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The Cheltenham Festival is just days away, and our podcast series is in full swing as Paddy’s roster of pundits bring you their early fancies for the meeting.
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The From The Horse’s Mouth team have taken a close look at the feature race on the day one of the meeting, the Champion Hurdle, with legendary jockey Ruby Walsh, our trader Frank Hickey and pundit Rory Delargy giving their thoughts.
And with the queen of the hurdling division odds on in the win and each-way market, the option is there to take her out of the equation and back any of the other runners to chase her home and get yourself a few quid in the process. If there’s an upset and your pick beats her, you still get paid, albeit at the price in this Without Honeysuckle market rather than the win and each-way market.
With that in mind Frank and Rory have scoured the field for value bets in the Without Honeysuckle market while Ruby takes a different angle.
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“APPRECIATE IT‘s in good order. I don’t think Willie Mullins fancied throwing him in for his first start of the season against Honeysuckle with a run under her belt. He’s going to have to take her on at some stage, but Willie’s more than happy to have one go at her at Cheltenham, rather than having two goes and head to the Festival off the back of a defeat at Leopardstown if he ran last weekend.
“He’s heading straight there and, realistically, he’s Honeysuckle’s only rival. He could go to the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park first as Willie ran Cilaos Emery in that before he finished fourth in the Champion Hurdle. I can’t think of a horse that’s ever won it first time up. I know My Tent Or Yours was second in his first run of the season.
“I’d be shocked if Appreciate It is out of the first three in the Champion Hurdle and he’s the only horse that could possibly beat her. I’d be a little sick if I went in the Betting Without Honeysuckle market and he ended up winning the race. I’d sooner do him each-way in the Win & Each-way market and get my each-way money back at least if he’s placed.”
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“Honeysuckle’s price is dependent on Appreciate It running and if he has a preparation run or not. Were he not to run, she would probably be around 4/9.
“We know how good Appreciate It is but if he doesn’t get a run in before the Champion Hurdle, I wouldn’t be on board and the fact we haven’t seen him yet, there must be a chance that he might not even make the Festival.
“Sharjah won the last four renewals of the Matheson Hurdle and been second in the past two Champion Hurdles – but he has been ruled out now. Zanahiyr has been getting closer to him as the season has progressed and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zanahiyr ran well in the Champion Hurdle.
“You can’t knock how consistent Zanahiyr has been this season, winning the WKD Hurdle up at Down Royal and finishing second in the Morgiana, Matheson and Irish Champion Hurdle to Honeysuckel. He looks certain to give his running and would look sure to run in the first four.
“ADAGIO won the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle. It was a decent Triumph Hurdle last season and he actually finished ahead of Zanahiyr when finishing second. That was on the new course and I’d be pretty sure the old course will suit Adagio more than Zanahiyr. He was second at Aintree behind Monmiral and was travelling best going to the last, then made an awful mistake and lost all momentum.
“He returned in the Greatwood Hurdle and was a mighty second off top weight after a wind operation. He has had four starts at Cheltenham and has a win and three seconds to his name. He might represent the value in the Betting Without Honeysuckle market. If I had to pick now, I’d probably back Adagio each way in the w/o Honeysuckle market.”
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“The one horse who would make this interesting is if Sir Gerhard’s was thrown, in but it’s not going to happen unless Appreciate It doesn’t make it. However, Willie doesn’t throw novices into championship races.
“As it stands, you’re looking at Betting Without Honeysuckle. It’s a competitive race in that market. I couldn’t have former winner Epatante, despite Nicky Henderson’s terrific work, as she’s a long way behind what you need to be winning this.
“The question here is Appreciate It. No horse has won the Champion Hurdle without a prep run but worse horses than him have been placed without a prep. I’d like to know where we stand with Appreciate It.
“The one that is potentially interesting is ADAGIO. He’s not good enough to beat Honeysuckle but he’s improved since his juvenile season and the form holds up pretty well. It’s worrying that he’s not among the entries for the Betfair Hurdle and he did have a setback around Christmas time but it’s worth taking a chance with the Non Runner Money Back offer on Adagio in the Without Honeysuckle market.
“Even the win and each-way market is appealing at the prices for Adagio to be in the first three.
“Those with exposed form are not good enough but Adagio might keep improving and he was a very good second first time up in the Greatwood Hurdle, which has been a good guide over the years.”
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