The first daffs will soon be out in the hedgerows and that means it’s time for Seymour Biz to cast his beady eye over the current Cheltenham ante-post betting markets! All prices are with Bet365, except where stated. Here are his thoughts, along with the top value bet in each race. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
TUESDAY MARCH 10th
Supreme Novices Hurdle
As always the first race on the first day is the Supreme Novices, a race that is targeted by all the top trainers and 2020 is no exception. The start is always greeted by the Cheltenham roar as the horses head out over the 2m hurdle course and the Irish contingent will be hoping for a good start as usual. One of their main hopes will be Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras who won at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting and the same trainer also has Envoi Allen who beat his stablemate at Fairyhouse at the beginning of December. Willie Mullins has won this race on six occasions and his best chance this time around is Blue Sari after he ran second in last year’s Bumper, but he ran a shocker on his reappearance at Christmas finishing last of four. Nicky Henderson has Chantry House in the lineup, a winner of both his races to date latterly at Cheltenham in December where he won readily. Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof has jumped into the betting after winning the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown very easily in early January.
Chantry House 12/1
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This 2m novice Chase has been won by Willie Mullins on four of the last five occasions and he has a very strong hand for this year’s encounter. Melon looks to be one his main contenders after his victory at Leopardstown at the Christmas meeting where he jumped fluently. Another of his hot-pots is the mare Laurina who won at Gowan Park in November but she was pulled up on her latest outing at Leopardstown where she didn’t jump fluently. Joseph O’Brien has one of the favourites with Fakir D’Oudairies but he blotted his copybook on Boxing Day at Leopardstown where he could only finish second to Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook. He has won his last three races and has gradually moved up the rankings. Olly Murphy’s Brewin’upastorm has won his last two, the latest at Taunton in November and could maybe surprise the Irish contingent.
Ultima Festival Trophy Handicap Chase
Run over 3m 1f this race can be a pre-cursor to the Grand National but not always in the same year. Last year’s winner was Beware The Bear and he is once again in the lineup for trainer Nicky Henderson. He ran poorly on his latest outing at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day but will be fitter come March. Glenloe from Gordon Elliott’s yard looks to have this race as his target, he was fourth last time on heavy ground at Limerick and should improve as the going gets better. De Rasher Counter has been lightly raced by trainer Emma Lavelle, his latest victory at Newbury was gained at the expense of some very good horses giving the trainer the opportunity to send one of her stable stars here.
De Rasher Counter 25/1 (Hills)
One of the blue riband races of the festival is the most open for years and because of that trainers may enter their best novices and mares and re-route them to this contest. Current favourite is Nicky Henderson’s classy mare Epatante who after four victories last year came to last year’s festival to run in the Dawn Run Novices Mares Hurdle, she flopped that day but has come back bigger and better winning both her starts this year latterly the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Willie Mullins has Saldier in the lineup, he fell first time out this year but then made up for that by winning at Punchestown in November. The trainer also has Sharjah declared, he was very unluckily brought down in this race last year at the third hurdle and with a clear round can put up a better show. Gordon Elliott’s novice Envoi Allen has a chance after his two wins over hurdles this season, the latest Grade 1 novice hurdle at Fairyhouse. Pentland Hills is another Henderson entrant but he was unimpressive on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham in December and would need to improve drastically on that form. Another Irish raider is Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle, this mare is unbeaten in six outings with the latest being a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse.
The Mares Hurdle
The Mares Hurdle follows the big race and it could well cut up due to entries for the Champion. The current favourites are Honeysuckle and Benie Des Dieux with Epatante just behind those two in the betting. Apples Jade looks to resume her winning ways for Gordon Elliott. She had not tasted victory since being a beaten favourite in the Champion Hurdle last year but she came out at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and won well. Many say she should have gone for this race last year and that certainly looks to be her route this time. Laurina has been sent chasing by trainer Willie Mullins but after meeting with success at at Gowan Park she was pulled up in her latest contest at Leopardstown, so may well revert to hurdling.
Apples Jade 5/1
Close Bros Novices Handicap Chase
This is a race that can cut up badly and that is shown by the current favourite being 16/1 on Oddschecker. That horse is Beakstown trained by Dan Skelton who has been running reasonably well in novice chases but has not won since January. Simply The Betts put up a good performance when second in a handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day after winning twice previously for trainer Harry Whittington. Jeremy Scott’s Dashel Drasher won a small race at Haydock in early December and has some excellent form prior to that.
Dashel Drasher 20/1(Oddschecker)
National Hunt Chase
This is a four mile chase for amateur riders about which there was some controversy last year as there were only four finishers in a gruelling contest. It is a race that can cut up badly but this year’s current favourite is Champagne Classic from Gordon Elliott’s yard, he also has Battleofdoyen declared. Willie Mullins has Carefully Selected and Faugheen and the latter looks to me to be the classiest of the pair.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 11th
Ballymore Novices Hurdle
Ireland’s top novice hurdler is the favourite here, Envoi Allen trained by Gordon Elliott has carried all before him this season. He won four NH Flat races last season and has returned to the fray by winning three novice hurdles on the Emerald Isle. His latest victory was at Naas where he beat a strong field. Thyme Hill looks the best of the British challengers, Phillip Hobbs has won three hurdle races with him this season including the Challow. Chantry House has won his only hurdle race to date for Nicky Henderson and that was here at Cheltenham in December. Elliott has another in with a chance and that is Andy Dufresne, he was unable to cope with the heavy ground at Navan last time after winning at the course previously.
Envoi Allen 11/8
RSA Novices Chase
This race has been targeted for some time by Champ from Nicky Henderson’s yard. He was second in the Ballymore last year but then went to Aintree and won the novice hurdle . This season he won two chases in November, both at Newbury, before coming to Cheltenham for the Dipper Chase on New Years Day. He unfortunately fell two out with the race at his mercy, he had made mistakes during the race and his jumping is a worry. Minella Indo trained by Henry de Bromhead won the Albert Bartlett at last year’s festival at a massive price and since then has won a novice hurdle at Punchestown. He started his chasing career at Gowan Park and was beaten by Laurina but was well clear of the third placed horse. Slate House has been a revelation this year for Colin Tizzard winning three of his four races including the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day and he looks to have put his wilderness days behind him.
Slate House 8/1
The Coral Cup
This handicap hurdle is always a very open contest and can usually throw up a big priced winner judged on past results. Nicky Henderson has The Cashel Man declared, he won at Newbury in November then ran a fine second in the Challow Hurdle at the same course. Protectorate trained by Dan Skelton has been runner-up on all three of his runs this season and deserves his place here. Willie Mullins puts Whiskey Sour in the mix, he has not run since last season but was a good fourth in the County Hurdle here last year and may well improve on that run.
Whiskey Sour 25/1
Queen Mother Champion Chase
This race is only about one horse, the great Altior. After being unbeaten in nineteen starts he finally had his colours lowered by Cyrname at Ascot in November. He has won this race on the last two occasions and it is the only race at the festival trainer Nicky Henderson has him declared for however he is now a 10-year-old and younger horses will be snapping at his heels, but he is a definite star at around two miles. Defi Du Seuil is one of the youngsters and Phillip Hobbs’s gelding has two victories under his belt this year including the Tingle Creek at Sandown. Could he be the one to dethrone the champion? Cyrname has beaten Altior over a longer distance but Paul Nicholls may send his star for the Gold Cup. Douvan looks interesting and won in November after an 19 month break. He ran with enthusiasm that day and could well put in a good performance but will he be back to his best? Another Mullins star is Un De Sceaux who was second in last year’s Ryanair, he went on from that to win the Champion Chase at Punchestown. He has had a run this season at Sandown finishing second in the Tingle Creek he may go well as a veteran but I side with Altior to take the crown for the third time.
The Cross Country Steeple Chase
Not my favourite race at the festival, it looks once again a shoe-in for Tiger Roll to enhance his reputation on the way to his attempt to win a third Grand National. David Cottin, the French trainer won the Cross Country in December with Easysland and will return to try and win this.
Tiger Roll 5/4
Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
This race for 4-year-olds can cut up very badly in the months preceding it. Current horses being mentioned as going to post for this race include Gary Moore’s Botox Has who won a Triumph Trial here at Cheltenham in December. Wolf Prince is another Irish raider trained by Gavin Cromwell who won at Fairyhouse in December and went on from that victory to run a fine second at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. Paul Nicholls’s Sir Psycho won on New Years Day at Exeter and could be the right sort of horse for this race.
Sir Psycho 16/1
Looking at the up and coming horses to take this the Irish raiders seem to take predominance. Gordon Elliott has won two of the last three runnings and Willie Mullins three out of the last eight. Wide Receiver is one of Elliott’s fancies and Appreciate It runs for Mullins. Eric Bloodaxe is another Irish raider trained by Joseph O’Brien, he is unbeaten after two starts. A British fancy is David Pipe’s Israel Champ and he is another who has won his last two outings, both Listed races, the latest one being at Ascot in December. Perhaps he can dent the stranglehold the Irish have on the race.
Israel Champ 10/1
THURSDAY MARCH 12th
Marsh Novices Chase
This race looks to be about Faugheen. This great hurdler trained by Willie Mullins ran third in last year’s Stayers Hurdle then was pulled up in the Aintree Hurdle. Now as a 12-year-old Mullins has embarked him on a chasing career and he has been successful in his first two novice chases and he has been put up as favourite for this. He beat Gordon Elliott’s Samcro last time out at Limerick and would be expected to do the same again. Slate House from Colin Tizzard’s yard has won three out of four this season including the Kauto Star on Boxing Day. Other Irish raiders are Melon and Laurina, both from the Mullins stable and either should be respected if they run. Another Tizzard fancy is Reserve Tank who won at Wincanton in November and looks ideally suited for this.
Reserve Tank 10/1
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final
The Storyteller from Gordon Elliott’s stable is high up in the betting for this after winning at Clonmel at the beginning of December but he blotted his copybook by running poorly at the end of the month. Olly Murphy’s Skandiberg has won his last two latterly here at Cheltenham on New Years Day. Sire Du Berlais has been disappointing this season for Gordon Elliott after winning this contest last year. Another who has been disappointing has been Jonjo O’Neill’s Tedham after the promise shown last year, he has failed to get his nose in front in three attempts.
The Ryanair Chase
One of the highlights of the festival and Phillip Hobbs has his stable star aimed at it. Defi Du Seuil won first time out this season here at Cheltenham and then went on to win the Tingle Creek at Sandown. The winner of last year’s JLT Chase looks to have trained on and is a worthy favourite. Min is the main Irish challenger and is from Willie Mullins yard. Now a 12-year-old he has had a fine career, he has won both his races this season but has never won at Cheltenham. Another of Mullins’s stars is Chacun Pour Soi who after winning both his starts last season was highly fancied on his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown but was unable to peg back A Plus Tard at the Christmas meeting. I think Cyrname may go for the Ryanair in preference to the Gold Cup or Champion Chase after his disappointment in the King George but trainer Paul Nicholls has yet to make up his mind.
Defi Du Seuil 4/1
The Stayers Hurdle
Paisley Park is highly fancied to repeat last year’s victory in this race after carrying all before him last year winning all five of his races. He has won his only start this season for trainer Emma Lavelle, that was the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November but has not been out since. Another who has not been out since winning in November is If The Cap Fits from Harry Fry’s yard. That victory was in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot which he was winning for the second time. Henry De Bromhead has the unbeaten Honeysuckle declared and she would be an interesting contender. She has won six out of six the latest being the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Willie Mullins’s Benie Des Dieux fell in the Mares Hurdle at last year’s festival but then won twice in May, Mullins has yet to send her out for her seasonal reappearance.
Paisley Park 11/8
Brown Advisory Plate
This two and a half mile handicap chase is for 5-year-olds and upwards. It is a race that can cut up badly but among st the contenders Glenloe is fancied. He is a Gordon Elliott horse and has had three runs this year latterly at Limerick where he was fourth beaten 7 lengths. Riders Onthe Storm is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, he has won both his starts this season the latest being at Ascot.
Riders Onthe Storm 14/1
Mares Novice Hurdle
Dolcita from Willie Mullins yard is top of the betting lists for this, the mare won her only race for this stable in December. She romped home by 11 lengths at Tramore that day at a short price and is a mare to keep your eye on. Nicky Henderson also has an unbeaten mare, Marie’s Rock, who has won three times. Two of those victories came in December with the latest being at Taunton. Minella Melody has won her last two for trainer Henry De Bromhead the latest at Punchestown in December. Alan King has an entry for The Glancing Queen who has not been seen since winning at Aintree in a National Hunt Flat race in April.
Kim Muir Handicap Chase
Gordon Elliott’s Glenloe is also entered for this contest and is fancied. Another Irish raider is Fitzhenry trained by Paul Nolan, he has been running consistently well without getting his head in front. The Conditional is a David Bridgwater horse who tasted victory here at Cheltenham in October. From that win Bridgwater has moved him up in class and he has run respectively finishing second and fourth on his two runs. Nigel Twiston-Davies has Cogry in the lineup who also won here at Cheltenham in December the came back on New Years Day and ran second in a hot handicap.
FRIDAY MARCH 13th
The Triumph Hurdle
This race for 4-year-olds is notoriously difficult to predict and this year is no different. High up in the betting is Gary Moore’s Goshen who is unbeaten in his two hurdle races after a good flat career. His latest win was at Sandown where he went off a short priced favourite. Moore also has Botox Has in the lineup, he won a Triumph Trial in December at Cheltenham. Another unbeaten hurdler is Dan Skelton’s Allmankind with three victories under his belt one of which was in a Triumph Trial here at Cheltenham in November. Aspire Tower is the Irish hope from Henry De Bromhead’s stable who has won both his starts in this code, the latest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. Alan King has prolific flat winner Trueshan declared, it will be interesting to see if King has taught him to jump.
Botox Has 20/1
This race is difficult to predict the runners never mind the winner! However looking at the current declarations Not So Sleepy stands out. A winner of both his starts over timber for trainer, Hughie Morrison, this horse’s wins have come at Ascot which is a totally different course to Cheltenham and it remains to be seen how he would handle the undulations of Prestbury Park. Mill Green trained by Nicky Henderson has experience here running third last April, he has since won at Sandown in January. Band Of Outlaws won the Fred Winter at last year’s festival for Joseph O’Brien but failed to add to that tally in three attempts during the summer, he has not been out since August and will probably have a prep run in February.
Not So Sleepy 20/1
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
The ‘potato race’ is always a good betting contest but there is a stand out favourite this year. That horse is Phillip Hobbs’s Thyme Hill , a winner of all three of his hurdle races, one of which was at Cheltenham in November. His latest victory was was at Newbury in December in the Challow Hurdle. Fury Road trained by Gordon Elliott has also won his three hurdle races at very short prices but has yet to cross the water. Similarly with another Elliott fancy, Easywork, a triple winner who has not visited the UK. Nicky Henderson thinks a lot of Chantry House after his victory at Cheltenham in December and has high hopes for this gelding. Colin Tizzard has The Big Breakaway, a winner of Hurdle races in both November and December. In the latest at Newbury he slammed a top class field and won going away.
Thyme Hill 5/1
The Gold Cup
The Blue Riband event of the whole meeting has a very open feel to it this year and the best the bookmakers can do is put last year’s winner up as favourite. This is a horse who after winning last year went to Punchestown for their Gold Cup and got well beaten by Kemboy and was not seen again until New Years Day when he won a poor four runner contest at Tramore when two of his opponents were stablemates. Willie Mullins is the trainer who looks after Al Blum Photo and he also trains Kemboy who fell very early on in this race last year and he also has seen little action since. After winning the Punchestown Gold Cup in May he was not seen until he came out at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting where he ran like he needed the outing and finished fourth. Clan Des Obeaux won a strange King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. There were only five runners and some of the best steeplechasers in the country didn’t turn up leaving him little to beat. Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation was pulled up that day and was not the same horse that has won his three previous contests. Tizzard has another horse in his stable with a chance and that is the 2018 winner, Native River, who won at Aintree at the beginning of December over the Mildmay fences. Nicky Henderson’s Santini was second in last year’s RSA Chase here at Cheltenham and has been nibbled at in the market on the strength of winning a Listed race at Sandown in November but he doesn’t have the experience to win a Gold Cup.
Native River 14/1
This is the Gold Cup for amateur riders and is always a great spectacle, there is always a big field and horses are kept all year just for this contest. Last year’s winner Hazel Hill is once again favourite and trainer Phillip Rowley will be hoping for a repeat performance. The second horse that day was Shantou Flyer but trainer Rose Loxton has not run him since taking over responsibility for him. The horse that ran third that day interests me, that was Top Wood trained by Kelly Morgan, he has had a couple of outings this season and his best run was a second place at Ascot in November.
Top Wood 16/1
Grand Annual Chase
This is another race that can cut up badly. Among the current fancies is Al Dancer who won a novice chase here at Cheltenham in October for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, since then he has run a couple of fourth places at both here and at Kempton. Magic Saint from Paul Nicholls’s yard won at Newbury at the end of November and is mentioned for this race. From the same stable comes Capeland who won at Ascot in November to gain recompense after being carried out in his previous race.
Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
The last race of the whole shebang features the young jockeys and it is their chance to take centre stage. Among the horses mentioned for this race is Notre Pari from Olly Murphy’s yard who won at Aintree in early December then unluckily fell when challenging in his next race at Kempton. Warren Greatrex has Portrush Ted declared and he has won his last three, latterly at Ayr in early January. An Irish raider could be Buildmeupbuttercup from Willie Mullins’s yard who won at Galway at the end of July on the flat. His jumps season this year started with a fine second at Fairyhouse in December.
Notre Pari 20/1