Cheltenham Festival 2017 Day 1 Preview: Brain Power fits the bill

Cheltenham Festival 2017: Day 1 Preview

It's Cheltenham Festival time again, and a seven race Day One card, including the Champion Hurdle, kicks things off. There are three supporting Grade 1's on the opening day and a couple of near impossible handicap puzzles to unravel. It all starts with the...

1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 87yds)

It has been argued that this year's renewal of the Festival opener is a little below normal standards. That may or may not be true, but it is certainly a competitive heat where finding the winner is likely to be financially rewarding. It is also a race in which most bookmakers will offer some sort of concession in a bid to acquire your custom for the week. Let's not disappoint them!

We have a range of angles converging: British and Irish, novice and handicap, not to mention point-to-point and bumper form. As with all of the novice events, and most of the handicaps, it is crucial to consider not just what a horse has achieved to date, but also how much scope it has to improve in the hurly-burly of a Festival race.

The last three winners have all come to the race with an official rating of 155, but that is a level of prior performance seven pounds and more greater than any of the previous nine renewals (assuming 40/1 bomb, Ebaziyan, who didn't have a published mark, wasn't presumed to be better than 148 at that stage).

So we have to acknowledge two things: first, we've been well and truly spoilt in the last three years to have consecutive victors of the class of Vautour, Douvan and Altior; and second, a mid-140's winner is a reversion to the norm rather than a sub-standard year. Interestingly, and controversially, on BHA performance ratings (unpublished figures for individual runs), Melon is 'assumed' to be five pounds clear at the top of their tree on 153. If that's correct, anything else in the race has to improve five pounds more than he does; and, given Melon has raced just once in public over timber, his progression is the most obvious to anticipate.

I don't really know how David Dickinson, two mile handicapper at BHA, got to such a lofty perch on the basis of a single maiden hurdle victory, and I don't agree with the number. But I do respect connections - this will be the first Mullins/Walsh partnership of the week, and only one horse, Altior, has denied them a clean sweep across the last four years.

I expect that bookmakers will try to 'get' Melon on the morning of the race, and it wouldn't surprise me if they went at least 5/1 the field, to small money and for about ten  minutes. My advice then is to keep your powder dry and take some of the best you can get over breakfast on Tuesday.

Neon Wolf, on 148 BHA, is a more trustworthy mark, but it's significantly lower, too. And Harry Fry's novice has long since been presumed a more likely Neptune candidate. His defeat of Elgin in a Grade 2 last time reads especially well even if it was achieved on soft ground, and even if he was receiving three pounds from the second. The Wolf looks smart and progressive, but he's headed for the Neptune.

Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes [now a non-runner] bring strong handicap form to the party, but it is worth noting that horses running here having placed in a handicap last time are 0 from 21, with just two places (My Tent Or Yours and Get Me Out Of Here, at 15/8 and 9/2 respectively). That would be an obvious concern even in a slightly weaker renewal than recent seasons - the winners in those two years were rated 148 and 147 respectively entering the Supreme.

David Pipe's very lightly raced eight-year-old, Moon Racer, has this as one of two Day One targets - the other being the Champion Hurdle. Whether that says more about how highly connections rate their horse, or how lowly they rate the Champion Hurdle field, or how desperate they are to aim at a big pot while their horse is fit, is unclear.

What we do know is that Moon Racer is a Festival Bumper winner, and a Grade 2 winner over hurdles at the track in November. He does go well fresh - he's had to given his injury layoffs - and he clearly has bags of talent. I remember seeing him travel through his UK debut bumper, also at Cheltenham, in breathtakingly easy style and simply bolt clear of a good field.

It's impossible to discount the possibility of him doing that in the Supreme, but the odds available - allied to a rating of just 141 for what he's actually mustered over hurdles - mean he's not for me. [STOP PRESS: Moon Racer goes to the Champion Hurdle, where he's also not for me!]

Willie Mullins has ten of the 26 left in at the six day stage, which includes Bunk Off Early as well as Melon. Much has been made of his breeding - he's by the sprinter, Zebedee, out of a dirt-bred mare - and of the fact that he probably didn't see out the two and a quarter miles of the Grade 1 Deloitte last time, finishing second.

But less has been made of the relative weakness of his maiden hurdle win, and nothing has yet come out of the Deloitte to offer a barometer of its merit. Moreover, I was struck by a comment from Gordon Elliott at the Betfair preview, where he said that he feels the Irish two mile novices could be a moderate lot this year. Unless Melon is as good as the hype, Elliott may be proved correct.

River Wylde fluffed his lines in a Cheltenham bumper at the October meeting, but since that seasonal debut he's three from three over timber, most recently in the Grade 2 Dovecote. There he beat Elgin by half as far as Neon Wolf beat the same rival at Haydock, though one ought not to get too literal about pounds and lengths, particularly in a division where one horlicksed hurdle can be worth four pounds. He's up to 144 for that Dovecote win, which puts him in the shake up.

Historically, the Mullins team have unerringly predicted the hierarchy of their Grade 1 runners. This is no doubt in part due to the adoption of a number of 'schooling hurdles' - private 'races' held amongst the yard's horses - during the season. With Melon and Bunk Off Early at the presumed top of the pecking order, it is difficult to make a robust case for any of the remaining octet. So I won't try.

But there are a couple of British runners still worthy of mention. High Bridge, one of the last remaining vestiges of the Bloomfields operation and now trained by Ben Pauling, was only four lengths behind Ballyandy in the Champion Bumper last season, and is unbeaten in three hurdle starts since. They have all been achieved outside of Graded company, which is a niggle, but of greater concern is his regular pilot, Alex Ferguson, will be unable to claim the seven pounds he has been. High Bridge is a progressive strong-travelling type but he'll have to make a bigger leap forward to overcome the lost concession.

And I want to come back to a horse I've dismissively mentioned twice already, Elgin. It is often felt that if a horse has been beaten then he can't possibly reverse form. Whilst the balance of probabilities support that contention, all other things being equal, all other things are seldom equal.

Elgin is a hard-puller who will be better suited by the first race frenzied gallop of the Supreme. He jumps very well in the main - straight and low - though he did bungle the last at Kempton, which accentuated the winning margin in favour of River Wylde. Importantly, I feel he found more off the bridle than the horse who beat him here and, at 28/1, this 143-rated horse could make the frame. He'd be especially interesting with any firms paying bonus places.

Most likely winner:
Melon (wait for the Tuesday morning concessions)

Big priced possible:
Elgin 28/1 general

Skybet

SKYBET are MONEY BACK AS A FREE BET IF YOU LOSE ON THIS RACE (£20 MAX)

BetVictor

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Betfair Sports

Back a winner where the SP is 3/1+ and get a free bet to the same stake (max free bet £25)

bet365

Back any single winner at 4/1 or more on ITV race and get risk-free bet to same stake on next ITV race (max stake £50)

Paddy

Money back as a free bet if you finish second (max £20/race)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

**

2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1, 1m 7f 199yds)

A second novice event, and one of the stars of the week on show. Altior is his name. Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner has already racked up a fencing four-timer, including when brushing aside 166-rated Fox Norton in open company last time. It's unoriginal to say this but if he jumps round he will win. He is the most likely winner of the whole week, and with any luck it will be a gorgeous spectacle for those of us who love the sport as well as betting on the sport.

But we can bet, too. Each way is an option though I readily prefer the 'without the favourite' market.

The running style of all of Altior, Charbel and especially Some Plan and - if he shows up - Gino Trail is to get on with it: to go as hard and fast as they can from the start. That almost certainly means jumping will come under pressure, and I suspect it also means those trying to go with Altior are likely to pay a heavy price in the later stages.

So let's look for a closer who might just be suited by a test of stamina at the trip. My shortlist in that context is Le Prezien, Flying Angel and Forest Bihan.

Le Prezien has other options, notably the Grand Annual in which he'd carry a light weight and would be close to favouritism. But if he showed up here he might get closest to Altior. His third in the Scilly Isles reads well enough, and he probably didn't quite bring his best to the party there. He does finish his races off well, however, and that will be a key attribute in the 2017 Arkle. 10/1 each way without Altior non-runner no bet (phew) is appealing.

Flying Angel is another to consider after his Grade 2 Kingmaker success last time. That was on heavy but he's perfectly effective on top of the ground as he demonstrated with a fine second in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at last year's Festival. The Twiston-Davies yard's current 43 race barren run is a concern, but there's still time for that to turn - especially as they've hit the board with 12 of those 43 (28%).

He's 8/1 in the without market - same concessions as Le Prezien - and is worth the risk if he resists the urge to lay up too handily.

And Forest Bihan has the beating of a number of these on the evidence of his Lightning Novices' Chase victory at Doncaster in late January.  He finished well there so, despite concerns about the very different course consitutions, Brian Ellison's northern raider is not without place claims. The overall level of his hurdles form does cast a doubt over whether he's suddenly improved for fences or has merely mopped up a couple of soft heats. At the prices - Forest Bihan is 6/1 in the without market - he will probably be hard to kick out of the four.

If you want one at a massive price, Knockgraffon might be for you. Whacked by Flying Angel last time, he may have hated the heavy ground - plenty do - and is better judged on his overall level of form. That is probably his ten length trouncing of Sirabad and co in a Newbury novices' chase, a run which elevated his perch to 144. He probably wants a truly run race, which he will definitely get, but he may not be good enough. There will be worse 100/1 shots during the Festival though, and his 25/1 'without Altior' price gives a chance of a 5/1 payoff down to fourth, assuming the champ-elect stands up and gets round.

Most likely winner: Erm, ALTIOR

Suggested wager: Without the favourite -
Forest Bihan 6/1 e/w NRNB bet365

BetVictor

NEW customers: Bet £10, and get a free £2 bet on EVERY race at the Festival (28 of them)

Betfair Sports

Back a winner where the SP is 3/1+ and get a free bet to the same stake (max free bet £25)

Paddy

Money back as a free bet if you finish second (max £20/race)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

**

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m 1f)

The first of the week's handicaps is a high-class staying handicap chase pitching upwardly mobile novices against minor Graded class second season chasers. Throw in a few old favourites and you have a compelling betting challenge.

Over the years, however, I have learned my lesson: I'm just not great at finding winners in these races. So, caveat emptor, with my skeletal observations on the Ultima.

I've backed three: Mall Dini (non-runner, good start), Champers On Ice, and Noble Endeavour.

Champers On Ice was given an 'another day' ride when never nearer than at the finish in a handicap chase at the track on Trials Day. Beaten twenty lengths in sixth there, it was a similarly sympathetic conveyance to the one owner/trainer/jockey condoned on Un Temps Pour Tout a year before. That one was beaten 17 lengths before winning by seven in the Ultima, and Champers has a really good chance if he lines up in this race (has other entries).

I'm on at 25/1 NRNB, but a best price of 12/1 NRNB still seems just about acceptable. Sadly, he's not running here. Sigh.

Noble Endeavour will be the first of many heavily-punted Gordon Elliott horses through the week. He's eleven pounds higher than when winning the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting, but Elliott doesn't seem unperturbed by that. I took a bit of 14's but I'd be reluctant to go in now at a top offer of 8/1.

There are loads of credible contenders and my personal punting aim was to have something to cheer without investing much financially in the process.

Others to consider include Holywell (14/1 NRNB bet365), who is five pounds lower than when second in this last year and only three higher than when winning it in 2014; and Singlefarmpayment, who was brought down last time and beat National Hunt Chase fancy, Arpege D'Alene the time before.

One against the field at the current prices:
Holywell 11/1 bet365

bet365, BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Coral all 1/4 odds FIVE places

**

3.30 Champion Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 87yds)

Tuesday's highlight looks a competitive if below par renewal, and in that context I've taken a progressive handicapper against what may be somewhat porous Graded form.

Full details are in my Champion Hurdle preview here.

BetVictor

NEW customers: Bet £10, and get a free £2 bet on EVERY race at the Festival (28 of them)

Betfair Sports

Back a winner where the SP is 3/1+ and get a free bet to the same stake (max free bet £25)

Paddy

Money back as a free bet if you finish second (max £20/race)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

Skybet

1/5 odds 1-2-3-4 if you fancy a bigger priced horse and want an extra place

**

4.15 Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m3f 200yds)

A confused Mares' Hurdle market had been grappling with the futility of second-guessing Willie Mullins as he willie wont-he's his way up to race day. Mullins had both Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag left in the field and, while Limini had this as her sole engagement, VV Mag still had six entries. But we learned Sunday morning that Mag would race here, alongside Limini, so that's a degree more certainty as well as a change of owner/trainer policy to run their horses against each other at the Festival.

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Let's first deal with Limini. She won the inaugural Mares' Novices' Hurdle last season, and comes here off the back of an impressive defeat of Apple's Jade. Taken at face value, that's probably the best piece of form in the race. But, afterwards, even Grandmaster Mullins seemed somewhat perplexed by what he had witnessed. Ruby Walsh has chosen her over Mag, and that seems material: his record of picking the right horse in G1 company is unsurpassed in the current riding ranks.

Apple's Jade is a consistent sort but her record off a layoff of 30 days or more is 222, compared with returning to the track within a month for a record of 1121. Moreover, in spite of a G2 score on heavy on her first Irish start (then for Willie Mullins), Apple's Jade may not have enjoyed the heavy ground last time. What I'm trying to say is that a literal interpretation of that form might be perilous.

Their Irish ratings are a pound apart, Limini shading it on 152, with the pick of the British runners currently pegged at 145. That's Rons Dream, a pound clear of Briery Queen and Lifeboat Mona. Of the trio, it is the last named who has the greatest capacity to step forward from her mark.

Paul Nicholls' second season hurdler has had just five starts over timber, winning the four in which she completed. Her sole defeat was when pulled up over two miles on heavy ground, and she's been a revelation since stepped up in trip, readily accounting for Midnight Sapphire in the Listed race over two and a half miles on her most recent outing.

With Vroum Vroum Mag swerving her five other engagements in favour of this, Mona is a slightly less tempting each way play in what remains a shallow race, away from the Irish trio of mares at least. But, even with Mag showing up here, her form has been a bit patchy: second to Apple's Jade in early December, she then won a weak G1 over three miles before scraping home at Doncaster over an inadequate two miles.

Her Irish rating of 154 over hurdles is the highest in the field, and on the best of her form she ought to be favourite. She's not. She's 5/2 NRNB and has been deserted by Ruby.

Apple's Jade has been weak in the market - now a general 4/1 chance - and she, too, can be called inconsistent. On her day, however, she is very good. Even if it was a perfect storm setup when she won the 4yo Hurdle at Aintree last April, she still won that G1 by 41 lengths! That's a freak effort and her propensity to find one too good is a worry. Still, she'll be very hard to kick out of the exacta and could be played as such.

This is Jer's Girl's trip, but I don't see her being good enough to trouble the Irish mares at the head of the market.

Of the British, aside from Lifeboat Mona, Briery Queen has proven her liking for track, trip and the likely fast ground. She looked readily outpointed by Lifeboat Mona last time, but if it was the steady tempo there which put paid to her chance, then this expected swifter gallop will help. There is a solid chance that she's simply not good enough, but I believe that prospect is over-stated by odds of 50/1.

Most likely winner:
Limini

Speculative Each Way Selection:
Briery Queen 50/1 e/w 1/4 1-2-3 BOG general

Ladbrokes

MONEY BACK AS A FREE BET IF LIMINI OR VROUM VROUM MAG WINS (max £25)

BetVictor

NEW customers: Bet £10, and get a free £2 bet on EVERY race at the Festival (28 of them)

Betfair Sports

Back a winner where the SP is 3/1+ and get a free bet to the same stake (max free bet £25)

Paddy

Money back as a free bet if you finish second (max £20/race)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

 

**

4.50 National Hunt Chase (Grade 2, 3m 7f 170yds)

This used to be a terrible betting race. It's now a very good one. It used to be terrible because it was for amateur riders, and they were riding assorted maiden yaks that had never won a race over either hurdles or fences. Can you imagine?! Almost as weak a race as the Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Ahem.

But now it's a very good one because, first, they opened it to previous winners and, second, they more recently removed the winners' weight penalties. So here they all are, off level weights, but anything but level abilities.

In Matt Tombs' excellent Weatherby's Cheltenham Festival Guide, he highlights how that final amendment has changed the shape of the race. It has made the 'four miler' more appealing to connections for whom their penalized horses would otherwise have had to head to the better class, shorter trip, RSA Chase.

The impact here? Between 1997 and 2009, there were winners at 40/1, 33/1 three times and 25/1, and the average win price was 18.625/1. In spite of the 2010 winner, Poker De Sivola, scoring at 14/1 in the first penalty-free running, the average winning SP since 2010 has been 7.18/1. Each of the last six winners has returned in single figures. You'd have to go back all the way to 1992 to find another six winners returned below 10/1.

The other key factor here is jockeyship. It's an amateur riders' race, and a handful of these guys (and girls) are pro wolves masquerading as corinthian sheep. A far bigger number are hapless lambs aspiring to be corinthian sheep. Moreover, there are no allowances for the less experienced.

Hardly surprising then that connections of the top fancies seek out the services of the top riders. Since 2010, Katie Walsh, the late JT McNamara, in whose honour this race is now run, Derek O'Connor (twice), Jamie Codd and Patrick Mullins have claimed the major spoils. Expect one of them to ride the winner again this year.

Put another way, since 2010, Codd has been in the frame on four occasions (from six rides), Katie Walsh has three places from five starts, and Nina Carberry is three from seven. Ignoring the absent Nina Carberry, this is a good place to start.

Jamie Codd has been confirmed to ride Edwulf. Joseph O'Brien's eight-year-old son of Kayf Tara is seven pounds clear on official ratings and top on Racing Post figures too. Those numbers attest to his level of ability but there are some serious questions still to answer. Chief amongst them may be, 'will he get round?', given Edwulf has fallen or unseated in four of his nine races over obstacles thus far.

The next question on my list would be 'how will he cope with quick ground?', this chap only having raced on going with the words 'soft' or 'heavy' in the description since his heavy debut defeat to Champers On Ice in a Punchestown Festival bumper two years ago. Indeed on going quicker than soft, his form reads 73U, compared to a string on deeper turf of F1F21F1.

And finally, there is a distance question still to answer. He's raced at or around three miles twice, winning and finishing second, but has largely lined up over shorter. Of course, he may improve for the additional mile - both sides of his pedigree offer hope to that end - but he has still to prove it on the track. At 6/1 those are some big questions to answer.

A Genie In Abottle is about the same price and he too has appeared to fare best on muddy terrain. His overall form of 31163212 decomposes to soft/heavy form of 3111 and quicker ground form of 6322. Hmm. He was thumped in the G1 three mile novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last season and he too has too much to prove at the price.

Champers On Ice has handicap entries too, but would be a big danger if lining up here. He seems to take some time to warm up but has plenty of talent once hitting stride, and the ground is no problem for a horse who was a close third in the Albert Bartlett last year on similar underfoot. Fellow British runner, Beware The Bear, also has claims though does have stamina to prove, having looked to be towards the end of his tether last time when repelling the late rally of the re-opposing Aurillac, giving that one eight pounds and a length beating. The 'bear has won four on the spin and been freshened up ahead of this quest.

Aurillac is interesting, especially as a 40/1 shot. He's been crying out for more of a trip, finishing well the last thrice at up to three miles. Stoutly bred and expected to go on fast ground, the disparity between his odds and Beware The Bear's is much too wide: if BTB is a 9/1 shot, Aurillac should be no bigger than 16's. He was outpaced from the turn in at Newbury and closed four of the five lengths between himself and the The Bear from the back of the last.

He was unlucky when beaten the same margin off levels against Belami Des Pictons, when having to switch on the run in, that one now rated 148 having won easily twice since. Aurillac was wisely pulled up in desperately heavy ground (standing water aplenty) heat at Hereford six weeks ago and comes here a fresh horse. I'm quite excited about his chance relative to his price.

Two Gigginstown horses with prospects are Tiger Roll and Marinero. The former won the Triumph Hurdle in 2014, a curious notch on the CV of an aspirant National Hunt Chase winner, but then Red Rum won a two year old sprint back in the day...

He's acquired something of a cult following over the years as a thinker (pronounced, with a t'ick Oirish accent, as t'inker). Having won the Munster National (three miles) in October off a feather weight, he ran a fair third a fortnight later at Cheltenham over the same trip. I just can't really see him getting home over the extra mile here even if he consents to show his appealing side.

Marinero on the other hand is interesting. The quicker the turf the better for this son of Presenting out of an Oscar mare. He was closest to Thistlecrack in a novice chase here at the Open meeting and is one of the most experienced in the field, with nine chase starts to his name. Off the track four months since is a bit of a worry, mitigated by his record after two months or more away of 231401. He looks a slice of value.

Plenty with something to prove, then, and while I respect the chances at the top of the market, especially those ridden by the top boys and girls, I'm going to take two big priced flyers against the field...

 

Tentative selection:
Champers On Ice 8/1 e/w 1/4 1-2-3-4 Coral, bet365, Ladbrokes

SHOP AROUND for place concessions! Coral are also money back as a free bet on fallers in this race (see below).

bet365, Ladbrokes, Coral and Racebets all 1/4 1-2-3-4

BetVictor

NEW customers: Bet £10, and get a free £2 bet on EVERY race at the Festival (28 of them)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

**

5.30 Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed, 2m 4f 78yds)

The last of seven races on day one, and a trappy heat to be getting out in. It's become a very tight handicap in terms of the weight spread, with just four pounds covering the twenty runners last year. 65 of the 79 horses to run in the last four years carried 11-05 or more, and they accounted for all bar one of the 16 available places and all of the winners. Indeed the lowest winning weight in the last five years was 11-07. That latter fact is of little utility, even if the weight spread is slightly greater than last year.

In spite of the duplicity and chicanery that seem to accompany achieving the requisite weight to stand a chance of winning the Novices' Handicap Chase, last day winners have a really good record. Specifically, half of the dozen winners to date also won their prior start, and another three were second last time. That's from 40% and 54% respectively of the runners.

Nine-year-old Ballyalton won the race last year, having been 2nd in the Neptune two seasons prior, but all bar one of the previous eleven winners were aged seven or younger (8yo Copper Bleu the other exception). Whilst on the face of it that looks a strong stat, a glance at the place data suggests a note of caution should be struck.

Horses aged five to seven accounted for two-thirds of the runners and five-sixths of the winners... but only 65% (just less than two-thirds) of the placed horses. In other words, the young guns may be unsustainably over-performing in win terms, certainly against numerical representation.

I've probably already written too much about a race in which I only have one even remotely robust opinion, which is this: Its'afreebee looks the beneficiary of a piece of lenient handicapping.

Third in the Neptune last year, behind JLT favourite, Yorkhill, and Champion Hurdle favourite, Yanworth, he's been campaigned with this in mind since. Twice a winner over fences already, including when beating former World Hurdle winner, Cole Harden, his mark elevated to 144, thus eliminating him from this 0-140 handicap.

But a 'disappointing' last time out effort, just ten days after running in a Grade 2 behind two smart novices, resulted in a depreciation of his rating by four pounds, and a subsequent further pound downgrade for the form not working out. So here we are: Dan Skelton's fella skulks into consideration off a perch of 139, two pounds lower than he was rated when lining up for the Neptune.

He should get the trip - has won over it, but not in a big field on fast ground - and has the class. I backed him at 20/1 and had a bit more at 16/1. He's still available at 12/1 in a place, and is a general 10/1 chance. If you can get the 12's it's worth it. Otherwise I'd be sniffing around for an extra place concession and take my chance with the price.

It should be said that Its'afreebee is not even his trainer's first market choice in the race, that honour currently lying with Value At Risk. That one, an eight-year-old, fell on his first two starts in an abortive novice campaign last season, but managed to break his maiden over fences last time out. He was rated 144 when well beaten in fifth in the 2015 Albert Bartlett and has something to prove - not least his jumping - over the bigger obstacles.

On the plus side, he was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles this time last year. One the minus side, only two winners of ANY Cheltenham Festival handicap since 2004 have been off for as long as Value At Risk's 140 days, from over 100 to have tried.

Foxtail Hill appeals as a favourite to oppose, his win on Trials Day probably exposing him more than some of his rivals here. While his progressive profile may mitigate for that somewhat, the stables' one winner from 47 runners in the last month is a worry (30% place strike rate less so).

Hammersly Lake is another (of many) to consider in a typically open race, the return to a big field expected to suit. His form ties in well with the likes of Top Notch (rated 152, beaten a length by the JLT second favourite getting seven pounds) and Le Prezien (beaten four lengths off levels on soft ground).

Hopeful suggestion:
Its'afreebee 9/1 general (Coral money back on fallers in this race, see below)

Racebets

The only firm I can see going 1/4 1-2-3-4-FIVE places are Racebets

BetVictor

NEW customers: Bet £10, and get a free £2 bet on EVERY race at the Festival (28 of them)

Coral

Money back as a free bet on fallers (stake between £10 and £25)

**

And that's day one of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Regardless of your bottom line by quarter-to-six Tuesday evening, don't get too up or down. 75% of the action remains, ample time to retrieve a poor first day or destroy a good one!

Matt

p.s. what are your best bets of day one? Leave a comment and let us all know...

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12 replies
  1. Mike says:

    Great read! For me it’s…

    1.30 River Wylde
    2.50 Hollywell
    3.30 Brain Power, Petit Mouchoir
    4.10 Lifeboat Mona EW
    4.50 Edwulf
    5.30 struggling… Zamdy Man if it runs?

  2. jonrickus says:

    great work Matt
    my selections
    supreme elgin ew
    ultima singlefarmpayment
    mares briery queen
    national hunt missed approach
    novice chase its a freebee ew31 to small stakes
    got wicklow brave at 33

  3. Slywade says:

    Great deal of work there Matt, thank you very much!
    1.30 LAY Melon
    2.10 Altior with a hares breath to place
    2.50 the Druids nephew e/w
    3.30 the new one to place
    4.10 limini and v.v.m dutched
    4.50 champers on ice to place
    5.30 stuck in a pin and got bun Doran
    Good luck to all and let’s bash those bookies!!!!!!

  4. bigvern63 says:

    Excellent read as always Matt, for what its worth, my selections below:
    1.30 Bunk Off Early
    2.50 Go Conquer
    3.30 Footpad
    4.10 Jer’s Girl
    4.50 Champers On Ice
    5.30 Itsafreebee

    and yes, Altior will win by a country mile!!

  5. Chud777 says:

    Great read as always Matt. I’m going for…
    1330 River Wylde 8-1
    1410 A Hare Breath (W/o Altior) 11-1
    1450 The Druids Nephew 10-1 and Ibis Du Rheu 12-1
    1530 Moon Racer 10-1
    1610 Lifeboat Mona 20-1
    1650 Beware The Bear 8-1
    1730 Foxtail Hill 10-1 and Two Taffs 10-1
    (Some prices are Ante Post)
    Best of luck!

  6. lanza says:

    Hi Matt, well done on the homework.

    My selections are:

    MELON 1.30 WIN
    ALTIOR 2.10 WIN
    HENRY PARRY MORGAN 2.50 E/W
    YANWORTH 3.30 WIN
    LIMINI 4.10 WIN
    TIGER ROLL 4.50 E/W
    ZAMDY MAN 5.30 E/W

    GOOD LUCK TO ALL.

  7. Dante501 says:

    Also please note that Ladbrokes are doing a special each day involving Mullins. If Mullins wins the Mares Hurdles then you can get up to £25 as a losing free bet.
    Every day they announce the race where this offer applies at 08:00am.
    C’mon Lifeboat Mona!!

  8. Ian says:

    Hi Matt, joined betvictor through your link this morning. (Bet £10 get £2 free bet on every race) Had £10 on the first race but not been able to use promo, tried contacting them. After waiting an hour for chat was cut off, (typical) tried email, phone etc. Can you help; cheers

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Ian

      I expect they’re super busy this morning. Also, and I’m not sure about this, it might be that the free bets are on settlement of the first (i.e qualifying) bet. You’d need to check the T’s and C’s for that.

      Hopefully they’ll get back to you soonest.

      Matt

  9. Chris Worrall says:

    For what it’s worth, I like Yanworth for the Champion Hurdle (3.30).

    Other than that, 4 big-priced E/W punts for a bit of fun…

    1.30 : Elgin @ 33/1
    2.50 : Theatre Guide @ 33/1
    4.10 : Ron’s Dream @ 80/1 (should one of the top 3 not fire)
    5.30 : Zamdy Man @ 25/1

    • Chris Worrall says:

      Well, that went well.

      I’ll stick to my Class 5/6 sand donkeys, I think.

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