Cheltenham tips: 6 best-backed picks to get your kicks at the Festival

Just four weeks to go and it's not just about the Championship races, ya know.

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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.

It’s a week since Paddy went Non Runner Money Back on all of Cheltenham’s races last Tuesday and there’s been plenty of movement in the markets outside each day’s feature race.

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TUESDAY, MARCH 15 – BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE

Swinging London took three outings to win over timber, but has been well supported for this after looking a very creditable candidate after comfortably scoring at Fakenham in a maiden hurdle earlier this month. That was his first start in England for new trainer Olly Murphy, having previously been tutored in Ireland by Ellemarie Holden. The fact that he’s been placed on all three starts over hurdles mean his still double-figure odds might be considered attractive.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 – GRAND ANNUAL HANDICAP CHASE

Gentleman De Mee was slashed for this after easily beating his nine rivals in a beginners chase at Thurles last Thursday and since then weight of money has put him at the front of the market. Before that victory he had found just one rival too powerful in the Paddy Power Games Beginners Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and while he obviously has excellent credentials for a handicap, connections might just be ruing not entering him in the Sporting Life Arkle after his recent 34 length romp.

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 – CHAMPION BUMPER

Every week when writing these articles it seems like champion trainer Willie Mullins has unearthed yet another possible for the champion bumper and James’s Gate entered the equation on Sunday when impressively landing a bumper at Punchestown by eight lengths.

That was his first start in public so he’s something of a dark horse and it’s difficult to know how he compares to some of the other inmates at Closutton, but this was clearly a brilliant start and he must have been showing ability at home as he was sent off a very short priced favourite in a field of 12.

THURSDAY, MARCH 17 – FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP

Smoking Gun kept on well for third in a rated chase at Fairyhouse earlier in the month and the 3m 2f trip around Prestbury Park has got punters salivating. The nine-year-old was found wanting in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival a couple of years’ ago, but he’s improved since then. While he was disappointing in the Thyestes Chase on his penultimate start, he really seemed to enjoy the extended trip of the Porterstown Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse in which he mastered The Dabbler by three lengths.

Long distances certainly seem to bring out the best in him and while he does have an entry in the Aintree Grand National, the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse would possibly be more likely given his penchant for the course.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – TRIUMPH HURDLE

Doctor Parnassus may not have won at a fancy address last time when scooping a novices’ hurdle at Taunton, but the words “easily” and “comfortably” used to describe his unbeaten record of two from two over timber are what has caught punters’ imaginations.

To be fair the first of those successes came at Ascot where trainers don’t usually send slow horses, but his 10-length win might have been downgraded by some as only four combatants went to post.

Despite not winning on the Flat, the four-year-old clearly tried his best for David O’Meara, being placed on five occasions, but it is in this sphere that he has really excelled for Dan Skelton.

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FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES’ HURDLE

Despite drifting in the market, Falcon Eight was well touted for a maiden hurdle at Thurles last Thursday with the view that he had to win to travel to England for this and he rewarded backers who kept their nerve with a workmanlike one and three-quarter length success.

That was an improvement on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown over Christmas, although the winner that day – Journey With Me hsa followed up since – Dermot Weld’s Chester Cup winner is very exciting recruit to the winter game, despite  disappointing when a beaten favourite under Frankie Dettori in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He’ll need to improve to scoop this, but his trainer won’t bring him to Cheltenham unless he believes he has a chance of winning.

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