It's now just 55 days until the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, and I thought it might be fun to review and grade my own current portfolio for #CheltFest2015 (as the tweetie-pies like to call it)...
So far, I've placed 15 bets which sum up to £581.17 (you'll see why it's that figure in due course). Some are looking good, most are looking all right, and none are looking terrible at this stage. Naturally enough, there's plenty of time for slips 'twixt cup and lip!
OK, so in race order, I've got just the two so far on the first day. And I admit that one of them was a complete guess.
Day One: Tuesday
I backed Alvisio Ville in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race of the meeting, without even watching the race. The reason? Twitter feedback from those whose opinions I respect and, more than that, one layer was stand out 16/1 when everyone else had already tightened to 10's and 12's.
I don't mind stealing a price when I'm still allowed, so I had a pony (£25) at 16's. Can he beat Peace And Co, L'Ami Serge and the rest? Who knows? But he won't be 16/1 on the day, unless he runs a howler in the Deloitte on 8th February.
That race will be instructive, as both the Willie Mullins-trained winners of it in the last two years - Champagne Fever and Vautour - have gone on to grab Supreme glory a month later. As you'd expect, Mullins has other options for the race - ten to be precise! - so it's no foregone conclusion Alvisio Ville will run.
My other wager on day one is my biggest so far at the Festival: £150 on Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle at 8/1. I struck this bet with Hills last April, as I was monstrously impressed with the way this lad demolished two of the last three hurdles and still sprung over the last.
He is clumsy at his hurdles, though getting better, but I honestly don't see anything bar Jezki getting him off the bridle (you'll gather from that that I don't rate The New One especially in a scrap). Such chat can prove folly but I think if he gets there in one piece, he wins.
Day Two: Wednesday
Just the one wager on day two so far, and it looks a precarious one, despite beating the market. I've risked £25 on Champagne Fever in the Champion Chase, and I risked it before he failed to stay in the King George on Boxing Day.
He was arguably at the end of his rope coming to the last in the 2m4f Kinloch Brae Chase yesterday, but I don't think he's the same horse before the spring. I also don't think he's quite as good a chaser as he was hurdler. That said, his best pair of performances in the past two years have both come at the Festival, and his Festival record is a win in the Bumper, a win in the Supreme, and a very close second in the Arkle.
That puts him bang there in a race where we may (or may not) know more after the weekend, when Sprinter Sacre is slated to return to the track in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Day Three: Thursday
It's quiet again on Thursday so far, too. Actually, it's a widely held contention that the last two days of the Festival are very, very tricky. As such, the sensible thing to do is to shut up shop and just watch the action. But where's the fun in that?!
Well, anyway, I'm probably getting my dough back here, which is just as well because I pressed the button twice and ended up making the same bet - £40 win Whisper in the World Hurdle - twice.
I struck the wager before his debut in a beginners' chase at Exeter on New Year's Day, where he was beaten at odds of 2/5. My thinking was that, if he didn't take to the bigger obstacles, connections would revert to the tiddlers. If they did that, he's one of the most progressive hurdlers in the field.
To wit, he lugged 11-11 (less Nico de Boinville's five pound allowance) to victory in the Coral Cup at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival; and went on to see off At Fishers Cross et al in the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle at Aintree. As well as AFC, he also had Zarkandar and Thousand Stars in rear that day, form which puts him bang in the World Hurdle picture.
Of course, he can't win it if he's not in it, which is why non-runner money back was aforethought when the wager(s) was struck. He's the third top rated (from UK) left in the race, though, and despite my pet theory I hope he runs.
My pet theory? Oh, it's basically that Hendo only wants to win races for Michael Buckley and JP McManus, hence why Oscar Whisky was always routed a different way ("he needs two and a half miles..." - not according to the form book). And now, with Buckley's Beat That in the market, it looks like another of Dai Walters' best horses will be re-routed to avoid upsetting the old school ties. (Oh, and if you see him, ask Tony Stafford about NJH's reaction to Punjabi winning the Champion Hurdle, rather than Binocular...)
If I was Walters, I'd be looking for another main trainer...
Anyway, Whisper is a 20/1 shot, non-runner money back, and I reckon that's a great win bet to nothing. In fact, though all my wagers to date are win only, I'd say that's a pretty strong each way bet to nothing. totesport and BetFred are offering that price with that concession.
Day Four: Friday
And all of a sudden it was Friday. My current portfolio is loaded up on Friday, but really it's all about the Gold Cup. True, I do have some interest in the opener, the Triumph Hurdle, but the main story is, well, the main story.
Let's deal with the juvenile hurdling championship first. I heard a rumour about Kalkir from a decent source before he ran. So, and this is most unlike me, I stuck £50 on him at 14/1 (BetVictor). He won easily - and in a most impressive manner - and was cut to as short as 5/1.
But things didn't go to plan at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, when he could only finish second to highly-rated flat horse, Fiscal Focus. There were extenuating circumstances, which ought not to resurface at Cheltenham in eight weeks time.
For one, he pulled like a pulley out on the pull for fully half a mile, off a pedestrian early meter. And for two, he was entitled to hate the soft ground with his action squarely pointing to a predilection for faster terrain.
Contrast that with the easily settled, proven mudlark winner, and you have a forgivable situation. Indeed, at the risk of throwing good money after bad, I hurled another thirty quid at 12's in the direction of Kalkir. He's still that price, though only with Sid James, so you might have difficulty getting more than 50p on (assuming you want more than 50p on).
I then read something by Anthony Bromley, who was discussing the Munir/Souede battalion, and mentioned that he was worried about the way both Peace And Co and Bristol de Mai (first and second favourites for the Triumph) pulled in their races. Now, that might be a load of poppycock, of course, but he did flag a nag who is a big price still, and who retains 'could be anything' status.
That lad is Vercingetorix (easy for me to type!), whose quotes range from 14/1 in a place to 25/1 in a place. The latter is with Hills, and it was they who obliged me for a score to win half a bag (£20 to win £500). By the way - score, half a bag, pony - I don't actually speak like that. It's just pathetic poetic license.
Onwards, for there are still eight wagers to cover. Happily for the easily bored, six of them are in the Gold Cup itself, and can be fair rattled through. So here goes...
I took two absolute flyers out of last season's novice ranks when they were still wearing chasing nappies, so to speak. Carlingford Lough was the first in the ledger - for £11.17 (I like to round my Betfair account to proper numbers, and that did the trick) at 75.89. Gasp, that's a bit better than all those recent value judges snaffled.
In fairness, they obviously waited to see if the horse could cut it in the pro ranks, whereas I was happy enough with this most experienced of novices. He does bollock too many fences, however, and a clear round is about the same price as his current win odds of 20/1 (18/1 NRNB). That's right enough too, because I reckon if he can go round clear, he does have a cracking chance.
The other windmill tilt before the dust had settled on last season, was Many Clouds - just a cheeky tenner this time, but at odds of 93.35 no less. Subsequent events have shown this wager to be somewhere between the work of Nostradamus and lucky Mrs Haddock, the Scoop 6 bagger. Many Clouds has won both his races this year, beating a small but select field in a Carlisle graduation jobbie; and a large and select field in the Hennessy.
His trainer, Oliver Sherwood, is quoted as saying he wouldn't mind if he didn't run again before the Gold Cup (Many Clouds, not Oliver Sherwood), and I'd be happy with that too. After all, it would keep the dream alive for a little longer.
More recent, form-based, investments have been made, and only in the past week or so. All four were flagged in this Gold Cup 2015 preview post, and all are still available at the odds suggested/taken.
In market rank, they are £40 Road To Riches at 8/1; £20 Lord Windermere at 16/1; and a tenner each on Sam Winner and Al Ferof, both at 33/1 and both non-runner no bet. My rationale - including why I'm ducking Silvi Conti - can be found in that Cheltenham Gold Cup tips piece.
But wait, there's more, as I also have two bets of no fixed abode. With the advent of the extended four day Festival came a series of intermediate distance races. These were the bane of many an ante-post punter's portfolio, as good bets became bad bets at the overnight stage. Worse still, when the nominated nag hosed up in the wrong fecking race.
Yes, it's happened to me. But not so much now. I have spent enough the wrong way to know that non-runner no bet is our friend. And, moreover, I'm a convert to the Hills-only special 'To win at the Festival' market. This market offers a single price about a given horse prevailing in any of the Festival races.
For those with multiple entries, especially from the Mullins yard, this is a tempting proposition. So tempting in fact that I have two of them in my book.
The first, chronologically at least, was £50 placed on Uxizandre to win any race, at 10/1. I was very pleased with this when he won the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, but much less so when he clunked completely in the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
That was run in heavy ground, which was too testing for Uxi, and he was second in the JLT at last year's Fez. But 14/1 now is hardly an investment I'd be looking to add if I wasn't already on. He'll maybe go for the Champion Chase, which could be wide open after Saturday - or a lot more closed looking. Or he could go to the Ryanair. Either way, he's plenty to prove after his last day disaster.
The other 'any race' play was struck after I watched the horse get beaten in a Grade 1. The horse was Vautour, and he was beaten by the same horse he'd beaten an easy eight lengths - spotting him twelve pounds - a month before. Vautour was a brilliant winner of the Supreme last year, and he could go for either the Arkle or the JLT. Given that Willie Mullins has Un De Sceaux in the Arkle market, and that one has absolutely zero ability to rate his speed, it looks as though Vautour will be going the longer route.
Either way, 6/1 looked decent, for £50 (he's now a less attractive 7/2), and it might at least cover a few losers, as he'll surely not be beaten by Clarcam - his last day vanquisher - off level weights. (The latter is more likely going for the Arkle in any case).
And that's that. Over a period of nine months, I've invested in sixteen propositions, all of which are listed below for those who take vicarious pleasure in picking over other people's errors of judgement, flukes and/or, just occasionally, inspired selections.
I hope there's at least one juicy plum ripening in the fruit bowl of your ante post portfolio. Leave a comment below and gloat about the prize price you've prised from a peddler of propositions, so we can all cheer it on for you.