Cheltenham Festival Day 1

I’ve had a different build up to my usual Cheltenham preparations this year, I’ve been getting involved with the ante-post markets. Therefore I can’t see myself having to many on the day bets, However as usual Tuesday is the big day that will probably set the tone for the week. So far I have the below bets, which I have advised in previous posts and on twitter;

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Vautour at 4.38

Champion Hurdle

Hurricane Fly at 4.64

World Hurdle

Annie Power at 3.60

Accumulators

Vautour/Rock on Ruby/Hurricane Fly/Quevega 4-fold at 259.20

Hurricane Fly/Quevega/Annie Power/Bobs Worth 4-fold at 162.00

My Tent Or Yours/Quevega/Annie Power/Bobs Worth 4 fold at 185.63

Specials

Ruby Walsh Top Jockey at 3.00

The above prices have been taken over the last couple of months and include special offers by bookmakers.

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I’ve managed to find the winner of this race in the last two years, so I’m going for a personal hat-trick with VAUTOUR. Before his Leopardstown victory over twice grade one winner The Tullow Tank, I was tweeting about how he is the perfect horse for the Supreme and if he showed his class that day I’d be backing him at Cheltenham. A lot was said after that regarding the ‘easy’ lead that he got, but that was the first time he’d been ridden from the front. His ability for him to win races from different potions is what makes him potentially very special. The owner made this comment about him at the start of February “I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he could be something special.” Now obviously it’s not wise to take that at gospel, but the reason i think that is important is because Rich Ricci hasn’t said that about some of his other horses who all have big chances and reputations. He won this race last year, in what looks like a stronger field, with Champagne Fever and if they believe that Vautour is better, he should take all the beating.

For me Wicklow Brave is the main danger, he’s from the same stable and on form lines there is nothing between them. However Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Vautour and that will do for me. Irving is the main English hope and he has been visually impressive, however at this time I can’t be backing especially at the prices. Despite looking good and winning well I don’t think he has actually beaten anything of note.

Paddy Power have a special offer on this race, whereby you get your money back, up to £50, if your horse finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Although they are offering a slightly shorter price, 3.75, than the general 4.00 about Vautour I think that’s the way to play this market. If they go off at a silly gallop I can see him out staying them up the hill, to at least be in the top four and vice versa, if the go a crawl I think he’ll be tough to pass.

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Back Vautour at 3.75 – Paddy Power
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Unfortunately for me I missed the nice prices on ROCK ON RUBY. I fancied him when he was around the 9.00 mark but didn’t put ay money up. He’s won a Champion Hurdle and was runner-up in another, he has the class form in this race. Champagne Fever has won at The Festival twice, but a Bumper and Supreme cannot be seen as the same class of races as a Champion Hurdle.

Rock on Ruby is a 9-year-old, which is late to go chasing but if he can jump a fence as well as he could jump a hurdle, what’s the problem? He’s only had two starts over fences and has beaten nothing, however his jumping has looked solid which is more than can be said about Champagne Fever, who has made mistakes on both his starts this season.

Grandouet would interest me, but I expect him to travel strongly in the race before making a mistake and falling, so I have no interest of following him over a cliff as many others have done. Dodging Bullets is third favorite, but I don’t think he has the class for this, his runs in last years Supreme and at Aintree are enough for me to put a line through him. I also can’t have a neck defeat to Module as the best form in the race. Trifolium has questions to answer on the ground and I don’t see him troubling the front running pair of Champagne Fever and Rock On Ruby when push comes to shove.

On paper this looks a tough race to work out, with question marks over all the runners, so I’m going on the ‘class’ angle and the belief that Rock On Ruby is the best horse, especially on drying ground make him the one I want to be with.

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Back Rock On Ruby at 5.50 – General
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Class, form lines, staying power and speed. No horse has shown as much of those as HURRICANE FLY, yet he’s not even favorite for this race. I really do think the ‘English’ form in this race is being over-hyped, The New One and My Tent Or Yours are very similarly matched. The New One was beaten by My Tent Or Yours at Kempton on Boxing Day and many will say that The New One would have won if he hadn’t of hit the last. I don’t see it like that, I think My Ten Or Yours was staying on and was going to win that race whatever. I can’t see why a horse who has already been beaten by one of his main rival this year and four times from thirteen career  runs is favorite. These two horses form is so close that they either both beat Hurricane Fly or they both finish behind him. I think I’ll bet on the both finishing behind the horse that has won two Champion Hurdles, placed in another and only been beaten once since 2009, not forgetting the 19 Grade 1 victories.

That’s the English form dealt with. The Irish form centers around three horses, Hurricane Fly, Our Conner and Jezki. Hurricane Fly has beaten the other two twice this season already and to my eyes looked like he was staying on in his 1.5 length defeat of Our Connor last time out. Jezki isn’t up to this level, he was beaten in a Supreme by My Tent Or Yours and I don’t think he’s improved enough to even beat him, so tying that into my belief of the English form he won’t be winning. Our Connor is entitled to improve and I think he rates as the biggest danger as a 5-year-old though I don’t think he’ll be battle hardened enough to win this.

People have asked questions about Hurricane Fly, so here’s my answers to the most common ones;

He doesn’t act around Cheltenham

This is usually asked as he hasn’t beaten horses at Cheltenham by wide margins like he does ion Ireland. Whilst that is true The Champion Hurdle is one of the top races of the year, where you get the best English and Irish horses all in one race. Obviously it’s going to be harder to win those by a wider margin. He must be a very lucky horse to win two top quality races at a track that he doesn’t like. Or maybe the simple answer to all of this is that the track doesn’t inconvenience him.

He needs soft ground

Hurricane Fly can run to the same ability on whatever ground. The reason that other horses can get closer to him on a firmer surface is because they are inconvenienced by the mud. I think the people who say he needs the mud should take a look at his defeat of Solwhit at Punchestown in 2010, his 2011 Champion Hurdle win and his Punchestown win from May 2011. Those three victories were on good ground.

If he’s beaten, then he gets beaten. However trying to find something to beat him when he doesn’t appear to have regressed, he’s still winning races and the others have enough question marks over them is likely to prove a fruitless task. I’m surprised that he isn’t sub 3.00 in this and I expect to see him backed heavily on the day.

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Back Hurricane Fly at 4.00 – Bet365
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It’s the same with QUEVEGA every year. She has won this race for the last five years and I fully expect her to make it six. No other mares, bar Annie Power, have cam to the fore this year so it’s difficult to see what beats her even if she runs ten pounds below form. At anything over 1.3x she’s probably a value bet. However this year Coral are offering £10 at 5.00 (4/1) for new online accounts. So Get your mums, wives, girlfriends etc to sign up for you and get as many £10s on as you can. After last years even money offer on Sprinter Sacre it may be difficult to find people who didn’t sign up then, but if you can some people then that’s the ‘value’ bet in the race.

If you can’t find anybody then take the 1.73 on the morning if no special offers, offering 2.00 at 8:30 for example, are about as her as on all know form she has the same chance of a penalty kick being scored.

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Back Quevega at 5.00 Coral –  *new customers only, Max £10
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