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London Racing Club: Cheltenham Festival Preview Notes 2024

In front of a packed and enthralled gathering at the Kensington Holiday Inn last night, a panel comprised of some of the shrewdest judges in the racing game assemble to share their wisdom. They were Matt Tombs (MT), Festival stats man extraordinaire, Lydia Hislop (LH), multi-racing broadcaster of the year and presenter/writer of different versions of Road to Cheltenham, Paul Kealy (PK), Racing Post's best tipster, and Jamie Benson (JB), compere and representing the evening's sponsor, tote.co.uk.

Here's what they all had to say...

Tuesday / Day 1

Supreme

PK: Really like Firefox, especially if Ballyburn goes Baring Bingham or in the without market if that one runs here. Worries about the Henderson yard form put me off Jeriko de Reponet. [Of course, there's still time for that form to change]. Daryl Jacob is sweet on Mistergif at a bigger price.

LH: Tullyhill has jumping questions to answer but think he'll end up being the Willie Mullins #1 - this is his only entry. Firefox has a good chance, and think Jeriko might drift to the point where he's a backable price.

MT: Might play an outsiders on drying ground, Favour And Fortune. But really like Firefox and, if Ballyburn goes to the longer novice race, think he's one of the bets of the week.

JB: Mistergif a live outsider. Plenty of chat for him.

Arkle

MT: Don't fancy Facile Vega, or JPR One. Ought to like Il Etait Temps but he always seems like he's about to mess things up! Taking a punt on Hunters Yarn who looks a fast horse, and he's more likely to get away with a mistake at Cheltenham, where the fences are nowadays relatively easy. He just has lots of speed.

LH: Can see Found A Fifty being handy without leading, and performing much better as a consequence.

PK: Feel like Found A Fifty might want further. Think Hunters Yarn is the best horse in the race, he's top class, and is the most likely winner.

Champion Hurdle

PK: Very much like Irish Point as a horse though doubt he's quick enough to trouble State Man.

MT: Didn't think State Man could beat Constitution Hill, but he is a really top class horse in his own right and clear of the remainder of this field.

Mares Hurdle

LH: Will Lossiemouth stay 2m4f? It's not guaranteed. Marie's Rock, always thereabouts at this level, is a viable each way alternative.

PK: Agree about Marie's Rock, and Gala Marceau is interesting at a price if you can forgive the run last time.

MT: Don't think Lossiemouth will stay. She's a lay.

Rest of Day 1

LH: The Goffer has the right profile in the Ultima. Aye Right could be an outsider to note. In the Boodles, Roaring Legend will be a big price after his last time loss but he stays well and is tough. Batman Girac a very obvious alternative. In the National Hunt Chase, Salvador Ziggy has a great profile but did have a mishap in the American Grand National last time; been freshened up since then which could be the key.

MT: Like The Goffer in the Ultima, a top of the market race these days. Also like Salvador Ziggy in NH Chase with the same caveats as LH.

PK: City Chief in the Ultima but worried about stable form; The Goffer is better weighted than when fourth last year. In the Boodles, Gary Moore's Through The Ages, a half brother to Yibir, has class and could be better than we've seen. Broadway Boy is a good bet in the NH Chase, or so I thought - apparently he goes Brown Advisory. Can still be backed non-runner no bet (NRNB) for this NH Chase.

JB: Bright Legend in the Boodles represents the right connections (won with Band Of Outlaws) and exits "that" Naas race that has found the last five Boodles winners.

 

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Wednesday / Day 2

Gallagher (Baring Bingham)

PK: Ballyburn probably just wins if he runs here.

LH: Ballyburn likely wins in whichever race he shows up in. Predators Gold could be interesting at a price e/w but is a bit of a 'wise guy' horse.

MT: Second string Willie Mullins horse has never won this race or the Supreme. Handstands may be best of the British, trainer Ben Pauling apparently thinks he's better than Willoughby Court (former winner of this race).

Brown Advisory

PK: Broadway Boy form is very good, best of the UK contingent. Had a terrible scope after the Warwick race in which he flopped so that effort is excusable. Fact To File does look smart but Davy Russell thinks he may not stay this trip.

LH: Stay Away Fay could outstay them. He's a very likeable horse. Fact To File looks a brilliant horse but not sure this test plays to his strengths. Like Monty's Star but not his price. Feel like UK is stronger in this division than in many recent years.

MT: Want Fact To File to win, because he could be a good horse for the sport. But think he's probably running in the wrong race (the shorter Turners being a better option). Broadway Boy e/w NRNB a reasonable bet.

Champion Chase

MT: Don't want to oppose El Fabiolo who is short in the betting but not the wrong price. On drier ground, Captain Guinness could be ridden for a place at double figure odds. But think El Fabiolo is an amazing horse who will win easily.

LH: There's nothing to take on El Fabiolo though Edwardstone is a viable e/w bet in spite of the odd jumping liberty. Jonbon is a bit more careful at his fences but on soft ground might not be a play.

PK: Apparently they figured out how to ride Edwardstone last time... as a ten-year-old having his 28th career start! Don't really like backing 10yo+ in the Grade 1's. El Fabiolo is "a tank" and will be extremely hard to beat.

Rest of Day 2

MT: In the last five years, the top two in the Cross Country Chase market have finished first and second, and the third horse hasn't been within 20 lengths of the winner!

PK: In Coral Cup, Built By Ballymore will charge up the hill if the going is soft. Trainer Martin Brassil has saddled the runner in the race in the last two years. Ballyadam is interesting off a layoff in the same race. Love Libberty Hunter in the Grand Annual.

LH: Also like Libberty Hunter in the Grand Annual, and can see Saint Roi running well for all that his hold up run style is probably not ideal for the race. Davy Russell believes soft ground is against Galvin in the Cross Country Chase.

 

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Thursday / Day 3

Turners

LH: Ginny's Destiny may have been underestimated, think he'll run well. Gaelic Warrior is in danger of going the wrong way while Facile Vega has good Cheltenham form and enjoys soft ground. Want to see how the market evolves before having a bet.

MT: Connections might feel they have to ride Grey Dawning more aggressively. Gaelic Warrior might be a win only bet given his talent but also temperament. American Mike NRNB is reasonable too, though he may go to a different race.

PK: Ginny's Destiny might end up a value price on the day and could be a bet. Gaelic Warrior cannot go left-handed so against him. Iroko is a possible fly in the ointment: he's very talented but has been off a long time.

Ryanair

PK: Banbridge probably won't run/ surely can't win on soft. Can't have the 10yo Envoi Allen. Big field handicap form might be an angle which brings in Stage Star but Fugitif is big at 20/1 and also Protektorat at 14/1 is good value.

LH: Also likes Protektorat. Not sure how much pace there will be, so think Harry Cobden will be able to dictate on Stage Star. Can see the Fugitif argument, and Envoi Allen has proven Cheltenham form.

MT: Banbridge is the bet IF the ground dries out. At 25/1, Classic Getaway could be worth a try. Ran well early season and drop back in trip makes him interesting NRNB.

Stayers' Hurdle

PK: Teahupoo couldn't win last year so why bet him this? Crambo is progressive but he didn't beat Paisley Park and the old guard by much and PP is a bigger price. Flooring Porter would come into the reckoning if lining up here and, on very soft ground, Botox Has (40/1) would get a bet.

LH: Teahupoo is the young class and could easily win. Crambo up and coming, though Sire Du Berlais is perhaps not in the same form as he was when winning a year ago. He's 12 now. Quite strong on Teahupoo.

MT: Teahupoo is the one good horse in the line up. Not sure Crambo's form is at the same level. At big prices, might be worth a chance with Home By The Lee or even Good Time Jonny at 40/1: he's taking the same Pertemps to Stayers' route that Sire Du Berlais doubled up in last year.

Rest of Day 3

PK: White Rhino in the Pertemps and maybe Lord Snootie if getting a run. Farouk d'Alene would be interesting in that race, too, if getting a good claimer to take a few pounds off. In the Plate, Theatre Man is short enough but perfect for this.

LH: Letsbeclearaboutit in the Plate rates a bet. In the Mares' Novices' Hurdle, we're in for a treat between Brighterdaysahead and Jade de Grugy. The former looks the real deal. Dysart Enos will get weight from them as a non-winner over hurdles but Brighterdaysahead has very strong vibes in her corner.

MT: Not sold on Dysart Enos in the Mares' Nov Hurdle, don't the like softly softly approach ahead of a battle like this. In the Pertemps, Gabbys Cross has had a very smart prep and 12/1 is fair enough. Cool Survivor looks a great play in the Kim Muir.

JB: Will chance Apple Away in the Kim Muir.

 

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Friday / Day 4

Triumph

PK: Need to know how the Nicky Henderson form is before contemplating Sir Gino at odds on. He's looked great but that yard form is a real concern. Ethical Diamond is a very interesting Willie Mullins entry at 25/1 in a place.

LH: Ruby has mentioned Ethical Diamond a few times. Agree about the NJH form before considering Sir Gino, whose own form is excellent. Of the Irish, Nurburgring is vaguely attractive. Majborough is a very good looking horse and one for the future, but he might find the Triumph too much at this stage.

MT: Impressed with Sir Gino but feel he's sure to drift unless yard form turns around very soon. What Paul Townend rides for Willie Mullins will shape the rest of the market. Willie apparently said early season, "My Triumph winner got beat first time out", when talking about Ethical Diamond.

Albert Bartlett

MT: Nine of the last ten winners were double figure prices, this race being a totally different challenge to the small field bimbles most have entertained during the regular season. Like Johnnywho, but main advice is take a couple or three darts at appealing odds, win only.

LH: No strong opinion on this race, though feel Reading Tommy Wrong has a reasonable profile.

PK: "Johnnywho is the only one I've backed in the race"

Gold Cup

LH: Big Galopin Des Champs fan. It was a superb effort last year and, ridden positively, think he's the winner again. Things can go wrong with Shishkin (start, lazy mid-race), ground may be against Bravemansgame, while Fastorslow is a good horse but too short in the betting. Feel that Gerri Colombe is too slow away from his fences. For the frame, try L'Homme Presse - ignore the obvious prep over the wrong trip last time - or Corach Rambler - we don't yet know how good he is.

MT: As a racing fan, I hope Galopin Des Champs wins: he's the star turn and is a perfectly square bet at 6/4 on the exchange. But siding with Corach Rambler at the prices.

PK: Agree with Galopin Des Champs chat. Don't think the ground suits Bravemansgame, Shishkin and Gerri Colombe are the wrong price (not positively) and Corach Rambler is a very good horse.

JB: Could The Real Whacker be the forgotten horse? Not impossible in the 'without GdC' market.

Rest of Day 4

LH: Mares Chase is all about whether Dinoblue stays the trip. Allegorie de Vassy looks vulnerable, so if Dinoblue doesn't stay perhaps the Cromwell pair will emerge: Limerick Lace and/or Brides Hill. In the County Hurdle, Iberico Lord or Zenta - both JP horses - look a strong double act.

MT: The Betfair Hurdle form is red hot, so Iberico Lord could go in again in the County. Dinoblue looks good in the Mares Chase and think she will stay. In the Hunter Chase, hard to understand why Premier Magic isn't favourite. He is a very decent bet at 7/1.

PK: Maybe Lisnagar Fortune in the Martin Pipe.

 

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Charity Bets

LH: 50 e/w Letsbeclearaboutit - Plate, currently 10/1

PK: 50 e/w Libberty Hunter - Grand Annual, currently 10/1

MT: 50 e/w Gabbys Cross - Pertemps, currently 12/1 in a few places

JB: 50 e/w Bright Legend - Boodles, currently 33/1

Good luck!

Matt

 

London Racing Club Cheltenham Preview Notes

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the London Racing Club's Cheltenham Preview night. Always a considered evening, refreshingly bereft of "this is a certainty" and "will win" bluster, the panel comprised the notable nag noggins of Matt Tombs (MT), Lydia Hislop (LH), host Lee Mottershead (LM), and Unibet's Ed Nicholson (EN), who does a lot of media work with Nicky Henderson. Here's what they had to say...

Tuesday - Day 1

Supreme Novices' Hurdle

EN - Nicky is really very hopeful for Constitution Hill and favours him over Jonbon, but Ed prefers Jonbon's battle tested form to CH's bridle work.

LH - Would personally run Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore and the buzzy Dysart Dynamo in Supreme. Kilcruit could be a touch underestimated, while a strongly run race would suit Mighty Potter. Not betting until the final field is known.

MT - It should be a no brainer to split Sir G and DD as Lydia suggested. Constitution Hill not tested off the bridle, who knows if he'll find? Have some doubts about Kilcruit, who has perhaps had a physical issue. Feel Mighty Potter is over-priced based on the Grade 1 Christmas form beating Three Stripe Life. He could shorten between now and off time.

Arkle

LH - Edwardstone is a sold favourite but short enough at 2/1, though would be a bet if drifting as far as 3's. Great jumper. Saint Sam might finish in front from the trio out of the Irish Arkle. Haut En Couleurs retains 'could be anything' status.

MT - Might take a chance on HeC: in a race lacking obvious star potential, he has untapped upside.

EN - Bookies will probably want to try to lay Edwardstone.

Ultima Handicap Chase

MT - Oscar Elite should be on your shortlist.

Champion Hurdle

EN - Epatante has been hurdling really fluently in her schooling work and the Henderson team hope she can make the frame again.

MT - Honeysuckle about the right price. Too much made of her unremarkable but still clear cut win last time. Appreciate It has a mountain to climb trying to beat her first time out off a year's layoff.

LH - AI and Paul Townend should probably force matters and try to put Honey's jumping under pressure. Still think Honey will win, but struggling to find a betting angle into the race. Maybe if strongly run, Zanahiyr without the favourite is a play.

Mares' Hurdle

LH - Telmesomethinggirl the likeliest winner but short enough now. Queen's Brook could be a danger, and Burning Victory may be interesting at a price. Stormy Ireland is probably past her best now.

MT - Want to take Burning Victory on. She's been on the go for a long time.

EN - Marie's Rock has come back to form in her work and Nicky thinks she could be his best outsider of the week.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

EN - Champion Green and Brazil are both better value options than Gaelic Warrior and his mysterious handicap mark.

LH - Saint Segal looks like he has a lot of ability.

Wednesday - Day 2

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

MT - Sir Gerhard looks like he'll have too much toe for this field and could go off something like 4/6 in the end.

LH - Agree with Matt

EN - Agree, likely to shorten

Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (formerly RSA)

LH - Not sure Bravemansgame likes Cheltenham. Ahoy Senor could be a Gold Cup player next season but unconvinced about his chance on the tighter track in this novices' race. L'Homme Presse was previously going to the Turners but now heads here: he might just be the optimal runner in the field as he should stay the longer trip and might even improve for it - he's been hitting the line strongly in his races. Gaillard Du Mesnil might be a little value as a street fighting slugger, the sort that often fares well in this race.

EN - Also favours Ahoy Senor over BMG, reversing Kempton Grade 1 form.

MT - 22 Kauto Star/Feltham winners have been beaten in the RSA, no Kempton G1 winner has won RSA; beaten horses from that race have won RSA numerous times. If Ahoy Senor gets into a jumping rhythm he will be tough to beat but only if he jumps well enough. If Capodanno is declared he could be the danger.

Champion Chase

LH - Thought Energumene should have beaten Shishkin last time at Ascot where seemingly everything was in his favour. On Shishkin's home patch, the Arkle winner will be tough to beat. Not sure Chacun Pour Soi likes the track and worried that Willie Mullins says he has to train him at only 95%. Nube Negra each way or without the favourite is interesting because don't really like Energ or CPS and NN will finish strongly.

MT - Would rather back Energ at 7/2 than Shishkin at 8/11 but worried about him potentially jumping right at his fences.

EN - Nicky Henderson has won with all eight of his odds on shots at the Festival to date. Shishkin bids to extend that sequences.

Grand Annual Handicap Chase

LH - Coeur Sublime, if coming here rather than Arkle, has the right profile to be very competitive.

EN - Paul Nicholls very sweet on Thyme White, who he feels may appreciate the fast tempo to the race.

Coral Cup

MT - Saint Felicien is a Grade 1 horse in a handicap. Had a very similar prep to other Elliott handicap winners and was still in the Champion Hurdle until quite late in the day.

Champion Bumper

LH - "Not a race for me, because I just don't know enough about the runners"

MT - 12 of the last 13 times Willie has had multiple entries in the Bumper, the most fancied has failed to be the first Mullins horse home. Not a positive for Facile Vega.

Thursday - Day 3

Turners Novice Chase

LH - Could be a VERY small field. Not sure Bob Olinger has improved for the switch to fences, for all that he was a very high class hurdler; but feel Galopin Des Champs is a better horse for chasing. Henry de Bromhead horses are always well schooled but GdC looks "the real deal".

Ryanair Chase

LH - Eldorado Allen interesting against (or without) the favourite, Allaho. Shan Blue is a negative: think he wants a flat track.

MT - Mister Fisher, if he runs here, might be ridden to pick up the pieces.

EN - Not sure Mister F is running here.

Stayers' Hurdle

MT - The race is "a muddle". Might take a chance on Klassical Dream even after his Galmoy Hurdle clunk. Have also backed Royal Kahala, as believe the Galmoy form has been under-rated a touch. She's progressive while plenty in this field look regressive.

LH - Backed KD because, at his best, he's the best in the field. Might bomb out but if bringing his A game, he is the one. Also wouldn't underestimate Royal Kahala who receives a 7lb mares' allowance.

Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle

LM - Sire Du Berlais is my bet of the meeting. Has a good amateur jockey in Rob James, who will claim 7lb, and SdB is a proper Cheltenham Festival horse.

Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle

LH - Dinoblue the bet of the meeting after Willie decided to send her straight here following a single run and win. Strongly against Brandy Love who is an awful price. Party Central may be more of a danger.

Friday - Day 4

Gold Cup

LH - Wide open race. A Plus Tard is not getting away from his fences with any momentum whereas Minella Indo is made for this job. Respect Galvin who has a nice progressive second season chaser profile but is short enough. Don't think Protektorat is good enough. Would definitely be more interested in MI if Jack Kennedy gets reunited as he may force things from the front and draw out the horse's stamina.

MT - Feel like those to have run in previous Gold Cups don't have the progressive profile needed, while also think Galvin is short enough. Getting interested in Tornado Flyer given the possible steady pace.

EN - Chantry House has been a little hard done by. He is a pacey horse with an excellent win record including at the Festival last year. Granted, the Cotswold Chase is not a strong trial for Gold Cup generally.

Triumph Hurdle

MT - Trainer vibes vs form here: Willie is bullish about Vauban and Gordon about Fil Dor. But Pied Piper has the better form in my view. Spring Juvenile is the key trial though not necessarily the winner from that race. Pied Piper the play for me.

LH - Il Etait Temps must be highly regarded to have made his debut in the Spring Juvenile. Finished that race very strongly and could step forward notably from first to second run for the trainer (WPM). Willie is bullish about Vauban but I'm not so sure about that. IET a really good e/w bet in that he has strong place claims and could win.

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

MT - Like Hillcrest but want to bet a price in this race. Two of interest are Eric Bloodaxe, who bombed out last time but is a proper slogger, and Grand Jury who ran well over 2m4f and looks like he'll be suited to the longer trip. Win only at big prices.

LH - Against Matt's two! Love Hillcrest but kind of wish he was being saved for the Sefton at Aintree. Experience is a key requirement for the Albert Bartlett, and Stag Horn's flat catalogue as well as slick jumping and stamina make him of interest.

County Hurdle

MT - My Mate Mozzie could be another Group horse in a handicap. Crying out for a fast run, fast ground two miler.

Others

Gordon Elliott to be top trainer at 3/1 a great bet to keep the entertainment going for the week. Has bundles of entries and favoured horses in both conditions races and handicaps.

Good luck!

Matt