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 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

 

coralbet5get20

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

 

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)

paddy power annie power

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

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

Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview and Tips 2014

Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview and Tips 2014

Race 1 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The greatest show on turf gets underway with what is potentially the best novice race of the Festival – and some really exciting prospects are set to line-up.  None more so than the ante post favourite Irving, who is unbeaten in four starts to date – including the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton last time.  A top class recruit from the Flat, he should have the speed required to see off most of his opponents up the famous Cheltenham Hill.

His chief rivals look set to be the Willie Mullins’ trained pair of VAUTOUR, who is looking for a four-timer after winning the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown (traditionally a key trial for this race), and Wicklow Brave, who has been kept busy all season, winning his last five starts.  Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Vautour, which indicates they think he is their best chance of repeating last year’s success with Champagne Fever.

The Irish challengers always have to be feared in the Supreme, having won nine of the last 15 renewals of this race, although Paul Nicholls has also landed this twice since 2006 with Noland and Al Ferof, so it’s a tight call between Vautour and Irving.

Only three of the last 18 horses priced at 3/1 or shorter have won the Festival opener, with just one favourite scoring in the last ten years.  Nevertheless, this tends to go to one of the leading fancies, with 8 out of 10 winners starting at 12/1 or shorter.

Selection: Vautour
Next Best: Irving

 

Race 2 – Arkle Chase

This is another race where favourites haven’t fared too well in recent times, with only four market leaders landing the Arkle in the last 20 years.  This does include the last two winners, however, although Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre both started at odds on.

There doesn’t appear to be anything of that calibre in this line-up, so likely favourite Champagne Fever could be one to take on, despite his excellent record at the Festival.  A winner of the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he cannot be opposed lightly, but he hasn’t been seen on the track since disappointing in third place over Christmas on only his second start over fences.

Nine of the last ten winners had at least three to five chase starts, so this lack of experience could cost Willie Mullins’ charge this time around. The Irish may still take this, however, in the shape of TRIFOLIUM, who landed the Grade One Irish Arkle in fine style, beating Felix Yonger by nine lengths in heavy going.  He finished third in the Supreme Novices’ behind Cinders and Ashes in 2012 and should appreciate the better ground.

The highest rated in the field is Rock On Ruby, the former Champion Hurdle winner now trained by Paul Nicholls’ former assistant Harry Fry.  He has made a decent start to his chasing career winning his last two starts, although he hasn’t had much to beat with just one finisher behind on each occasion.  He would also be much older than your typical Arkle winner at nine years old.  All bar one of the last ten victors have been aged between 5 and 7.

Valdez could prove to be the best of the British challengers and provides some each way value in this race, after winning all three of his chase starts to date for Alan King including the Grade Two Lightning Novices’ Chase.  All of the last ten winners have started at 9/1 or shorter, so Dodging Bullets also merits close consideration, despite his defeat last time out.

Selection: Trifolium
Next Best: Valdez

 

Race 3 – Festival Handicap Chase

Races don’t get much trickier to solve than the handicap chases at the Festival and this looks a typically wide open affair.  However, nine of the last 13 winners were in the first four in the betting, so you need a quality horse with proven recent form to land this competitive three mile chase.  In fact six of the last 11 winners won last time out. So much the better if your horse has Cheltenham form in the book too, with seven winners in the last 16 years having finished in the first four at the Festival before.

Hadrian’s Approach finished third in last year’s RSA Chase and although he unseated his rider in the Hennessy Gold Cup back in the autumn, he made amends with a battling win back at Newbury last time out.  This is a much stiffer task, but he represents the formidable team of Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty so has to be respected.

Trainer Jonjo O’Neill has won this race twice in the last five years, with Wicheta Lineman and Alfie Sherrin, who returns in an attempt to repeat his success from two years ago and is the selected mount of Champion Jockey AP McCoy.  Although he has not really been in the same form since, Cheltenham may well bring out the best in him again.

But it is his stablemate HOLYWELL that merits a place near the top of any shortlist.  Winner of last year’s Pertemps Final at the Festival, he followed up that effort by finishing second to Solwhit in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.  Things did not quite go to plan when initially switched to chasing this season, being a beaten favourite three times, but he is now on a hat trick after winning his last two starts.

The home team field a strong challenge with the top weight Cantlow and Restless Harry others to consider. The best of the Irish could well be Wrong Turn for Tony Martin, who won this race back in 2006 with Dun Doire.

Selection: Holywell
Next best: Wrong Turn

hurricane-fly

Race 4 – Champion Hurdle

The Irish could already be enjoying a fantastic day by this point, but expect the roof to be blown off the Cheltenham grandstand if HURRICANE FLY manages to win his third Champion Hurdle for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.

Winner of this race in 2011 and 2013, his only defeat in the last four seasons came in this race when he could only finish third in 2012.  Despite being the grand old age of ten now, he has looked as good as ever this year, clocking up three more Grade One victories including another Irish Champion Hurdle success.

He has the beating of runaway Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor and 2013 Supreme third Jezki in his last two races, so his chief competition may come from last season’s top novices in Britain, The New One and My Tent Or Yours.  The latter finished in front of Jezki when runner up behind Champagne Fever and scored two impressive Grade One successes earlier in the season.  However, only one of the last 23 Christmas Hurdle winners went on to land the Champion in the same season, which doesn’t bode well for his chances.

That race was very much run to suit Jonjo O’Neill’s stable star anyway and The New One has a great opportunity to turn the tables back at Cheltenham, providing he jumps better.  Who can forget the impression he made when winning the Neptune in exhilarating fashion at last year’s Festival, when he looked every bit a future champion in the making?  He may prove to be the biggest threat to The Fly’s bid to land a historic hat trick.

Selection: Hurricane Fly
Next Best: The New One

 

Race 5 – OLBG Mares Hurdle

The Irish celebrations will continue long into the night if Hurricane Fly wins the Champion Hurdle and QUEVEGA lands the Mares Hurdle for a record-breaking sixth successive year.  This race is all about Willie Mullins’ perennial heroine, a rarer sight on track than the Scarlet Pimpernel, who has been handled to perfection by her trainer.  A fragile type that cannot take much racing, she has only had six runs in the last four seasons, but has still incredibly managed to win this race first time out for the last three years in a row.

Sirene D’Ainay, the mare Quevega beat into second at Cheltenham in 2013, is back again for another attempt – but whether she can avenge her one-and-a-half length defeat is open to question.  If there is going to be a horse to spoil the party, it could well be stablemate Glens Melody, winner of three of her four starts this season, or fellow Irish challenger Down Ace, who is unbeaten under rules and has notched up three victories so far over hurdles.

Selection: Quevega
Next Best: Down Ace

 

Race 6 – National Hunt Chase

The longest race at the Festival is a marathon four mile contest – and showcases the talent of amateur riders.  Not surprisingly finding the winner can be a fiendishly difficult task, with two 33/1 shots and a 40/1 outsider winning in the last 10 years.

However, the last three renewals have gone to the favourite and this year FOXROCK is well fancied to give Grand National winning trainer Ted Walsh another big race success.  Foxrock has landed three wins from his last four starts, including a Grade Two Novice Chase at Navan, and may continue the luck of the Irish in this race after recent wins for Chicago Grey in 2011 and Back In Focus last year.

There will be no shortage of challengers, with Shutthefrontdoor bidding to give trainer Jonjo O’Neill and legendary owner JP McManus a second success in this race after Butler’s Cabin sprang a surprise for connections in 2007.  Classic Chase victor Shotgun Paddy, assisted by Chicago Grey’s winning jockey Derek O’Connor, and Suntiep, winner of four out of five races under rules and ridden by Willie Mullins’ son Patrick, will also have plenty of support.

This race is as much about the experience and skills of the rider as the quality of the horse, so look out for the jockey bookings before making your final selection.  Ted Walsh’s daughter Katie is set to ride Foxrock, while Nina Carberry will be on Shutthefrontdoor, so we may well see a female winning rider on the opening day of this year’s Festival.

Selection: Foxrock
Next Best: Shotgun Paddy

 

Race 7 – Novices’ Handicap Chase

Anyone looking to the finale for an easy ‘getting out stakes’ on Day One of the Festival will be sorely disappointed as the card closes with a tricky looking handicap chase for novices.  While eight of the nine winners to date were either first or second last time out, seven of them had won no more than one race over fences.

Four winners had run at the Festival before, so the top weight Ericht, who finished fifth in last year’s Coral Cup, has the right profile to give Nicky Henderson back-to-back victories in this race after winning with Rajdhani Express last year.  However, last year’s County Hurdle third MANYRIVERSTOCROSS arguably has even better credentials, despite only winning one novice chase, as he’s been running in top class company when beaten on his last two starts.

The last three winners have all come from the top half of the handicap, but only Hunt Ball has carried more than 11st 7lb to success in the last ten years.  On that weight is the likely favourite, Pendra, who won his first two starts over fences, but could only finish a remote seventh place when favourite at Ascot last time out.  JP McManus may be triple-handed in the race with Festive Affair and Dursey Sound also due to line up for trainer Jonjo O’Neill.

Another to consider is the ultra-consistent Present View, who has not been out of the frame in five starts this season, two of them wins, including an impressive ten length success at Kempton last time out.

Selection: Manyriverstocross
Next Best: Present View

 

1.30 Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Tip: Vautour 7/2 Next Best: Irving 7/2

2.05 Racing Post Arkle Chase

Tip: Trifolium 9/2 Next Best: Valdez 10/1

2.40 Festival Handicap Chase

Tip: Holywell 10/1 Next best: Wrong Turn 14/1

3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle

Tip: Hurricane Fly 10/3 Next Best: The New One 3/1

4.00 OLBG Mares Hurdle

Tip: Quevega 8/11 Next Best: Down Ace 22/1

4.40 National Hunt Chase

Tip: Foxrock 5/1 Next Best: Shotgun Paddy 5/1

5.15 Novices’ Handicap Chase

Tip: Manyriverstocross 10/1 Next Best: Present View 10/1

Cheltenham Tips for Friday, Gold Cup Day 2013 by Carl Harris

Cheltenham Festival 2013 Friday 15 March.

1-30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Juvenile Grade 1) (4-yo) 2013

carl-harrisOne of my favourite races of the Festival, usually unearths a high class horse for the future and it has traditionally paid to follow Nicky Henderson in this. Some interesting stats;

· Last time out winners are 11 from 15,
· Prominent runners have won 9 of the last 15
· 11 of the 15 had a run in the last 42 days
· 10 of the 15 could be found in the first four in the betting.
· 7 of the 15 raced in a Class 1 race last time out from just 93 runners
· CAUTION: Horses returning after a break of more than 42 days have only won 2 of the last 15 renewals from 89
· Held up runners have won 3 from 15 from 163 runners

I did read one preview saying that four year olds had a 100% record in this race! This is a very good renewal of the Triumph. I have a short list of TWO exceptional contenders; ROLLING STAR and OUR CONNOR. Bristish v Irish. There is very little between them according to my ratings with the marginal preference being for the Nicky Henderson trained ROLLING STAR. We last saw him at Cheltenham beating Irish Saint and he looked mightily impressive. He went down as the Triumph Hurdle horse and I still think he is the best. Our Connor is respected and the smart bet is to Dutch them both. But preference is for Rolling Star at 4/1.

MAX BET WIN ROLLING STAR 4/1  Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

2-05 Vincent O Brien County Handicap Hurdle

This is a minefield of a handicap, with 28 runners and if you find the winner of this you will be richly rewarded. Sounds easy, it is nothing of the sort! My tentative bet here is an each way (small stakes only) on RANJAAN for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh who have had a contrasting Festivals so far. This is somewhat speculative as I think the horse will appreciate the better ground. We have had heavy going most of the season and the better ground combined with a favourable mark could give us a decent run.

RANJAAN EW 16/1 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

 

2-40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

Only eight running’s of this race to day so little can be learned from the statistical trends;

· All 8 winners raced in a Class 1 race last time out, that’s from just 60 runners
· The top 5 in the betting have won 7 of the 8 renewals.
· 7 of the 8 winners were 1st or 2nd last time out.

That’s not really of much help! I have three in the ratings that are on the short list;

· AT FISHERS CROSS- 100
· BALLYCASSEY- 96
· AFRICAN GOLD 92

The form of AT FISHERS CROSS could hardly look any better. Beating The New One last time out and he is my firm bet here. FRICAN GOLD also has had his form franked at Sandown on Saturday and at 13/2 is a great bet each way.

AT FISHERS CROSS WIN 11/4 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

AFRICAN GOLD  EW 13/2 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

 

3-20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase

This is the blue riband of National Hunt Racing. The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. It has been won by some greats down the years and in recent times they include DENMAN and KAUTO STAR. Imperial Commander is now out and the sad demise of Synchronised, last year’s winner, means the only previous winner in this field is Long Run. This is the most wide open Gold Cup seen for sometime.

TRENDS- POSTIVES:

· 13 of the winners in the last 15 renewals had a previous run at a past Festival, which is 9% better than expected and 10 winners had either won or placed in a past Festival race from 103 runners, that’s 7% better than expected. Neither of those are massively strong statistics since past festival form horses are over bet, but it can’t be ignored when narrowing the field.
· 8 of the last 15 ran in a Grade 1 race last time out from just 51 runners, which is 49% better than expected.
· Irish Breds have won 12 of the 15, 34% better than expected.
· If we add in Grade 2 last time out then 13 of the 15 ran in a Grade 1 or 2 last time out, 30% more than expected.
· 12 of the last 15 were in the top 3 in the betting.
· 10 of the last 15 ran at exactly 3 miles last time out
· Horses winning last time out won 8 of the last 15 renewals.

A field of 11 horses contest the 2013 Gold Cup, competitive but there is no one stand out horse, all have questions to answer. These are the horses I see as the main players.

BOBS WORTH, cky Henderson thinks a huge amount about Bob’s Worth. Bred by his jockey Barry Geraghty it would be an extra special win for him. He comes here with just one run under his belt this season although that was a 3 ¼ length beating of Tidal Nay in the Hennessy Gold Cup, his Cheltenham record reads 1-1-1-1. Henderson’s record with horses at Cheltenham is second to none. Off a long rest is not no good. Bobs Worth is the favourite and rightly so!

SIR DES CHAMPS, also has an unbeaten Cheltenham and Festival but his form this year is not good enough to land this. Would need to improve on what we have seen.

SILVINIACO CONTI is the big hope and the up and coming chaser to fill the boots of Denman and Kauto Star. Nicholls is bullish and what he has done this season puts him in the mix. Could give Bobs Worth a race.

LONG RUN bids to regain his crown but vibes are not good. Cheek Pieces will be worn and he doesn’t look the horse of old. Won the King George, yes, but just, and should be not match for Bobs Worth or Conti.

Of the outsiders the each way play in the race is THE GIANT BOLSTER 14/1. David Bridgewater is a hard worker and he has trained this horse to get 100% out of it. If you put 100% in you reap what you sew. Placed in a Gold Cup already he has a real chance at value odds.

For me the outstanding two horses are BOBS WORTH and SILVINIACO CONTI. A pro bet would be to Dutch the two. Put a gun to my head and I will go for Bobs Worth

BOBS WORTH WIN @ 11/4 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

THE GIANT BOLSTER EW @ 14/1 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

 

For me the festival is more or less over after the Gold Cup. The last three races are an amateur riders race and the Pipe and Henderson races where they throw plenty at them. These are the picks for the last three races;

4.00 CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup

He may be a veteran but Chapoturgeon is a festival favourite. He looked to have retained plenty of his old ability when last seen winning at Newbury. Still part owned by former trainer Paul Nicholls and he could yet provide Nicholls with some festival glory. 9/2 is not the best price but he has the credentials to win this.

CHAPOTURGEON EW @ 11/4  Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

 

4-40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle

This is the Martin Pipe race and it is quite obvious that son David Pipe would love to win it. Usually he would fire many bullets at this race, but today he fires one, the four timer seeking GEVREY CHAMBERTIN. There is no doubting his credentials and the only worry is the rise in the weights. However the fact that Pipe fires only one at this prize he really wants to win is a big tip in itself!

GEVREY CHAMBERTIN EW 9/2 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365

 

5-15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup

Like the Pipe race Nicky Henderson would love to win the race named after his father. Unlike David Pipe, Nicky Henderson fires six bullets at this target! I think it is a strong possibility he will hit the target and the horses I like are the classy Petit Robin and French Opera. Both have been high class horses in their time and if they recapture just a small amount of their past form then they will play a massive role in this. 20/1 each way each of two is not a bad bet!

PETIT ROBIN EW  20/1 Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365
FRENCH OPERA EW  18/1
Bet with William Hill Bet With Bet365