The Cheltenham Festival has always been a profitable week for me, which helps cement it as my favourite week of the year.
Each year I approach it with the same questions to hopefully find the right answers;
- Who’s the best trainer?
- Who’s the best jockey?
- What’s the best horse?
- Is it value?
That may sound simple, but that’s how I like to approach my racing. If the best horse is trained by the best trainer and ridden by the best jockey, then surely that’s the most likely winner. Determining whether it’s value or not is where you get the edge.
This year I think that Willie Mullins is the best trainer and Ruby Walsh is the best jockey. That doesn’t mean I’m going to religiously follow them through the week, but it’s the place to start for me.
In terms of Ante-Post bets I’m looking for horses that will be shorter on the day, I’m a massive believer in beating SP. I feel that if you are consistently beating SP then the winners will take care of themselves. Therefore even if it’s only a £10 accumulator at 200/1, I still want to that bet to be a lot shorter come March.
I’ve had four horses in mind for the 2015 Festival since then end of this years meeting.
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VAUTOUR won me a healthy sum earlier this year, when landing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. As soon as that race was finished he went straight to the top of my list for the 2015 Arkle.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether he’ll run in this race or go fir the JLT. That talk is fueled by Un De Seaux staying at two miles and being from the same stable. I agree that it’s unlikely for these two horse to meet, even though they are from different owners. However the owners will want the best jockey on board and Ruby Walsh can’t ride two in a race.
Rich Ricci is the leading owner in the stable. Annie Power not going to The Champion Hurdle last year and Vautour already missing out on the Champion Hurdle due to Faugheen, I think he’ll be very keen for his star novice chaser to run in the premier novice chase of the year.
For What It’s Worth I think we’ll see Un De Sceaux miss Cheltenham or go for The Queen Mother Champion Chase. It would be a tough as for a Novice to win the top two mile chase of the year, however with question marks over Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy the race could suit his front running style. If he gets and easy lead he’ll be very hard to catch.
In my opinion the stable know that Vautour would beat Un Des Sceaux. I feel we can tell that by the way they’re being campaigned. Vautour is contesting Grade 1 races at the top tracks, whilst Un De Seaux is messing around at Thurles on a Thursday.
Taking all that into account Vautour is likely to end up as my main hope of the week and the cornerstone to everything I do. I think he runs in The Arkle, baring injury and I think that he’ll go off at 1.57 (4/7). I’ve already taken some 5.50 (9/2) and am now going to top up again at 4.50 (7/2). I’ll probably top that up a few more times before March based on any news that we get.
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Back Vautour at 4.50 – Paddy Power
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FAUGHEEN was a horse that I was reluctant to back at last years festival and I ended up letting this potential superstar hack up without a penny of my hard earned on him. I had enough question marks over his jumping that day to put me off.
I don’t want to make the same mistake this year as I only see one credible challenger to him in The Champion Hurdle.
The New One is the only horse that I can see beating Faugheen. I did have question marks over his jumping ability, however on his three runs this year I’ve been really impressed. He looks to have improved his hurdling, however my feeling is that off a true championship pace he’ll be done for pace. He doesn’t have an electric turn of foot that can put a race to bed, it’s more of a gradual pickup. Despite what people say about him being unlucky last year, I never saw him as a winner. He looked impressive because he was staying on past tired horses, but even if Our Connor hadn’t of falls I don’t think he would of had the speed to get to Jezki and My Tent Or Yours.
Moving on to Jezki, he was fortunate that AP McCoy wasn’t on him last year. Barry Gerraghty is a better big race jockey in my opinion and he showed this last year when he won The Champion Hurdle on Jezki with My Tent Or Yours, ridden by McCoy in 2nd. This jockeyship was also there to see in the World Hurdle when More of That finished clear of At Fishers Cross. McCoy had the choice of all of those named horses, but choose poorly and lost the race on both occasions. Jezki has already been beaten by Hurricane Fly this year, no disgrace in that, however I feel that the stable see Faugheen as a fair bit better than The Fly at the moment.
Hurricane Fly is one of my favourite horses, he’s won and lost me large sums of money over the last few years. I still feel that he has the ability to win Grade 1 races over two miles and he’s already shown he’s capable of that. However I don’t think we’ll see him line up in The Champion Hurdle this year. I think he’ll either miss The Festival in preference for the two-and-a-half mile race at Aintree pr he’ll go to The World Hurdle. Ruby Walsh is a very good judge of horses, so if he decides not to ride Hurricane Fly in the Tuesday, then I wouldn’t want to be backing him.
At the moment I think that Faugheen will start at around 2.75 (7/4) for this race, providing him and The New One are kept apart over Christmas. Due to my belief that he wont get much shorter in the market before the day of the race, I’m not having an ante-post single on him, but am adding him to my accumulators.
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The Mares Hurdle has now been upgraded to a Grade One race, however it will generally attract a load of cart horses, there just aren’t enough quality Grade One mares about. The only grade one mare that does exist in my opinion is ANNIE POWER. She was found lame last month, however it wasn’t as bad as first feared. If she is 80% fit before March, she’ll run in this race and she’ll go off at 1.3x, barring a massive shock she’ll win this race. On official ratings she has 15 lbs in hand over her closest rivals and at 2.5x we’re surely just backing her to turn up and stay up.
I’m not backing her in a single yet, as there’s no need to with the slight doubt over whether she’ll make it or not. The price should hold up until February and I’ll consider backing her then. For the time being I’m adding her to my accumulators.
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Champion Bumper winner, Supreme Novices Hurdle winner and Arkle runner-up CHAMPAGNE FEVER is currently my Gold Cup horse.
The King George at Kempton on Boxing Day has been his winter target for a while now and I expect him to run a big race in it. As long as he stays the trip well I think we’ll see him shorten up for The Gold Cup. The reason that I think he’ll shorten is because he simply loves Cheltenham, he keeps finding more up the hill, something that Silviniaco Conti failed to do last year, after he fell in 2012.
The Gold Cup is hard enough to win once, it’s a very difficult race to win if you’ve failed in it once already and I couldn’t be backing a horse that has failed in it twice. It’s such a demanding race that it takes a lot out of a horse, therefore I cannot have Bobs Worth on my mind for this race.
Lord Windermere won this race last year, but we’ve seen over the years that you have to be a special animal to land this race back-to-back. He also benefited for last years race falling apart with there being no Cue Card or Dynaste and there defiantly wasn’t a horse with the potential that I believe Champagne Fever has.
I’m prepared to forgive him last years’ run in The Arkle as he didn’t run a bad race, he was just headed on the line in ‘one of them them results’. Also if he’s a horse who ‘needs’ further, like I suspect he does then it was an excellent performance over a trip that was too short for him.
I’m not backing him for this race in a single at the moment, as I’d rather wait to see how he handles three miles in the King George. He did win over three miles in his point to point days, however I still want see see how he handles the pace of a Grade One over three miles. I will however add him into an accumulator with the above three mentioned horses as if he does turn up on the Friday in March, he won’t be 15.0 (14/1).