2016 Cheltenham Festival Ante Post Portfolio

Cheltenham Festival 2016: Day One Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2016: Day One Preview, Trends, Tips

At last, the chattering, opining and hearsay can stop. The time for actions, which speak louder than words, is upon us. Day 1, Tuesday, at the Cheltenham Festival is a sporting event awaited by keen turfists like no other and, with the hype seeping into every recess this year, we are mercifully close to quenching our collective thirst for top class competition. Let battle commence!

1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle Preview

I previewed the Supreme Novices' on 8th March, confidently nominating Yorkhill as a value play at 6/1 non-runner no bet (NRNB). Sadly, his trainer - who had other options, including favourite, Min - decided to withdraw him from this race. Although those who followed me in get their money back, we miss out on a genuine winning chance at a decent price. Onwards.

Min remains the strong favourite, with the noises emerging from his home base of a hopeful rather than expectant nature. He is no Douvan, on reputation at least, and nor has he done as much on the track thus far. Further, he'll have to curb his youthful enthusiasm if he is to finish as effervescently as many expect him to start.

The pack is deep, and headed by a pair of domestic aspirants from Nicky Henderson's Lambourn stables. Altior is the more battle-hardened, and has the best form of the UK runners, though I have a slight niggle about whether he handles Cheltenham's undulations after a visually unimpressive effort here in November. Meanwhile, barn mate Buveur d'Air retains 'could be anything' status whilst having beaten plenty of 'probably nothing' status thus far. His Newbury win has worked out quite well, in fairness, but the form of the Huntingdon 'racecourse gallop' last time is hollow.

Further down the lists, one of my longshot pokes for last year, Silver Concorde, is ready to step forward on better ground. It is easy to forget that this lad won the Champion Bumper on his only previous Festival visit. And Supasundae almost emulated that feat when sixth in the same race last term. Both are expected to run well.

I'd be most inclined to have a tilt at either Silver Concorde or Supasundae under normal conditions but, with so many bookie concessions available to all, I'm going to try and grab some cash and some free bets, as follows...

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
PADDY
- POWER - Back Min £25, £25 free bet if he's second
BOYLESPORTS - Back Altior £25, £25 free bet if second or third to fav
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back Altior £25, 3 x £25 free bets if he wins (and is 3/1+)
SKYBET - Back Buveur d'Air £25, money back as a free bet if he loses
CORAL - Back Supasundae £10 e/w, £5 free bet for every Mullins Tuesday winner
LADBROKES - Back Altior (or your strongest fancy, not Min), money back as a free bet if fav wins
BETBRIGHT* - New customers can get £1 at 50/1 on any horse in the race

Likely Pace Angles:

Supasundae, Bellshill and Charbel were all on the lead last time, with most of the rest of these prominent. I'd expect plenty of speed early, with William H Bonney and possibly Silver Concorde held up.

Suggested day of race play:

See the 'specials board' above

Tipped already: 

2 pts e/w Yorkhill 6/1 NRNB (Money back)

Best Supreme Novices' Hurdle offers:

See above - all the "here's how I'm playing it" offers can be used against the horses of your choosing (of course)

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)
LADBROKES - Money back as a free bet if 2nd in any C4 race (max £25)
HILLS - Money back as a free bet if 2nd in any Cheltenham race (max £25)

Also, Paddy are paying each way 1/5 1-2-3-4

**

2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Preview

Another of the early preview races, the Arkle was considered on 4th March here, and Sizing John advised 'without the favourite'. Those who followed me in got 7/2 (and maybe even 4/1) on a horse now trading no bigger than 2/1, so we have the value at the very least. Fingers crossed for a first ante post draw of the week!

This race has predictably cut up, to just seven runners, and Douvan looks 'bar a fall' material. He's quick, he's classy, he was scintillating on the track when winning the Supreme last season, and he should win. He is also 2/5 so, unless you have an abundance of fives you might not be keen to chase those twos being offered.

As you can see from the Arkle preview, I'm not a huge fan of Vaniteux for a number of reasons so, after a wind op, perhaps The Game Changer can run third.

Sizing John has seen plenty of Douvan's derriere, and I think he'll get the closest sight of it again.

Likely Pace Angles:

Douvan will probably lead - it will take a fast horse to go past him - and I expect Sizing John to be close up as well as, potentially, Fox Norton. The speed they go early could force mistakes from others in the early part of the race.

Suggested day of race play: None

Tipped already: 

2pt win Sizing John 'without Douvan' 7/2
0.25 pt e/w Arzal 'without Douvan' 33/1 (LOST, NR)

Best Arkle Trophy offers:

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)
LADBROKES - Money back as a free bet if 2nd in any C4 race (max £25)
HILLS - Money back as a free bet if 2nd in any Cheltenham race (max £25)

**

2.50 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase

The first handicap of the week and, on a day which tends to ease punters in gently, this is a 'cap that does likewise. Ignoring the trio of bombs - at 28/1, 33/1 and 50/1 - the average odds of winners this century has been just better than 15/2. For a field of around two dozen annually, that's not too bad at all.

This time, the top of market sees Holywell - a managed mark from Mr O'Neill (Jonjo) - and Out Sam, the archetypal progressive novice that perennially performs with aplomb in the Festival Handicap Chase.

Holywell has joint top weight, on account of his class: he was fourth in the Gold Cup itself last year, and won this race the year before off 145. Since the Gold Cup his rating has plummeted from 163 to 153 in a manner that a surprising number of good horses from his yard seem to do. Again, almost inexplicably (almost!), they seem to return to form in the middle of March at Cheltenham. There is little doubt Holywell is the best horse in the race, but whether he can carry the weight against aspirants with more to come is the big question. I think he'll go close if his jumping passes muster.

Out Sam has won a couple of three-runner soft ground novice chases so far. His four career wins have come in races of four, seven, three and three runners; and in his two big field contests he fell in the Albert Bartlett and was sixth in a 15-runner Class 2 handicap hurdle. Progressive he may be, and very well fancied by his stable, but he's no price in the hurly burly of an event like the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase. Not for me.

Next in my can't have list is Kruzhlinin, whose form is all achieved on flat tracks. He pulled up in the novices' handicap chase at the Festival three years ago and I won't be on him if/when he wins.

I prefer the chance of The Young Master. Progressive and still relatively unexposed over fences, Neil Mulholland's lad had a 'classic' prep for this in the Cleeve Hurdle, the exact same route last year's winner, The Druids Nephew, took. He's feasibly weighted and feasibly priced at 14/1.

Also expected to run better than on Trials Day is Un Temps Pour Tout, who was never closer than when fourth at the line. Cynics might suggest he wasn't supposed to get that close, but the handicapper was onside in any case, dropping David Pipe's fellow four more pounds. He's now 148, from a high of 154 and, if handling the big field, he's another who could figure for a yard whose record in this race is not as good as in some of the others (one win from 14 runners, four places, since 2003).

At big prices, Double Ross has made the frame seven times from nine course starts, including two Festival thirds. At ten, he's the same age as four of the last 17 winners, and the main stumbling block with him - aside from the ability question that hangs over all contenders - is the extended three mile trip. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is in fine form making a quote of 40/1 playable for beans each way, five places.

The Irish have a better record in this than they're sometimes given credit for and filled out the podium last year with Grand Jesture and Gallant Oscar, their only two representatives. This time, Morning Assembly is the main Irish hope from three to run. Third in last year's RSA Chase, and again in the Punchestown Festival equivalent, he's in here for his handicap debut off a mark of 150. Given a known liking for conditions, he ought to go well. His trainer is in fantastic form too.

Lots more with chances, and every likelihood I haven't mentioned the winner but, as with all the Festival handicaps, you pays your money and takes your chance. 

Likely Pace Angles:

Very few out and out trailblazers here, so tactical position could be important. Those who have gone from the front include Southfield Theatre, Ballykan, Morning Assembly, and Out Sam. I wouldn't personally want to be with a late runner, a group that has included O Maonlai, Band Of Blood and Spring Heeled (though the last named might race more prominently than he has been).

Tips: 

Holywell is within hailing distance of his winning mark in this race in 2014, and can be expected to bring his A game here. The Young Master and Un Temps Pour Tout are respected, but I like the look of Morning Assembly of the trio. And for windmill-tilters, Double Ross could offer hope for a while at least at a huge price.

1 pt win Holywell 8/1 Boyle, totesport

0.5 pt e/w Morning Assembly 14/1 bet365, Skybet (1/4 1-2-3-4-5)

0.25 pt e/w Double Ross 40/1 Coral, Hills (1/4 1-2-3-4), 33/1 bet365, Skybet (1/4 1-2-3-4-5)

Best Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase offers:

Look for a bookmaker paying FIVE places if betting each way. bet365, Skybet, totesport, betfred, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Coral, Winner, Betfair Sportsbook and racebets are all paying five places at time of writing.

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)

**

3.30 Champion Hurdle

This was the first race I previewed, and my non-runner no bet pick, Windsor Park, was soon declared an absentee. Cash back, no harm done. I rewrote the preview and sided with Arctic Fire non-runner no bet. Guess what? He picked up 'a little chip off a sesamoid bone' and that was that. More funds returned, and still no wager in the race.

To this point, I've not gone in again. The fact that I don't really like Annie Power at her quote of 9/4 should mean I can go at something else. But, having backed Identity Thief at big prices and now feeling his odds over- rather than under-state his chance, I'm struggling to find a play.

Certainly, the Thief is the most likely improver. He's stepped forward from a rating of 131 to one of 159 in five races, and who is to say he's done? Quicker ground than he faced at Leopardstown could allow him to reverse placings with Nichols Canyon, his last day vanquisher - himself put in his place by both Arctic Fire and Faugheen prior to their double default.

The first home from last year's race is, remarkably, fifth placed The New One. He ran on well there, as is his wont at this trip, but surely he can't be good enough to take the major share here even in a race for reserves. Maybe he can...

A word on Annie Power. She's an amazing mare, but increasingly sparingly campaigned, and not recently at this trip or against the boys. Her win last time showed there was still a leg in each corner but, in beating a 130-rated mare by seven lengths, little more. She can win, of course she can. But she's lamentable value to my eye, given she has been trained to run another half mile against a group of subservient ladies.

In the cheap seats, I've got a few quid riding on Camping Ground, a classy French import now with Robert Walford. He looked super classy when winning the Relkeel on heavy over two and a half miles here; then shaped like a non-stayer when far back against Thistlecrack. In truth, I'm not sure he will travel as well as that Relkeel run on quicker ground and over a shorter trip, but if they get racing far enough out he'll be staying on with The New One, and he's four times the price.

I'd be amazed if a Henderson horse wins this, in spite of his five-pronged attack, and in spite of it looking a sub-standard year. His team are respectively not match fit (My Tent Or Yours), not tractable (Peace And Co), and not good enough (Top Notch, Hargam, Sign Of A Victory). Still, the Lord loves a trier.

Sempre Medici has his fans, but he's not my cup of gin in a race of this nature. Surely his best form is on softer ground, too.

Likely Pace Angles:

A pacey race by the looks of things. Annie Power can go on, or sit prominent. Identity Thief, however, looks likely to try to make all with, perhaps, Nichols Canyon challenging him for that privilege.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Tips: 

I'm sure someone will be trying to 'get' Annie Power in the morning if not before. If she goes to 3/1, maybe she's saver material. But I couldn't back her at shorter. I can't really back much else either so, though it pains me to suggest it, perhaps this is one to sit out... or have a crack at Camping Ground or something else at a price.

0.25 pt e/w Camping Ground 20/1 general (for an interest, but check the early morning prices)

Best Champion Hurdle offers:

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)

**

4.10 Mares' Hurdle

No Quevega, and now no Annie Power. Still, up steps Vroum Vroum Mag to take up the Mullins mantle in the Mares'. I like her chance, as I've suggested in this Mares' Hurdle preview.

She looks very likely to run well but at even money she won't be everyone's idea of a bet. At the prices, I think Harry Fry has a strong hand. His Bitofapuzzle ran third in this before an abortive chasing career this term. If she's in the same form as in the race last year, then she has little to find to get involved. If.

The other Fry runner, Desert Queen, has shown her best form on this sort of ground and at this sort of trip. She's bounded up the handicap as a consequence and 33/1 is much too big. She rates a good value each way bet. The one fly in the ointment is that she probably wants to lead, and there are others in this field who might not give her an easy time there.

Polly Peachum also looks rock solid to run her race and was very, very unlucky not to win last year after Annie tipped up.

Likely Pace Angles:

Bags of pace, with Desert Queen, Tara Point, Fairytale Theatre and Gitane du Berlais all habitual front-runners. That could suit the likes of The Govaness and Lily Waugh who will be campaigned much more patiently.

Tips: 

Vroum Vroum Mag looks to have a robust chance to win. Desert Queen and, more obviously, Polly Peachum, offer each way or 'without' value.

Already advised:

0.5 pts e/w Desert Queen 25/1 (now 33/1 general)

Suggested day of race play:

0.5 pt e/w Desert Queen 20/1 without VVM bet365 1/4 1-2-3

2 pts Polly Peachum 10/3 without VVM BetVictor

Mares' Hurdle offers:

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)
PADDY POWER* - New customers, get 7/1 Vroum Vroum Mag to win (max £10)

BEWARE - Victor, Power and Hill paying 1/5 1-2-3 (all others 1/4 1-2-3)

**

4.50 National Hunt Chase

Four miles, 25 fences, novice chasers, amateur jockeys: if your idea of a Cheltenham bet is in this race, you're a braver (or more foolhardy) man or woman than me!

Actually, in fairness, this has tended to go to the classier animals in recent times, and that is reflected in a maximum SP of just 8/1 - and an average of 5.65/1 - over the last five years.

Top rated on official figures is Vicente, Paul Nicholls' Dom Alco gelding. He'd looked impressive in winning a trio of novice chases, including one at Class 2 level, but was disappointing behind Blaklion last time. He's had plenty of experience and will be ridden by one of the better British amateurs, Will Biddick.

Ben Pauling runs Local Show, who comes here on a hat-trick after wins in three mile novice chases at Kempton and Newbury. He's looked quite classy and a stout stayer, and he should be front rank under Tom David. He also possesses the best speed rating in the field making 16/1 quotes of mild appeal.

Minella Rocco is the favourite after a staying on second in the Reynoldstown at Ascot. But he may have been flattered there, the official handicapper having him as only the eighth most talented in the field on what they've shown so far. Perhaps the Kim Muir might have been a better race for him.

Gordon Elliott runs Noble Endeavour and has booked the services of last year's winning rider, Jamie Codd. Second, staying on, in a Grade 2 over three miles last time, his breeding doesn't scream four miles, and his rating (141) doesn't scream Cheltenham conditions race winner. He's obviously well fancied by a yard who don't normally get things wrong, but I have to let him beat me at the price, around 7/1.

I'm not sure whether Pont Alexandre will stay, and the fact he had the speed to run third in a Grade 1 over two and a half miles last time suggests he might struggle. He's classy without question, but I don't think he'll get home.

Southfield Royale ought to get home, and Neil Mulholland might go very close with this son of Presenting. Second to Tea For Two in the Grade 1 Feltham, he was done for speed that day, but won't be here. Both he and the third home there, Native River, can get involved in this. Regular readers will know I backed Colin Tizzard's horse for the RSA Chase, connections opting to come here after a disappointing run in the Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby. He looked to have a tough race there and I'd be reluctantly against him as a consequence.

Katie Walsh rides Measureofmydreams, a son of Shantou. He has five lengths over Noble Endeavour on last time running, and a great pilot for this job. All form so far has been on softer, though.

The mare, Ballychorus, is a strong stayer and has had a lot of experience. She has fallen twice - both at the last fence in competitive handicaps - and that level of form and stamina gives her a chance. She's a touch of value at 16/1 if she puts in a clear.

Definitly Red is another who had a tough race in the Towton, but he's shaped like this marathon is right up his street. Sam Waley-Cohen is an eye-catching booking for a lad with stamina and class, so 16/1 is fair.

Likely Pace Angles:

Oodles of pace, with all of Waldorf Salad, Pont Alexandre, Vintage Vinnie, Bally Beaufort, Local Show and Ballychorus likely to be pushing on early. That should ensure you need to be a proper stayer to get home in front.

Tips: 

It's a trappy race, and I'm not keen on the top of the market. Worth a chance are Measureofmydreams - 10/1 - and Definitly Red - 16/1 - for small win money only.

0.5 pt win Measureofmydreams 10/1 general

0.5 pt win Definitly Red 16/1 general

National Hunt Chase offers:

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)

Bet365, Skybet, totesport, betfred, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Coral ALL paying 1/4 1-2-3-4

**

5.30 Novices' Handicap Chase

One of the newest races at the Festival, the clamour for places in the field has led to a most compressed handicap in the past couple of years. In 2013, just eight pounds separated top and bottom weight; in 2014, it was nine pounds; last year it was six, and this year a mere five (and only one on the bottom weight).

So, we're basically looking at a conditions race where we need to establish which horse can leap forward the most under these conditions: an extended two and a half miles at a good clip, on an undulating track and good to soft turf.

There are a couple that interest me for small change in a race which is probably too tricky. Firstly, Rezorbi caught my eye when falling at Cheltenham on Trials Day in late January. On his first UK start, this ex-Frenchie - now trained by Jonjo - travelled notably well having not really been put into the race. I said at the time that

Jonjo O'Neill was giving this former French racer his first sight of UK fences, let alone Cheltenham's stiff obstacles. Given a very quiet waiting ride, Rezorbi was creeping into contention when unshipping at the second last.

It looked a nasty fall but, if none the worse for it, this young fellow - only just turned five - looks a credible contender for the Novices' Handicap Chase off anything close to his Saturday mark of 138. It is hard to foresee the handicapper nudging him up, or indeed down, after a run where promise readily outpointed performance on the day

Right enough, Rezorbi remained on 138 and, with a knowledge of what he'll now face, he can run better than a 20/1 shot.

Another at a very big price is Twelve Roses, Kim Bailey's fellow being 33/1 in a place. Second in a Grade 2 last time under very similar going and distance, he's rather shown his hand to the handicapper. And yet this is a race where the best horses have done well, albeit normally from the top of the market.

Tom George is in form and runs the top speed figure horse, Double Shuffle. This one has run twice at Cheltenham already this season, finishing second and fourth in good races. Conditions are in his favour and 25/1 is tempting.

Finally, Aloomomo is the talking horse's talking horse this year. Three wins on the bounce, the last in a fair handicap, he was beaten last time in a mark-preserving hurdle race. If you're on at a nice price, good for you. If you're thinking of taking 6/1, more fool you, regardless of the result. The value ship has sailed and the disciplined player must sniff elsewhere. Let's face it, there's plenty else to sniff at!

Likely Pace Angles:

Killala Quay looks likely to lead a in race with a nice pace shape to it, according to historical profiles at least. Nothing should be especially inconvenienced or otherwise.

Tips: 

0.5 pt e/w Rezorbi 20/1 general

0.5 pt e/w Double Shuffle 12/1 Betfair Sports (1/4 1-2-3-4-5)

Novices' Handicap Chase offers:

Betfair Sportsbook are already paying each way five places, and there will hopefully be more following suit tomorrow.

BET365 - Back a 4/1+ winner on a live C4 race, get a risk-free £25 bet on the next C4 race
CORAL
- Money back as a free bet if your horse falls (Max stake £25)
BETFAIR SPORTS - Back a winner at 3/1+, get 3 free bets to same stake (max £25)
BETVICTOR - Money back as a free bet if 2nd to Mullins horse (max £25)

Your first 30 days for just £1
4 replies
  1. Rotund legend says:

    Good effort Matt. I am about to go through the card but have had a good word for Southfield Royale.

  2. chrish2 says:

    Hi Matt,
    I was wondering about playing around with the Ladbrokes free bet if 2nd on all C4 races similar to that of the BET365 offer for a free bet if winning at 4/1 or more. On the basis that you’d have to lay the horse and lose money if it wins, but if it doesn’t win make a small profit and, if comes second, have a free bet as well. But then, I suppose it’s just as difficult to pick a horse to come second as picking a winner.

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