Charlie Austin v Matt Chapman
Charlie Austin is the Premier League superstar with his own racing syndicate and a keen eye for picking a winner.
Matt Chapman is the out-spoken pundit – A man immersed in racing and fake tan who isn’t shy to give us a ‘Yeee-haaa’ when his tip romps home.
We’ve put the two men head to head in the tipping stakes, as we go on the hunt for a Cheltenham Festival winner.
Champion Hurdle – Tuesday, 3.30pm
CA: It’s disappointing that Faugheen is injured and unable to retain his Champion Hurdle crown. Everyone was telling me last year that The New One was going to come upsides him, but I couldn’t stop raving about The Machine! It’s a shame not to have such a superstar at the Festival, but unfortunately that is racing. It will still be a successful race for the trio of Rich Ricci, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh however, because ANNIE POWER won’t be stopped.
It’d be a fairytale story to see My Tent Or Yours return from two years off to win, but it’s almost impossible to oppose Annie Power and another opening day of familiar pink and green spotty colours. Nicky Henderson knows how to get a horse fit and ready for the Festival after a decent break, but My Tent Or Yours will need a lot of luck to get his nose in front on Tuesday.
MC: Disappointing Charlie? Disappointing? It’s the end of the world Faugheen’s not there for those of us not on Premier League wages! I’m a huge fan of Annie Power as well, and expect her to win. But this penalty shoot-out will be no fun if we go for the same horse, so to make it interesting and I’ll have THE NEW ONE each-way.
Firstly, you’ll be absolutely gutted if he comes good this time which will put a smile on my face, and secondly he might just be better than ever. He needs better ground than heavy, and has had medical issues that have been sorted out. Something you should think about, the amount of time you are having off!
QM Champion Chase – Wednesday, 3.30pm
CA: It will be great for racing if Sprinter Sacre jumps up alongside Un De Sceaux at the last in the Champion Chase. Everyone has fond memories of watching Sprinter win this race by almost 20 lengths a couple of years ago, and if he gets back to his best he can put up a serious challenge to Willie Mullins’ favourite.
My heart is saying SPRINTER SACRE can come out on top and create a real Cheltenham story. Un De Sceaux was so impressive in the Arkle at Cheltenham last year, and every time he’s finished a race he’s won. But I’ve never seen a horse like the Sprinter Sacre of two years ago and I’d love it if he got anywhere near his best form.
MC: It’s lucky you’re not playing against the likes of Vinnie Jones or Stuart Pearce. There’s no time for this lovey-dovey stuff in sport Charlie. It’s a hard game for hard men! UN DE SCEAUX is totally different gravy to this lot. The old champions have had their day, now it’s time for the new kid on the block. In your terms…forget about QPR. It’s all about Southampton now! Incidentally, my brother-in-law Bradley has never forgiven you for leaving QPR. He’s livid.
World Hurdle – Thursday, 3.30pm
CA: THISTLECRACK is probably the best bet of the week. Throw him in with Yanworth (Neptune Novices’ Hurdle) and you have the banker double for the Festival.
Thistlecrack has been outstanding this season. They’re saying Cole Harden could spring a surprise again if the ground goes good, but the way Thistlecrack has demolished the opposition so far has to blow you away. He could run riot in the World Hurdle. He has always looked comfortable in his races and when he’s been asked to kick on, jockey Tom Scudamore has flown on him. He knows that he has some serious horse underneath him. Incredibly, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.
MC: Amazingly Charlie does seem to make a lot of sense here. THISTLECRACK does seem to be the improver in a very weak division lacking any strength in depth. The price is poor, and he only beat the failed chaser Ptit Zig, disappointing The Romford Pele and pensioner Knockara Beau last time. But the impression he’s giving is massive. And he’s not been taken off the bridle yet.
Saphir de Rheu is interesting each-way now he can breath.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup – Friday, 3.30pm
CA: Cue Card has had a fantastic season which peaked when he won the King George at Kempton in December. He beat Vautour by a head that day – and I was on Vautour as well! He stayed on impressively to win that race and it is obviously great for his owners to see him back to his best.
Vautour bounded up the Cheltenham hill last year to win the JLT Novices’ Chase and that was very impressive. He didn’t quite get home at the King George but connections must be confident he’ll get the Gold Cup trip. Can he reverse the form with Cue Card – who knows? DON COSSACK will have too much for both of them anyway.
He is going to take all the beating in Friday’s feature. If he’d stayed on his feet he would have won the King George and his price would be a lot shorter. It’s easy to say that after the event, but I genuinely believe it.
Don Cossack was 26 lengths clear of Cue Card in the Melling Chase last April and seven lengths clear of last year’s second – Djakadam – in the Punchestown Gold Cup two weeks later. He’s the one to beat.
MC: I’m hoping Davy Russell rides Don Cossack and also think he’s got a great chance. He’s the right jockey for the horse. However, DJAKADAM was only a 6yo when chasing home Coneygree in the Gold Cup last year and there’s no reason to think he cannot go in this time. He’s done little wrong in between, running huge at Punchestown and returning with a fine win over shorter first time this season.
His fall at Cheltenham last time was annoying, and he also once came down in the JLT, but the Gold Cup conditions suit him. And it’s hard to say that about most of the leading contenders.
Best Handicapped Horse
CA: The best handicapped horse for the week is DIEGO DU CHARMIL in the Fred Winter on Wednesday at 4.50pm. I backed him at double-figure odds a week or two ago and his price is getting cut every day so I’m clearly not the only one who thinks he has a chance! It’s a tough race to win but the word from the Nicholls yard is that Diego Du Charmil is off a lovely mark and is doing fantastic things at home. He’s got a fantastic chance at a good price.
MC: I love two of Warren Greatrex’s horses, ALOOMOMO and MISSED APPROACH. The former was spectacular at Newbury on his penultimate start and far from disgraced last time over hurdles. A mark of 140 may well be workable.
Missed Approach hacked up at Newbury off 123 in November of last year, and has gone up 20lb to 143! However, he might just be really special, and look out for him in the RSA and maybe a Gold Cup in the future.
I’d like to make it clear Charlie had first pick. Sneaky! Yeeehaaa!
Charlie Austin’s Picks:
- Champion Hurdle: Annie Power
- Champion Chase: Sprinter Sacre
- World Hurdle: Thistlecrack
- Gold Cup: Don Cossack
- Handicapped Horse: Diego Du Charmil (Fred Winter)
Matt Chapman’s Picks:
- Champion Hurdle: The New One (e/w)
- Champion Chase: Un De Sceaux
- World Hurdle: Thistlecrack
- Gold Cup: Djakadam
- Handicapped Horse: Aloomomo and Missed Approach