Having written about my betting year earlier in the week, and referenced some Cheltenham ante-post action, I thought I'd follow that up by sharing who I've backed and why. So far, I've only had a handful of bets and, in each case, I'm looking for a horse that has the potential to improve considerably on what it's shown already, whilst already having shown a good bit of class.
Most of my bets are struck with BetVictor, who offer the non-runner free bet concession* on all Cheltenham Festival races up to £50 per horse and £100 per race.
*If your horse doesn't run in the selected engagement, your stake is returned as a free bet to use on that day's Cheltenham racing.
So, here goes:
Supreme Novices' Hurdle - £50 win Dubai Prince 25/1
Rated a whopping 116 on the flat and a dual Group 3 winner in that sphere, John Ferguson referred to this one as "my secret weapon" in a recent interview. The bare form of his facile hurdling debut win is nothing special, but he jumped very well for his first race, and obviously has an engine. His trip on the level was nine furlongs, so he has every chance of getting the Supreme distance in a Championship contest.
It's clearly a speculative wager but, with non-runner free bet in my corner, 25/1 win only was too tempting to resist.
Champion Hurdle - £50 win Annie Power 16/1, £50 win Melodic Rendezvous 20/1
The market is quite tight at the top, and there's absolutely zero value in the prices of The New One, Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours, Jezki or Hurricane Fly. The New One could conceivably go for the World Hurdle, his Cheltenham novice win coming over 2m5f before he was beaten in more of a speed test by Zarkandar at Aintree.
Our Conor is an extremely talented four year old, who will battle with the five year old stat next year. He could overcome it, for sure, but at 5/1, he's no value for one so immature.
Hurricane Fly surely cannot win aged ten. Surely?! Especially against such a strong group of up and comers. My Tent Or Yours looked all mouth and no trousers when cruising into the Supreme last year and then getting outgunned by Champagne Fever; and Jezki's form is almost exclusively on soft ground.
Annie Power came into this season unbeaten in seven, and she extended that run to eight in the Coral Hurdle, a Grade 2 over two and a half miles, last weekend. She beat Zarakandar five lengths there, in receipt of eleven pounds and, to my eye at least, wasn't that impressive all things considered.
Her hurdling went to pot in the second half of the race, which is a worry. It's perfectly possible she'd jump better in a truer run affair, and the bookies seemed impressed enough, as they cut her to a best priced 12/1 (8/1 with Ladbrokes and Boylesports).
She too could go to the World Hurdle, or even the Mares' Hurdle, where she'd be up against stablemate, Quevega.
This selection was recommended by shrewdie, Nicky Doyle at 20/1 a couple of weeks ago.
My other Champion Hurdle pick, which could look very clever or very stupid by tomorrow night, is Melodic Rendezvous. He was good enough to win a Grade 1 novice event last year, beating the very highly thought of Pendra, and then hacking up from a possibly sub-par Puffin Billy in Listed company in February.
Injury saw him miss the Cheltenham Festival, but he got straight back on track this term when winning a Grade 2 at Wincanton from Far West, the horse which finished closest to Our Conor in the Triumph Hurdle. True, Far West was fifteen lengths behind Our Conor and only two behind Melodic Rendezvous. But Melodic Rendezvous was reckoned to be only 80% fit that day, and was easy to back all morning.
He slipped on the turn into the straight, and then whacked the second last flight, but was still too good for his rivals. He faces a sterner test tomorrow in the Fighting Fifth, a Grade 1 at Newcastle, where he'll have My Tent Or Yours amongst others in opposition.
But My Tent Or Yours represents the same connections - Henderson, McManus, McCoy - that were beaten in three successive Fighting Fifths with the same short-priced favourite, Binocular, who was simply never fit enough to win the race. There's every chance that My Tent Or Yours will be similarly under-cooked and, if he is, Melodic Rendezvous has an even better chance of beating him.
If that comes to pass, whether it will be repeated at Cheltenham is another question. But one thing is for sure: Melodic Rendezvous will be half the price he is now. He's currently a 16/1 shot generally.
Gold Cup - £40 win Boston Bob 25/1, £20 win Lord Windermere 25/1
The Gold Cup was opened right up after the Betfair Chase last weekend, when reigning champ Bobs Worth ran a listless clunker. He's better than that, no doubt, and the fact he's now 5/1 (from 5/2) is tempting in itself. But it's always the second season chasers that catch the eye for this one - as Bobs Worth was last year.
Boston Bob was unlucky to fall at the last in the RSA Chase when leading his field, and he again tumbled at Punchestown when rallying, having been outpaced. In that somewhat unwieldy sentence are the key concerns with this fellow: his jumping can let him down, and he can hit a flat spot in his races.
Despite that, he's a classy animal and has two Grade 1's in the bag already, as well as a second to the ill fated Brindisi Breeze at the Festival. Whether he'd have won the RSA is a subject of some conjecture, and the horse that eventually benefitted from his departure was Lord Windermere, my other ante-post 'arrow'.
Greed got the better of me this time, and I struck the (admittedly, relatively small) wager with bet365 because I wanted the price - Victor was only 20/1.
My reasoning here is that RSA Chase winners tend to either get ruined (Boston’s Angel, Weapon’s Amnesty) or head to the very top (Bobs Worth, Albertas Run, Denman). As Lord Windermere runs in the Hennessy tomorrow, and his trainer has been quite bullish about his chance, he deserves a 'hail mary' punt, because I'd rather have the big price about the Gold Cup than the small price about the Hennessy, for better or worse.
Lord Windermere's form is closely tied in with Boston Bob's, so a win - or a strong effort - for him would actually be a collateral vote for Bob too.
In a race where I'm not that keen on Sir Des Champs (looked a non-stayer last year), Cue Card (definite non-stayer), or Dynaste (non-stayer), there has to be value further down the lists. I won't have long to wait to learn more on that front..!
What have you backed so far, and why? Leave a comment below, and clue us in! 😀