Willie Mullins has got the ante-post favourites for at least 10 of the races at the Cheltenham Festival and, in my very humble opinion, has that much equine talent at his disposal that he’s in danger of spoiling the Cheltenham Festival as a betting medium – unless you just love lumping your hard-earned on short-priced favourites such as Min, Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power, Vautour and Un De Sceaux.
Personally I don’t, so over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look to see if we can get some of the Mullins’ hot-pots beat – starting this week with Douvan.
Douvan is already as low as 8/11 favourite for the Arkle (15th March , pretty short considering he’ll have to negotiate the tricky Cheltenham fences in what is sure to be a quickly run race. He is the rightful favourite, however – but surely there’s some each-way value to be had against him.
L’Ami Serge 10/1
Trainer Nicky Henderson was very bullish before last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle, but L’Ami Serge looked laboured in finishing 4th behind the easy winner – which just happened to be Douvan. However, many Henderson horses didn’t run to their best that week and, after an impressive start over fences at Plumpton, he could make a race of it with Douvan this time round. May prefer plenty of cut in the ground.
Another Nicky Henderson trained runner, and he looked the best horse in the Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton over Christmas, despite finishing second. Would definitely prefer better ground, and open to plenty of improvement.
Ar Mad 14/1
Run his rivals ragged when winning a big-pot at Sandown, and then showed his tenacity by rallying in the aforementioned Wayward Lad Novices Chase to defy Vaniteaux who looked to have cruised past him. Probably needs heavy ground to be seen at his best, but could be interesting if it turns into a muddy battle.
Garde La Victoire 16/1
Very closely matched on hurdles form with Vaniteaux, and this 3-time Cheltenham winner has taken well to fences with two wins from two attempts. Has form on all types of ground, but has a finishing kick that could be better utilised on good ground. The Hobbs stable remains in good form.
Sizing John 20/1
Has seen the back-end of Douvan on numerous occasions over hurdles and fences and, though he’ll probably be better on good ground, it’s hard to see him beating the Willie Mullins hot-pot.
Kitten Rock 25/1
Has loads of good form, and was deemed good enough to contest last season’s Champion Hurdle. Flopped badly last-time though behind another Willie Mullins horse.
This year’s Arkle would look a fantastically competitive renewal if it weren’t for potential superstar Douvan but, if you want to take him on, I’m recommending an each-way bet on Garde La Victoire. He’s won on the last 3 occasions he’s run at Cheltenham, goes on all types of ground, and his trainer Phillip Hobbs knows how to get one ready for a big day. He’s set to run at Ludlow on Tuesday 12th January, so he might be worth an each-way nibble now at 16/1.
Garde La Victoire each-way @ 16/1 (Various)