jockey-turned-trainer Andrew McNamara, Gary O’Brien from At The Races, tipster Mark ‘The Couch’ Winstanley, Irish Daily Star Sports Editor Brian Flanagan and Betfair’s own Barry Orr.
Get your questions to the expert panel by submitting them to @BetfairRacing, using #BetfairPreview. We will pick out the best ones and ask them on the night. Be sure to stay tuned in throughout as we’ll be releasing limited time enhanced prices for key races at the Festival.
The evening is hosted in conjunction with the Irish Daily Star.

Best bets for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival

With the 2013/14 jumps season at a close and the Guineas-fuelled flat season now well underway, fans of National Hunt racing may rightly feel a bit blue heading into these summer months. But fear not, for before you know it the days will start to shorten again and one event above all others will begin to loom large on the horizon says Tom Chilman.

Next year’s Cheltenham Festival will no-doubt be as electrifying, gut-wrenching and inimitable as ever and, as is customary, I see no reason why we can’t already start to look ahead to the 2015 renewal.

OFaolainsBoy

Will O’Faolains Boy win the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

For all his recent success, Nicky Henderson must be thinking he is doomed to never win another Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 22 years on from his latest success with Flown back in 1992. In the last four runnings he’s saddled all four runner-ups, as well as the third both this year and in 2011.

But the Lambourn-based trainer may hold the key to breaking his streak this time in the form of the lightly-raced West Wizard. The five-year-old was a leading protagonist in the build-up to this year’s race before a then shock defeat by Sgt Reckless back in November raised some questions. But both the trainer and owner, Dai Walters, have always been very bullish about the horse’s ability and decided early-on that he was too good to be risked on the bad ground experienced at the beginning of the year. Henderson then ruled him out of Supreme Novice contention in February due to ‘issues’ and has since decided to retain the horse’s novice status for next season.

A year older and a year wiser, you can expect to see the horse pick up a few useful novice races, on ground that surely won’t be as testing this time around, en route to the Festival opener. At 16-1 he looks a good price for what should be the stable’s best chance in a race in which they’ve come so close to winning in recent years.

RSA Chase

As is the calibre of the Willie Mullins yard that any number of potential top-class novice chasers could line-up for him in next year’s RSA Chase with a good chance of victory. However, whereas many of those possible candidates still have multiple options open to them, it seems as if this would be the only logical route for the progressive Don Poli.

The five-year-old looks to be an out-and-out stayer on his most recent performance when finishing second to Beat That in Punchestown’s 3m Novice Hurdle, but also showed enough class to land the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle at Cheltenham over four furlongs shorter.

Sir Des Champs was the last Mullins-trained winner of the Martin Pipe and he went on to win the 2012 Jewson Novices’ Chase before finishing second in a Gold Cup. Don Poli also looks a chaser in the making and his well-renowned connections are always looking for a potential Gold Cup contender. The 12-1 available with Betvictor looks an absolute steal in a race where many currently at the head of the market probably won’t even feature.

Ryanair Chase

If there’s ever a horse in recent times that deserves a win at the Festival it’s Oscar Whisky. Nicky Henderson said his nine-year-old could not have been in better order heading into the JLT Novices’ Chase at this year’s Festival and was confident of a big performance, only to see his hopes come crashing down at the first fence. Yet, in typical Oscar-Whisky-fashion, the horse bounced-back well to finish a dwindling one and a half lengths second to the JLT runner-up Uxizandre in the 2m 4f Novices’ Chase at Aintree next time out.

We’ll never know just how close he might have got to the same horse or even the winner, Taquin Du Seuil, at Cheltenham that day, but there’s little doubt that he has the ability to have beaten them both. By running him over fences at Aintree it looks likely that he’ll once again be campaigned over the larger obstacles, and a tilt at a fifth different race at the Festival could be on the cards if he is takes his chance in the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase.

Oscar Whisky is two for two over the course and distance, including a win over Taquin Du Seuil back in January, and should relish the race conditions.

The shock result of this year’s Gold Cup is also likely to cause a large number of the usual Ryanair suspects to take their chance in the main event, so the 20-1 currently available for another Dai Walters-owned runner looks far too tempting.

Gold Cup

Following Lord Windermere’s heroics in winning this year’s Gold Cup, the stat now reads that three of the last seven winners of the race had won the previous season’s RSA Chase. With that in mind, and a couple of impressive performances to boot, O’Faolains Boy looks to have every chance of extending that record come next March.

Rebecca Curtis’ seven-year-old couldn’t have had a tougher task in beating the consistent Smad Place by a neck in what looked an extremely competitive RSA Chase, and the victory was made all-the-more impressive after it was found the horse had pulled off a front shoe and twisted a back in running. Afterwards, jockey Barry Geraghty alluded that the horse wasn’t anywhere near his best during the race, but to still win in the manner in which he did was mightily impressive.

Prior to that victory, O’Faolains Boy had won nicely over 3m at Ascot, beating the well-fancied pair of Many Clouds and Gevrey Chambertin in the process. However, the Cheltenham bubble was somewhat burst next time out at Aintree when the horse could only finish a distant fifth behind Holywell, with the poor performance rightly put down to fatigue.

Despite that run, he still looks the mostly likely of the RSA runners to be suited by an extra two furlongs and the 20-1 available looks a tad over-priced.

 

Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners and Riders

So we come to the main event of the week the 2014 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners and 14 horses will head to post. I have to say this year’s renewal looks one of the best for some time and it’s time for the talking to stop. So who are you with Bobs Worth or Silviniaco Conti or perhaps even a new horse on the block?! Well I’m going to plump for horse Bobs Worth , even though confidence has been slightly dented in the build up to the big day. I think Silviniaco Conti is the main danger but here are my thoughts on the field.

Bobs-Worth

Paddy Power have gone crazy again, now 7/1 on Bobs Worth for Gold Cup, currently 7/4

 

No.
Colours
Horse
Form
Approx. Odds
Bet
Age
Trainer
Jockey
Rating
1

Bobs Worth

11-61

2/1

bet

9 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
185
Bobs Worth returns to defend his crown and is entitled to be a short priced favourite in his bid for back-to-back victories. He put a disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase behind him when landing the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas in pulsating fashion. Unbeaten in five starts at Cheltenham, three of those victories coming at the Festival, Bobs Worth has never been headed when hitting the front. Anything close to last year’s performance would surely be good enough again. GET 7/1 AT PADDY POWER – SPECIAL OFFER
2

Cloudy Too

3-1012

50/1

bet

8 Sue Smith Jonathan England
165
Saddled by Grand National winning trainer Sue Smith, Cloudy Too has won two of his four starts this season, including the Rowland Meyrick Chase over Christmas at Wetherby. He found Captain Chris far too good in the Grade One Ascot Chase last time out and was well down the field behind Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy Gold Cup. It would be a surprise if he’s good enough to make the frame in this.
3

First Lieutenant

3-3423

10/1

bet

9 MF Morris D J Casey
175
First Lieutenant has finished runner-up at the last two Festivals, behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 RSA Chase and beaten nine lengths by Cue Card in the 2013 Ryanair Chase. He then went on to land the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree. Although he is without a win so far this season, a narrow second behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase reads very well and the former Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner does seem to come into his own at this time of year. He is one of two runners for Gigginstown Stud, who enjoyed their finest hour in this race with War of Attrition in 2006.
4

Houblon Des Obeaux

16143

50/1

bet

7 Venetia Williams Liam Treadwell
170
One of two runners for trainer Venetia Williams, Houblon Des Obeaux won the listed Silver Cup at Ascot in December. A likeable and consistent sort, he has finished in the frame on eight of his 13 chase starts to date, but whether he’s good enough to be competitive at this level is open to question. However, the Williams’ Grand National winner Mon Mome did spring a surprise when finishing third behind Imperial Commander in the 2010 Gold Cup at odds of 50/1.
5

Katenko

1-F443

66/1

bet

8 Venetia Williams Aidan Coleman
167
Although lower rated than his stablemate, Katenko was in good heart last winter, winning two competitive handicap chases at Sandown and Cheltenham, including a nine length defeat of subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Johns Spirit. A faller in the Hennessy Gold Cup won by Triolo D’Alene, he has yet to recapture that form this term and finished a distant third in the Denman Chase last time out at Newbury.
6

Knockara Beau

512512

66/1

bet

11 George Charlton Jan Falteksek
158
The veteran Knockara Beau is an admirable sort, winning 11 out of 46 races under rules, including five victories over fences. Two of those successes have come this term, so he retains plenty of ability, although he is unlikely to be good enough to trouble the main contenders in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband event.
7

Last Instalment

111/31

7/1

bet

9 Philip Fenton Brian O’Connell
171
Last Instalment showed plenty of promise as a young chaser, winning his first four starts over fences in the 2011/12 season, including two Grade One Novice events at Leopardstown, before getting injured. He returned to the track after a two year absence in January, before scoring in scintillating fashion in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, beating Tidal Bay by eight and a half lengths. However, that was on soft to heavy going and the faster ground will not be in his favour.
8

Lord Windermere

31-876

33/1

bet

8 J H Culloty Davy Russell
161
Jim Culloty enjoyed tremendous success in the Gold Cup as a jockey, thanks to his amazing partnership with the legendary Best Mate. Now a trainer, he won the RSA Chase with Lord Windermere last year, but the horse has failed to fulfil that promise in three starts this season and was 26 lengths behind Last Instalment in sixth at Leopardstown on his latest start. Question marks remain over his ability at top level.
9

Lyreen Legend

423-55

40/1

bet

7 D T Hughes P Carberry
158
Dessie Hughes and Paul Carberry team up with Irish challenger Lyreen Legend, who is another that looks likely to just make up the numbers here. Runner up behind Lord Windermere in last season’s RSA Chase, he could only finish fifth behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase and filled the same position in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup behind Last Instalment last time out. Not quite up to this grade.
10

On His Own

176611

18/1

bet

10 W P Mullins Ruby Walsh
165
On His Own has been campaigned as a Grand National horse in the last two years, although he has fallen on both of his visits to Aintree to date. He has looked better than ever this season when landing the Thyestes and Bobbyjo Chase and his trainer Willie Mullins believes he deserves this step up in class to see if he can prove himself at Gold Cup level. He is an interesting outsider that could reward each way backers.
11

Silviniaco Conti

1F3-31

3/1

bet

8 Paul Nicholls Noel Fehily
183
Silviniaco Conti fell in this race last year when a well fancied second favourite, so we can only guess if he would have been good enough to challenge Bobs Worth. He subsequently failed to fire when third in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree and could only fill the same spot in the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance. He then made amends in no uncertain fashion at Kempton, landing the King George VI Chase by three and a half lengths, turning the tables on his Haydock conqueror Cue Card. Trainer Paul Nicholls will have high hopes that Silviniaco Conti can emulate his other Gold Cup winners See More Business, Kauto Star and Denman.
12

Teaforthree

203-92

40/1

bet

10 Rebecca Curtis Nick Schofield
162
Another horse that was originally being aimed at the Grand National, where he finished third last year, Aintree remains the target for Welsh National runner-up Teaforthree. An out-and-out stayer that relishes marathon distances, he may find them going too quick early on, but will be running on when others have cried enough. He also has Cheltenham Festival form, having won the National Hunt Chase in 2012, so if there is going to be a shock he could run into a place at a big price.
13

The Giant Bolster

7-7U51

14/1

bet

9 David Bridgwater Tom Scudamore
172
A big priced outsider often makes the frame in the Gold Cup and The Giant Bolster was the surprise package two years ago when runner up to Synchronised at 50/1. He proved that was no fluke when finishing fourth in last year’s race behind Bobs Worth and beat Hennessy runner up Rocky Creek decisively by seven lengths last time out in the Argento Chase. Although not the most consistent horse, he deserves his place in this line-up and jockey Tom Scudamore has been bullish about his chances of finally landing the big one.
14

Triolo D’Alene

81-131

10/1

bet

9 Nicky Henderson AP McCoy
168
After scoring at 20/1 in the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Grand National was declared the main aim for Triolo D’Alene, but connections have since had an apparent change of heart. Winner of the Topham Chase at Aintree last season, he landed two of his three starts in the autumn, but has not been seen on track since his Newbury success. Still only seven years old, there could be further improvement to come and trainer Nicky Henderson thinks he could be the dark horse in the race, although it would be a surprise if his overall form was good enough to win this.
Selection: Bobs WorthNext Best: Silviniaco ContiEach Way: On His OwnLong Shot: Teaforthree

Cheltenham Festival Day 4, Friday Preview and Tips 2014

Jason BrautigamWith over 20 years of experience in horseracing, Jason Brautigam has worked on both the racecourse and betting side of the industry. Following six years as Head of Marketing for Ascot Racecourse, he held various commercial positions at the Tote, where he was ultimately responsible for running their racecourse division. A keen punter and racing blogger himself, Jason now works as a freelance marketing communications consultant.

 

“We have had a good week with our tips to date, with six of the main selections winning (at 7/2, 10/1, 8/11, 6/4, 11/4 and 4/1) and three next best tips coming in (at odds of 8/1, 7/1 and 15/2).  Other races included four seconds (at 7/2, 13/2, 8/1 and 13/2), as well as three thirds, so you would be well ahead if following our advice so far.”

1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle

The final day of Cheltenham 2014 kicks off with what is traditionally one of the most competitive novice events at the Festival.  Only one favourite has won this race in the last ten years, although all bar two were priced in single figures.

The market this year is headed by the Paul Nicholls trained CALIPTO, a French recruit that has done nothing wrong on his two starts in the UK to date, winning both novice hurdles at Newbury in fine style.  Paul Nicholls has won this race twice since 2008 with Celestial Halo and Zarkandar, so his chances obviously have to be respected.

Trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty are also seeking a hat trick in the Triumph after scoring back-to-back victories with Zaynar and Soldatino in 2010 and 2011.  They team up with Royal Irish Hassar, winner of his first three hurdle races including a Triumph trial here in November.  However, he has not been seen back on the track in this calendar year.

A total of 17 of the last 20 Triumph victors had won at least two races over hurdles, including last time out, so solid winning form is essential.  That would discount John Ferguson’s Broughton, who has had only two runs so far, his maiden success coming last time out in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle trial at Musselbugh.  Tiger Roll has also had just the two runs and one win for Gordon Elliott.

Despite the impressive success of Our Conor last year, this has not been the luckiest races for the Irish, with only eight placed horses out of 60 runners in the last decade. Guitar Pete remains one for the shortlist nevertheless; he has won four of his six hurdle starts to date, including a Grade One Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February.

And of course given the scintillating form of Willie Mullins’ novices so far this week it would be foolish to discount the chances of Adriana Des Mottes and Abbysial, with the latter on a four timer after accounting for his stablemate in a Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse last month.

Selection: Calipto 4/1 with bet365

Next Best: Royal Irish Hassar 9/1 with Ladbrokes

2.05pm Vincent OBrien County Handicap Hurdle

The County Hurdle used to close the meeting when it was run as a three-day Festival, earning its reputation as the most devilish of ‘getting out stakes’.  Now run as the second race on the Friday, finding the winner is still no easier!  However, you can forget any contender carrying 11st 1lb or more as no horse has landed the County Hurdle with a heavier weight in the last ten years.

The stats would therefore be against the chances of top weight Diakali, Flaxen Flare and Cinders and Ashes, despite this trio having the best form in the book.

Winner of Grade One contests at the 2013 Punchestown Festival and in France in the summer, Diakali finished third in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse behind Champion Hurdle winner Jezki in December, which obviously now reads very well.  Last season’s Triumph Hurdle fourth would therefore have sound claims, but the weight may just tell.

Flaxen Flare has only once finished outside the first four over hurdles and is already a Festival winner after taking the Fred Winter here last year.  Likewise, Cinders and Ashes landed the Supreme Novices Hurdle in fine style at the 2012 Festival, but has not been seen on track since being pulled up in last year’s Champion Hurdle.

The Irish always have to be feared in the County Hurdle as they have won six of the last seven renewals.  Diakali’s stablemate Arctic Fire, the chosen mount of Ruby Walsh, will be high on many shortlists after running with credit in two Grade One contests recently, but is comparatively inexperienced with only four hurdle runs to date.

Another Irish challenger Never Enough Time comes here in great heart, landing two competitive handicap hurdles in convincing fashion this winter, although of JP McManus’s four contenders AP McCoy has elected to ride Minella Foru for trainer Edward Harty.

Saturday’s Sandown scorer Baltimore Rock unfortunately missed the cut for this race, but Cheltenian is still set to carry the owner’s silks in the race for trainer Philip Hobbs and has an obvious chance based on his win in the Champion Bumper at the 2011 Festival.  Lightly raced since, he only scored his first success over hurdles in December at Uttoxeter.  The eight year old wouldn’t fit the typical profile of a County Hurdle winner, but is nevertheless respected.

Younger horses tend to fare better, with eight 5 year olds successful in the last 15 runnings, which would include Diakali, Flaxen Flare, Arctic Fire, Minella Foru and Lac Fontana.  Last year’s Triumph Hurdle eighth Lac Fontana is an interesting contender, winning two of his three races here at Cheltenham this season, including a five length victory at the end of January.Eight of the last ten winners were second season hurdlers, another positive for Lac Fontana, Flaxen Flare and Diakali, but with a decent enough weight of 10st 11lb preference is for the Paul Nicholls’ trained runner.

Selection: Lac Fontana 12/1 with Paddy Power

Next Best: Cheltenian 9/1 with William Hill

 

 

2.40pm  Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

There have been some top class novice hurdles already this week and, like Tuesday’s Supreme, this one sets up another mouth-watering clash between the UK and Ireland, with Kings Palace set to take on the hot Willie Mullins trained favourite BRIAR HILL.  Four favourites have won this in the last eight years, with only one winner bigger than 9/1, so the market is traditionally a good guide.

It’s hard to split the front pair on form, with both horses unbeaten this season in scoring a hat trick of victories apiece.  There’s no doubt that David Pipe’s gelding is a very exciting prospect and his devastating 14 length victory at Cheltenham in December made a big impression.  If he lives up to that promise he could take all the beating.

Briar Hill may prove a tough nut to crack, however, and remains unbeaten under rules – including a win in the Champion Bumper here last season.  With that race providing future Festival winners in Cue Card and Champagne Fever in recent years there are big hopes that Briar Hill could prove to be top class as well.

Willie Mullins has already landed two novice hurdles this week in impressive style with Vautour and Faugheen, both tipped up here, so we have to stick with Briar Hill as the Irish maestro thinks this could be the best of the trio.

Captain Cutter runs here instead of the Neptune due to the drying ground, and Nicky Henderson has admitted that his horse is up against it here.  He retained his 100% record over the smaller obstacles after landing the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury and deserves his place in the line-up.

Selection: Briar Hill 13/8 with Betvictor

Next Best: Kings Palace 7/2 with Ladbrokes

 

bobs worth 2014

Get a HUGE 7/1 to win the Gold Cup at Paddy Power for New Customers

 

3.20pm Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup

With former Gold Cup winner Long Run being aimed at the Grand National, plus last year’s runner up Sir Des Champs and Arkle winner Simonsig both missing this season due to injury, the Blue Riband event of the Festival lacks a bit of its usual lustre.  Ryanair Chase winner Cue Card was withdrawn due to a stress fracture last month and another blow came this week when it was announced that Captain Chris would also be forced to miss the race.

However, BOBS WORTH returns to defend his crown and is entitled to be a short priced favourite in his bid for back-to-back victories.  He put a disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase behind him when landing the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas in pulsating fashion.  Unbeaten in five starts at Cheltenham, three of those victories coming at the Festival, Bobs Worth has never been headed when hitting the front.  Anything close to last year’s performance would surely be good enough again.

His chief rival is King George winner Silviniaco Conti, who fell in the race last year when a well fancied second favourite.  He subsequently failed to fire when third in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree and could only fill the same spot in the Betfair Chase, but made amends in no uncertain fashion at Kempton, landing the King George by three and a half lengths, turning the tables on his Haydock conqueror Cue Card.

Irish hopes are represented by Last Instalment and First Lieutenant who both run in the Gigginstown colours carried to success in the Gold Cup by War Of Attrition in 2009.  Last Instalment returned to the track after a two year absence to score in scintillating fashion in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, beating Tidal Bay by eight and a half lengths. However, that was on soft to heavy going and the faster ground will not be in his favour.

 

First Lieutenant has finished runner-up at the last two Festivals, behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 RSA Chase and beaten nine lengths by Cue Card in the 2013 Ryanair Chase.  He then went on to land the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree.  Another without a win so far this season, although a narrow second behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase reads very well and the former Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner does seem to come into his own at this time of year.

Others to consider include Newbury’s Hennessy winner Triolo D’Alene, also saddled by Bobs Worth’s handler Nicky Henderson, and On His Own, who has looked better than ever in landing the Thyestes and Bobbyjo Chase.  This pair (along with 2012 National Hunt Chase winner Teaforthree) were originally being aimed at the Grand National, so the Gold Cup was not their main target.   Nevertheless, all three horses are capable of making the frame at a decent price.

Selection: Bobs Worth 7/1 with Paddy Power, 2/1 with Coral

Next Best: Silviniaco Conti 7/2 with Paddy Power

 

paddy power bobs 700

 

4.00pm CGA Foxhunter Chase 

There is no Salsify this year, so in the absence of the dual Foxhunters winner this race looks a little more open than it would otherwise have been.  The betting is headed by another Irish challenger, ON THE FRINGE, trained by Enda Bolger and due to be ridden by Nina Carberry.  Winner of the Champion Hunters Chase at Punchestown at the end of last season, he has obvious claims here, despite being beaten by Tammy’s Hill on his last run.

Harbour Court is unlucky not to be unbeaten in three starts under rules after unseating his rider last time out at Kelso.  However, he looks a little inexperienced for the hustle and bustle of this race and his jumping could come under question again.  There has to be no unluckier horse than Oscar Delta though, who was agonisingly denied success in this race last year when unshipping Jane Mangan after the last with the pair well clear.

Pearlysteps was a useful chaser in his day without being top class, finishing seventh in the 2011 National Hunt Chase at the Festival.  Now a veteran, he has won his first two hunter chase outings in decent style, beating Made In Time last time out at Ludlow.  Rebecca Curtis’s horse won a fortnight later, so that form looks solid enough, and Pearlysteps’ jockey Ollie Greenall previously won the Foxhunters on Amicelli in 2008.

On the negative side, 21 of the last 25 winners of this race were aged 10 or younger, with 22 of them coming from a traditional point to point / hunter chase background (although 19 of the last 20 winners had previously won under rules).

This race is one where it has paid to pick an outsider, with two winners at 33/1 and two at 20/1 in the last eight years. Therefore it may be worth taking on the market leaders and looking for some each way value.  Certain Flight and That’s Rhythm have also been in good heart in similar events recently, both remaining unbeaten this season.

Selection: On The Fringe 4/1 with Stan James

Next Best: Certain Flight 22/1 with Paddy Power

 

4.40pm Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

The penultimate contest, run for conditional jockeys, is one that has been a bookmaker’s benefit so far, with only Sir Des Champs justifying favouritism in the five runnings to date.  The other winners have all been priced between 14/1 and 25/1 so again it has been fiendishly difficult to pinpoint the winner.

Trainer David Pipe has yet to win the race bearing his famous father’s name despite fielding a strong challenge annually.  He saddles the favourite once again with VIEUX LION ROUGE, who quite possibly represents his best chance yet in the race and it’s notable that he is Pipe’s only representative this year.  Winner of six of his seven races under rules, he has looked very progressive in landing a hat trick of victories this season and should run well.

Nicky Henderson was successful in the inaugural running of this race with Andytown in 2009 and his Full Shift will be ridden by Nico de Boinville, who won the Coral Cup for the trainer on Whisper earlier this week.  Better each way value might be represented by his stablemate Une Artiste, who won the Fred Winter at the Festival in 2012.  This likeable mare has only been out of the first two on five of her last 17 starts, winning ten races in the process.

Willie Mullins had several declared at the five day stage, but has decided to rely on the unexposed Don Poli, a French recruit who has won two of his three outings since joining the all-conquering Irish stable.

You want to pick a five or six year old in this race, as they have won all five renewals and accounted for eight of the placed horses.  All winners were also within eight pounds of the top weight, carrying 11st 2lb or more.

Selection: Vieux Lion Rouge 15/2 with Paddy Power

Next Best: Une Artiste 25/1 with Bet365

 

coralbet5get20
Bet £5 Get £20 Free at Coral for New Customers

 

5.15pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual

The curtain falls on a veritable feast of punting with the now-traditional last race of the Festival, the Grand Annual.  Just as David Pipe wants to win the race name in his Dad’s honour, so Nicky Henderson likes to aim a few bullets at the Grand Annual.  He has won the race twice in the last ten years, with Greenhope in 2006 and Bellvano in 2012, and this year saddles three Festival veterans, Tanks For That, French Opera and Anquetta, who have all finished placed in the Grand Annual before.

Ted Veale ran in the Arkle instead of this and was subsequently replaced as favourite by NEXT SENSATION, who makes plenty of appeal after winning three of his last four starts for trainer Michael Scudamore.  The latest 9lb rise may not be enough to stop this game front-runner.  Jockey Richard Johnson is enjoying a tremendous week with two winners so far.

All of the last ten winners have carried 10st 13lb or less to victory, so this is another race where it pays to stick with horses at the bottom end of the handicap.  The JP McManus owned Ned Buntline falls into that category.  Never out of the first three in eight starts, he split Champion Hurdle winner Jezki and Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde on his racecourse debut in January 2012, form that now looks very good indeed!

JP McManus also has Eastlake for Jonjo O’Neill, winner of a competitive handicap chase here at Cheltenham in December, but interestingly AP McCoy has opted to ride Mr Mole, who is potentially still unexposed over fences.  His form so far over the larger obstacles is difficult to evaluate, with two defeats in small fields recently, but both were against decent rivals.

Alan King won this with Oh Crick in 2009 and will be represented by Raya Star.  He could only finish 13th in last season’s County Hurdle but is generally a consistent sort and has run with credit recently against higher grade opposition in three Grade Two novice chases.

Selection: Next Sensation 8/1 with bet365

Next Best: Ned Buntline 10/1 with betvictor and stan james

 

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips 2014

Instalment can be there at the Last to beat Bob’s Worth

“Matthew Glazier is a betting industry expert, having worked for operators such as bet365, Betfair and Sporting Index. He is an expert on the Cheltenham Festival, having attending every meeting since 2003.”

It is 16/1 bar the first three in the latest Gold Cup betting following the news that Cue Card will miss the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, just days after trainer Colin Tizzard declared the horse for the blue riband race of the meeting rather than the Ryanair.

Cue Card was the winner of the Betfair Chase back in November before an impressive run in the King George, although the consensus was that the eight-year-old may have struggled to get the trip in this race, especially if the ground was soft.

While Cue Card started rowing at Kempton on Boxing Day, Silviniaco Conti was there to pick up the pieces, thus proving what a tremendous stamina horse Paul Nicholls has in his stables.

Conti looked to be running a decent race in the 2013 Gold Cup before falling towards the end of the contest, although some might argue that Ruby Walsh was already struggling to squeeze enough juice from his charge as they approached the formidable hill.

Nevertheless, there was everything to like about the King George triumph which franked the form of the Betfair Chase, although it was the horse’s first win of the season and came on heavy ground during a particularly wet spell during the festive period.

Jockey Ruby Walsh feels as though the race is a straight shoot-out between the front two in the betting, although he doesn’t give either horse the edge ahead of the three mile two furlong showdown.

“If I’m being very honest, I think it’s a match – Bobs Worth versus Silviniaco Conti, take your pick,” declared Walsh. “Bobs Worth is guaranteed to get the trip, Conti was tough in the King George and he came back to beat Cue Card, so I think, all things being equal, they’ll be the two heading to the last this year.”

paddy power bobs 700

 

Bob’s Worth is the rightful favourite to retain his Gold Cup crown, having seen off his rivals twelve months ago with a fantastic run and the horse appeared to be somewhere near his best form at Leopardstown when winning the Lexus Chase.

The nine-year-old ran a stinker in the Betfair Chase although there were mitigating circumstances behind this poor performance and Henderson feels that his horse will take all the beating again.

Following the news that Cue Card will not run, Bob’s Worth has been trimmed into 7/4 on the outright market although his trainer has declared the race as an “open” one, citing Last Instalment as a danger in addition to Silviniaco Conti.

“The Gold Cup is very open. By and large it’s the same faces, although the horse who won the other day (Last Instalment) is interesting and beat First Lieutenant by further than we did.

“Silviniaco Conti is the obvious horse. He would have been close if he hadn’t fallen last year. With the Irish, I think we know where we are with them. Yes, Silviniaco Conti beat us at Haydock, but we’re better than that.

“You know if he’s in contention as they run to the second-last, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll finish his race off.”

Indeed, Last Instalment is as short as 5/1 with Coral to win the Gold Cup and the bookie clearly rate his chances considering he’s a best price 7/1 with BetVictor who offer Non-Runner No Bet for this championship race.

The nine-year-old had been away from the track for nearly two years before finishing third in a Grade 2 race at Thurles in January, although the Philip Fenton horse produced the goods at Leopardstown a month later when winning the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup in convincing fashion.

It was a run with plenty of wow factor, with the horse leading from the front and kicking well clear of horses such as Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant. As Henderson suggests, the winning distance of nine lengths over the latter might give Bob’s Worth trainer something to think about.

Fenton has recently been charged with possessing anabolic steroids and other banned substances, with the next court hearing scheduled for just after the Festival, although owner Michael O’Leary confirmed his horse will line up in the race providing the ground isn’t too quick.

 

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“Last Instalment will run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, providing the ground is not good or faster,” O’Leary said. “He has glass legs and we wouldn’t risk him on fast ground.

“The timing of this whole episode is very unfortunate, coming so close to Cheltenham. It’s tough for Philip but we feel duty-bound to support him. Whatever substances have been found that is for Philip to deal with but there is no reason for us to doubt his innocence.”

What of the other Gold Cup contenders? We usually see a big-price horse in the frame for this race and Captain Chris is certainly capable of running a big race, with the ten-year-old not doing himself any justice in the race twelve months ago when finishing sixth.

The last two performances have been more encouraging for trainer Philip Hobbs, winning at Kempton in January and the Ascot Chase a month later, with a nineteen-length victory certainly cementing his credentials for the big race.

First Lieutenant has a lot of improvement to find if he’s to trouble the leading Gold Cup protagonists, although The Giant Bolster ran fourth to Bob’s Worth in last year’s renewal, having previously finished second behind Synchronised at massive odds of 50/1.

Victory in the Argento Chase means that Coral go as short as 14/1 about the nine-year-old, although bet365 are prepared to quote 22/1 about a horse that would prefer the ground to have plenty of cut in it.

RECOMMENDATION: Last Instalment @ 7/1 e/w with BetVictor

Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners 2014

So we come to the main event of the week the 2014 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners and 14 horses will head to post. I have to say this year’s renewal looks one of the best for some time and it’s time for the talking to stop. So who are you with Bobs Worth or Silviniaco Conti  or perhaps even a new horse on the block?! Well I’m going to plump for horse Bobs Worth , even though confidence has been slightly dented in the build up to the big day. I think Silviniaco Conti is the main danger but here are my thoughts on the field.

Bobs-Worth

Paddy Power have gone crazy again, now 7/1 on Bobs Worth for Gold Cup, currently 7/4

 

No.
Colours
Horse
Form
Approx. Odds
Bet
Age
Trainer
Jockey
Rating
1

Bobs Worth

11-61

2/1

bet

9 Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
185
Bobs Worth returns to defend his crown and is entitled to be a short priced favourite in his bid for back-to-back victories.  He put a disappointing reappearance in the Betfair Chase behind him when landing the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas in pulsating fashion.  Unbeaten in five starts at Cheltenham, three of those victories coming at the Festival, Bobs Worth has never been headed when hitting the front.  Anything close to last year’s performance would surely be good enough again. GET 7/1 AT PADDY POWER – SPECIAL OFFER
2

Cloudy Too

 3-1012

50/1

bet

8 Sue Smith Jonathan England
165
Saddled by Grand National winning trainer Sue Smith, Cloudy Too has won two of his four starts this season, including the Rowland Meyrick Chase over Christmas at Wetherby.  He found Captain Chris far too good in the Grade One Ascot Chase last time out and was well down the field behind Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy Gold Cup.  It would be a surprise if he’s good enough to make the frame in this.
3

First Lieutenant

 3-3423

10/1

bet

9 MF Morris D J Casey
175
First Lieutenant has finished runner-up at the last two Festivals, behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 RSA Chase and beaten nine lengths by Cue Card in the 2013 Ryanair Chase.  He then went on to land the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree.  Although he is without a win so far this season, a narrow second behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase reads very well and the former Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner does seem to come into his own at this time of year.  He is one of two runners for Gigginstown Stud, who enjoyed their finest hour in this race with War of Attrition in 2006.
4

Houblon Des Obeaux

 16143

50/1

bet

7 Venetia Williams Liam Treadwell
170
One of two runners for trainer Venetia Williams, Houblon Des Obeaux won the listed Silver Cup at Ascot in December.  A likeable and consistent sort, he has finished in the frame on eight of his 13 chase starts to date, but whether he’s good enough to be competitive at this level is open to question.  However, the Williams’ Grand National winner Mon Mome did spring a surprise when finishing third behind Imperial Commander in the 2010 Gold Cup at odds of 50/1.
5

Katenko

 1-F443

66/1

bet

8 Venetia Williams Aidan Coleman
167
Although lower rated than his stablemate, Katenko was in good heart last winter, winning two competitive handicap chases at Sandown and Cheltenham, including a nine length defeat of subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Johns Spirit.  A faller in the Hennessy Gold Cup won by Triolo D’Alene, he has yet to recapture that form this term and finished a distant third in the Denman Chase last time out at Newbury.
6

Knockara Beau

 512512

66/1

bet

11 George Charlton Jan Falteksek
158
The veteran Knockara Beau is an admirable sort, winning 11 out of 46 races under rules, including five victories over fences.  Two of those successes have come this term, so he retains plenty of ability, although he is unlikely to be good enough to trouble the main contenders in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband event.
7

Last Instalment

 111/31

7/1

bet

9 Philip Fenton Brian O’Connell
171
Last Instalment showed plenty of promise as a young chaser, winning his first four starts over fences in the 2011/12 season, including two Grade One Novice events at Leopardstown, before getting injured.  He returned to the track after a two year absence in January, before scoring in scintillating fashion in the Grade One Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, beating Tidal Bay by eight and a half lengths. However, that was on soft to heavy going and the faster ground will not be in his favour.
8

Lord Windermere

 31-876

33/1

bet

8 J H Culloty Davy Russell
161
Jim Culloty enjoyed tremendous success in the Gold Cup as a jockey, thanks to his amazing partnership with the legendary Best Mate.  Now a trainer, he won the RSA Chase with Lord Windermere last year, but the horse has failed to fulfil that promise in three starts this season and was 26 lengths behind Last Instalment in sixth at Leopardstown on his latest start.  Question marks remain over his ability at top level.
9

Lyreen Legend

 423-55

40/1

 bet

7 D T Hughes P Carberry
158
Dessie Hughes and Paul Carberry team up with Irish challenger Lyreen Legend, who is another that looks likely to just make up the numbers here.  Runner up behind Lord Windermere in last season’s RSA Chase, he could only finish fifth behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase and filled the same position in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup behind Last Instalment last time out.  Not quite up to this grade.
10

On His Own

 176611

18/1

bet

10 W P Mullins Ruby Walsh
165
On His Own has been campaigned as a Grand National horse in the last two years, although he has fallen on both of his visits to Aintree to date.  He has looked better than ever this season when landing the Thyestes and Bobbyjo Chase and his trainer Willie Mullins believes he deserves this step up in class to see if he can prove himself at Gold Cup level.  He is an interesting outsider that could reward each way backers.
11

Silviniaco Conti

 1F3-31

3/1

bet

8 Paul Nicholls Noel Fehily
183
Silviniaco Conti fell in this race last year when a well fancied second favourite, so we can only guess if he would have been good enough to challenge Bobs Worth.  He subsequently failed to fire when third in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree and could only fill the same spot in the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance.  He then made amends in no uncertain fashion at Kempton, landing the King George VI Chase by three and a half lengths, turning the tables on his Haydock conqueror Cue Card.  Trainer Paul Nicholls will have high hopes that Silviniaco Conti can emulate his other Gold Cup winners See More Business, Kauto Star and Denman.
12

Teaforthree

 203-92

40/1

bet

10 Rebecca Curtis Nick Schofield
162
Another horse that was originally being aimed at the Grand National, where he finished third last year, Aintree remains the target for Welsh National runner-up Teaforthree.  An out-and-out stayer that relishes marathon distances, he may find them going too quick early on, but will be running on when others have cried enough.  He also has Cheltenham Festival form, having won the National Hunt Chase in 2012, so if there is going to be a shock he could run into a place at a big price.
13

The Giant Bolster

 7-7U51

14/1

bet

9 David Bridgwater Tom Scudamore
172
A big priced outsider often makes the frame in the Gold Cup and The Giant Bolster was the surprise package two years ago when runner up to Synchronised at 50/1.  He proved that was no fluke when finishing fourth in last year’s race behind Bobs Worth and beat Hennessy runner up Rocky Creek decisively by seven lengths last time out in the Argento Chase.  Although not the most consistent horse, he deserves his place in this line-up and jockey Tom Scudamore has been bullish about his chances of finally landing the big one.
14

Triolo D’Alene

 81-131

10/1

bet

9 Nicky Henderson AP McCoy
168
After scoring at 20/1 in the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Grand National was declared the main aim for Triolo D’Alene, but connections have since had an apparent change of heart.  Winner of the Topham Chase at Aintree last season, he landed two of his three starts in the autumn, but has not been seen on track since his Newbury success.  Still only seven years old, there could be further improvement to come and trainer Nicky Henderson thinks he could be the dark horse in the race, although it would be a surprise if his overall form was good enough to win this.
Selection: Bobs WorthNext Best: Silviniaco ContiEach Way: On His Own

Long Shot: Teaforthree

World Hurdle betting tips 2014

Believe the hype – Annie Power can end Big Buck’s dominance of the World Hurdle 2014

Annie Power was the Pricewise antepost tip for the Champion Hurdle although Willie Mullins has finally pinned his colours to the mast and declared that the highly-rated mare will take her place in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle instead

Mullins apparently had to persuade owner Rich Ricci that the three-mile race on Day Three of the Festival was the best route for the six-year-old despite the fact that Annie Power has never gone that far during an unbeaten career which will be severely tested at the Cheltenham Festival.

AnniePowercomp

Having twice twice beaten Zarkandar this season, this is a horse that oozes class and the odds have started to tumble from 3/1 since the announcement was made, with bet365 among those firms currently holding 15/8. We’re anticipating that Annie Power’s SP could be as short as 6/4 depending on what happens on Day One and Day Two of the Festival.

One should also bear in mind that she will receive a mares’ allowance of 5lb which could be a big positive if there is cut in the ground, with jockey Ruby Walsh feeling confident that she will get the trip irrespective of the ground.

“Willie has asked my opinion and everything had to be weighed up and we all felt it is the right race for her,” said Walsh, who will go up against a horse that he has ridden to four victories in this race.

“There are four or five outstanding horses in the Champion Hurdle and maybe two, possibly three, in the World Hurdle.”

There is one huge obstacle standing in the way of the mare and that comes in the form of Big Buck’s, a legendary horse who has already won four World Hurdles and that’s despite the Paul Nicholls charge having to miss the Festival last season with injury.

The eleven-year-old was absent from the track for fourteen months until appearing for the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of January, with Sam Twiston-Davies seemingly getting the horse into a winning position before Knockara Beau and At Fisher’s Cross were able to pass him on the run-in.

Nicholls declared himself happy with that performance after such a long lay-off, although the prospect of Walsh riding against Big Buck’s might put a lot of punters off, with that January defeat the first time the horse has been beaten since 29 November 2008.

Nevertheless, the trainer has put up the horse as his best chance at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, which perhaps reflects the loyalty Nicholls has for a horse that has served him so well, along with the fact that Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have started to dominate proceedings on the National Hunt scene.

“I’d still go with Big Buck’s [as my best chance at the meeting],” Nicholls said after parading the pick of his Festival runners at his stable in Somerset. “I was really thrilled with his comeback run, he loves this time of year, he’s coming right and I still think he’s got as big a chance as anything we’ve got running there.”

This season’s World Hurdle is by no means a straight shoot-out between the first two in the betting and Rebecca Curtis is feeling especially bullish about At Fishers Cross who beat the current race favourite last time out even if the horse was only able to finish second in the Cleeve.

Curtis will be hoping that the ground stays on the soft side for her talented hurdler who obliged in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival twelve months ago, following up that success with the spoils at Aintree although the last three runs have failed to yield a victory.

Curtis said: “He ran great in the Cleeve and is definitely coming back to as good as he was. He has improved so much since Ascot, but he won’t be going anywhere before Cheltenham. We’ll freshen him up at home and that should put him bang-on.”

paddy power annie power Cheltenham Festival Day 3, Thursday Preview and Tips 2014

Quevega is priced at 9/1 although connections will want to make history by seeing the mare win a sixth Mares Hurdle on the Tuesday, with More Of That and Rule The World attracting more each-way money as we approach the Festival.

More Of That is another unbeaten horse in the race who won the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, although the six-year-old is inexperienced, having ran just four times and might find the pace a bit too hot to handle from his rivals.

Rule The World finished second to The New One in the 2013 Neptune and has continued to run over these sort of distances this season, although the horse was found badly wanting when finishing fourth out of five in early December as Jezki claimed a Grade 1 victory.

Even so, Mouse Morris has aimed his charge at this race and claims that the horse has enough raw potential to get into contention, irrespective of whether Annie Power lines up to take her chances.

Zarkandar will be the Paul Nicholls second string horse in the race, with the seven-year-old simply not having the speed to live with the best runners over two miles, although he scored a big victory at Aintree last year when claiming the Aintree Hurdle against the likes of The New One and Oscar Whisky.

Monksland is as short as 12/1 in places, although the Noel Meade runner has yet to feature since December 2012 and Fingal Bay could present a better each-way chance at odds of 25/1, with the horse winning on heavy ground at Exeter in early February.

The eight-year-old appears to be somewhere back to his best, having previously beaten the impressive Simonsig earlier in his career and Philip Hobbs is hopeful of a big run from a horse that can be backed at a big price.

RECOMMENDATION: Annie Power @ 6/4 with William Hill

Cheltenham Festival Day 3, Thursday Preview and Tips 2014

Jason BrautigamWith over 20 years of experience in horseracing, Jason Brautigam has worked on both the racecourse and betting side of the industry. Following six years as Head of Marketing for Ascot Racecourse, he held various commercial positions at the Tote, where he was ultimately responsible for running their racecourse division. A keen punter and racing blogger himself, Jason now works as a freelance marketing communications consultant.

“It has been a good week so far for our Festival fancies, with six winners from the main selections and a place in every race on the first two days. On Tuesday the combined results, including next best tips were 1313121 and yesterday was just as strong, finishing 1231124. Hopefully the good form will continue for the rest of the week!”

1.30pm JLT Novices’ Chase

The third day of the Cheltenham Festival gets underway with the JLT Novices’ Chase where, in common with most of the novice events this week, the market is headed by a Willie Mullins trained challenger.  He has already won this race with Sir Des Champs in 2012 and in fact all three renewals to date have gone to Ireland.

This time it is Felix Yonger who leads the betting, despite being beaten in his last two races.  Before that he had scored a hat trick on his first three attempts over fences, but disappointed at odds on over Christmas and could only manage runner up spot behind Trifolium in the Irish Arkle.  Trifolium ran well enough in third on Tuesday, but there are others with equally strong claims in this race.

Despite never winning at the Festival, OSCAR WHISKY has an excellent record around Cheltenham, notching up six victories at the track, including two this season. His win in the Grade Two Dipper Chase last time, where he avenged his earlier defeat by Taquin De Seuil, cemented his claims for this race.

Oscar Whisky also has the beating of Wonderful Charm, when denying Paul Nicholls’ charge a four timer here at Cheltenham in December.  Nicky Henderson’s contender is fancied to confirm form with both of his rivals again and finally land a big race at the Festival.

Selection: Oscar Whisky, 6/1 with Ladbrokes, Enter Promo Code MYBETTING for a Free £50 Bet

Next Best: Taquin De Seuil, 9/1 with Betvictor – Free £100 Bet Offer

 

2.05pm Pertemps Final

After yesterday’s Coral Cup, the handicap hurdles at the Festival don’t get any easier with the Pertemps Final a fiendishly tough conundrum to solve.  Traditionally this is another race where it has paid to stick with the lighter weighted horses at the bottom of the handicap, but only So Fine carries less than 11 stone this year.

Philip Hobbs fields a four pronged challenge and is responsible for the pair at head the betting, the top weight Fingal Bay and If In Doubt.  AP McCoy has elected to ride If In Doubt for owner JP McManus, so his chances have to be respected.

Jonjo O’Neill and David Pipe have both won this race twice in the last ten years, so it is well worth taking a closer look at their contenders.  JOSIES ORDERS, also carrying the famous McManus silks, represents O’Neill this time and has been in good form this season, winning three of his last four hurdle starts.

David Pipe had six still entered at the five day stage, but has decided to rely on Broadway Buffalo and Top Wood. The latter won his qualifier for this well on his sole start this season at Haydock and, although that was something of a surprise result at 25/1, he looks the pick of the pair.

The Irish have plenty with chances too, with Seefood looking to repeat Dessie Hughes’s win in this race with Oulart in 2005.  Jetson, representing Champion Hurdle winning trainer Jessica Harrington, is also prominent in the market after winning a competitive handicap hurdle at Punchestown last time out.

Selection: Josies Orders, 14/1 with Stan James, Enter Promo Code MAXFREEBET for a £10 Free Bet.

Next Best: Top Wood, 20/1 with Paddy Power, Bet £10 Get £20 Free

 

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2.40pm Ryanair Chase

The first of the day’s two feature races looks to be a wide open affair, with the Ryanair Chase again featuring a mix of horses who find the two mile Champion Chase a little on the sharp side and the Gold Cup distance a step too far.  It does tend to go to one of the leading fancies, though, with only one winner priced bigger than 6/1 since its inception.

2011 Supreme Novices’ hero Al Ferof was well fancied when failing to see out the trip in the King George, finishing third behind stablemate Silviniaco Conti, but that form is still arguably the best on display here.  Winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup here at Cheltenham on his seasonal reappearance, he was a beaten favourite when finishing a distant runner up in the Denman Chase on heavy ground at Newbury recently, but this drop back in trip should suit.

BENEFFICIENT sprang something of a surprise at the Festival last season when winning the Jewson Novices’ Chase, but struggled to repeat that level of form subsequently at Punchestown and again on his seasonal bow in the Charlie Hall Chase.  However, he bounced back with a decent win in a Grade One chase at Leopardstown last time out, with Hidden Cyclone, Arvika Ligeonniere and Sizing Europe behind, so he has every chance of scoring back-to-back Festival victories.

Dynaste was the hot favourite in the 2013 Jewson but could only finish runner-up to Benefficient, so David Pipe will be hoping that he can turn the tables on his conqueror this time around.  He remains without a win so far in two attempts this season and has not been seen on the track since finishing fifth in the King George – a race that five of the last six Ryanair Chase winners contested.

Nicky Henderson’s Rajdhani Express won the novice handicap chase here last year so has winning Festival form in the book, but this is a much stiffer task.

Selection: Benefficient 4/1 with Betvictor

Next Best: Al Ferof  5/1 with Paddy Power, Bet £10 Get £20 Free

 

annie power

Get Enhanced 7/1 with Paddy Power to Win the World Hurdle

 

3.20pm  Ladbrokes World Hurdle

The World Hurdle features one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the Festival, with the great stayer and four times winner of this race, Big Buck’s, back after a year off with injury to try and win back his crown at the grand old age of eleven.  Despite the absence of last year’s World Hurdle hero Solwhit, Big Buck’s faces what could possibly be his stiffest task to date against Willie Mullins’ exciting mare ANNIE POWER.

Annie Power remains unbeaten in ten starts, with seven bloodless victories over hurdles; the last three coming in Britain this season at Ascot, Cheltenham and Doncaster, landing that hat trick by a combined 28 lengths.  Many racing fans were hoping that Annie Power would line up in the Champion Hurdle, as she has never been tested over this distance.  However, she has shown no signs of stopping on her three outings this season (beating Zarkandar with ease on two occasions) and in receipt of 7lb from her male counterparts she has every chance to justify her lofty reputation.

Adding even more intrigue, jockey Ruby Walsh will be on board Annie Power rather than continuing his long association with Big Buck’s, who will be ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.  Off the track for over a year, Big Buck’s could only finish third on his return.  He should strip fitter for that effort, but the question remains whether he retains any of his old ability.  At his best he would be a formidable opponent.

Of course it is not just about this pair, although you could be forgiven for thinking they are the only two in the race!  The forgotten horse may well be At Fishers Cross, winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2013 Festival.  He has yet to reproduce the sort of form that saw him rattle of six victories last season, but showed positive signs of returning to his best when just a short-head second in the Cleeve Hurdle, a place in front of Big Buck’s.

Champion Jockey AP McCoy has chosen At Fishers Cross over the other JP McManus owned contender More Of That, but he may end up regretting that decision, just as he did in the Champion Hurdle earlier this week. Barry Geraghty was successful on Jezki and he’s picked up another great spare ride here. Unbeaten in four starts over hurdles, the last coming in the Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle here at Cheltenham in December, he has looked a very progressive sort and represents solid each way value.

Selection: Annie Power, 7/1 for new Paddy Power customers or 13/8 with William Hill, Free £50 Bet Offer

Next Best: More Of That, 10/1 with bet365, if it wins, get a free bet to the same stake up to £50. (Channel 4 Offer)

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Get Annie Power at 7/1 rather than 11/8 for New Customers

4.00pm – Byrne Group Plate

After a double dose of Grade One action, it’s back to another competitive handicap chase and this one traditionally throws up some shock results, with winners at 50/1, 25/1, 33/1 and 66/1 in the last six years! In fact only Salut Flo has won at shorter than 12/1 in the last decade, when justifying favouritism two years ago.

So this is one for the pinstickers and the best bet is to go for two or three outsiders in the hope that at least one of them makes the frame.

Owner JP McManus loves these big Festival handicaps though and he is represented by four contenders for four different trainers. His Tap Night (Lucinda Russell) and Colour Squadron (Philip Hobbs) heading the market for this race, with AP McCoy opting to ride the latter over the ante post favourite.

But the trainers to look out for here are Nicky Henderson (two winners in 2005 and 2006), David Pipe (successful in 2010 and 2012) and Venetia Williams (a hat trick of victories since 2007, including Carrickboy at 50/1 last year).  So course winner Nadiya De La Vega, Giorgio Quercus, Ballynagour, eighth in this last year, Benny’s Mist and recent scorer SHANGANI would all be of interest.

Only two winners in the last decade have carried more than 10st 10lb to victory and seven winners were on 10st 7lb or less, so you have to focus on the bottom end of the handicap to solve this particular puzzle.  In fact 24 of the last 26 winners of this race were officially rated no higher than 141, which equates to those on 10st 9lb or less this year.

John’s Spirit will be a popular choice having already won twice at Cheltenham this season, including the Paddy Power Gold Cup, although he hasn’t been seen on track since finishing fifth on the course in December (behind Colour Squadron in third) and is near the top end of the weights on 11st 3lb.

Malcolm Jefferson’s Firth Of The Clyde has been in good heart this season and never out of the frame on four starts, so is another to consider in what is a wide open contest.

Selection: Shangani 20/1 with Betfred, £25 Free Bet and 20/1 with Coral, Bet £5 Get £20 Free

Next Best: Firth Of The Clyde, 18/1 with Paddy Power Bet £5, Get £20 Free

 

4.40pm – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Thursday’s card finishes with an ultra-competitive handicap for amateur riders, so the jockey selection is just as important as the horse.  Unlike the previous race, this is one where it pays to stick with those at the top end of the handicap, with four of the last five winners carrying 11st 6lb or more.

Mr J J Codd has won this race twice in the last five years, so certainly knows what it takes to ride at the Festival.  He looks to have a decent chance again this year with the veteran Tranquil Sea, who despite his advancing years has not returned to Cheltenham since finishing ninth in the 2010 Ryanair Chase.  He did land the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier that season though, so he does have winning form at the track.

Leading Irish amateur jockey Derek O’Connor is another name to watch out for, as he has also had previous Festival wins with Zemsky and Chicago Grey.  He has been snapped up to ride the favourite INDIAN CASTLE for Donald McCain, who has won this race twice with Ballabriggs in 2010 and Cloudy Lane in 2007.  Indian Castle comes here in tremendous form, having won three of his four outings this season.  In fact he has not been out of the first two on his last eight starts so has to be high on any short list.

Owner JP McManus won this with Sunnyhillboy in 2012 and his Cause of Causes, ridden by Nina Carberry, gives him a good chance to repeat that success.  Cause of Causes could only finish seventh behind Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdles at last year’s Festival, but has been knocking on the door recently.  An unlucky runner up in his last two races, failing to score by just a short head and a nose, he certainly cannot be discounted here.

Selection: Indian Castle 7/1 with William Hill, £50 Bet Offer

Next Best: Cause of Causes, 7/1 with Betvictor, £100 Bet Offer

betvictor Champion Chase Preview 2014

Sire De Grugy heads a field of 11 for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature on Wednesday, Day two of the Cheltenham Festival. The 8-y-o is bidding to put the seal on a magnificent season after wins at Chepstow, Sandown, Kempton and Ascot.

Success in the BetVictor Tingle Creek at Sandown gave the trainer Gary and jockey Jamie their first win at G1 level. That haul was soonly doubled with a rout in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, picking off the prominent Hidden Cyclone on the turn, and the rest was history.

sire_de_grugy_pa

The race that lives long in the memory of this writer however is his run at Cheltenham in November, when second behind Kid Cassidy in the Schloer Chase.

His jumping severely let him down that day and he looked to struggle with the infamous undulations of the Cheltenham camber. That combined with his best form coming at right-handed tracks on soft ground makes the favourite vulnerable on good, spring ground at this year’s festival.

Kid Cassidy re-opposes once more, having his first run since disappointing in Ireland behind the Ryanair bound pair of Benefficient and Hidden Cyclone. Arvika Ligeonniere was 4th that day and is another who looks unsuited by the up-and-down nature of the track, jumping markedly out to his right in last year’s Arkle and his race will likely be Punchestown’s Champion Chase; a track where Willie Mullins’ charge is unbeaten in four starts to date.

Sizing Europe chased home Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham and Punchestown and at 12-y-o it would be a monumental feat to feature in the frame and old father time could yet be a player at double figure prices; two wins and two seconds at the festival over timber.

Wishfull Thinking turned over the well backed pair of Double Ross and Tap Night in a competitive handicap chase at Cheltenham in January and did so under the burden of top weight. Phillip Hobbs’s 11-y-o was 3rd in the race last year and won the Schloer Chase over course and distance 18 months ago – he could be worth a poke at around the 25/1 mark.

Another old boy is Somersby, who gave trainer Mick Channon success in the BetVictor Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. He got the better of a fast-finishing Module but surely neither are good enough to cut the mustard at the top table of two milers?

Sizing Europe is a veteran of five appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, which is in stark contrast to Paul Nicholls’ Hinterland. The 6-y-o steps up out of novice company for the first time after beating a sub-par Grandouet twice at Sandown and had smart form last season chasing home Nicky Henderson’s pair of Captain Conan and Simonsig.

Free £100 Bet with Bet Victor

Free £100 Bet with Bet Victor

Second season chasers have a cracking record in the race with Moscow Flyer, Voy Por Ustedes, Finians Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre all tasting glory and those look the ones to focus on, with Captain Conan preferred over the pair of Baily Green and Special Tiara.

Mouse Morris’ Baily Green chased home Simonsig in last year’s Arkle and should be better suited than most on the drying ground, presumably spot on for the race after a spin over hurdles last month at Leopardstown.

Special Tiara has similar credentials having won the G1 Novices’ Chase at Aintree however looked uneasy at Cheltenham when chasing home Sire De Grugy and Kid Cassidy in November and was soundly beaten by the pair that day, with little evidence to support the 7-y-o turning the form around anytime soon.

That almost leaves Captain Conan (3.20) as a winner by default, for connections who have won the last two renewals of the race with Finians Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre respectively.

Captain Conan beat Sire De Grugy on his first run over fences in November 2012 and looked the winner two fences from home in his other start at the track in last year’s Jewson. He tired late in the closing stages however Nicky Henderson’s 7-y-o is finally able to run over the trip that he was always likely to thrive over and is a more than able deputy for the ‘Equine Aeroplane’.

He ran a cracker on his seasonal return behind Sire De Grugy and Somersby in the BetVictor Tingle Creek and he should be even better to bring up a unique hat-trick for the team at Seven Barrows with further success in the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase.

BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.15 Wednesday) – Captain Conan

Cheltenham Festival Day 2 Wednesday Preview and Tips 2014

Jason BrautigamWith over 20 years of experience in horseracing, Jason Brautigam has worked on both the racecourse and betting side of the industry.  Following six years as Head of Marketing for Ascot Racecourse, he held various commercial positions at the Tote, where he was ultimately responsible for running their racecourse division.  A keen punter and racing blogger himself, Jason now works as a freelance marketing communications consultant.

1.30pm – Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival starts with another novice hurdle and again we have another well fancied Willie Mullins trained favourite in the shape of FAUGHEEN, who will be hoping to emulate yesterday’s Supreme winner Vautour. The Irish dogs have been barking about this horse for a long while and so far the hype has been justified with four bloodless wins to date, including three over hurdles.

There has been a lot to like about the manner of those victories and, although he has yet to be truly tested, Faugheen looks likely to take all the beating here.  Four of the last eight winners of this race have been trained in Ireland, including two for Willie Mullins, but the home team led by Red Sherlock and Royal Boy will make this by far the stiffest task Faugheen has faced so far.

The Nicky Henderson trained Royal Boy arguably has the strongest form on display here, winning the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle last time out.  However, Henderson has only had one victory from 33 runners in this race, his sole success coming with Simonsig in 2012.

David Pipe’s Red Sherlock remains unbeaten under rules, including two wins at Cheltenham, and could pose the biggest threat to the favourite after beating Faugheen’s stablemate Rathvinden on the trials day here in January.  Certainly the vibes are very strong that Red Sherlock and Friday’s Albert Bartlett runner Kings Palace represent the best chances of success for Pond House this week.

Selection: Faugheen 5/2 with Paddy Power
Next Best: Red Sherlock 9/2 with Paddy Power

 

2.05pm – RSA Chase

BALLYCASEY established his place at the head of the market for this race after his impressive defeat of Don Cossack by four lengths in the Grade One Moriarty Novice Chase.  His final preparations have not been ideal, however, and he fell during schooling at Leopardstown earlier this month.  The last 14 winners of the RSA have all had at least three runs over fences, so his relative jumping inexperience could count against him.

This doesn’t look a vintage renewal though, so it is hard to pinpoint who will provide the biggest opposition to the favourite.  Smad Place finished third in two World Hurdles, so has a touch of class, and has taken reasonably well to fences so far.  Despite unseating his rider on his chasing debut he subsequently made amends with two good victories at Exeter and Newbury, the latter over Sam Winner.

Morning Assembly was a Grade One winner over hurdles and is two from three over fences, with his only defeat to Carlingford Lough at Leopardstown over Christmas.  Both remain worthy of further consideration, along with Drinmore Chase winner Don Cossack if he can reverse the form with Ballycasey.

Selection: Ballycasey 6/1 with Betvictor
Next Best: Smad Place 7/1 with Coral

 

2.40pm – Coral Cup

Always one of the most competitive handicaps of the Festival, this year’s Coral Cup is no exception and looks a difficult puzzle to solve.

Heading the weights is 2009 Champion Bumper winner Dunguib, who returned to the track after an absence of almost three years in January and bounced back to winning ways at Navan when beating Zaidpour in a Grade Two last time out.  After a controversial build-up to the Festival, trainer Philip Fenton will be hoping that the 11 year old can help him hit the headlines for all of the right reasons.

However, this race tends to go to a young, improving horse at the bottom end of the handicap: 12 of the last 14 winners were aged seven or younger, while only two of the last 13 winners have carried more than 11st 2lb to victory (Medinas being one of the exceptions last year when winning off 11st 10lb).

BAYAN would fit the bill for Gordon Elliot and this dual purpose horse is an intriguing contender.  Although he has yet to win on the flat, he has recorded a hat trick of victories over hurdles already this season.  His trainer previously won this race in 2011 with another five year old Carlito Brigante.

David Pipe demonstrated once again on Saturday that he knows what it takes to land a big handicap hurdle when landing the Imperial Cup for the third time. He will have high hopes for Dell’ Arca, who scored an impressive victory in the Greatwood Hurdle here at Cheltenham in the autumn and found only Splash of Ginge too good in the Betfair Hurdle last time out.

Selection: Bayan 12/1 with William Hill
Next Best: Dell’ Arca 14/1 with bet365

 

Sire De Grugy

 

3.20pm – BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase

The feature race of the second day lost some of its lustre when last year’s exhilarating winner, and the highest rated horse in training, Sprinter Sacre, was forced to withdraw due to an ongoing heart condition.  With the champion unable to defend his crown a new name looks set to be added to the roll of honour, although the 2011 hero Sizing Europe might have something to say about that!  He’s never been out of the first two in this race in three attempts, also finishing runner up in 2012 and 2013.

At 12 years old now, this top two mile chaser may struggle against some of the younger pretenders, though there will be no bigger roar should he return to the winner’s enclosure once more.  But this season has been all about SIRE DE GRUGY so far, after three victories on the bounce in the Tingle Creek, Desert Orchid Chase and Clarence House Chase.  This is by far the best form on display and Gary Moore’s charge should not be under-estimated. The only real negative is his failure to score on two previous visits to Cheltenham.

In Sprinter Sacre’s absence this race has ironically become more competitive, with Captain Conan set to represent the stable this time around.  He could only finish fifth in the Jewson Novices’ Chase at last year’s Festival but landed the Grade One Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree next time out.  He has only been seen once this season, finishing third behind Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek, typically a very good pointer for the Champion Chase.

The previous year’s Arkle Chase is normally an excellent guide too, but 2013 hero Simonsig is another who misses the Festival.  Arvika Ligeonniere was pulled up in last year’s race, but has subsequently won four out of five starts, his only defeat coming at the hands of the 2013 Jewson Novices’ Chase winner Benefficient.  The fact that he runs here rather than tomorrow’s Ryanair Chase will give the favourite something to worry about.

Paul Nicholls’ novice Hinterland is thrown in the deep end in this race but is an interesting dark horse, along with 2013 Grand Annual runner-up Kid Cassidy, who beat Sire De Grugy fair and square in a listed race here at Cheltenham in December and could represent each way value against the favourite.

Selection: Sire De Grugy 3/1 with bet365
Next Best: Arvika Ligeonniere  9/1 with Paddy Power

 

4.00om – Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase

Inclusion of the Cross Country Chase at the Festival still splits jump racing fans, but it has now become a regular feature at Cheltenham and a popular betting heat. Seven of the nine winners to date were priced at 13/2 or shorter, so it pays to concentrate on those at the head of the market.  In fact 33 of the 39 cross country races staged at Cheltenham have been won by horses in the first five of the betting.

Course and distance winners Big Shu and BALTHAZAR KING look the two to focus on here, with marginal preference for the latter after a hat trick of victories in the early part of the season, including success here at Cheltenham on the same cross country course where he enjoyed his finest hour in 2012.  He missed this race for a crack at the Grand National last year, but returns in an attempt to reclaim his crown.

Big Shu sprang something of a surprise when winning this race at 14/1 last season, but is well fancied to prove that victory was no fluke.  Anything Enda Bolger runs always has to be respected in these cross country contests. He won four of the first five renewals of this race and will be represented this year by Love Rory, Star Neuville and Quantitativeeasing.

Selection: Balthazar King 7/1 with William Hill
Next Best: Big Shu 5/1 with Paddy Power

 

4.40pm – Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle

It’s not often you see a Nicky Henderson winner allowed to go off at 40/1, but that’s exactly what happened in this race two years ago with Une Artiste.  Representing the same connections this time is DAWALAN, who is the only one in single figures in the betting.  Bred by HH The Aga Khan, he was a maiden on the flat when trained in France, but has won two of his three hurdle starts to date and was beaten by just a nose in his final prep in a ‘bumpers for jumpers’ event on the all-weather at Kempton at the end of January.

Five of the last eight winners won last time out, so you ideally need to look for recent winning form.  It is also perhaps notable that five of the nine winners of this race to date have been French bred imports, so another French recruit Katgary is also worthy of closer inspection.  He is chasing a hat trick on his first run for trainer Paul Nicholls, who won this race with a similar type, Sanctuaire, in 2010.

Only one of the nine winners of this race have carried over 11st 4lb to victory, so it is hard to fancy the chances of the Willie Mullins trained trio of Noble Inn, Adriana Des Mottes and Ivan Grozny, who are all at the top end of the handicap.  Four winners of this race since 2004 have been trained in Ireland though, so it’s well worth taking a look at runners from the Emerald Isle.

Lindenhurst has been in fine form since switching codes, winning two out of four starts over hurdles so far and never out of the first two, while Sea Beat won at the third time of asking for trainer Arthur Moore, who landed the Fred Winter in 2011 with What A Charm.

Selection: Dawalan 8/1 with Coral
Next Best: Katgary 10/1 with Skybet

 

5.15pm – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

The closing contest on Day Two is always a favourite with the Irish, who invariably field a strong challenge in the Champion Bumper.  They have won eight of the last 10 renewals, with Willie Mullins landing the race an incredible eight times since his first success with Wither or Which in 1996.

With his latest victories courtesy of Champagne Fever and Briar Hill in the last two seasons, who would be brave enough to back against Willie working the Mullins magic again?  He looks set to have a typically good hand, with BLACK HURCULES, Shaneshill and Killultagh Vic all prominent in the betting.  The first named looks to be his main contender, however, unbeaten in two bumpers to date and particularly impressive last time out.

Dermot Weld’s Vigil is an intriguing contender after winning his second start in fine style.  His Rite of Passage finished third behind Dunguib in this race in 2009 and he will have high hopes that Vigil can go a couple of places better this year.  Weld could potentially be double handed with exciting prospect Silver Concorde also due to line-up.

Modus is another that should be high up on any shortlist as he won the bumper here at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.  That made it two from two and the vibes are strong that he can maintain his unbeaten record.

Selection: Black Hercules 8/1 with Paddy Power
Next Best: Modus  10/1 with bet365