Each day throughout the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, we’ll preview each of the races and share out tips and general horse racing wisdom with our loyal readership. Let’s hope we can bring you some luck! Let’s get started on each of the day one races.
1.30 Cheltenham – Sky Bet Supreme Novices´ Hurdle
As ever, we kick off with the Supreme to get the Cheltenham Festival underway. Eighteen horses go to post for this year’s running so we’ll need a bit of luck in running.
Two horses make the market this year, Irving and Vautour. At the prices, we’re willingly to take on Irving given we still feel he has most to prove. His form doesn’t warrant his price, all his runs coming on flattish tracks and he’s never been left-handed. He also looks speedy, and there is a chance he may outclass this field, but at the prices look elsewhere given he may be outstayed.
We prefer Vautour, at the prices, given he’s a Grade One winner whose form looks rock solid. He looks to have a nice mix of speed and stamina which is what you need to win this race. He’s also a better jumper than Irving, so he looks the one of the two market leaders.
Wicklow Brave is a horse with loads of ability, but his jumping, on heavy ground, has not impressed us and a Supreme on quicker going might just prove to be a shock to the system. There is every chance it may improve; though and if that’s the case he’ll go very close.
On what we’ve seen on track Gilgamboa and Vaniteux offer poor value and are passed over despite looking progressive. Josses Hill we really liked coming into the race, but the vibes recently haven’t been good Barry Geraghty has jumped ship.
The one horse we like that potentially could throw a spanner in the works is VALSEUR LIDO. Another horse representing Willie Mullins he looks a complete unknown. We don’t know how good he is as he has been winning lesser races in easy style. We’ve been impressed by his jumping and the speed he’s shown. There is plenty stamina in his pedigree so the Supreme test could suit him down to the ground.
VAUTOUR is the one to beat for us, but Valseur Lido may cause a shock although he couldn’t be a confident pick in a tough opener.
1pt each-way VALSEUR LIDO @14/1
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2.05 Cheltenham – Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase
Nine runners go to post in this year’s Arkle and the Irish hold a strong hand with Champagne Fever and Trifolium. The British have three worthy contenders in Rock On Ruby, Dodging Bullets and Valdez.
On what we’ve seen so far this season Trifolium and Dodging Bullets are the two best jumpers. Of that pair we’d fancy Trifolium at the prices. The Gigginstown horse is just a point shorter than Rock On Ruby, too, and again, at those prices we’d take Trifolium.
Rock On Ruby is a Champion Hurdle winner, but he hasn’t looked a complete natural over fences, his lack of scope meaning he doesn’t find jumping as easy. The two we like are the Irish pair of Champagne Fever and Trifolium. The latter has been the more impressive of the pair this year, but the ground might just be getting a little bit quicker than ideal for him. He’s shown his best on much softer terrain.
With this being the case, we’re going to stick up another Willie Mullins horse in CHAMPAGNE FEVER. This classy and tough grey has scored at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, in the Champion Bumper and in last year’s red hot renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He was always going to make a better chaser and while he started the year off in good fashion he blotted his copy book last time out with a bad mistake. We are willingly to give him the benefit of the doubt here as he schooled well at Leopardstown recently and looked in rude health. Given his Supreme Novices’ form and the recent public leg stretch, they were the deciding factors.
1pt win CHAMPAGNE FEVER @3/1
2.40 Cheltenham – Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase
The first of the week’s competitive handicaps and we’ve got it down to Holywell, Green Flag and Wrong Turn. Alfie Sherrin is favourite, but at eleven-years-old may be vulnerable to younger and improving horses.
Of the two to the top of the handicap, Holywell and Green Flag standout. We think Holywell is capable of giving Green Flag two pounds in a race of this nature judged on his hurdles form. That said the latter is a better jumper and double his price so it makes it a tough call. With the northern raider being double the odds, that’s where we’ll go, but we couldn’t put anyone off Holywell who looks to have been laid out for this race.
Lower down the weights WRONG TURN is worth a little bet too. Tony Martin won this race with Dun Doire back in 2006 and this progressive eight-year-old may be able to keep on improving. Both his recent wins have come at Leopardstown, in lesser races, but he’s done it in good style.
Despite falling twice in his last four starts he’s actually a good jumper, based on his recent win. He didn’t look the winner turning for home last time out, but stayed on dourly indicating a step-up in trip will suit. His action also suggested better ground may suit so he could go well with our other selection GREEN FLAG.
1pt win WRONG TURN @11/1
1pt each-way GREEN FLAG @16/1
3.20 Cheltenham – Stan James Champion Hurdle
Quite simply the race of the meeting for us. Hurricane Fly, The New One, My Tent Or Yours, Our Conor and Jezki, all five horses hold genuine chances of scoring and it may be a case of running a personal best and been beaten three lengths this year. That’s how competitive this race is.Hurricane Fly is the one to beat, but this is his toughest test to date and it comes at the age of ten. The drying ground may not be ideal either. The New One is the leading ‘young pretender’ horse. He’s got the perfect blend of speed and stamina to win this race and is sure to run well.
My Tent Or Yours will love this drying ground and nothing else will travel better in this race than him. His free going nature is the concern, however and we wonder will he have much left for the battle up that dreaded hill?
The Irish pair of Our Conor and Jezki too can’t be ruled out. There is no doubting the latter is the race value, but he can hang in his races and doesn’t look entirely straight forward.
Our Conor was one of the most impressive Cheltenham Festival winners we’ve ever seen and despite only being a five-year-old holds strong claims on a course that is sure to suit him better than Hurricane Fly, who beat him last time out.
All in all it’s such a tough race to call, it really is a race to savour, but for a bet we’ll suggest The New One for a muggy each-way punt.
1pt each-way THE NEW ONE @16/5
4.00 Cheltenham – David Nicholson Mares´ Hurdle Race
This is all about history and Quevega. Willie Mullins’ great mare is hoping to win this race for the sixth time in as many years and surpass Golden Millers’ record of five wins at a Cheltenham Festival. She’s the most likely winner, but at ten years of age we can’t back her at her current price of 4/5. It’s not a betting race for us, but if you insist on having a bet have a little tickle on JENNIES JEWELL at 40/1.
0.5pt each-way JENNIES JEWELL @40/1
4.40 Cheltenham – Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase
Stamina will be key in this four mile event and jumping too, as ever. Recent history dictates we don’t get too clever in trying to find the winner as those with the highest official ratings coming into the race have fared well. The last three favourites have also managed to win this race and of the market leaders SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR is the one to be on.
As big as 14/1 in some books last week this Jonjo O’Neill trained runner is as short as 11/4. The weight of money that came for him suggests he is in good form and given he always struck us as a strong candidate for this race, we feel he is the one to beat.
Earlier in the year it looked like he may take a hand in the RSA Chase, a much stronger race than this, but connections have decided to come here. He’s had a breathing operation since his last run and his course form is a massive plus. The excellent Nina Carberry takes the rides for JP McManus.
1pt win SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR @7/2
5.15 Cheltenham – Rewards4Racing Novices´ Handicap Chase
A handicap confined to horses rated no higher than 140 meaning the weights are quite compressed given the competitive nature of those entered. This means there is only nine pounds separating the top and bottom weights so it could be a case of simply finding the best horse in the race.
Having gone over the race we had a shortlist of Art Of Logistics, Pendra, Festive Affair and the race value Persian Snow. Art Of Logistics is a horse we’ve always liked and this is the easiest task he’s had in a while. He’ll enjoy the better ground, too, but unfortunately has halved in price.
Pendra is the most likely winner to us and while it took us a while to warm to this horse he now has our upmost respect. He jumps and travels and although he hasn’t won over the trip his pedigree suggests he’ll improve for it.
Festive Affair has been deserted by Tony McCoy, but he still has our respect. He is sure to run a big race, but McCoy siding with Pendra tells its own story.
The race value for us and the one that has to be back is PERSIAN SNOW. He was a sick horse last year, but now he’s in better health his form has improved four fold. He was always going to make a better chaser and in his recent wins at Warwick he has shown himself to be a sound jumper. He also travels well and we can see him outrunning his price with a handy start.
He and PENDRA will get the nod in the day’s last race. The McCoy horse could prove to be thrown in.
1pt win PENDRA @17/2
1pt each-way PERSIAN SNOW @16/1