Cheltenham Festival Day 1

Betting on National Hunt racing before the spring festivals isn’t really my thing. Between October and February we basically have small field races, 1.33 (1/3) favourites, half fit horses and non-triers. However once Cheltenham arrives we have solid form lines to go on, the bookies will take a bet and the horses will be fit.

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”13:30 – The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

I’ve found the winner of this race for the last three years, with the Ricci, Walsh and Mullins combination taking the 2013 and 2014 renewals. This year I’m going against them. Douvan is a nice looking horse and the visual impressions of his two Irish wins were very likeable. My issue with him is that the price is too short for the form that he’s shown. Last time out he beat Alpha Des Obeaux, a horse who will be at his best over further than two miles. Rock On The Moor is the only horse to come out of the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle and win since, yet even that was over further than two miles. Douvan was sent off at 1.33 (1/3) in that race, so winning on the bridle against stayers should have been expected.

The only piece of Douvan form in the book that has any substance was the twelve length beating of Sizing John in November. Sizing John came out and won a Grade One at Leopardstown in December, however that was on heavy ground with the odds-on favourite unseating. The horse that finished 2nd that day, Sub Lieutenant, was thrashed at Grade One level next time out.

My final concern about the hype around this horse is that The Neptune was his original target and not much was being spoken about him. Allez Colombieres was the horse that connections were crowing about, he was there Supreme horse and big hope for the future. If we believe the hype about Douvan then Allez Colombieres must have been up there as the greatest horse of all time.

The horse that I like is L’AMI SERGE, he’s three from three in England and won the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time out. He was entitled to win that day, as the odds suggested, but to win by 14 lengths over Jolly’s Cracked it is a better level of form than Douvan has shown.

That may not be his best piece of form though, on his British debut he beat Violet Dance, who has gone on to win the Betfair Hurdle and Kilcooley, a horse that is well thought of by Charlie Longsdon and has won twice since.
I think that he should be favourite for this race and my confidence is further boosted by the prospect of ground with ‘good’ in the description. He’s out of King’s Theatre who, is not only the leading national hunt stallion this season, but has also produced horses like The New One, Cue Card and Menorah.

L’ami Serge has the best level of form in the race, he’s got a good line through him on breeding and should improve for the quicker ground, with all of that considered I think he’s the most likely to win the race.

Of the others Jollyallan, looks to be a horse to follow next season. He looks very much like a chaser who’s going to enjoy two and a half miles plus. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won this race, but my feeling is that he’ll get beaten for tactical speed down the hill, before making up ground coming back up towards the finish. By then I feel the race will be over.

Alvisio Ville was stepped up to two and a half miles last time out and didn’t stay the trip, the step back down should suit, however he doesn’t have a level of form that matches up to that of L’ami Serge and off a stronger pace I don’t see him being able to outstay/out-battle the selection up the hill.

L'ami Serge[symple_box color=”green” text_align=”center” width=”100%” float=”none”]
Back L’ami Serge at 4.50 – William Hill[/symple_box]

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”14:05 – The Arkle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

I’m gutted that Vautour isn’t going for this race, as I had a few ante-post bets involving him. The stable have elected to send Un De Sceaux, which is understandable. The Mullins/Walsh combination should be picking up this race and the odds agree with that. People have raised questions about his jumping, his temperament and whether he’ll see out the race. I think that as long as he gets over the first three downhill fences he’ll finish the race and win. I don’t really think the idea that he won’t stay is an issue, seeing as he’s stayed two and a half miles on heavy and very soft ground before.

I want to play this race a different way though, I think that with Un De Sceaux going off at a frenetic pace, it will harm the chance of most of his rivals as they simply won’t be able to go with him. He’s already beaten Clarcam, receiving weight, and Smashing this season so I couldn’t have them in this race. Clarcam looked a broken horse last time out when he was just left for dead.

If Un de Sceaux is to be beaten, then it’s because the race was setup for a good jumper who will stay on past tired horses. That horse is VIBRATO VALTAT, if Un De Sceaux wasn’t in the race he’d be my bet to win it as he jumps for fun, is quick and economical at his fences, this allows him to stay on and beat horses that a tiring up in front of him. With the pace that’s going to be set this is almost the perfect scenario as there won’t be anything finishing the race better than him.

I can forgive him the race where he finished second to Dunraven Storm here in November, as he was given a poor ride. He then put that right by beating Dunraven Storm at Ascot in December, with Irish Saint back in third. Two more wins since then give his form a solid look, with Top Gamble, Three Kingdoms and God’s Own finishing behind him.

Josses Hill is third in the betting, which is amazing for a horse that struggles to jump a fence with any fluency. I think he’ll get caught out here when being asked to jump at speed and wouldn’t be surprised if he fails to complete the race.

At the odds the only way to play this race is to back Vibrato Valtat in the Without Un De Sceaux market.

VV[symple_box color=”green” text_align=”center” width=”100%” float=”none”]
Back Vibrato Valtat in the Without Un Des Sceaux market at 3.75 – Paddy Power

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”15:20 – The Champion Hurdle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

A few years ago we had a horse called Frankel, people used to try and crab his form because he hadn’t beaten anything or raced over a certain distance. That led to him being priced up at 2.38 (11/8) ante-post for The Sussex Stakes, I helped myself to a lot of that and went in again on the day at 1.66 (4/6). He duly won and people eventually believed that this horse was one of the greats.

I can see a similar thing happening with FAUGHEEN, not so much the movement in prices but if he wins this race well, I don’t see us getting odds-against again in a very long time.

Before The Christmas Hurdle, people were saying that he would have a real test because of Irving and that he shouldn’t be a 1.36 (4/11) shot. Irving was apparently wrong that day, and Faugheen ran out an easy eight length winner from Purple Bay, anyone who thinks that Irving would have got much closer may need a trip to the asylum.

We now have people crabbing his hurdling, yes he’s made a few mistakes but he’s still won every race. I think that the faster he goes the better he’ll jump. He’ll probably be setting the pace from a long way in this race as I don’t think there’s a horse who’s gonna be able to go with him.

Hurricane Fly has been beating Jezki and Arctic Fire over in Ireland all season, with a quicker pace and firmer surface, I would expect Jezki to reverse the form. However I wouldn’t bet on it as I have more questions over Jezki’s hurdling, when McCoy is on board than I do over Faugheen’s. To put it simply I don’t think either of these horses will actually be quick enough to go with Faugheen in the final two furlongs.

That leaves The New One, many people think he would have won last year because he was staying on up the hill after being hampered. I have a very different view, he was hampered at the third hurdle, so he had a long time to get back into the race, however his lack of tactical speed and changing up through the gears cost him. When it comes to the business end of the race here I don’t think that he’ll be able to close down and overtake Faugheen, who is quicker and also stays.

Whether the price is value or not can be debated long into the night. People will say that Istabraq went off at 4.00 (3/1) in his firs Champion Hurdle, that however was an eighteen runner race. After he was sent off at odds-on in seventeen more races, before his final race as a ten-year-old in The Champion Hurdle where he was pulled up. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if people believed the hype of what they’d already seen in front of them, he wouldn’t have been that price.

I think that Faugheen is the best horse in the race and I honestly do think he’d win this renewal in these conditions at least five times out of ten. Anything at odds-against is value in my eyes, so I’m happy to take it.

f[symple_box color=”green” text_align=”center” width=”100%” float=”none”]
Back Faugheen at 2.25 – Betfair

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”16:00 – The Mares Hurdle” margin_top=”20px;” margin_bottom=”20px” text_align=”left”]

This race is simple ANNIE POWER is about a stone better off at the weights than these. She finished second in The World Hurdle last year and if she runs to 80% of that standard, after her lay off, she’ll win this.

If you’re looking for an each-way alternative then Polly Peachcum looks the call. She’s already show course form, has beaten L’Unique five lengths and has form that ties in with Southfield Theatre, who I like for the RSA later int he week.

I do see Annie Power as the banker of the week though, not necessarily the best bet but probably the safest one. In reality she’s probably a 1.25 (1/4) shot to win this and if she’d had a prep-run she would probably be that price.

ap[symple_box color=”green” text_align=”center” width=”100%” float=”none”]
Back Annie Power at 1.66 – Betfred

You may say that those selections ‘aren’t brave’ and anyone could have picked them out. However if they’re the horses that I fancy and I think they’re ‘value’ I’m going to select them. Last year I made +86.61% return on turnover and have made a profit on all the festivals that I’ve been betting on, going back to 2005. I’m not going to change my style, whilst it still works.

The four-fold accumulator on the above pays 40.19 (39/1+) with Coral.

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