Friday, 29 April 2022

Cheltenham Race Night: Friday 29th April 2022 - Geordie B Will Make It Alreet, Pet

Cheltenham’s Race Night on the New Course promises to be a very fun evening of racing for hunter chasers, and the last sight of this famous track until the Showcase Meeting on October 21.

We have seven twilight races to go through, all of them opportunities for some less familiar faces to the general racing public to get into the Cheltenham winners’ enclosure.

4.40 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – ENVIOUS EDITOR

We go over two miles and half a furlong for the first open hunters’ chase of the evening and the race may provide a winner for trainer Joe O’Shea. He handles eight-year-old Envious Editor and he gets the nod in the opener.

Fit having won a point-to-point at Sandon thirteen days ago, James King’s mount has enough class to take care of this field, the likely favourite Envoye Special perhaps being his biggest danger.

Christopher Barber’s runner will be popular having once been in the care of Paul Nicholls and having also won a recent point race at Trebudannon by some 25 lengths.

Rewritetherules is owned, trained and ridden by David O’Brien and is another with a solid enough each-way chance.

5.15 (Intermediate Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FAMOUS CLERMONT

There are plenty of horses in this race with lots of recent winning form, most notably Famous Clermont, Rebel Dawn Rising, Latenightfumble and Castle Trump who all made the shortlist.

This will be a tough one over the 3¼-mile trip, Christopher Barber and jockey William Biddick perhaps having the best chance with their seven-year-old French bred Famous Clermont.

Trained by Barber since 2009, save for a brief career under rules with Kayley Woollacott, Famous Clermont remains in fine form and won a hunters’ chase at Exeter very well back in March.

Along with the 6.25 this race is the most valuable on the card at £10,000 and is appropriately competitive, the aforementioned Rebel Dawn Rising, Latenightfumble and Castle Trump all holding chances.

5.50 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FIXE LE CAP

Nine go to post for this one over three miles, one-and-a-half furlongs, with Trio For Rio likely to be the one for money.

Clive Boultbee-Brooks’ horse was pulled-up last time in a point as the 5/4 favourite and that sticks in the memory a little bit, though his previous form is solid.

Moratorium, I’m Wiser Now and Tel’Art were all considered too, but there is more to like about Fixe Le Cap who is taken to score.

The top one, now a ten-year-old, is joint-highest rated in this race along with Trio For Rio and is arguably in much better form right now.

Twice a runner-up in point-to-points in March and April, he’s very much race fit and can use that to good effect.

6.25 (Mixed Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – GEORDIE B

We go over the Gold Cup trip for this £10,000 contest and we reckon that while Clive Boultbee-Brooks may miss out in the previous race, he and Tommie O’Brien can land the pot this time around with Geordie B.

Their nine-year-old grey, by Geordieland, had a solid level of form under rules for Venetia Williams back in late 2020 and has held that level by running second at Lingfield in February and winning at Carlisle in March.

Geordie B was also rated as high as 140 over hurdles after winning over three miles at Exeter in 2019, showing he has plenty of stamina which will serve him well in this contest.

Caryto Des Brosses and Salvatore should also be considered and are all unlikely to let people down for each-way and placepot bets.

7.00 (Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – FEUILLE DE LUNE

Even when taking out Tb Broke Her, who might just be behind the others in this three-mile, one-and-a-half-furlong mares’ race, this contest is way more competitive than it looks at first glance.

There are just five runners here, but there will be strong opinions floating around about at least four of them we feel.

Gina Andrews rides Kalabaloo and the pair are likely to go off favourites, while the Polly Gundry-trained Wind Tor is another very solid contender alongside Cashmoll at a bigger price.

The one we like is Feuille De Lune however after winning three point races by an aggregate of 80 lengths since December. Kelly Morgan’s mare is also the youngest in the line-up at seven and there could be much more to come from her yet.

7.35 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – LAW OF GOLD

The penultimate contest is also the longest race on the card at some four miles and half a furlong.

Stamina, naturally, will be the number one factor and there are some well-known names showing up including Shantou Flyer, Law Of Gold, Give Me A Copper and Captain Drake.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Shantou Flyer is the obvious one. David Maxwell’s horse was an easy winner at Fontwell when last seen and should stay all the way.

He gets 3lbs from the likes of Law Of Gold too, but at twelve years old we shouldn’t expect too much and it may be the last named who gets an edge.

David Kemp’s runner has really kept his form in recent months having run around some top tracks, winning races at Fontwell, Stratford and Ascot (easily) before finishing runner-up at Fakenham last time behind Not That Fuisse.

8.10 (Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – SOLOMON GREY

There should be a little bit of speed on show as we go down to two miles, four-and-a-half furlongs for the finale which is due to finish only around ten minutes or so before sunset at Cheltenham.

Paul Nicholls and David Maxwell team up again and their Stratagem is expected to be a clear favourite here, though while the six-year-old grey has a clear chance he is passed over in favour of the better value Solomon Grey.

The ten-year-old son of Sulamani was some 16 lengths behind Strategem in March at Ludlow and has just a 2lb weight pull now.

However, we reckon he’s better than that and won in very impressive fashion last time out at the same track.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

April Meeting Day Two: Thursday 14th April 2022 - Top Bet to Be Found on Day 2

We’re back on the New Course for the second and final day of the April Meeting and it’s all about the mares this time.

A touch of star quality is provided by the presence of Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead, while we also have three Listed races and a Grade 3 on what is another fantastic day of action.

1.30 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – THEATRE GLORY 

Although she may go off at odds-on and so she isn’t a fancy selection, Nicky Henderson’s Theatre Glory really should have too much for her four rivals in the opening two-and-a-half-mile novices’ hurdle.

With four wins from her 5 starts so far, she has done little wrong to date and she’s only getting better. Theatre Glory has done all of her best work so far on good ground so conditions here look to be ideal. James Bowen rides.

Of the others, Harry Fry’s On My Command is probably best. She’s three from 4 since moving from Amy Murphy’s yard and has done precious little wrong, though it’s hard to say that she’s improving in lumps. Lady Rita is best of the rest.

2.05 (British EBF Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Final – Listed Race) – FOUND ON

This series final looks nice and competitive, despite the current trend for small fields continuing as just eight of them line up.

Sandy Thomson brings Crossgalesfamegame down and she is not without a chance, while Burrows Diamond looks a solid proposition too for Sue Smith.

Venetia Williams’ Fontaine Collonges should challenge for favouritism and rightly so, along with Little River Bay of the Philip Hobbs yard and we couldn’t put you off them for a place.

The one that stands out however is Found On. Trained nearby by Martin Keighley, Found On put in some under-par efforts this season in all truth until she once again found her form recently.

Bounding clear at Market Rasen three weeks ago, the seven-year-old was impressive under Sean Bowen and she can follow-up now.

2.40 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – NORA THE XPLORER

A nice race over the extended two-and-a-half miles, this handicap hurdle is one in which the bookmakers are finding it hard to separate the runners and so prices look rather juicy. Of course, they’re only juicy if you get it right but we really do like the look of Nora The Xplorer.

Donald McCain is an excellent trainer who has had a fabulous season and he brings this mare down from Cheshire for this race, his only runner of the day.

Nora The Xplorer won easily on her stable debut for McCain at Sedgefield in January before finishing runner-up at the same venue last month.

She faced just two rivals last time out at Haydock but won with her head in her chest and clocked some good speed figures, the type that may prove her to be too good in this company. Panic Attack and Her Indoors were next on the shortlist.

3.15 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MADERA MIST

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the form of the likely favourite in this contest, Madera Mist, and she is most definitely the one we fear.

Christian Williams’ mare is 4-10 now under rules and won with any amount in hand last time, but she may be vulnerable to one horse at a fair price and that is Tim Vaughan’s Madera Mist.

Although beaten five times in a row, her last victory was at Cheltenham and some very solid money was seen for her from Tuesday night onwards. Jubilympics can also make her presence felt for Emma Lavelle.

3.50 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – ADDOSH 

Paul Nicholls’ Grivetana is 2-3 so far, but she doesn’t look too well handicapped and so we were willing to look elsewhere despite her obvious potential.

The strongest form line is that of Addosh and Ile De Jersey and we hope the betting has got this one right.

Addosh was kept off the track for a few months and had a breathing operation, but came back with a bang to beat Ile De Jersey at Huntingdon last month.

There is now a 5lb weight pull in Ile De Jersey’s favour, but in truth Addosh won the race cosily and very much gave the impression that she had more to give and she can once again see off her old rival.

4.25 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – ALICE AVRIL 

The money came in yesterday for The Glancing Queen, but she is a very popular mare around here and there are only four runners in this race so we’re not taking it as professional money.

Her form wouldn’t see her have too much in hand on Cut The Mustard or Darling Du Large and in these small races the form doesn’t always hold up.

With those things in mind and considering we preferred her form and speed anyway our money goes on Alice Avril.

Gold Cup hero Henry De Bromhead sends this young five-year-old over from Ireland and it’s noteworthy that Rachael Blackmore also travels to take the ride. Alice Avril is a very consistent sort and should enjoy this ground.

5.00 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – I AM GONNA BE 

There are seventeen horses in the bumper, seven of which make their debuts while there are several others with just 1-3 races under their belt.

The most experience mare in the field is Mullenbeg for Milton Harris and we reckon she can make that count to a degree, though Alan King’s Nothingtochance also has a solid each-way chance.

The best of the bunch may just prove to be I Am Gonna Be and that’s our tentative selection.

Michael Scudamore’s runner was impressive at Newcastle last time on the track, she has had time to recover while staying race-fit after 37 days and had no trouble up the hill at Gosforth Park which leads to confidence for the final furlong or two here.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

April Meeting Day One: Wednesday 13th April 2022 - Stolen To Be Our Silver Lining

With the festival long gone and the flat season now fully underway, The April Meeting at Cheltenham provides jump racing fans with some good betting opportunities.

Seven races are planned in for Wednesday and Thursday, beginning with a competitive handicap hurdle.

1.30 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – CAPTAIN MORGS 

Although the likely market leader, Evan Williams’ Bold Plan probably needs to go on again to figure in this company, though of course that remains possible.

Champagne Well would be a popular winner for Fergal O’Brien too, but the three to concentrate on may well be Whatsupwithyou, Mongol Emperor and Captain Morgs.

Ben Pauling’s Whatsupwithyou is well fancied this week, but he hasn’t won in eleven hurdle starts since his successful debut in December 2019 and you could argue he’s been regressing.

Mongol Emperor has a major shout for the Neil Mulholland yard and he’s most certainly going the other way. Two wins last March have been followed up this year by a fair fourth at Fontwell and a runner-up effort at Doncaster. He may be ready to win now.

Six-year-old Captain Morgs is in here for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville however and he is the selection. His Ascot win and second at Newbury in November stand out for us and he has more to offer yet.

2.05 (Silver Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 2) – STOLEN SILVER

The feature race of the day is this high-class two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.

There are plenty in with chances on the book, good old stick Simply The Betts being a strong contender for title-chasing trainer Paul Nicholls and Manofthemoutain looking like one who may get back on track for Emma Levelle.

The one we liked best of all however was Stolen Silver, trained by up-and-coming handler Sam Thomas and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.

Stolen Silver has been highly tried this season and so his basic form figures don’t show the truth at a glance, which is that he has carried on improving during the whole term.

He was beaten 8¼ lengths around here at the Cheltenham Festival, but its likely the softer ground was against him that day. Go back to November when he raced on good ground here and you’ll find a much better performance.

Now that he has his ground, he can show truly how far he’s come this year and can get the job done.

2.40 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – CALL OF THE WILD

If we were to go on solid, proven form then we probably couldn’t look beyond Gary Moore’s Royaume Uni or Fergal O’Brien’s Pull Again Green.

They are rated 131 and 130 respectively, but Call Of The Wild has also got to the 130-mark effortlessly and looks sure to improve past his main rivals now.

He last ran 40 days ago and we can assume he’s a good bit better than when we last saw him winning at Doncaster. Call Of The Wild represents JP McManus, Alan King and Tom Cannon and is bound to be popular on track.

3.15 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MINT CONDITION 

Just the six novices line up for this race, but there is enough quality on show to make it very competitive.

Brother Pat travels down from Cheshire for the race and represents Donald McCain who has had an excellent season, while Big Nasty can go well for the Martin Keighley stable.

The one for money has been Olly Murphy’s Champagnesuperover. The seven-year-old is a last-time-out winner, though that was achieved against just one rival and he has already had five goes over fences.

The one with more scope, arguably at least, is Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition and back on quicker ground he could be the one to concentrate on even at the top of the weights.

3.50 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MISTER MALARKY 

Despite the drying ground, the three miles and two furlongs of the New Course here will take some getting one would think, with experience counting for plenty.

Chambard is ten years old now and comes into this race on a four-timer, so is seemingly the ideal type for Venetia Williams, while he is being challenged for favouritism by the younger Undersupervision for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

Both have a chance, but we like Mister Malarky. A chase winner in the past at Ascot, Kempton and Newbury, the nine-year-old has everything in his locker needed to go well in this race and may win it for Richard Bandey and Harry Bannister.

4.25 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – LAST ROYAL 

There are some really interesting types on show for this three-mile hurdle race.

Wbee hasn’t been seen since last August but has won four in a row, Haul Away has won three of his last 5 for Nicky Henderson and Jesuitique has a very similar record for Dr Richard Newland. Keiran Burke’s Last Royal though is on a good upward trajectory and can be chanced to win this contest.

His only failure, if we can even call it that, was when he was fifth at Taunton in December. Before that he was second and third on his first two hurdle starts before falling three out when pressing the leader on this third start.

After Taunton he was second at Exeter before romping home last time out at Wincanton as an odds-on favourite. He’s only gone up a few pounds in the handicap and looks well treated now.

5.00 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – HERBIERS 

The finale is for conditional and amateur riders only but there are some good jockeys and horses on show for sure.

Lord Of Cheshire is on a hat-trick for Nigel Twiston-Davies, Valentino Dancer is in good form for the Fergal O’Brien yard, Rock Legend is clear favourite for Dan Skelton and Chris Gordon’s Pasvolsky is way overpriced.

Our choice is Herbiers, trained by Oliver Greenall and ridden by Toby Wynne.

Wynne claims 7lbs in this and assuming no mistakes, he should get a good ride round the two-mile, one-furlong trip on a five-year-old who wasn’t great last time at the festival, but who has previously shown plenty of form that would see him go close in a race of this nature.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival Day Four: 18th March 2022 - Skelton Horse Our Protektor on Gold Cup Day

The Festival flies by in the blink of an eye. Here we are, hurtling towards the Gold Cup already and we think this year’s event will be an absolute stunner.

Last year’s 1-2-3 all challenge again, along with another 2021 Festival winner and a new kid on the block we reckon will have a big say.

1.30 (Triumph Hurdle – Grade 1) – VAUBAN 

One way or another, the opening race revolves around Vauban.

Today’s challengers Fil Dor, Il Etair Temps and Icare Allen were all in behind him when he won his Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time, while he and Pied Piper fought out the finish on their respective debuts.

That collective form seems stronger than that of the British challengers Porticello and Knight Salute, though the former won easily last time and the latter remains unbeaten to this point.

On their second starts, Vauban and Pied Piper once again ran to very similar levels. Though Pied Piper won easily at Cheltenham, Vauban was impressive in beating Grade 1 performers and despite being beaten half a length on debut by his main rival, he was hampered all the way down the straight and is probably, overall, just the better horse.

2.10 (County Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – WEST CORK

State Man is all the rage and could be anything in handicap company, while Bloomfield Burg didn’t settle well enough last time and remains of serious interest.

We do love the Greatwood form from last November though and the winner of that contest, West Cork, can go in here.

Adagio, Camprond, Tritonic, Glory And Fortune and Marie’s Rock were all in behind that day and it’s obvious Dan Skelton’s runner has more to give. I Like To Move It may also have a strong each-way chance.

2.50 (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – HILLCREST 

Ginto is an incredibly strong contender after his three hurdle wins so far, including one in a Grade 1 race.

He had to pull out his best to win that though and it often means there isn’t as much improvement left as we’d like, while the form of Hillcrest is equally as impressive anyway, maybe even better.

Henry Daly’s seven-year-old won the Prestige Novices’ Hurdle with some ease last month and has been primed for this contest. The Nice Guy, Minella Cocooner and Bardenstown Lad may also have a say.

3.30 (Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grade 1) – PROTEKTORAT 

A cracker of a renewal. It may be safe to rule out Santini, Aye Right, Asterion Forlonge and Chantry House, while Royale Pagaille will have supporters but also has it all to do. Tornado Flyer is interesting, but again might prove to be just not quite good enough.

Al Boum Photo has won this race twice, was an admirable third last year and is back for another go, while A Plus Tard suffered a heart-breaking close defeat to Minello Indo in 2021 and all are back to challenge.

Many believe this race comes down to A Plus Tard and Galvin after the two fought out a tight finish in the Savills Chase in December, and it just might work out that way too. Galvin and A Plus Tard are at strikingly similar points in their respective careers as well.

Al Boum Photo was the first horse to win the Gold Cup back-to-back since Best Mate and it’s notoriously difficult for Gold Cup winners to come back and do it again. After what they went through last year, can we treat both Minella Indo and A Plus Tard like winners? That’s an interesting thought.

With that in mind and remembering that it is so often a fresher, younger and improving horse that nabs the established runners in this race, Protektorat is brought into the equation in a big way.

Dan Skelton’s runner hacked up by 25 lengths in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree and it could have been a lot more. He stays incredibly well, can handle deep ground if it turns out that way and has had just seven chase starts which include four wins, two defeats in unsatisfactory small fields and a great second off top weight in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Galvin will stay all day as well, but it strikes us that Protektorat was at a better level on his debut chase, his second chase and after seven races than both A Plus Tard and Galvin and he may be the answer to this at a nice price for Dan and Harry Skelton.

4.10 (Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 2) – WINGED LEADER 

Much like the Cross Country race, the Hunters’ Chase is often a hard one to predict. We are often dealing with older horses and their public form can read a little in and out.

For varying reasons, it was hard for us to split Bob And Co, Pont Aven and Billaway, the latter having run second in this race twice over.

David Christie’s Winged Leader on the other hand is younger, in terrific form and is indeed improving all the time unlike the others. He beat Billaway by 12 lengths last time and may repeat the trick.

4.50 (Mares’ Chase – Grade 2) – ZAMBELLA 

Elimay is favourite for the Mares’ Chase, just as she was last year when she was beaten by only a half-length.

She hasn’t been in the best of form since though and it may be that, even under a 3lb penalty, Concertista is the better-fancied of the two Willie Mullins runners. Mount Ida is interesting but can jump out to the right, but Zambrella looks very solid to us.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ mare won a Listed race very easily two runs ago and faced nothing but a public piece of work last time. We don’t know where her ceiling is, but it is certainly likely to make her competitive here.

5.30 (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – LANGER DAN 

We backed Langer Dan in this race last year after his Imperial Cup win and he only just missed out.

He’s had a quieter time of things this season, taking in the same prep race as he did last year but missing out on the Sandown spectacular to stay fresh for today. He can round off what might be a great day for the Skeltons in style.

The challengers are many and include Earlofthecotswolds, Cobblers Dream, Banbridge and I A Connect.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival Day Three: Thursday 17th March 2022 - Hill’s Thyme Has Come in the Stayers’ Hurdle

We’re used to the veritable “unbeatable” market leaders and great match-ups, but Thursday at Cheltenham may not be about that at all.

We have Allaho as being a little vulnerable in the Ryanair Chase on day three, while the feature Stayers’ Hurdle is an absolute cracker with at least five in contention. 

1.30 (Turner’s Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – GALOPIN DES CHAMPS

Bob Olinger has been trading at odds-on in the lead-up to this race and some big bets rely on him winning at the Festival for the second year in a row.

Henry De Bromhead’s Ballymore Novices’ winner comes into this unbeaten over fences in two goes and he’s on a six-timer overall. There is no doubt he is a proper horse, but he’s not the only one in the line-up.

Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs is his main rival in what is a disappointing four-runner field overall and he may just be the one to be on.

By our reckoning at least, Galopin Des Champs has run to a mark around 8lbs better than Bob Olinger did on their respective chase debuts and again another 3lbs better on their second starts.

It could be that the favourite is catching up and is about to overtake, but we can’t ignore that there was little between them in the hurdle ranks either and the Mullins horse may just be a touch of value.

2.10 (Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – ALAPHILIPPE 

One of the best personalities in the game is local trainer Fergal O’Brien and he’d be a very popular winner of any race at this meeting.

As yet, he perhaps still isn’t getting the top-class types he deserves to train, but in the handicaps, he may be very dangerous and could win one or even two of them today.

Alaphilippe is the one representing him in the Pertemps Final and we should be about to see a career best. The eight-year-old has a first-time tongue tie to help him out and he has the form in the bag.

A runaway winner of the Grade 2 Prestige Hurdle at Haydock last season as a novice, he finished a fair fifth in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle last year and is more than capable off this current handicap mark.

He went off at 7/2 on his reappearance at Warwick and was expected to go well, indeed leading at the last before understandably tiring out. With that under his belt he can run to the level we expected that day, perhaps even higher, and has an outstanding chance.

Dunboyne looks well handicapped and maybe needs a bit of luck, while Winter Fog, Ballyandy and Sire Du Berlais will all be popular too.

2.50 (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) – SHAN BLUE 

A fascinating renewal of this 2½-mile race. The betting is dominated by last year’s runaway winner Allaho and he has not let himself down since.

Most think that if Allaho is at his best then he has to win this, but it’s hard to keep churning those performances out and this time around he has a couple of real “what if” types up against him.

Conflated has improved no end and could have gone to the Gold Cup after winning the Irish equivalent last month, while Shan Blue is a real unknown at the top level but has very serious potential.

We’re not a huge fan of keeping horses off the track for too long, unlike Shan Blue’s trainer Dan Skelton, though we cannot ignore the fact he could be anything over fences.

He had previously shown steady improvement in chases as a novice, but went to a new level in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in late October. Well, sort of.

He didn’t win that day owing to his fall three from home, but he had increased his lead comfortably to 20 lengths by that point and could have won by any margin you care to name. He might just be at Allaho’s level or at least within a few pounds and yet is a very big price to beat him.

3.30 (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – THYME HILL

Make no bones about it, we think that Klassical Dream and last year’s winner Flooring Porter are proper types while Champ, Royal Kahala and former winner Paisley Park are all still dangerous too.

Despite the competition, we are happy to back Thyme Hill. We thought he was the best staying novice around a couple of years ago and but for bad luck he’d have proved it at the Festival when a close fourth to Monkfish.

He beat Paisley Park last season before missing this meeting, but was tough as he continued to climb the ladder when he took the Liverpool Hurdle afterwards.

This season he had a quiet start before a decent second behind Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle, but with all roads leading here we should see him at his best this time around.

4.10 (Plate Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – IMPERIAL ALCAZAR 

Another handicap tip for a Fergal O’Brien horse here, this time Imperial Alcazar. The eight-year-old was a good hurdler and he is just three runs into his chase career now.

In a notoriously good novices’ handicap chase over this very course and distance in January, Imperial Alcazar ran his field ragged for a 10-length success and will no doubt have improved plenty since.

True, he’s gone up 8lbs since then but his win was worth that at the very least so any further progress has to see him go close.

In a tough race the likes of Celebre D’Allen, The Glancing Queen and Fusil Raffles can all have a say too.

4.50 (Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – DINOBLUE 

Despite there being plenty in with chances in this race, it’s only around 5/2 the field overnight but we agree with that given that we think the market leader could just be a cut above the rest.

Willie Mullins’ Dinoblue is the mare in question and she represents owner JP McManus here. On her debut ten weeks ago she looked absolutely spectacular, clocking a rating better than the rest in this field right from the off.

That was a 15-length success but it was easy. How well she could have run is anyone’s guess and the runner-up has run to a mark around 7lbs better since then.

Brandy Love and Grangee, also for Mullins and Party Central for Gordon Elliott can all improve plenty.

5.30 (Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MISTER COFFEY

The closing handicap chase for the amateurs is another tough betting race. That said, there is plenty to like about Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey. He is lightly raced, was second in a Grade 1 last time and has the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen up top.

Other likely types are Omar Maretti, Smoking Gun, Cat Tiger and at a huge price, The Mighty Don.

Cheltenham Festival Day Two: Wednesday 16th March 2022 - It’s a Bravemansgame on Day Two

After wonderful start to the Festival featuring some lightning times on the drying ground, the action doesn’t exactly take a downturn on Wednesday as we look for more betting success.

1.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – SIR GERHARD

We’re loathe to actually tip too many odds-on shots, but in the hope that Sir Gerhard drifts towards being backable and with multiples in mind, he remains our selection for the opener.

Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore were at it again on Tuesday as they trained and partnered Honeysuckle to another fantastic Champion Hurdle success and their Journey With Me has a shout here. Like Honeysuckle this gelding is unbeaten thus far, doing things ever so easily in two hurdle runs to date.

Sir Gerard however could just be a cut above. Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old has a bit of experience now which could come in handy, he turned over the well-fancied Kilcruit in last year’s Champion Bumper (third in the Arkle on Tuesday) and was mightily impressive in Grade 1 company last time.

2.10 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME 

This extended three-mile chase is a terrific trial for the Gold Cup so whatever happens, keep the result in mind when next year rolls around.

There are plenty of shrewd punters getting on Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor and Venetia Williams’ L’Homme Presse and we can see why.

Ahoy Senor was a very good winner of the Towton Novices’ at Wetherby and should appreciate this event for the Corach Rambler trainer/jockey combo, while L’Homme Presse is unbeaten in four chases including a Grade 1.

Paul Nicholls, let’s not forget, is making deliberate strides at the Festival now to go with quality over quantity and he me be rewarded with a win for Bravemansgame.

The Ditcheat trainer knows his onions and has always been very, very keen on this horse, even comparing him to Denman.

He too is four from four over fences, beating Ahoy Senor along the way, and will have been trained to peak right now and not a moment before.

2.50 (Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – CAMPROND 

Another cracking renewal of the Coral Cup. This is the classic cavalry charge over 2m5f, fully 26 runners taking on these ten hurdles.

There are plenty in with chances then with the likes of McFabulous, The Shunter and Unexpected Party expected to play some part.

The two we take against the field however are Saint Felicien and Camprond. The former, trained by Gordon Elliott, was beaten last time but remains on the upgrade and may be well handicapped.

Camprond represents JP McManus, Philip Hobbs, Aidan Coleman and the best form line and is our selection.

The form line we refer to is November’s Greatwood Hurdle in which Camprond was fourth, though he was also an easy winner on good ground before that on the Old Course over 2½ miles.

He’ll appreciate going back up in trip here, he remains unchanged on a mark of 140 and yet has no doubt improved plenty since he last took to the track.

3.30 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1) – SHISHKIN

The big championship race of the day is seen as a match between Shishkin and Energumene and it may just play out that way.

Put The Kettle On has won this twice and Politologue once, yet they are around 33/1 and 66/1 respectively which shows you how full of quality the event is.

Chacun Pour Soi remains one of the best in the business and went off 8/13 favourite for this last year, but he is ten years old now and may have been overtaken despite his own good recent form.

Energumene has been imperious and went off 5/4 against Shishkin in the Clarence House in January. He was once again at his best in that ding-dong battle but ultimately lost his unbeaten chase record after the big dog wore him down late on.

In staying on as he did up what is factually a tougher hill than that at Cheltenham, and having won the Arkle in wonderful style last year, Shishkin has shown more toughness and more class than anything in the division.

Using all variables including speed, we get Shishkin around 4lbs ahead of Energumene which is what he may have been at Ascot had he not pecked on landing at one fence and he deserves to be favourite in a hot race.

4.10 (Cross Country Chase – Class 2) – EASYSLAND 

Headline-wise this is all about Tiger Roll. The dual Grand National and five-time Cheltenham Festival winner is a short price to score yet again after returning to form in this very race last year.

He will have been prepared to give his all before retiring and trainer Gordon Elliott was said to be very pleased with him after a recent workout, but the fact is that you can’t stop them regressing and he remains vulnerable.

Easysland, his conqueror back in 2020, has switched from France to Jonjo O’Neill’s yard and they may have just produced something here.

He’s been sent over hurdles twice, pulling up each time, but this is really his game and at just eight years old it’s safe to say he has plenty more to give yet.

Delta Work is going backwards too but still remains capable at this level, while Brahma Bull may also go well.

4.50 (Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – THYME WHITE 

We mentioned earlier Paul Nicholls’ change of tactics for this meeting and he has another outstanding chance in this two-mile handicap chase.

There are plenty of others in contention, not least Editeur Du Gite and Elixir De Nutz, but there is plenty to like about Nicholls’ Thyme Whyte and he gets the vote.

5.30 (Weatherbys Champion Bumper – Grade 1) – REDEMPTION DAY

Don’t be forced to have a bet, and we wouldn’t place a serious one in this race. Facile Vega is all the rage while some fancy American Mike against him and both are short prices.

If we were pricing this up, we’d go 9/4 Facile Vega (around 13/8 actually), 3/1 American Mike (5/2) and 4/1 Redemption Day (6/1).

Based on those numbers and purely on the grounds of value, we recommend a very small wager on Willie Mullins’ Redemption Day.

Should the Mullins second string improve from race one to race two as they often can, then he could easily have a better than one in four chance, making his price of around 6/1 fair to have just a tickle on him in the last race of the day.

Monday, 14 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival Day One: Tuesday 15th March 2022 - Hill to Show Constitution in Cracking Festival Opener

It has finally come back around! Day one of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival looks to be a real belter, fully befitting its status within the game.

In terms of sheer quality, the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has provided a wonderful opening to the meeting, while there may be a mini shock on the cards in the feature Champion Hurdle at 3.30.

1.30 (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – CONSTITUTION HILL 

A tremendous start to the proceedings. The ‘Cheltenham Roar’ at the beginning of the curtain-raiser may be matched for volume by the roar at the end of the race, especially if Constitution Hill gets the job done which we believe he will.

Nicky Henderson has a very strong hand here, being responsible not only for Constitution Hill but also for JP McManus’ unbeaten expensive purchase Jonbon.

The first-named has been excellent this season. Only a five-year-old and with just the two hurdle starts under his belt, you could claim he lacks experience but we also know he has not shown us his very best form yet which we expect on Tuesday.

Both his debut win in December and his Tolworth Hurdle success in January were spectacular. What’s more interesting is that he has clocked some impressive speed figures, despite winning on heavy ground.

Constitution Hill appears then to have the speed and the strength for this race and it’s easy to see him powering up the hill to victory.

Willie Mullins’ Dysart Dynamo may well go off favourite in the end and he was also impressive at Punchestown, a horse we think is the biggest danger to the selection ahead of Jonbon with Mighty Potter further down the list.

2.10 (Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – EDWARDSTONE 

An excellent turnout for the Arkle and this renewal is sure to be a competitive one.

The major pleasure here is the lack of the current trend of keeping Cheltenham hopes off the track for months, with none of the big five in the betting having been away from the course for more than 38 days.

In the case of Alan King’s Edwardstone, he is eight years old and has run 18 times under rules so is very experienced, he is also very much race fit having gone in four weeks ago.

Despite all of this, he still looks like a big improver and we can certainly mark up his latest success at Warwick ahead of Third Time Lucki.

Since falling and being brought down in his first two chases, Edwardstone has won four times in a row and has been rarely troubled against some good types.

He looks a proper horse and can get the job done here, perhaps ahead chiefly of Blue Lord (Willie Mullins) and Riviere D’Etel (Gordon Elliott).

2.50 (Ultima Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – TEA CLIPPER 

A 3m1f handicap chase at Cheltenham is always a tough event to try to solve, but the tentative vote goes to Tea Clipper for the Tom Lacey yard.

Going on recent form, he wouldn’t have a chance and that is reflected in his price. However, the form of his debut chase win from last October makes him very well handicapped here and it’s important to note that he has now had a wind operation and wears first-time headgear.

The admirable Corach Rambler should also go well. Over on the New Course we backed him to win in December and he went off favourite for a Grade 2 last time.

Fantastikas is another horse who could prove to be well treated, while Floueur is attracting plenty of bets and can also go well.

3.30 (Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy – Grade 1) – APPRECIATE IT 

It goes without saying that it would be no surprise whatsoever to see the wonderful mare Honeysuckle win this again. She would become the first mare to win the race twice and would be unbeaten in 15 career runs.

She is not infallible however and purely from a betting value point of view, it could prove fruitful to trust the expert training techniques of Willie Mullins and go for his Appreciate It instead.

Also unbeaten over hurdles, last year’s utterly imperious Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hasn’t run since that day but is reportedly fighting fit.

Going on the numbers based on the form of the horses in behind Appreciate It last year, even at the weights, it is easy to see a scenario in which Appreciate It reaches a level now he has matured that is too much even for Honeysuckle to handle and he is priced well enough for us to have a little wager.

Teahuppo is clear dangerous, Tommy’s Oscar can go well at a big price, former champ Epatante is in with a shout and her Fighting Fifth joint-winner Not So Sleepy should not be a 100/1 shot.

4.10 (Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – TELLMESOMETHINGGIRL 

Rarely does it work out this easily, but on our own ratings Tellmesomethinggirl is just about the best bet of the day. Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore were excellent last year and they have a proper contender here too.

Tellmesomethinggirl is moving in the right direction, quite quickly too, and despite being beaten the last three times looks to us as though she is at a higher level than Stormy Ireland, Queen’s Brook and Indefatigable.

4.50 (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – GAELIC WARRIOR 

Another proper running of the Fred Winter, or the Boodles as it is now known officially, with 22 four-year-olds charging over an extended two miles.

Gaelic Warrior hasn’t run for 283 days and never outside of France. Backing him seems risky, but frankly he is in the best of hands (Willie Mullins) and if he runs to the level he did Auteuil, let alone improves, then he looks very well handicapped off just 129.

There are plenty of challengers, The Tide Turns being the main one for us ahead of HMS Seahorse and Champion Green.

5.30 (National Hunt Challenge Cup – Grade 2) – RUN WILD FRED 

The closing race over 3m6f is a potentially tough one to call, though if last year’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle run is anything to go by leading light Stattler may not be at his very best around Cheltenham, opening the door for Run Wild Fred.

Both horses have leading amateur jockeys on board and both are solid, but Run Wild Fred gets the vote having won nicely at Navan in November before chasing home Fury Road in a Grade 1 last time. Vanillier was another on the shortlist.