The 2018 Cheltenham Festival has finally arrived and Seymour Biz expects the Saint to go marching in, for Harry Whittington in the Arkle.
This is the week when all roads lead to Gloucestershire and in that amphitheater in the shadow of Cleeve Hill heroes will be crowned and probably one or two high fliers will be shot down. We can expect certainties and shocks and with that in mind over the last nine weeks I have tried to summarise the main races and look for value amongst the runners. Below I’ve laid out my selections and where my original horse has been withdrawn for one reason or another I have selected a substitute. So with all that in mind let’s hope we can find some good priced winners and send the bookies home with empty satchels! On Tuesday the famous Cheltenham Roar will herald the start of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle in which Getabird is a hot favourite. This lightly raced gelding has won his four races under rules and been well placed by Willie Mullins, however two of those races had six or fewer runners and he has never faced more than twelve, add to that he has never crossed the water, he is going to find a big difference in the hurly-burly of Cheltenham against a higher class of horse than he has ever faced before. I have liked the look of another of Mullins runners for some time, Sharjah won a nineteen runner event in September, then beat a small field in November. After that he fell at the last when looking all over the winner against Whiskey Sour at Leopardstown in December, lately his loss to Samcro was too bad to be true, but he won’t be facing that rival here. He will appreciate the better ground along with Paloma Blue,who ran third in the Samcro race, and can go well here. In the Racing Post Arkle Trophy, Mullins has another hot-pot with Footpad now Sceau Royal has been withdrawn. He has won his three chases and has the benefit of a run at Cheltenham in last years Champion Hurdle where he was fourth, but I particularly like Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, who has also won his last three chases. His last victory in the Kingmaker at Warwick was particularly impressive, his jumping was excellent that day and he has the ability to see off Mullins’ strong string. The Ultima Handicap Chase is a tough race to win, with 20 plus runners a horse needs to be very brave, Gold Present is at the top of the betting and he has proved himself worthy of that position after his wins at Ascot and Newbury, seeing off several of the rivals he will face here. Coo Star Sivola is worth a mention after a fine victory at Exeter, but I don’t think he will trouble the selection. Then we come to the Unibet Champion Hurdle, and what can you say, Buveur d’Air is back to reclaim his crown. This imperious horse has had three easy wins this year in preparation for this race and he stands head and shoulders above the opposition, his price reflects this so just watch a great champion in action.
Tuesday Lucky 15 Tips
Supreme Novices – Sharjah
Arkle – Saint Calvados
Ultima – Gold Present
Champion Hurdle – Buveur d’Air
Wednesday starts with the Ballymore Novices Hurdle and again we have another Irish hot-pot, this time its Gordon Elliott’s Samcro, he has vanquished all his opponents over in Ireland but is he good enough for this? Time will tell, and I shall oppose him with Black Op, I was particularly taken with the way he won at Doncaster in January, subsequently he was defeated in a hard fought contest by Santini here at Cheltenham but he showed great fight that day and if repeating it will give the favourite a race. After that is the RSA Chase and we have a strong favourite in Presenting Percy who has got that rating after being runner up to Our Duke at Gowan Park, I am not sure that is great form. The story of the race is Black Corton and Bryony Frost who have both come on leaps and bounds, they have been a revelation this season and it will lift the roof off the main stand if she can guide him to victory. However I’m looking at Invitation Only to spoil the party, he had two fine wins before coming up against Monalee and being beaten a length into third, he will appreciate better going. The Coral Cup has cut up this year and the winner usually comes from the first four or five in the betting, fourth in the betting is Le Breuil who has come into the handicap off a nice weight of 10-10. He has been kept for this race by Ben Pauling since he ran second to Black Ivory at Aintree in December. I don’t think those at the top of the handicap, Bleu Et Rouge and William Henry, are good enough to carry 11-11 and 11-8 respectively, they are well exposed. In the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, hopefully we will see another great champion romp to victory. Even though he has only had one run this season, and that was a facile win at Newbury in February beating Politologue doing handstands, Nicky Henderson says he is fully fit and ready to take this, he looks every inch a champion. Willie Mullins has six declarations for this race and there may be some tactics to rough up Altior a bit, but among them Douvan, if he turns up, is a spent force, horses don’t come back from skeletal injuries. Out of the other five,three are only seven year olds and perhaps the best of these is Min, I feel his time is yet to come. Un De Sceaux, like Special Tiara are getting a bit long in the tooth, Yorkhill, who has won the Neptune and the JLT round here, has had a poor season, but Mullins could have trained him to the minute, he would have needed to, to beat Altior.
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Wednesday Lucky 15 Tips
Ballymore – Black Op
RSA – Invitation Only
Coral Cup – Le Breuil
Queen Mother – Altior
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