This article was first published, just after Christmas. Many important pointer races have taken place since then and Seymour Biz has updated his ante-post selections for the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.
I have made a very short resume of each and every race over the four days and followed this up with a value bet on the ante-post market. All prices were available with Bet365, at the time of publication.
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Supreme Novices Hurdle
On Tuesday the first race on the card is always a tough nut to crack, but the facts are it is usually won by a really classy individual. Last years winner was Summerville Boy and he has gone on to good things. Previous winners include Altior and Douvan and while I’m not sure there’s anything of that class there are still some exciting entries. Angels Breath was highly fancied but blotted his copybook at Kempton in the Dovecote. Al Dancer is the currrent bookies choice but I was impressed with Mister Fisher when he won at Kempton on Boxing Day, so he is the selection.
MISTER FISHER 12/1
This two mile Novices Chase is for me one of the highlights of the meeting, young horses slugging it out up the Cheltenham hill. Last year it was Footpad who claimed the honours, but in recent years both Altior and Douvan have won this. I am not sure about Lalor who blows hot and cold. The highly rated Kalashnikov has fallen out of favour after his latest defeat. Le Richebourg has shot into contention after two Grade 1 wins at Leopardstown but I like the look of Paloma Blue after his win at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
PALOMA BLUE 12/1
Ultima Festival Trophy
Give Me A Copper, Alpha Des Obeaux and Janika are all fancied for this Grade 3 contest over three miles. But last year’s winner, Coo Star Sivola, looks like he has a very good chance. He had a run at Cheltenham in December but after making a mistake at the unlucky 13th he was not given a hard race and finished seventh. He can take this contest at a big price. His price has halved since originally being tipped.
COO STAR SIVOLA. 16/1
The Blue Riband of hurdling is one of the highlights of the festival and this year all eyes will be on Buveur D’Air as he goes for a hat-trick in this contest. But he fluffed his lines at Kempton on Boxing Day going down to Verdana Blue. I am sure Nicky Henderson’s team will be working with him to get him back to winning ways. There are plenty of good horses waiting in the wings ready to take his crown including Samcro, Laurina and especially Apples Jade. The latter has recently taken the Irish Champion Hurdle and is their great hope. But some of the challengers have had problems in their build up and a case can be made against each and everyone. Verdana Blue has proved himself and can continue his winning ways.
VERDANA BLUE. 8/1
Apples Jade is a ridiculously short price for this two and a half mile contest even though she won it last year. Laurina is her nearest challenger in the betting but Willie Mullins’s charge needs soft ground but has shown her mettle with two good wins in Ireland this year. Benie Des Dieux has come into contention with three wins in 2019 including one at Cheltenham in a Trial for this. Finding value in the race is difficult so I wil go with this Mullins horse
BENIE DES DIEUX 6/4
National Hunt Chase
This is a gruelling four mile Grade 2 chase for novices. It was won by Tiger Roll back in 2017, so we are looking at potential Grand National horse. Ok Corral and Chef Des Obeaux are entered but I like the look of Ballyward. Ruby Walsh rode him to victory at Naas in January and he looks a big strong animal who is well suited to this marathon. But I am going with a massive outsider Atlanta Ablaze from Henry Daly’s stable who won recently at Wincanton.
ATLANTA ABLAZE 33/1
Centenary Novices Handicap Chase
A two and a half mile contest that is now sponsored by Close Brothers was won last year by Mister Whitaker. This year’s list of entries includes Doc De Genievres and Clondaw Castle but the stand-out horse for me for value is Roaring Bull. Gordon Elliot’s charge was speedy over hurdles as a novice and he has won twice this year over fences, he is my idea of the winner.
ROARING BULL 14/1
Ballymore Novices Hurdle
This was won last year by Samcro and is always targeted by Irish trainers, but this year’s favourite is under the stewardship of Nicky Henderson, simply called Champ. He is favourite on the back of a win at Newbury in December, his only run this season. Olly Murphy has a lively contender in Brewin’Upastorm who won well in December at Huntingdon, but then fell last time at Cheltenham however he can bounce back from that setback to take this.
This three and a half mile novice Chase is one of the highlights of the day, it was won by Might Bite in 2017 and Presenting Percy last year. Nicky Henderson’s Santini heads the betting, but he came unstuck at Kempton on Boxing Day finishing only third in a race won by La Bague Au Roi. Second that day was Topofthegame and I think he can reverse places with the winner here. But that may not be enough, Black Op is waiting in the wings and if he gets the going he wants he can take this.
BLACK OP 16/1
This Grade 3 handicap chase always cuts up very badly and you can never be sure which horses trainers will throw at it. Looking at the betting now, the one with a decent chance looks to be The Storyteller. Gordon Elliot’s charge won well at Punchestown last April, but has not done so well since. His defeat at Leopardstown he over Christmas was particularly disappointing, he didn’t bounce back in February at the same course. Off You Go has been backed after his win at Leopardstown in early February, he followed that with a second to Tiger Roll in a classy contest.
OFF YOU GO 8/1
The Champion Chase
What can you say, last year’s winner, Altior, has done absolutely nothing wrong this year and is odds-on to take this. He really is a superstar and his name will go down in the annals of horseracing history. If you want to look at a decent priced outsider to back each-way, try Simply Ned, from Nicky Richards’s stable. He beat Footpad at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting and has beaten Min in the past so may be worth a bet at 25/1
Cross Country Chase
This is the race when I head to the bar, I really have no interest in it whatsoever. But as the bookies price it up I will look at the contenders. It was won last year by Grand National hero Tiger Roll, he is a short priced favourite for this year’s contest. The race used to be a handicap but is now a conditions race and that will suit 2017 winner Josie’s Orders. Auvergnat has been backed after winning at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and he looks to have a shout.
JOSIE’S ORDERS. 10/1
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
A very difficult race to judge as trainers are assessing their horses chances whether to go for this handicap or take their chances in the Triumph Hurdle. Joseph Patrick O’ Brian has a couple to choose from and the favourite for this contest comes from his yard, Band Of Outlaws, who has won his last two including a fine win at Limerick over Christmas. But will he now go for the Triumph, who knows? He also has Gardens Of Babylon who ran second to Sir Erec last time at Leopardstown. He won’t face anything of that calibre here and he is my preference.
GARDENS OF BABYLON 8/1
This Grade 1 two mile NH flat race was won last year by Relegate and Willie Mullins will be targeting it again this year with Blue Sari but Gordon Elliot seems to have the drop on him with two fine horses in Envoi Allen and Fury Road. But I am looking at a UK victory here with Alan King’s The Glancing Queen. The filly was a course and distance winner in November before going down narrowly at Ascot the following month on ground that didn’t really suit.
THE GLANCING QUEEN. 16/1
JLT Novices Chase
This is a race won by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot over the last four years and they will both have strong hands for this year’s contest. One horse I think will be aimed here is Defi Du Seuil, Phillip Hobbs has bounced back after last seasons problems and can take this with him. Lostintranslation is fancied but he has gone down twice to the Hobbs hot-pot this year. Top Of The Game from Paul Nicholls stable has not been out since Christmas when he ran second to La Bague Au Roi but is quietly fancied in some quarters.
DEFI DU SEUIL. 7/2
Pertemps Networks Final Handicap Hurdle
This is a Grade 3 three mile handicap hurdle which has eight qualifying races held at various courses. The jockey Davy Russell has ridden the last three winners. Cuneo looks in good form for Henry De Bromhead after his win at Leopardstown over Christmas. He was beaten there recently but was only 3 lengths behind the winner and was giving away weight. Sire Du Berlais is the Irish fancy but he has not won since 2016. But I like the look of Theclockisticking from Stuart Edmunds’s yard, he has recently won at Fakenham and ran well here in October behind The Miighty Don, he can improve on that performance.
One of the most prestigious races at the festival and is always targeted by the top trainers. There is a school of thought that Altior could have run here as a stepping stone to a Gold Cup tilt next year. But Henderson is stating it won’t be this year. Waiting Patiently has had a perfect year winning six races, but he was unfortunately hampered in the King George and unseated his rider. He then went down to the new kid on the block, Cyrname, in the Ascot Cup.He deserves to win a big race and I think he can reverse that result. Politologue was disappointing in the King George and the Ascot Chase and has lost his early season form. Thistlecrack always seem to find one too good now. Min has been winning over in Ireland including the Dublin Chase and has claims. Ruth Jefferson says she will take her time before making plans for Waiting Patiently, I think the Ryanair will be his target.
WAITING PATIENTLY. 8/1
Apples Jade is the current third favourite for this with last year’s winner Penhill as second favourite, but these two represent no value for this three mile contest. This race looks to be Samcro’s target but I fear he may be unsuccessful. Because the horse I like the look of for this race is Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park who has won all four of his contests this season . He won at Aintree in October, went on to to win the Stayers Handicap at Haydock and followed that up with the Long Walk at Ascot. Then he came here to Cheltenham and romped away with the Cleeve Hurdle. He is an improving individual who is capable of winning this, but his price has plummeted since I first tipped him.
PAISLEY PARK 2/1
Brown Advisory Plate
This is a 2 miles 5 furlongs handicap chase that used to be called the Mildmay of Flete. It is a race that always cuts up very badly with lots of runners declared that usually have preferences elsewhere. There is one interesting individual that seems to be making a stand and that is Janika. He was second here in January to Sirah Du Lac going down by a head. The pair are vying for favouritism for this race and I think Janika can reverse the placings. Walt who won a handicap cahase at Kempton recently has run into a rich vein of form and is a contender. There is a lively outsider in Brother Tedd who ran a good second at Ludlow recently giving away lumps of weight, he can go well at a big price.
BROTHER TEDD 25/1
Mares Novice Hurdle
Willie Mullins is aiming Relegate at this contest and I have no hesitation in nominating her for it. She won the Bumper last year here in some style and appears to have trained on. She will be up up against some very smart fillies who are also declared for this and the include the successful Posh Trish, Honeysuckle and Lust For Glory. Also a hot favourite has emerged in the form of Epatante, Nicky Henderson’s mare has won her last four, the latest at Exeter where she romped home. But I take Mullin’s charge to scoop the honours.
The Kim Muir Challenge Cup
This is a 3 mile 2 furlongs handicap chase for amateur riders and the 19 fences can prove quite a challenge. The Young Master from Neil Mulholland’s yard looks a stand-out contender to me. He does need good going and has won two from three this season, pulling up on his other start on soft. He usually has top amateur Mr S Waley-Cohen on his back giving him a great advantage in a race of this nature. Top Irish challenger is Any Second Now trained by T M Walsh, he was third in a Grade 2 at Navan on his latest outing and is to be respected.
THE YOUNG MASTER. 12/1
This is the major race for 4-year-olds and many trainers will have had their eye on it since the start of the season. It is a Grade 1 Hurdle run over 2 miles 1 furlong and this year’s favourite looks to be Sir Erec, one of the shortest priced favourites in the races history. He is trained by Joseph O’Brien and has won his both of his hurdle races which were run at Leopardstown. Prior to that he had an impressive flat career. Fusil Raffles has come into contention after his fine victory at Kempton recently in the Adonis, however he struck into himself that day and that’s a worry. I like the look of Paul Nicholls’s Quel Destin who has done all that has been asked of him winning his last five races, the latest at Haydock in the Victor Ludorum. Another Irish contender is Tiger Tap Tap, who is trained by Willie Mullins, but he has gone down twice to Sir Erec. The first defeat was by only a neck at Christmas and he can put in a good run.
QUEL DESTIN 8/1
This is a Grade 3 handiap over 2 miles 1 furlong , it is always a very open race and looking at this year’s betting 2019 will be no exception. However one of my Ten To Follow Hurdlers is in the mix and that Alan King’s Lisp. He ran disappointingly last time out at Ascot but that was after a two month break. Grand Sancy won well at Wincanton beating Sceau Royal in the Kingwell. New on the scene is another Paul Nicholls horse, Southfield Stone,who won the Dovecote at Kempton recently beating the highly rated Angels Breath. But l will side with Lisp to take this contest at a nice price.
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
This is a Grade 1 three mile race which is always considered a very prestigious contest. Gordon Elliot has high hopes with Commander Of Fleet, this gelding won his first three races but then tailed in last of four in December at Fairyhouse. He bounced back from that setback to go to Leopardstown in February and beat a good field that included Relegate from Willie Mullins’s yard. Elliot also has Battleoverdoyen entered who is an unbeaten gelding. His latest win was at Naas in January where he saw off several good contenders including Getareason, Come To Me and Tornado Flyer. Among the British challengers is Linagar Oscar from Rebecca Curtis’s stable. He recently thrashed a top class field at Haydock and should go well but Commander Of Fleet will be a tough nut to crack.
COMMANDER OF FLEET 6/1
The Gold Cup
One of the most intriguing renewals of the blue riband contest for many a year. Can Nicky Henderson get Might Bite back to his winning ways? He has been really disappointing in his efforts this year. Clan Des Obeaux has burst onto the scene with his win in the King George, can he carry on the good work? Trainer Paul Nicholls thinks so but he has never won at Cheltenham in four attempts. The main Irish challenger is the Willie Mullins trained Kemboy after his two fine recent wins but he flopped in the JLT here last year. Presenting Percy has moved to the top of the betting after winning the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowan Park in January. He knows his way round here after winning the RSA at last year’s festival. So we come to last year’s hero, Native River, trainer Colin Tizzard is reportedly very happy with his preparation. His third in the King George was put down to him jumping slightly left on the right handed track, he will be better round here.
NATIVE RIVER. 9/2
The Foxhunters Chase
This is the Gold Cup for amateur riders, it is run over the same course and distance as the big race. The winner on the last two occasions has been Pacha Du Polder but he is now a 12-year-old and it’s a big ask for him to come out and do it again. Gilgamboa is the up there with the favourites and he brings some good form from last season but he has not run since last February. Currently top of the betting is Stand Up And Fightand Enda Bolger’s young gelding has been running well in point-to-points, he also won a hunter chase at Down Royal. Ucello Conti got to four out in last year’s Grand National and has won three times since in Ireland. But I will side with a British trained entry, Shantou Flyer, from Richard Hobson’s small yard. He has won his last two hunter chases, the latest at Fontwell by 35 lengths,he can go well here.
SHANTOU FLYER 12/1
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
This is a race that can cut up badly. Pym is a declared runner from Nicky Henderson’s yard, he has fine form this year with two wins and two seconds. His latest run was a fine victory at Kempton in January beating The Cashel Man. But the current bookies choice, and I see no reason to go against them, is Gordon Elliot’s Dallas De Pictons. A winner of both his races in 2019 at Leopardstown and Punchestown and if he can bring that form across the water he should take this.
DALLAS DE PICTONS 6/1
Grand Annual Chase
The final race of the four day festival meeting is always difficult to predict and there have been some big priced winners over the years. It is a Grade 3 two and a half mile handicap and Magic Saint trained by Paul Nicholls is one of the current favourites. He won last time out at Wincanton beating Ginos Trail comfortably. Mengli Khan looks the main Irish hope, he was third here last year in the Supreme Novices but has not shown that form this year. Le Prezien looks a interesting, he won this last year and has had this as his target ever since. His latest run at Sandown was poor but I feel he will bounce back from that and go for his third victory at Cheltenham.
LE PREZIEN 14/1