I started betting on The Cheltenham Festival back in 2005 and have made a profit at all of them since, some years considerably better than others. The pressure of keeping up my 100% record is something that always makes me nervous, but it adds another dynamic to what is always an enjoyable week.
13:30 | Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
An interesting contest to start the week and I feel it’s a lot more competitive than the odds suggest. Getabird is the current market leader at 2.62, however I expect him to drift to around 3.25 by the off. Yes, he’s unbeaten under rules but there are question marks around his action and the form of his last race. He has a lot of ‘knee-action’ which means he’ll hit the ground hard, soft ground will a benefit to him. Another worry is how he’ll handle coming down the hill, I can see him getting into a mess and being swallowed up. Did he beat the real Mengli Khan? I say no. I don’t see the form being reversed but that added to the action and ground questions is enough for me to oppose him and Mengli Khan, at the prices.
Next in the market we have Kalashnikov. The Betfair Hurdle winner posted an official rating of 154, which is the highest in this race. He beat some battle hardened handicappers that day, but he didn’t travel well and he didn’t jump particularly well either. On the plus side, he pulled it out well when challenged and won going away. I expect to see him staying on up this hill, but he looks too well found in the market now. Summerville Boy beat Kalashnikov in the Tolworth at Sandown, the ground was desperate that day and on better ground I can see that piece of form being reversed.
My horse for this race is PALOMA BLUE. The Henry de Bromhead inmate was well beaten by Samcro last time out, but that would’ve happened to the whole of this field in my opinion. What I liked about Paloma Blue that day was how well he travelled despite being very keen early on. Samcro and he were the only horses still travelling on the bridal when they turned for home in The Deloitte (Grade 1). Paloma Blue even managed to stay with Samcro for another furlong before a potential superstar was shaken up and pulled away. If he hadn’t been so keen early on then he would’ve made more of a race of it. On better ground and, hopefully, settling better I see him travelling like the winner for a very long way in this race. On the form of that last race he also hold Debuchet, Sharjah and Trainwreck.
Looking at the various markets and the makeup of this race I’m going to use Bet Victor for an each-way play. They’re offering 5th the odds, but instead of the standard three places I can get four. This means that the place side of the bet goes into 399.96% book, which means there’s no bookmaker takeout. I make Golden Jeffery, Khuda and Saxo Jack genuine 0.1% chances of winning this race means that I believe there is a 7% edge in the place side of this market. That’s before taking into account my belief that Paloma Blue will go off at around the 10.00 mark. If that happens then I have an additional 2.31% of ‘value’ on my win side of the bet and the theoretical value on my place side also increases.
I very rarely have an each-way bet, but when I do I usually have twice as much on as I do on a single. So instead of one point, my total stake is two points (one point each-way). The reason for this is that an each-way bet is two bets. If I don’t think I have a value bet on the win side, then I wouldn’t be placing the bet. I would instead look to back two or three to win the race, back place only or lay something in the race.
BACK PALOMA BLUE at 13.0 Each-Way (Bet Victor)
14:10 | The Arkle
A small but select field field go forward for this years Arkle. We can put a line through Robbinshill and Brain Power. I don’t believe that Brain Power is a better chaser than he was hurdler and seeing as he finished 20+ lengths behind Footpad and Petit Mouchoir in last years Champion Hurdle, I see little reason why he reverses those placings.
Saint Calvados has a 100% record this season, but all his form is on ground that’s worse than he’ll get here and he’s been given easy leads. Saint Calvados jumps his fences very low and I can see his jumping suffering now that he’s in a race with a lot of pace.
That leaves two. Footpad has been foot-perfect this season with three runs and three wins. However I’m going to oppose him. PETIT MOUCHOIR was a considerably better hurdler than Footpad and finished three lengths ahead of him in last seasons Champion Hurdle. Footpad is a better chaser then a hurdler, but we haven’t been able to see the true Petit Mouchoir over fences yet. The pair met last month where Footpad ran out a five length winner, but that doesn’t tell the full story of the race. Petit Mouchoir was having his first run after being off with an injury for 108 days. He made a mistake at the first and then a mistake which should’ve ended his race at the second. After that he jumped well and still managed to get close enough to Footpad whilst not being given a hard time by Davy Russell for me to think that he can reverse the form with better jumping.
Footpad should be the favourite, but at 2.25 I’m against him. I have this price raced price up as;
BACK PETIT MOUCHOIR at 3.75 (Betfred)
15:30 | Champion Hurdle
I really don’t like the make-up of this race. From an each-way angle you’re playing for two places and giving away your win stake in my opinion. Even with Bet365 offering a quarter the odds and three places, you have a 289% book, where it should be 300% on the place side. Buveur D’Air is a 1.14 chance in their book for a top three finish, I personally have that at around a 1.03 shot.
Looking at the field;
Faugheen: Nowhere near the horse he used to be. Ruby Walsh will set out to make this a true staying test and if he can’t win it’s unlikely he’ll finish in the top three as he won’t be given a hard time.
Melon: Hasn’t shown any form to suggest he’s good enough to win this.
Yorkhill: Crazy, very talented horse but has shown no form this season and hasn’t jumped a hurdle in public for almost two years.
My Tent Or Yours: He’s 11 now, has shown form this year but surely he can’t trouble his stablemate after finishing five lengths behind him last season.
Wicklow Brave: I think he’ll make the top three. Finished 14+ lengths behind Beveur D’Air in this last season.
Elgin: Now rated 161 for winning The Kingwell Hurdle, which means he can’t run in a handicap. He’s been supplemented for this and will be ridden to pick up a place so connections get their fee back.
The rest would need to improve by over a stone in order to beat Beveur D’Air on the form that they’ve shown.
I’m just going to keep this simple, I think BUVEUR D’AIR, barring a fall, can run to at least 6lbs below his best and still win this.
BACK BUVEUR D’AIR at 1.57 (Bet365)
16:10 | Mares’ Hurdle
APPLE’S JADE done me a huge favour when she was underrated for this race last season and I still think she is being underrated this year. She’d be the second favourite for The Champion Hurdle, yet her official rating is 158, which puts her below Elgin and Melon on official ratings. If she faced Buveur D’Air in The Champion Hurdle getting 7lbs I’d make her a strong bet. However the Champion Hurdle isn’t her optimum conditions but over 2m 4f I think she’s a 163 horse, which puts her a long way clear in this this race as it’s as close to perfect for her as you can get. She has over a stone in hand on her rivals and providing she jumps she’ll win.
I honestly don’t see how she’s not a 1.3x – 1.40 shot. I thought Quevega should’ve been in that price range, but she always went off bigger due to it being her first run of the season. Annie Power probably should’ve gone off in that price range, but she was coming off a 311 day break so she was allowed to go off at 1.50. The layers were fortunate that year as she fell at the last.
The difference with Apple’s Jade is that we know she’s fit and well. She’s won three from three this season beating last seasons Stayers’ Hurdle winner and this seasons Irish Champion Hurdle winner (twice).
BACK APPLE’S JADE at 1.62 (Coral, Betfred)
17:30 | Novices’ Handicap Chase
I don’t usually bet in the handicaps at Cheltenham or anywhere for that matter. However as these races are starting to see more compression in the weights they become easier to work out. In this race for example I don’t think you need to find the best handicapped horse, but instead the best. Two pounds isn’t going to stop a 500kg horse from winning, in the same way Usain Bolt could still run sub-10 seconds carrying two apples.
With this in mind one horse jumps off the page to me. ANY SECOND NOW has been running against highly regarded horses all season. He started his chasing career by finishing second to Monalee, who finished second in last years Albert Bartlett and is the current second favourite for The RSA. That was followed up by finishing second to the current JLT favourite Invitation Only. In both of those races he had the third home well beaten.
His last two runs have been in Grade One’s against Footpad (twice) and Petit Mouchoir. He was no match for the front two in The Arkle betting, but on both occasions he finished a long way clear of the rest of the field. He could’ve come over to England and won an easy Grade One, like the Scilly Isles Chase or taken in some handicaps. However if he’d done that he’d unlikely get into this race as the top weight runs off 145.
With there being twenty runners in the race and only standard terms available the each-way market doesn’t interest me. If it was a flat sixteen runners, then this would be an each-way bet for me. I can see Any Second Now being very well backed on the day, going off favourite and shorter than he is now.
BACK ANY SECOND NOW at 8.00 (Bet365)