Paddy going non-runner, money back with the best part of 10 weeks to go to the Cheltenham Festival 2021 is a huge boost for punters. To my eyes you don’t even need a ‘winner’ to secure a profit as four big-priced placed selections will do quite nicely. Getting the gold medal will be a bonus.
At the time of writing, there are five ante-post market leaders priced up at 2/1 or less and that gives us plenty of wriggle room in the each-way betting pool.
Shishkin is the shortest price market leader in the Cheltenham books at the moment and although he has been mightily impressive on his two chase starts to date, he has yet to be pestered at the business end of his races and it will be interesting to see how he jumps under real pressure. Kempton Park also plays to his strengths being a flat, speed track.
Despite those slight reservations he, of course, remains the most likely winner of the novice chase speed championship, but with 10/1 bar one on offer, there is plenty of each-way value in the book. With stable mate Allart more likely to be aimed at the Marsh Chase especially with Chantry House having disappointed at Cheltenham last time out, the big-price play has to be the Willie Mullins’ charge, Franco de Port.
He jumped like a stag to land the Grade One Racing Post Chase at Leopardstown and being a free running type, he will always be best coming form off a fast pace which is nearly always the pattern of the Arkle. His high cruising speed will be a massive asset and I expect him to at least put it down to the Henderson champion in waiting.
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The plaudits for his two wins over the larger obstacles, the latter in the Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase, have been above and beyond what Monkfish deserves in my opinion. Based on a pound-to-pound basis, his Leopardstown success over Christmas was only on a par with his opening chase debut win at Fairyhouse.
At Leopardstown, he made three niggly mistakes, one significant, and only when he had the race under lock and key, did he put in his most significant leaps. Of course I could be wrong, after all the seven-year-old is already a Cheltenham Festival winner, but I strongly feel that he is under priced and is worth opposing. Gordon Elliott’s Pencilfulloflead fits the bill.
I have readily dismissed his defeat at the hands of Colreevy in the Faugheen Chase last time out at Limerick as it simply wasn’t a stiff enough test of stamina for him. What this son of Shantou does is stay and stay well and based on his success in a fast run race Florida Pearl Chase I cannot wait to see him step up to three miles for the first time.
Was I the only person to be underwhelmed by the Cross Country Success of Easysland in last year’s event? Firstly, he got the deep ground that is imperative for him to show his best form and secondly, he ran into a Tiger Roll unsuited by those conditions and most probably and unknowingly to most of us at the time, already on the downgrade.
The French champion ran like an absolute drain on his return to the Prestbury Park track in November when the selection finished two lengths off Potters Corner. Of course the Welsh raider was in receipt of 21lbs that day, but that was his first run over those unique fences and I suspect he will be ridden a lot more forward come March to bring his bottomless stamina into play. There is plenty more to come from Potters Corner in this sphere and is being aimed specifically at this event.
A year is a long time in racing and it seems that the layers have forgotten about the run of Real Steel in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he travelled like the best horse in the race, but simply didn’t get home from the second-last fence. In two runs since then, he wasn’t too far behind Imperial Aura in the 1965 Chase at Ascot when he looked badly in need of the run and then couldn’t get competitive in the King George VI Chase off a moderate pace from the back of the pack, behind the superbly ridden Frodon.
But the key to this eight-year-old is the ground. On good to soft going or better, his form figures read F16216, that last run being in last season’s Gold Cup. Spring ground enables him to jump much better, as he struggles out of testing ground. The drop to an extended two and a half miles looks the logical route to go. Given those conditions there is every reason to believe that he could chalk up a career best as he will probably need to to, on his 14th chase start.
Paul’s value non runner no bet punts for The Festival
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