Cheltenham 2018: Tread carefully on these three short-priced favourites

With the Greatest Show on Turf looming on the horizon, our expert says that racing isn’t immune from a bit of Fake News this time of year…

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As the owner of your favourite airline once famously said: “The hype with Samcro is rubbish. He’s won his maiden hurdle, he won a graded hurdle reasonably well – Death Duty did the same last year, went to Cheltenham and blew up.”

Now, you’ll do well to take everything that man says with bucket load of salt – particularly if he’s offering you cheap flights. However, he’s not wrong and backers of short-priced favourites over the next fortnight should take heed.

It’s the ultimate bettor’s fallacy – a combination of ignorance and self-pride.

While you may have studied the form and convinced yourself that your favourite’s horse’s run ‘round a soggy patch in Kildare means he’ll come better for good ground in the Cotswolds in March, it’s all just a picture you’ve painted in your head.

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Far more things can go wrong, than can go right in any given race for you and seeking alternatives should be the one thing you do before The Festival – not buying into all the hype.

The worst thing is – Mick O’Leary can say he told you so. Nobody needs that!

Here’s three short-priced runners you should reconsider throwing into their mug five-bob accumulators.

Ballymore Novices Hurdle: Samcro – 8/11

“He’d have to go to Cheltenham and actually win a race there, and the rest of it is just to delude ante-post punters betting at this time of the year. He is not as good as the hype would make out, he will never be as good as the hype will make out,” said O’Leary in December.

“If he turns out to be a reasonably good chaser in time, great, but he’s not the next coming of Jesus Christ.”

Let me tell you, the hype is quite something. This son of Germany looks a gorgeous prospect, but there’s a touch of the Don Polis about him.

You feel like he may possess all the class in the world, but he’s never had to do a tap, and he won’t get it all his own way in this field. We’ve yet to see him battle and that has to be a concern.

He’s also yet to beat any real high-class sorts and he’s only raced over anything resembling this distance once before. Bar his point-to-point (which you can discard) and the one run at Naas in the Monksfield, he’s been campaigned as a two-miler.

That’s not to say the plan wasn’t for this race all along – it clearly was – all I’m saying is, you can have the 8/11 if you want it.

RSA Chase: Presenting Percy – 5/2

Patrick Kelly’s Presenting Percy is a really likeable sort. What’s slightly off-putting is that the gelding has had nine runs in the last year. Some will call this race-fit; I’ll call it excessive labour.

The switch to novice chasing has brought about form that wipes the floor with previous hurdle experience, and he’s certainly a likeable type.

But so is Monalee – who, for my money, is the best horse in this race. Bryony Frost will be as enterprising as ever on board Black Corton and Invitation Only looked really good against Monalee at Leopardstown. He isn’t over-worked and would be a real problem for pace-setters if they opt to run him here.

If Willoughby Court overcomes his ailment, he’s another classy type in the jumping department. There’s far too many good horses to be taking 5/2 about a favourite in here.

Triumph Hurdle: Apples Shakira – 5/2

This has been a favourites’ race in recent times, but that looks like it could end here. Apples Shakira has been hailed the best juvenile by almost everyone and their mother to this point, but you know how that story always ends.

Redicean’s a bit of a Kempton-head, but he’s still won his three starts there by a combined 27 lengths. Mr Adjudicator will be fine fettle before the run and should improve for the better ground, having faced testing conditions in his last run at Leopardstown. That piece of form ahead of Espoir D’allen is nothing to sneeze at.

The ironically-named French import Stormy Ireland could be anything, too – and if Willie’s brought one in, they’re worth keeping onside until they’re exposed a tad more.

The distance of the victory shouldn’t be taken too much to heart, but you can only beat what’s in front of you – or in this case – what’s about six furlongs behind you.

There’s plenty of dangers – and I’d expect that price to drift on the day when the shrewdies hear word from the gallops.

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