Cheltenham Festival – Wednesday’s Tips and Preview
Day one proved to be disappointment for most especially the Irish fans with Hurricane Fly turned over at prohibitive odds. He wasn’t himself on the day and was just beaten by a better horse. With regards to today’s racing I wouldn’t be going overboard. Some very competitive racing in big fields will be seen so it does temper betting enthusiasm.
Opening race of day two sees novice chasers over the stamina sapping trip of four miles. Endurance and jumping will be at a premium. Twenty runners go to post for this amateur riders race so this could get hectic. A top jockey will also be needed. With so many front runners in the field this it’s sure to be a proper test of stamina. Alfie Spinner, Teaforthree and Four Commanders are some of the more fancied runners like to make the running.
Teaforthree is a horse I like, but this ground may prove a little quicker than ideal for the son of Oscar. His front-running style is another negative for me, too. The exact same comments must be applied to Alfie Spinner. I did like Harry The Viking coming into the race, but Paul Nicholls reports him to have coughed a number of weeks ago which isn’t ideal. He has also been off the track for a while and again, that is not a positive for me. It’s interesting to note that Willie Mullins won this race twice as a jockey and now looks to add training honours to his C.V.
It’s seems Paddy has had the pick of the pair and has plumped for Alle Garde. This son of Kapgarde, from the same family as Grand National runner Clan Royal, was considered good enough to run in last season’s Albert Bartlett hurdle when running a satisfactory race to finish ninth. Good ground suits him well and for a novice he’s a quality jumper. His pedigree suggests the trip is within range and his good jumping will no doubt be an asset. Soll is certainly a horse to keep an eye on and he is capable of running a big race. I just hope Paddy Mullins can hold-up our selection off the early pace, which is likely to be strong, and play his cards late.
1.5pts each-way Alle Garde @11-2
The first Grade One of the day will see nineteen go to post in the Neptune Novice Hurdle. Again, a big field is going to post with 19 horses declared. Even though 19 look set to run there’re a number of pieces of deadwood in – owners here for the day out. Hopefully we get a clean run of it.
Willie Mullins has won two of the last four runnings of this race and comes back this year mob-handed with Felix Younger, Make Your Mark and Sous Lex Ciuex. The latter looks set to be the stables number one hope, but I for one am not a fan. He was beaten fair and square by Beneficent last time out, and considering, the Tony Martin horse represents some value. For me, Willie Mullins’ third runner is the most interesting one, Make Your Mark. He ran well in the same race Boston Bob won last time out, but clearly didn’t get home in the ground. It was still a decent run and back on better ground can give a good account of himself.
It was interesting to note from yesterday’s racing just how hard it was for horses to win from coming off the pace. Nearly all winners were up in the van early while hold-up runners struggled to get in a blow. This won’t agree well for the likes of Battonnier Monksland, but it’s only a slight concern and more of an observation. I’d be surprised if the Alan King horse was classy enough to win this, but he’s improving and game so should be on the premises. Monksland has to enter calculations on his form. His latest beating of Lyreen Legend gives him a great chance, but I can’t have him with his trainer’s record at the Festival. Also, he hasn’t run in a while which isn’t ideal either.
Simonsig is obviously a good horse, but that run against Fingal Bay when not getting up the Sandown hill is still in the back of my mind. He seems a speed horse to me and while the ground will help a taxing pace could see him struggle up the hill. In an open looking race with question marks about plenty I’m going to take a value option and go with the Irish challenger, Beneficent. He won’t get an easy lead today, but Bryan Cooper is a good intelligent jockey and he can drop him in early if needs be.
1pt each-way Beneficent @25-1
Even though Grands Crus is a short priced favourite, I can’t help but think this is a wide open RSA. Excluding David Pipe’s star novice, three live chances look set to take their chance. Join Together is a horse I gave no chance in this race early in the season, but he has steadily sauntered under the radar. After disappointing in last year’s Albert Bartlett he has bounced back this season. The year got off to a catastrophic start, however, when falling on his chasing debut at Chepstow. Up until his departure he had jumped well. Since then he has been back to Cheltenham twice and won both starts. He has jumped well in all starts exhibiting strong staying qualities. His strong staying prowess and jumping fluency will stand him in good stead and if bang in contention rounding the home turn he’ll be motoring up the hill. His disappointing run at last year’s Festival is off-putting as is his lengthy break, but I’ve not totally ruled him out just yet.
When pulling-up in last year’s Albert Bartlett, Join Together left the honours to Bobs Worth. He got the Seven Barrows operation on the board at last season’s Festival when winning the Friday novice in fine style. Since seeing a fence the now seven-year-old hasn’t yet improved, but certainly hasn’t plunged. He got his chase career off to a flyer when showing a gritty determination to overhaul the classy Cue Card close home at Newbury. His jumping was not athletic, but safe – like all of his races. Since then, he looks like he has disappointed when visiting right-handed tracks. A horse that lugs to his left, Ascot and Kempton are two tracks that wouldn’t suit. Constantly being off kilter certainly wouldn’t have helped his jumping which is good, but by no means quick. A recent breathing operation and return to Cheltenham will see Bobs Worth at his very best. His attitude has never been questioned and if he can just be a little quicker over his fences early on he will take dead aim at the pack before running-on up the hill. All the stats suggest he is a strong player, too.
The Irish didn’t seem to have a strong challenge early in the season with First Lieutenant disappointing early on while Sir Des Champs was not seen till December. Last year’s Neptune winner, First Lieutenant, is having a similar season compared to that of 2011 – plenty ups and downs. Mouse Morris has chosen to give the son of Presenting a similar preparation, too – plenty of practise pre-Christmas before given a break, and sent to Cheltenham fresh. A horse that didn’t impress many early on with his jumping I feel he jumps fine. Yes, he can be a little bit novicey, but he is clever and safe. Be warned though, he is prone to the odd mistake, but all in all he jumps fine. Given his breeding, good ground is key and if getting that, come the Festival, we’ll see a massive improvement. Reports suggest he is in good order and I’m looking forward to seeing him back at Cheltenham. The form of his Neptune win was obviously boosted yesterday with Rock On Ruby winning the Champion Hurdle. I get the felling Mouse Morris is quietly confident with this lad and with Grand Crus so short in the betting; I’m willing to take him on. With nine runners going to post I can’t see him being out of the first three.
2.5pts each-way First Lieutenant @5-1
Like this year’s World Hurdle, the Queen Mother doesn’t look the most appetizing race from a betting perspective. Those to the fore in the market seem to be priced up accordingly and if anything, probably a touch on the short side.
A horse who’s quite short, but is a deserving favourite is the Irish trained Sizing Europe. Henry De Bromhead’s charge has been a model of consistency throughout his career and really is a credit to connections. Thirteen career wins for the son of Pistolet Bleu, five at the highest level, go some way to showing you his class. He’ll be hoping for back-to-back wins in this race after taking the scalp of Big Zeb last year and the pair will clash yet again. Sizing Europe is now firmly on top of his elder statesman, but the 15 length beat down he gave him a number of weeks back will be considerably less today.
Whether he can turn the tables on his old foe is another and after yesterday many will be hesitant to lump on to a short priced favourite. Finian’s Rainbow will have his supporters, but this is his first season out of novice company and he takes on two of the best recent two-milers. I’m sure he’ll go close, but I don’t fancy him. Kauto Stone will have a number of followers too given the trainer/jockey combo, but this quick ground may well find him out. I also have a problem with his low jumping. Quite simply, there is no room for error.
Wishful Thinking is very interesting on last season’s form, but 2011/12 has been a massively disappointing year for him. With 8 runners he seems a bit of value, but which horse will turn-up? I think Sizing Europe is the most likely winner, but I’m not willing to take the odds-on available with the Hurricane Fly memories still fresh in my mind. Therefore, I’m going to advised a bet in the without ‘Sizing Europe’ market.
2pts win Big Zeb @7-4 (without Sizing Europe)
This is one of the most competitive handicaps of the year and we could be here all day going through the form. I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’ve had my eye on a horse for just over a year now, Dare Me. Trained by Philip Hobbs this horse unfortunately got injured mid-season last year when the Supreme Novice Hurdle was firmly on target. Now, it turned out to be a super-hot renewal, and he surely may not have even been placed. That said, his trainer has always rated him a fair animal. He was sixth in the 2010 Cheltenham Bumper behind Cue Card and given the context of this race that’s a solid effort. He was unbeaten in his hurdles career before injury and even held a Champion Hurdle entry at one stage. He has returned in good form this season although still looking ring rusty. Each run has been an improved effort and his latest effortwas a good run in a hot little handicap which has been franked. I’m sure this horse is handicapped to win, but whether he the best handicapped horse is another story. I’m sure he can go well at a nice price, however.
1pt each-way Dare Me @14-1
Another massive field handicap to get to grips with in the Fred Winter – yes, another.
Wednesday is probably the worst day to have a bet considering the competitive nature, but knowing a horse is well-handicapped is certainly a help. Alan King has one of the strongest juvenile teams in Britain this season with the likes of Grumeti and Balder Succes. King reports this French bred to work ‘just as well’ as the aforementioned pair who take in the other four-year-old race, the Triumph Hurdle, on Friday. As the Triumph is a Grade One race, and Vendor runs in a handicap, from the bottom half I may add, he must have a solid chance in this. It sounds too good to be true, but I’m willing to trust King on this. He has a glint in his eye whenever asked about this son of Kendor.
1pt win Vendor @9-2