If you’re like me, as the Cheltenham Festival rapidly approaches, you’ve probably already scrabbled through your list of ante-post bets to see just how good you were at spotting the early value. My 16/1 about Jury Duty for the National Hunt Chase looks pretty good, as does my 6/1 about Cause Of Causes for the Cross Country. Meanwhile, the even-money for Ireland to win the Prestbury Cup looks even better.
There are some painful ones in the bookies satchels though with Yanworth side-stepping the RSA and Willoughby Court ruled-out of the JLT. However, that’s just part and parcel of ante-post betting on the Cheltenham Festival.
This week it’s about four fantastic days of trying to pick the winners of 28 of the best horse races run in the entire year. It’s about finding some bankers. Trying to find some value in some interesting Cheltenham Specials Markets. It’s a chance to try and put together that life-changing acca or multiple.
It’s about finding the best value with the bookies or Betfair, maybe open a few accounts with bookmakers who are offering you a bonus for doing so, whilst making the most of some of your favourite bookmakers’ concessions could definitely earn some free bets which could help boost the bank balance.
It could even be time to subscribe to a new tipster or two – but, whatever you do this Cheltenham, remember to have FUN!
We’ll be posting a Cheltenham Festival Blog prior to all four days this week, but here a few things you might want to consider.
Cheltenham Festival Race Schedule
1.30, Supreme Novices Hurdle
2.10, Arkle Challenge Trophy
2.50, Ultima Handicap Chase
3.30, Champion Hurdle
4.10, David Nicholson Mares Hurdle
4.50, National Hunt Chase
5.30, Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase
1.30, Ballymore Novices Hurdle
2.10, RSA Chase
2.50, Coral Cup
3.30, Queen Mother Champion Chase
4.10, Cross Country Chase
4.50, Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle Handicap
5.30, Champion Bumper
1.30 JLT Novices Chase
2.10 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
2.50, Ryanair Chase
3.30, Stayers Hurdle
4.10, Brown Advisory Plate
4.50, Mares Novice Hurdle
5.30, Kim Muir Handicap Chase
1.30, Triumph Hurdle
2.10, County Handicap Hurdle
2.50, Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
3.30, Gold Cup
4.50, Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle
5.30, Grand Annual Handicap Chase
Bankers or On The Fence
There are likely to be quite a few short-priced favourites at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and, for many punters and bookmakers alike, the success or failure of these horses will have a dramatic impact on their profit or losses.
The first of those is Footpad (Arkle). He’s yet to win at the Festival but has finished third in a Triumph Hurdle and fourth in a Champion Hurdle. His hurdles form wasn’t as good as Petit Mouchoir, and he’s only officially achieved as much over fences as Saint Calvados. However, he’s looked an absolute natural over fences so far, handles soft ground, and has proven he stays further if stamina is at a premium (Banker).
Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle) also has vital Cheltenham Festival experience having finished third in a Supreme Novices Hurdle and having won last year’s Champion Hurdle. He’s also perfectly at home on soft ground and should be tough to beat (Banker).
Apple’s Jade (OLBG Mares’ Hurdle) simply looks head and shoulders above her opponents. She won last year’s renewal. Handles any ground, is ideally suited by the distance, but stays further if it’s soft (Banker).
Samcro (Ballymore) The Irish won’t hear of defeat and there’s no getting away from the fact that he looks a potential superstar. However, the bookies will probably be looking to take him on as he’s no experience of the undulations of Cheltenham (On the fence).
Altior (Champion Chase) has yet to taste defeat over fences and looked as good as ever when winning on his return after a wind-op at Newbury. He could blow the opposition away, but he’s another the bookies will probably be out to get. That’s because 12 of the last 18 odds-on Champion Chase favourites have been beaten, he faces Irish opponents he’s yet to meet over fences, and he looked in trouble in last year’s Arkle before Charbel fell (On the fence).
Un De Sceaux (Ryanair Chase) has been backed into short-prices with many of his most worthy opponents now missing the race. He also loves soft ground but, as there are question marks about his stamina at this trip on soft ground, could a horse like Cue Card outstay him? (On the Fence).
Top Jockey Betting
Punters who availed themselves of some double-figure prices about alternatives to Ruby Walsh will have been miffed this week to see Willie Mullins’ number-one jockey make a winning return to the saddle on his first ride back from long-term injury. Whether that win aboard an 11/8 favourite tells us that Walsh is back to his brilliant best is debatable, however it might be worth assessing how this market may unravel when it comes to adopting a betting strategy. If Walsh is to be the top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival for a sixth consecutive time (twelfth in all) he will most likely have to win on some of his more obvious rides, and two of those come in the first two races of the festival in Getabird and Footpad. If they win, as Walsh’s price is likely to plummet, this may be the time to either lay Walsh or back someone else at a what should then be a bigger-price than they are currently.
Top Trainer Betting
It’s a similar scenario in the top trainer betting as Willie Mullins could get off to a flyer courtesy of Getabird and Footpad and two early wins on the board will surely see his price contract rapidly as he bids to regain his Top Cheltenham Festival Title from Gordon Elliott. This is no two-trainer race though and Nicky Henderson could easily go level on two wins if Buveur D’air wins the Champion Hurdle and Gold Present claims the Ultima.
At this point, I’m hoping that Gordon Elliott will have drifted to a serious price as Elliott then has a serious run of favourites in Apple’s Jade (Mares), Jury Duty (National Hunt Chase), De Plotting Shed (Close Brothers Handicap) and then Samcro in the first race on Wednesday.
Hopefully some of you followed the blog’s earlier advice to back Ireland to win a third consecutive Prestbury Cup. Sadly, the even-money available then has long disappeared and the Irish are now just 8/11 to have the most winners at the Festival.
However, if the first eight races go to plan as outlined above, that 8/11 could still be worth taking as Ireland looks to have serious chances of being 6-2 up by the time Samcro wins the Ballymore Hurdle on Wednesday.
The betting suggests this will go to either JP McManus or Gigginstown Stud, with Rich Ricci, Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, and the Potts famly the only conceivable other winners. It may well be Ricci who strikes first with Munir & Souede striking second.
However, it’s McManus who has the most fancied horse with Buveur D’air, Cause Of Causes, Yanworth, and Apple’s Shakira as well as plenty of others to go to war with. Gigginstown do look to have a couple of bankers in Apple’s Jade and Samcro and they’ll also have plenty of ammunition for the other races.
Not an easy call, but Gigginstown look slightly better value than McManus.