VIDCAST: Early Cheltenham Festival Fancies

In this 48 minute video, myself and Cathryn Fry - ably compered by Alex Constantinou - offer some early thoughts on the four Cheltenham Festival Championship races.

We both like a 25/1 shot in one of them, though it's not the same 25/1 shot!

Also, we look a little closer into the future and the pick of the Christmas action, including the King George and Lexus Chases, the big novice chase from Leopardstown and their Grade 1 hurdle event.

See what you think...

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There's a long way to go until the Festivals in March and April, and things will change markedly as a result of what happens in the rest of this month, so you may (or may not!) want to take a flyer now.

[We'll aim to do a few more of these - with a few more panellists - as time goes by. That is, of course, if you like them!]

Matt

p.s. here are my notes, made before the vidcast:

KING GEORGE
Three miler needed, but maybe more speed than stamina. That being the case, Cue Card and Don Cassock look the pair to go with. (Not at all sure Vautour will stay. At the very least he has to prove it and looks the wrong price). Cue Card at 9/2 a bit of value but may need it soft. Don ground agnostic and worthy favourite. Saver material.

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RP NOV CHS
Douvan no sort of bet at 1/2 (Vautour stuffed at 1/4 for same connections last year). Winter ground and Wullie perhaps easing off them mid-season mean it might be worth having a cut at Sizing John at close to 5/1. He's a big improver for HdB, was only 7L behind Douvan twice over hurdles, and de Bromhead has a better record improving hurdlers into chasers than Mullins... than pretty much everyone (see Tony Keenan's post on geegeez).

Kitten Rock also progressive on soft ground, though has to show he's as good over fences as he was over hurdles. Ttebbob another progressive sort. I'd almost be happy to bet 6/4 the field against Douvan. Have backed Sizing John to win any Festival race at 10's, so hope he wins.

LEXUS CHASE
Sure to shake up the Gold Cup market, a cracking race is in prospect.
Don Poli is 5/2 with Ladbrokes and only 13/8 with Paddy. If the latter is too short the former may be too big for those wanting to bet ahead of time. But with Djakadam and Coneygree, 1st and 2nd in the Gold Cup in March, in opposition, the RSA winner has his work cut out.

Looks a fantastic race to watch and not one on which I'm inclined to wager.

RYANAIR HURDLE
With Nichols Canyon, Arctic Fire, Identity Thief, MTOY, and Windsor Park all quoted, this will be some race if most line up.
Assuming the ground is on the soft side - the forecast suggests it could be heavy - Windsor Park could be a bit of a bargain against the top of the market. He's a win machine who seems to act on any surface.
Wicklow Brave was pretty disappointing last time but he goes in deep ground and 20/1 e/w might not be an awful bet. I have no idea what runs here though and couldn't suggest a bet until the decs are in.

CHELTENHAM NOTES
Only Annie Power's last flight fall saved the bookies from a Mullins bashing last season.
Wullie has 7 of the first 8 non-handicap a/p favourites across days 1 and 2.
He's just 9/61 in non-handicaps at Festival in last 2 seasons - 15% SR, -55% ROI
6/1 or shorter: 9/21, 43% SR, 3-% ROI
Sustainable? Not in my view. Bookies will be even tighter about WPM runners, esp. at top of market.
Winners are pretty much assured, but the value has to be elsewhere.

Champion Hurdle
Faugheen looked to be at the end of his rope last year and, while Nichols Canyon (5x G1 winner) advertised claims by beating him the other day, Arctic Fire is quite appealing e/w 8/1 NRNB
Identity Thief - Henry de Bromhead's improver won Fighting Fifth, needs to jump better but big engine and improving fast. 25/1 NRNB with Skybet a very attractive e/w play

Champion Chase
Sprinter Sacre looked back to somewhere within a stone of his best at Chelters in November. UDS has to improve and a lot of improvement is factored into a quote of 6/4. Special Tiara same rating 168 as UDS, though less improvement. 3rd in the race last year, looks to be a stride better now. Solid option at 16/1 NRNB.

World Hurdle
Impossible race, as 9/1 the field demonstrates. You don't have to have a bet now. So don't!

Gold Cup
Coneygree impressive last year but hard to keep right apparently.
Not sure Don Cossack has the stamina for this, Ryanair a better though less glamorous option.
Djakadam high class and will stay, more mature this time around.
But RSA winner, Don Poli, a very strong stayer on an upward curve. OTT when beaten at Punchestown. Aside from that, he's unbeaten over fences. 7/1 NRNB
Cue Card was impressive in the Betfair but will be 10 next March. Hard to see him winning.
Would want to see Smad Place replicate his Hennessy effort and happy to take shorter if he can.
As a complete rag for £1 e/w Wounded Warrior could go well IF it came up soft. Very strong stayer who must have mud, and only beaten 7L (3rd) in the RSA. 50/1 NRNB - he probably won't run if it's good ground.

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