Cheltenham tips: Your best St. James’ Place Hunters’ Chase bets from our top pundits

Ruby, Frank and Rory have a few picks in mind.

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*Odds quoted on the widget are Non Runner Money Back prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you’ll get your stake back

The Cheltenham Festival is just a fortnight away, and our antepost tipping podcast series continues to rattle through the renewals as Paddy’s pundits bring you their early fancies for the meeting.

The From The Horse’s Mouth team take an in-depth look at the St. James’ Place Hunters’ Chase in this week’s episode, with legendary jockey Ruby Walsh, Paddy’s trader Frank Hickey and tipster Rory Delargy giving their thoughts.

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Ruby Walsh:

“I think the cheekpieces definitely made a difference to Billaway at Naas on his last start. They will have to have the same effect at Cheltenham.

“He was beaten by a nose by Bob And Co at Punchestown and by a short head by Porlock Bay at Cheltenham last year. Winged Leader beat him at Thurles but they’re going to be the top four in the betting. If the cheekpieces can have the desired effect maybe he will get his head in front at the third time of asking in this.

“I’d be surprised if Good Bye Sam is good enough to win this at the age of six. He could definitely improve with a bit more age on his side as he’s still a raw individual.”

    Frank Hickey:

    “Winged Leader has had 14 starts in Hunter Chases and won four and was second in six of them. He is still only eight years old too. He’s improving and while he easily beat Billaway, Thurles wouldn’t have been a track that would play to Billaway’s strengths. He’s going to have Barry O’ Neill which is a positive and he has claims.

    “Vaucelet is only seven years old and is very lightly raced. He ran twice over hurdles for Liz Doyle and switched to David Christie. He won his first three hunter chase starts and easily won a point. He was only third in the Down Royal hunter chase at Christmas when the 11/10 favourite.

    “Most of his form is on decent ground, so maybe the soft ground or drop in trip to 2m5f caught him out. When he won the Champion Novices Hunter Chase at Stratford, he had Premier Magic back in third. Premier Magic beat Porlock Bay in a point in December. I have no strong opinion at this stage but if I had to have a bet I might take a chance on Vaucelet.”

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    Rory Delargy:

    “Jett blotted his copybook at Fontwell where he ran into Shantou Flyer, who might get an entry for this. My understanding is Shantou Flyer will be put into the race but only in case something happens to Bob And Co but I’d rather have Shantou Flyer.

    “Bob And Co was let down by his jumping in the race last year. He was travelling very strongly but he made two or three mistakes before he came down, whereas Shantou Flyer has a terrific record over fences at Cheltenham. He’s run nine times at Cheltenham, falling once in the National Hunt Chase otherwise he’s never been worse than fourth.

    “I think [owner] David Maxwell is missing a trick if he thinks this is just a reserve for Bob And Co. He’s kept his form and enthusiasm remarkably well. The feeling is he had his chance two years ago and he didn’t win so let’s not try again but I find that very odd.

    “Bob And Co is very talented but he’s not an easy ride and not the most fluent of jumpers.

    “I wouldn’t rule Jett out on the basis of the run at Fontwell. It came quickly after Kelso and he probably wasn’t over those exertions. I can see him bouncing back and running well.”

    *Odds quoted on the widget are Non Runner Money Back prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you’ll get your stake back

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