The tumbling Cheltenham odds, currently offered on a particular fallen French star, elicit only a Gallic shrug from Seymour Biz and he’s picked-out a couple of less-celebrated names that offer punters some real value.
Quel surprise! Douvan is risen from the grave. Here is a horse that last year had a skeletal injury and would never run on a racecourse again according to trainer Willie Mullins. Suddenly we see him quoted as low as 3/1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and 10/1 for the Ryanair Chase. I personally find all this quite incredible and will wait until I see Douvan back on a racecourse and having a prep run prior to any betting for Cheltenham. However if you believe he will be fit and well, Douvan at the top of his game is a great price at 3/1 for the Queen Mother which should be grabbed with both hands. Moving to the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle which I reviewed recently, Getabird has been slashed from 20/1 to 11/4 after her fourth consecutive victory when she trounced Mengli Khan who is now out to 12/1. Mullins also has my preference, Sharjah, declared for this race, whose price has been cut to 8/1 without a prep race, that will come in the near future and we will then have some idea if Mullins will put them head to head or find different races for them at the Festival. So I move on to a couple of races at Cheltenham and try and look for some value in the ante-post markets.
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Firstly, I will look at the race that is the toughest betting race to try and pick a winner, the County Hurdle. I was very impressed with Jenkins when winning comfortably at Ascot in the Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, following up from a victory at Kempton a week before. Trainer Nicky Henderson has put blinkers on the horse after disappointing defeats previously at Sandown and Cheltenham and they seem to have had a wonderful effect on Jenkins’ performance, so his price is now 12/1 for this prodigious prize. Olly Murphy’s Hunters Call is just behind in the betting unsurprisingly after his fine victory just before Christmas at Ascot, however it is his first win since November 2015. I also like the look of A Hare Breath, who won in early December for Ben Pauling, a very astute trainer, but he is now a ten year old and that puts me off slightly. Alan King’s Elgin was disappointing before Christmas having previously won at Cheltenham, but at 25/1 looks appetising. Besides Jenkins, Henderson also has Charli Parcs and Call Me Lord declared, the latter who won at Sandown especially looks a bold challenger. However Jenkins’ latest two victories give him the shout.
Tip: Jenkins 9/1 RaceBets (Non Runner No Bet) – 2 points each-way.
One of my favourite races at Cheltenham is the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase. The ‘Arkle’ run over two miles is a breathtaking spectacle where these top novices go hell for leather from the start. Previous winners include Sprinter Sacre, Moscow Flyer, Tidal Bay, Douvan and last years winner Altior, so it takes a top class animal to win this stellar prize and follow these heroes onto the roll of honour. On the back of his victories in Ireland and France, Footpad for Willie Mullins is 6/4 favourite, I see no value in this as he has never won on his forays this side of the Irish sea. Sceau Royal is second favourite and Alan King’s charge has some excellent form, I would however like to see him put in a prep race before Cheltenham so I can judge him on that, he is 5/1. For value I will look to Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados who has had two victories at Newbury since coming over from France. He is currently 16/1, a very nice price which could be a lot shorter if he goes on to win another prep race prior to the Festival. I think he is the value and a decent fancy against a 6/4 jolly.
Tip: Saint Calvados 25/1 RaceBets (Non Runner No Bet) – 1 point each-way.
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