So it’s less than five weeks before the greatest four days of racing on this planet. I have heard it said that some people go for the atmosphere, the craic and the enormous roar as the horses are sent on their way for the first race of the meeting, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Well, yes… errrr maybe….actually NO!
We go to watch great horses show how unbelievably athletic they are, something that is easy to forget. We meet friends and have the odd jar or two, BUT most of all we go to experience the thrill of a winning bet at the Cheltenham Festival. To walk out of Prestbury Park without picking a winner but having experienced a great day out is nice, but to have landed a succulent bet makes you feel out of this world.
The Supreme is a race that is synonymous with stayers, from Grand National winner L’Escargot in 1968 through RSA hero Arctic Kinsman in ‘94 to Ryanair ace Vautour in 2014.
Of course, speedsters have their place in history as well, Altior being the most recent of note, but even ‘Mr unbeatable 2m chaser’ looks as though he could readily step up to three miles in time.
So you need onside a charge that jumps well and gallops all the way to the line. Step forward my ante-post wager on Champagne Platinum.
Winner of his only Irish point-to-point and two hurdles events at Newcastle and Newbury, on each occasion showing a high cruising speed and the ability to see his race out thoroughly. He looks made for this test and being by that renowned stamina sire Stowaway, he fits the ‘staying’ profile nicely.
Anything in double figures is worthy of an each-way investment with this tank of a horse and he is three times the price of the over-hyped Angels Breath, yet with much more substance to his form. Of the remainder, I am a huge fan of Elixir De Nutz, but he had an extraordinarily hard race in the Tolworth at Sandown Park and Al Dancer is my preferred next best.
Never the equal of the Supreme numerically, the Arkle Chase has no outstanding candidate in the entries this year.
Le Richebourg jumps superbly, but any rain would scupper his chance so the 7/2 doesn’t excite me so with question marks about Lalor, Kalashnikov and Dynamite Dollars I have already had an each-way play on Defi De Seuil.
The JLT may well be his destination, but I think a fast run two miles will be his optimum set-up and with non-runner/no-bet in play, what have you got to lose?
I am still of the opinion that Apple’s Jade could set up the Champion Hurdle for Buveur D’Air, but I simply don’t play at odds of 2/1 or less and Sharjah could be the one significant piece of value left in this book at 9/1 with the smooth travelling Brain Power also of each-way interest.
The six-year-old has produced two career bests this season and there is no reason why he won’t take another step forward here.
We simply don’t know how good Laurina could be, but when I saw her at Sandown, her physical presence astounded me. She looks more like a colt than a mare and, of course, gets that unfair 7lbs allowance to boot.
However, it seems the layers have prematurely hailed her greatness in the betting market and she is no value on what she has shown on the race track to date; she could well become a great or one of the biggest disappointments at this year’s festival.
And talking of the fairer sex, the Mares Hurdle looks like it will lose all of its star players by the time the field lines up to face the starter at 4.10. The poison chalice of the favourite tag now lies with Benie des Dieux and although her form is rock solid at the top of my private ratings she will have to defy a year on the sidelines.
Mia’s Storm is certainly a viable alternative, but I think that at 12/1 is the play here.
Her Contenders Hurdle third to Buveur D’Air was a cracking run in the circumstances and was merely a tune-up for her big day and the return to the extra half-mile looks a massive plus so grab the 12/1 each-way.
Of all the races on day one, the National Hunt Chase at 5.30 looks a crackerjack of a contest. Having backed Ballyward at 20/1 earlier in the season I fancy I am already in clover, but if you are new to the NH market then Jerrysback could be the each-way play at a double-figure price if opting for this lung-burster over the RSA Chase.
Although he has only raced up to 2m5f under rules, everything about his run style suggests he wants an extreme test of stamina, backed up by his point-to-point record. Ok Corral, should he sidestep the RSA Chase, Classic Chase winner Impulsive Star and Mortal are all viable players in a strong renewal.
*All odds correct at time of posting