Brendan Duke: What I’m backing at this year’s Cheltenham Festival

A veteran punter of many Cheltenhams, Brendan reveals where he has placed his hard earned for the Festival and his reasons why…

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They say there are only three certainties in life. Death, taxes and nurses.

For as long as I can remember a fourth could be added – good to soft ground at Cheltenham. This year the fickle weather gods have taken away this tipster’s prediction. The going description will likely make no mention of good all week.

Like a Navy Seal we must adapt and overcome. Here are my best bets for the festival.

Find the latest Horse Racing odds over at PaddyPower.com

Ultima Handicap Chase

Hopefully readers will have secured fancy prices about Dingo Dollar. If not, I still recko there’s some juice in the 12/1 odds currently available. While part of the strategy for backing him was likely improvement on better ground, the rain will make this race a searching stamina test. The Dingo was entered in the four-miler and is regarded as a long term Grand National prospect. Expect him to travel on the pace, jump accurately and finish strong.

National Hunt Chase

Always a grueller, it’s four miles in fairness, the conditions will ensure a dour slog. Duel At Dawn appeals at a fancy price (20/1). His trainer Alex Hales has had this race in mind for some time. Like everything else in the race, he’s unproven at the trip but his run style strongly suggests he’ll relish it. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a slow horse. He will almost certainly be staying on at the end and could conceivably win.

RSA Chase

The Irish look to have a stranglehold on this race with Presenting Percy and Monalee vying for favouritism. While they hold strong claims it’s another raider who appeals to me. Dounikos must not show a lot in the morning given the price he tends to go off. He comes alive at race time though and always runs well. He was beaten by two lengths by Monalee at the Dublin Racing Festival. While a legitimate argument can be made that the winner idled in front, what’s certain is that he was the beneficiary of an astute tactical ride. Dounikos didn’t have a great trip that day. With the extra three furlongs to suit and not a lot to find, I’m struggling to see why he’s 11/1.

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Stamina will be the order of the day again here. Oxford Blu will want further in time, but looks likely to go well here at 20/1. Since joining Olly Murphy he has progressed steadily over hurdles. His second behind the well-handicapped Solomon Grey at Market Rasen was eye-catching. Having jumped well, clumsiness at the last two flights ultimately cost him the race. He has a very likeable way of going and the hurly-burly of this race will hold few terrors. Expect his promising trainer to have him primed for a career best, that may be enough.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

This race often goes to a strong stayer. The recent rain will place an even greater emphasis on stamina and has elevated the next selection to my bet of the meeting. Diese Des Bieffes was sent off favourite for the Lanzarote Hurdle. Supporters were ultimately disappointed when he finished a close 5th. Time has proven that form to be very strong. He just looked a little inexperienced at a crucial stage of the race. Perfectly understandable as the horse hasn’t had much racing. I reckon he will go off favourite and justify punters faith. The 10/1 is very appealing!

Stayers’ Hurdle

Until the heavens opened my bet of the meeting was Supasundae. He still has plenty going for him and will likely drift to a bigger price on the day now. His Coral Cup win came on decent ground and that’s probably his optimum. It’s important to remember though, he managed to run Apples Jade very close and win an Irish Champion Hurdle on soft ground this season. He looks an improved horse. While his stamina will be sorely tested I’ve a hunch the market will overreact. If and when that happens he looks a solid bet at 9/2.

Head over to PaddyPower.com for the latest Racing betting

* All odds correct at time of posting.

What do you think?