Welcome back to the 2nd part of the Cheltenham clues series and I hope you had a cracking Christmas and New Year. A lot has happened since the first part with a whole host of horses seen in action over the Christmas period and the big festivals at Kempton and Leopardstown have given us plenty of clues to take into March and hopefully we’ll be able to get enough value to make a profit for the festival. Here we go…..
The Supreme is already looking like a real trappy contest at this point. We haven’t really seen a standout performer so far especially from the all conquering Mullins yard just yet. Moon Racer is the current favourite and to me, is probably the best horse we have seen so far but that is reflected in his current price which is currently 7/1 best price. The statistics will be against Moon Racer given his age at 8 years old, but for me, it’s miles on the clock that matter more then age and this fella is lightly raced and open to improvement. He’s jumped well, shown a good turn of foot and looks a proper grade 1 animal, however, we have only seen him in trappy affairs so far and the form doesn’t stack up greatly. He is 5/1 best price with Skybet who go NRNB for the opener and that is a short enough price really right now. Pipe has mentioned he could go the Champion Hurdle, which would be a silly thing to do on his current form and experience so far but if the big 2 don’t turn up then it isn’t the strangest shout in the world I guess. Looking past Moon Racer, the 2 main guns at the moment for Willie Mullins are Crack Mome and Cilaos Emery. Both looked fairly impressive on there first outings and we will have to see more from them to dissect them further. Cilaos Emery’s form is stacking up however with his beating of Joey Sasa reading well. He jumped like a stag in his first outing and I’d expect to see him this weekend in the Moscow Flyer with perhaps Crack Mome. It’s interesting to see that Paddy Power have him as the shortest price of any of the Mullins runners at 7’s which could indicate that he is their first choice at the moment. Paddy Power seem to have a stranglehold on the Mullins camp and know what seems to be going on and you’d be a fool to not take that into account, so we will see. Other notable horses to keep an eye on is the impressive Finian’s Oscar who won the Tolworth, he looks like he has the speed and stamina to make a name for himself but I do wonder whether the Neptune will suit him more, so I will talk about him in a moment. Jenkins bombed out at Kempton over Christmas, and is now 25/1. Nicky Henderson seems to be lacking a star in this division and I would probably say they’ll throw Jenkins at the festival but he looks a totally different horse this year compared to his bumper campaign. Lazy and disinterested as opposed to last year where he was super keen and pulled, I do wonder whether he may be suffering with a physical problem and is best ignored for now. Then you are scraping the barrel for the rest with plenty of Mullins novices who have won their maiden but you just don’t know what they can be in Chateau Conti who won at Cork, jumping scrappy but showing a clear high cruising speed and is another one you will need to see more of. I just wonder whether there may be a live outsider in Movewiththetimes who is under the care of Paul Nicholls and highly rated by connections, he is best priced 33/1 but you cannot be sure with the ‘Green and Gold operation’ and although he was beat in the Moon Racer win in the Grade 2 at Cheltenham, he shaped like a good horse that day, certainly one to keep an eye on and might even contest the Betfair hurdle off a mark of 136. To put it simply, we are waiting for a horse to blow this market wide open.
Have we seen the Neptune winner yet? Probably. Finian’s Oscar has looked top notch in both his performances to date. His Tolworth win looked visually impressive, travelling well at 3 out before his rider letting an inch of rein out and putting the race to bed in a matter of strides. His jumping has looked very good, he travels like a classy animal and has shown the gears of a real class act. The only problem is that he may go the Supreme but according to the bookmaker prices, it’s already a cert that he’ll go for the Neptune with top price 5/1 knocing about. He looks the most likely winner of this race at the moment and is highly rated by connections too, who obviously know a good horse. Outside of the favourite, this market is full of question marks. Messire Des Obeaux is a likely runner but I’m not sure if he’s a Neptune runner myself. He lacks the gears for the race and looks more of a stayer especially being out of his sire Saddler Maker who seems to produce stayers and grinders rather then speedy horses and one thing you can say about the Neptune looking down the list of winners is that speedy horses come to the fore. You’re then looking at a handful of Mullins runners too, becoming a little boring trying to figure out where goes where but he has Invitation Only, Augusta Kate, Saturnas and Montalbano are real possible contenders with Barcadys and Battleford a question mark too. I really like Invitation Only but he bombed out on his last run although Graham Wylie confirmed that Ruby felt he was ‘flat’ throughout the race and I’m not sure where he goes now with Willie mentioning they are seeing how he goes at home before making a plan. Augusta Kate was in the process of running a big race against Death Duty in the Lawlors novice hurdle before falling at the last and she is one who will take on the geldings in my opinion this year, especially as she gets 7lb from the geldings and the rest of them need to show a little more despite the Future Champions novice hurdle winner Saturnas running big races over the winter but the vibes aren’t that strong about this horse and was described as a stayer by his connections, so I wonder whether he has the speed for the Neptune, and despite him winning a grade 1, with the novice hurdle picture looking so weak so far, that something may come out of the woodwork to improve beyond him. I put up Ballyandy as a big bet last time I wrote this page and I’m still not giving up on him, the form he has does stack up a little with his 1/2L defeat to Messire Des Obeaux reading well and 2 trappy defeats to Moon Racer, one definitely to keep in mind for any race really and 14’s on the William Hill market each way appeals to me right now, but I don’t know the plans so I’d hold off on that. It’s another trappy race so far, but I think Finians Oscar looks the most impressive so far although it’s a skimpy price no doubt.
I guess we have another likely winner already in this race in the excellent Death Duty. I love everything about this horse. He jumps, he gallops and he stays and he also has a little bit of speed in him too. I love the way he gallops with his head bowed, that often means he’s really, really genuine and this horse is just that. However, I have a small worry about him on good ground, depending on if it is good ground that is! That’s the only small negative I have about this horse, but no doubt, he is a top class chaser in the making. I have already backed this horse down from 16’s to 8’s each way so I’m in a fair position already. He is too short of a price now at 5/2 generally and you’d expect to get at least 3’s nearer the day, so if you fancy this animal, wait till the week where they’ll be laying it for you at a decent price. Barcadys is the shortest price of the Mullins runners with good old Paddy Power but he’s had 2 runs over hurdles both at 2 miles, so maybe you’d want to see him step up before he goes for this and he could be one of those Mullins experiments where he could even go the Supreme depending on the shape of each race. Invitation Only, Augusta Kate, Battleford, blah blah blah are the ones left on the Mullins list. I’d say Battleford is a cert to for the Albert Bartlett and 25/1 is a fair each way shout right now if you fancied a small bet but hopefully we’ll see him again soon. Wholestone and West Approach bring the best English form to the table but as always with the Albert Bartlett, you never see proper contenders until late into February when running plans start taking shape, so apart from Death Duty and Wholestone, you’re lacking proper candidates at the moment. Remember this race doesn’t always go to the classiest animal and to the dour stayer and that is something to keep in mind when looking at the candidates.
It’s obvious that you can’t see out the 2 contenders at the top and I won’t even bother discussing any others really. Altior wins with Min placed in behind for me but Min has looked very good and looks a stronger and mature horse over fences. Both have gears, both jump well and both look 2 exceptional 2 milers. It’s going to be some race to watch but I think Altior will just nick it. Charbel could add something different to the race if he contends it as he will try and make it I guess, so that could add a little extra to the race. Saying that, Altior and Min are priced about right and I can’t see past either with a preference for Altior really for me.
This is another race that looks to be a good one. You have Yorkhill, the Neptune winner from last year as 3/1 favourite already after only one run over fences but it will take a brave man to take him on. He has the gears, stamina and looked to be comfortable over fences on his first run despite a tendency to adjust left at his fences, although that won’t be a concern at Cheltenham will it. He runs on the 23rd of January at Leopardstown according to Willie and having already backed him from prices ranging from 13/2 to 7/2, I am in a sound enough position. I wouldn’t put anyone off a bet on him despite his short price as he’s going to tumble when he wins his next race. Buveur D’Air is his biggest challenger having already been 2 out of 2 over fences already. People were quick to crab his run at Warwick but he jumped soundly till he was cost momentum in a barging match on the home turn. His jockey then had to get serious with him having been cost a couple of strides and was forced to show his hand with a couple of erratic jumps but he quickly put the race to bed. To me, he has looked impressive on both his runs so far and 7/1 is a solid each way bet right now if you think he will be able to see out the JLT trip. I’m unsure so far on him with regards to the middle distance trip. He’s looked a 2 miler to me due to his race manner (He’s keen) although he isn’t stopping at the end of his races, so I’m unsure on him. We’ll see more from him in the Scilly Isles next which he is booked in for, and I’m hoping the easier pace will help him a little more if you were to crab his jumping at the last 2 at Warwick. I think he’s an excellent horse though and Yorkhill v Buveur D’Air is mouthwatering and another Mullins v Henderson duel! I’m also hoping Buveur D’Air goes for this race so Coney Island runs in the RSA as I’ve took a few decent prices on that one for the RSA but you just never know with the Green and Gold operation do you? That apart, you have a few live outsiders. I’d give Whisper little to no chance with his age and the fact that despite him winning 2 novice chases, he’s had too many seasons over hurdles to think he can win a Grade 1 over fences. Politologue has looked really assured on his runs over fences and I’ve been really impressed with him so far, one of the cleanest novice jumpers so far and you cannot ignore that, he did bomb out in the Coral Cup on good ground but I watched that race again and he made a bad mistake while travelling well and that wiped him out in such a fast paced handicap where you cannot afford to make a mistake. These novice chases will allow him to get his act together at the festival and I’d expect a bolder show from him. Nicholls mentioned the JLT is the target for him and he may be an each way bet come the day when the top 2 take out a good chunk of the book. Top Notch, Clan Des Obeaux, Le Prezien, Shantou Village will probably all run in this race but probably aren’t Grade 1 horses, whilst American Tom had a lung infection at the weekend when he never travelled and fell, so while we probably won’t see him at the festival, if we do, then take into account that the vibes were strong about this boy. Between Yorkhill and Buveur D’Air for me with Politologue as the ew shout right now.
Whilst Bellshill has produced 2 superb displays in his first outings over fences, he is too short at 5/1 for the RSA right now in a race that probably won’t lack depth. It’s shaping up to a be a good one this season with quite a few good horses set to be involved if everything goes to plan. I don’t see much negatives about Bellshill and while he has bombed at Cheltenham twice, that doesn’t really stick with me as all of Willie’s bumper horses ran poorly at Cheltenham and the Supreme trip on good ground was never going to suit the Kings Theatre gelding last season. Both inadequate trips in races that weren’t run to suit him, so I think he is a worthy favourite so far especially as he relished both his 3 mile runs at Aintree and Punchestown. However, right now he is too short. That moves me onto others and it’s certainly not lacking depth. Might Bite, impressive before his horrible fall in the Feltham isn’t for me. That was a dreadful field in that race and I think he’ll be more of a handicapper in time. Then there’s 3 Irish horses for me which will have a say in this race. Coney Island, Our Duke and Alpha Des Obeaux. All 3 big chasers that have looked comfortable over fences. Coney Island looks a bet wherever he goes, he looks comfortable over fences, jumping well, galloping and isn’t short of speed. If Buveur D’Air goes the JLT then Coney Island should line up here and he would be the each way bet for me, I have kept taking 8/1 on him to win any race with William Hill and that’s a fair bet as he’ll go close in whatever race he goes as he is priced correctly in either race at 8’s there but I’m certain they’ll go for the RSA – He looks a quality horse in my opinion and I’m looking forward to seeing him in March. The horse that beat Coney Island in the 3 mile novice at Leopardstown is a huge price as well considering he beat a good field that day while making numerous mistakes, and that’s the Jessica Harrington trained Our Duke. Still 12/ 1, he has ran 2 very good races over fences so far and is lightly raced with improvement to come. I’m unsure whether he will have another run over fences given he was subject to a hard race at Christmas, and he hasn’t been the cleanest jumper over fences so far, so I’m hoping they can get another run into before the festival but make no mistake, he has a huge engine and is incredibly overpriced given the form of his races – 12/1 is a fair bet right now in my opinion. The last one is Alpha Des Obeaux, unfortunately we were never able to see him run his race that day as he went from travelling well, made a mistake and was pulled up. Reported to of burst a blood vessel, that’s a real worry now ahead of his run in the RSA but 1 thing to keep in mind is that Mouse Morris’ string has been in bad form over Christmas and I wonder whether there may be a small infection going round in that camp which could explain ADO’s unfortunate luck, time will tell. While I was strong on Alpha Des Obeaux, those classy hurdlers who have spent a couple of seasons over hurdles seem to struggle in the RSA but I’m hoping he’ll be 100% for the run where I expect a big run from him at an each way price no doubt. 2 horses I do like who are big prices are Champers On Ice and another I tipped up at a big price to win any race the other week in Aux Ptit Soins. Champers On Ice is expected to run at Warwick in the 3 mile chase that Black Hercules won last season and is still a big price for the RSA or the 4 miler at 25’s and while he might not have the class of the Irish horses, he is the right sort of profile that you expect from an RSA winner, being a point to point winner and lightly raced over hurdles showing decent form, so don’t forget him. As for APS, he unfortunately had a small bout of colic which was unfortunate as he ran a smart race at Kelso just winning after making a bad mistake at the last but it was a certain improvement from the horse from his first outing over fences at Exeter. He’s not a horse to dismiss as he will improve through the season and if he’s able to get a run or 2 before the RSA, then don’t ignore him at a big price. Looking a very tasty race for me at the moment.
What a farce of a race this has become and I really don’t want to waste my time thinking about it right now. It’s also making it a farce with the bookmakers where considering most had gone NRNB on the Championship by now but with this race having so many mysteries around it, they are holding off, DISGRACE. Going by Paddy Power then Faugheen is the most likely runner right now with Annie Power going the Mares and the each way value has gone really with Brain Power, Yanworth and Petit Mouchoir being shorter then they really should be. I’d expect Nichols Canyon to run in this race and wouldn’t put anyone off at 33/1 considering he probably will place. I think if NC was going to go the Stayers hurdle then he would of run over Christmas in the 3 mile race although I could be wrong as he could go Galmoy Hurdle in a couple of weeks as a prep. Saying that, he had a hard race at Christmas where he was flat out, so I wonder if he was suffering with something that day.
I think there’s value to be had in this race considering the amount of horses I expect NOT to run. Faugheen and Nichols Canyon who are at the top of the betting won’t run in my opinion and even then Jezki, Clondaw Warrior, Apples Jade, Annie Power, The New One I’m unsure of. So apart from the favourite who’s looked very impressive, there is enough each way value to be had of. Unowhatimeanharry has looked impressive as we all know, the improvement in him has been astonishing and he goes into the Cleeve Hurdle where he’ll be a short price to confirm his place at the top of the market for the World Hurdle. He will face Ballyoptic who improved is his last 2 outings to run a big race in the Long Walk at Ascot and despite his 2 falls this year, he will improve for the track with the hill and could run close in the Cleeve and in the Stayers too. I think this will be the case with Shaneshill, who was in the process of running a fair race at Christmas against Vroum Vroum Mag before falling at the last where he had to make his running which definitely wouldn’t suit him. He needs a strong pace and to be switched off before running on and he will probably get that this year in the Stayers considering we have Cole Harden likely to be running this year. I’m hoping they give him an outing before Cheltenham for him to regain his confidence and he’s been running good races in trappy run races in Ireland this season and will improve for Cheltenham where he’s run superb races in all his runs so far, 20/1 is a good price along with Ballyoptic 16/1 too. Now despite the favourite looking really solid, he is there to be shot at and with VVM likely to go for this race, assuming all goes well with the Faugheen and Annie Power, it may pay to look outside the front 2 if they go because will VVM stay a fast paced 3 mile on the stiffer course? I’m not sure. Voix Du Nords seem suspect stayers and they do struggle with better ground, saying that, she looks special and was impressive at Christmas despite looking a little weary on the run in although that may be because she pulled herself up with Ruby on. She’s a special mare, so could easily run a big race just like Annie Power did where she only found 1 better then her but right now, I’d probably take the each way value outside the front 2 at the market right now.
Thistlecrack wins this with Djakadam probably running a place. I’d be shocked if they ran Cue Card in the Ryanair as he probably doesn’t have the pace for that race, saying that, he looked exceptional in the way he traveled at Haydock, so who knows but I’d give him another shot at the Gold Cup considering he’s still unexposed at the trip. Age is against him though. Native River will clearly be there at the end of things but unless it’s soft ground, he won’t have the pace for the race and there’s too many question marks against the others. Even money is a bad price right now especially considering he’s not NRNB but if the Crack wins the Cotswold at the end of the month then I reckon he’ll go off 4/6 or shorter on the day.
I couldn’t back Cue Card at his current odds and the same with Un De Sceaux as I don’t even know the plan for him as he’s got his races in France as an option instead of Cheltenham apparently but I think we’ll probably see him in the Ryanair. He shapes like a stayer but he may be on to those just is an out and out 2 miler despite him winning over a middle distance trip on soft ground in France. However there’s a big difference between winning a middle distance race in France and England, so I wouldn’t be sure a goodish ground Ryanair would suit him really. The one horse who has stuck out to me is Black Hercules who’s been brought along slowly. Took a while to come to himself apparently as he had an injury over Cheltenham last season, he has run 2 dodgy races so far. One was an appalling run in the John Durkan which you can put a line through and one was in the 2 mile Grade 1 against a certain Douvan at Christmas, but it was interesting that he ran a decent race over an inadequate trip. I think it may be a ploy by Mullins to sharpen this gelding up for a big run in the Ryanair as the 2 mile pace will no doubt of sharpened him up and 16/1 is a good price. I just can’t see him running in any other race as the Gold Cup trip probably wouldn’t suit him given his running style this season and he won’t run in the QMCC, so I have been chipping away at him for the Ryanair for quite a while. Hold off on the bets for the moment as he could even be in handicaps this seasons, so is one for NRNB. Valseur Lido, Josses Hill and Sub Lieutenant probably are the best of the rest. I was hoping they would run VL in the Gold Cup but apparently he didn’t stay last time in the Lexus. I wasn’t sure myself considering how he went from travelling so well to blowing right up, maybe he has a wind problem, he shapes like a stayer to me and I’d love to see him given one more go over 3 miles especially as the master trainer said he would love an extreme trip but with Gigginstown you never know. Outlander would suit the Ryanair but after his Lexus win then he seems to be on the Gold Cup trial, I would lay him for a place in the Gold Cup as he won’t get the trip to me, whilst the other Gigginstown runner Sub Lieutenant mopped up a couple of early season graded events, he caught my eye against Djakadam in the John Durkan, finishing 3rd where he was outstayed by the front 2, he could run a race in wherever he goes this year though as he looks an improved horse. The last one to keep in mind for this race is Josses Hill who didn’t stay in the King George and despite looking an absolute joke of a chaser at one time in his novice days, he has gone from strength to strength this season and will probably run a big race. He may prefer a right handed track though but the Ryanair is lacking depth so he will give a good account of himself no doubt.
It was a shame to see Josies Orders ruled out for the season as he was a banker to win the X-Country, Cantlow is now the favourite but I wouldn’t have a clue who will win it. Goonyella is a nice horse but needs cut in the ground but has run ok on his 2 appearances in these races this year so he could be a fair ew shout at 25/1.
Camelia De Cotte was cut in price by Paddy Power for the Mares novice and she impressed me on her first outing but hasn’t been seen since whilst Augusta Kate and Lets Dance were pushed out by the same firm, so that could be something to take in. Airlie Beach sets the standard but it looks like Willie has the race by the balls, so it will be interesting to see who is confirmed to run but I did really like Camelia De Cotte’s win.
National Hunt Chase is a tricky one to assess right now but 3 are on my shortlist: Arpege D’Arlene, A Genieinabottle and Fletchers Flyer. Fletchers Flyer suggested he needed a right handed track but didn’t jump right at all when he ran his novice chase at Cheltenham last season and he has the experience to go well in this one where as Arpege D’Arlene’s target is this race and I’ve taken 25’s and 20’s and wouldn’t put anyone off his current price at 16’s whilst the Gigginstown runner A Genieinabottle looks capable of a big run and he is set to run at the end of the month, if he has 4 runs then he looks an ideal candidate for the race and Gigginstown usually secure the services of a decent amateur.
Last but not least, I think we seen a very, very smart one in Charli Parcs at Kempton at Christmas. Hopefully he will face Defi Du Seuil in this race rather then one of them get rerouted to the Supreme as that will be a very smart race to watch. Charli Parcs must be one of the most impressive horses I’ve seen visually this season and while the 8/1 about him now is a little short, he looks potentially top notch and what’s even better is that Nicky Henderson absolutely loves him and had a glint in his eye when speaking about him. If I trusted the connections of the horse then I’d put him up at 8/1 for the Triumph but I don’t trust those Green and Gold operation fuckers one bit, so I’ll have to hold off. If he does go to the Triumph then he will win it, I’m certain. What’s even worse is that JP has about 99% of the likely runners in the Triumph so it’s all going to be guessing games and I don’t think he has a potential Supreme runner except for Movewiththetimes and who knows what he’s going to be doing with him!
So for now, thanks for reading, I’ll see you soon!
Our Duke 1pt e/w to win the RSA – 12/1 – (Boylesports and Ladbrokes)
Arpege D’Arlene – 1pt e/w to win the 4 Miler – 16/1 (Bet365)
Ballyandy 2pts e/w – Neptune – 14/1 (General)
Buveur D’Air 0.5pt e/w – JLT – 14/1 (General)
Aux Ptit Soins to win any race at the Cheltenham festival – 1pt e/w – 14/1 (William Hill)