Cheltenham Festival 2013 – Friday

1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle Grade 1

Fast and furious with seventeen horses going to post. The top  stables all represented and the market lead by Nicky Henderson’s Rolling Star, Paul Nicholls’ Far West and Dessie Hughes’ Irish hot pot, Our Conor. They have the best form in the book . What’s interesting to note is that 18 out of the last 20 winners had their prep race in February and the last 14 had all been tested at a mile and a half on the flat. Preference is for the Henderson runner, who’s prep race was winning the trial in the final week of January

Nicky Henderson stable visit

Nicky Henderson is looking for the 50th Festival winner of his career

2.05 Vincent O´Brien County Handicap Hurdle

A very competitive race with many horses having their campaigns planned around it. Discoteca is interesting at 25-1 with good amateur jockey Jane Mangan taking the ride and could grab a place. Manyriverstocross is another at 33-1 who could bely his long odds.

2.40 Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle

This should be all about At Fishers Cross , who has been improving all season and could given connections yet another win in the race. O’Faolains Boy could run well at bigger odds.

3.20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase

The feature race of the festival and this looks set to be a cracker. Paul Nicholls will be hoping Silviniaco Conti can step forward now that the great Kauto Star has retired, whilst Irish hopes will be with Sir Des Champs, trained by Willie Mullins. However, they could all be chasing home Bobs Worth, who has won on every start at the course and proved his metal when winning the Hennessy in the autumn. Previous winner Long Run will be sporting cheekpieces for the first time in the hope to brush up his jumping. It’ll be close, but Bobs Worth has that brilliant course form in the bag.

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The ultimate prize in the sport – the Gold Cup

4.00 CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup

It’s advisiable to side with a recent winner in this race and this should come down to a dual between two horses in top form – Chapoturgeon and Salsify, with the latter coming home the victor and defend the title he won last year.

4.40 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle

Trainers have been preparing horses for this race in the hope to give one of their younger jockeys a Festival winner. Ma Filleule is the stand out each way bet, although Art Professor could run well again at 25-1. Gevrey Chambertin will rightly be popular.

5.15 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase

Named after Nicky Henderson’s father and the Lambourn trainer will be eager to win this race again. Howver, ready preference is for the Tom George improver Rody , who’s recent win has been franked and then some. At 10-1, he looks an outstanding each way bet.

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Cheltenham Festival 2013 – Thursday

Another cracking days racing yesterday with the highlight being Sprinter Sacre – the beautiful monster – crowned Champion Chaser. Let’s hope he remains injury free because this is a very special racehorse.

On to today !

1:30 Jewson Novices´ Chase

It was becoming obvious last week that this season’s leading novice chaser Dynaste was heading for this race and not yesterdays RSA Chase, for which he had been antepost favourite. That decision should reward connections with another festival win as this front running grey is ideal for this race. Captain Conan should follow him in.

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 Dynaste – many people’s banker of the day

2:05 Pertemps Final (A Handicap Hurdle)

Somewhere amongst the bars and betting booths of Cheltenham there should be a cat running loose, because this one is most definitely out of the bag. Sam Winner, running here off a mark of 140, has form which ties him in with horses rated in the 160’s and with Ruby Walsh onboard, he has every chance.  At bigger prices, According To Trev should run a good race for the trainer of yesterdays winner The New One, and Shutthefrontdoor has the profile to have been running in one of the Graded Novice races and might give AP McCoy his first win of the week.

2:40 Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase)

A race with a high class field – this is no Mickey Mouse substitute for the Champion Chase or Gold Cup. Cue Card and First Lieutenant should be making the pace and this could set it up for a finisher like last years champion Riverside Theatre, who was given one of the great rides by Barry Geraghty. He made mistakes last year but was being jumped into by another horse, and if fully recovered from the ulcers that blighted his early season form, he’s the one to be on.  Cue Card could be the one to take advantage if the selection is out of form.

Riverside Theatre and part-owner Jimmy Nesbitt at Ascot

Last years winners – Riverside Theatre and owner Jimmy Nesbitt

3:20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle

No Big Bucks this year so time for a new champion staying hurdler.  Irish raider Bog Warrior is expected to make the running, and he could try and test the stamina of favourite Oscar Whisky. Reve De Sivola should run well but Smad Place could also improve on last years 3rd.  Preference though for the Nicky Henderson horse, but this could be a close finish.

4:00 Byrne Group Plate (A Handicap Chase)

If  Sam Winner is out of the bag, then the plot for Ballynagour must be visible from space. An easy winner last time at Warwick, the third home that day – Golden Chieftain – won the handicap on the opening day of the festival. David Pipe’s improving chaser is a short priced favourite for a 23 runner competitive handicap  so it could pay to look for a longer priced contender, as most winners of the race have been lower rated improvers at double figure odds. The Venetia Williams trained Kapga De Cerisy fits that profile and is 12-1. Vino Griego could still be improving.

Cheltenham bets

Racegoers and Bookmakers battle for supremacy at the Festival

4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

A 24 runner handicap for amateur riders and time to look for some value. Connections of favourite Super Duty have won this race before but at 4-1 the price is short enough. It’s a race that often goes to an older horse who didn’t place on his last outing. Nina Carberry was just beaten in to second yesterday but has a chance to make amends today on Romanesco, who would surely have won on his last visit here but for an unfortunate last fence blunder, although confidence is tempered with the knowledge no Irish trained horse has won for twenty eight years.  Problema Tic is another who could run well at a price.

5.15 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (A Cross Country Chase)

Postponed from the first day due to the frost, the last race of the day is the most unusual of the festival. Previous form is often the biggest factor and Boston’s Angel is the each way selection. Second over course and distance in December, he now has a 15lb swing with the winner Outlaw Pete and it could be enough to reverse the placings. Arabella Boy is trained by the mater of these chases and will be popular.

Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday week

Cheltenham – with the Cross Country course in the middle to the left

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Cheltenham Festival 2013 – Wednesday

Well what a thrilling start to the Festival we had yesterday. Despite the weather, we were treated to some brilliant racing, with Hurricane Fly and Quevega crowned champions once again. Here, we had three winners including Champagne Fever – well four really if you count the good mention for Rajdhani Express !

1:30 John Oaksey National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders )

A proper test for novice chasers ridden by amateur riders. What we are looking for here is a horse with experience and good recent form – ideally having won or been placed on it’s penultimate start. A horse i’ve been following for a couple of years is 16-1 priced Rose Of The Moon. Over hurdles, this horse has form with Rock On Ruby and Bobs Worth, two high class animals. It’s performances this season have been excellent, with impressive wins over staying distances. We can forgive it’s last run as it came too soon and having been kept fresh for the race, this horse is related to Grand National winners on it’s dam’s side. With doubts about Buddy Bolero staying the trip, Back In Focus might be the best of the favourites

rose

Lets hope Rose Of The Moon is rising at the finish.

2:05 Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle 

Nine runners line up and the market leader, Pont Alexandre, is one of the naps of the meeting. The apple of trainer Willie Mullins‘ eye, this horse has been tipped up across Ireland for weeks. It has the form in the book, has the right connections and will be hard to beat.  The New One was an early season star but the stable is under a cloud with a virus in the yard so the main danger should be Taquin De Seuil, ridden by champion jockey AP McCoy. Rule The World should fill the final spot on the podium.

2:40 RSA Chase (Grade 1) Cl1

The Gold Cup for novices and a favourite race of many National Hunt fans. However, this years renewal looks below average and without the strength in depth of some years. The favourite Boston Bob is vulnerable, especially as jockey Paul Townend is has ridden one winner in fifty two rides at the course in the last five years. Ruby Walsh takes the mount of Unioniste and the 5 year old was an impressive winner in the autumn but is young and was being caught last time out by Hadrian’s Approach. Not a likely winner but at the prices, he should give us a run for our money.

3:20 Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase

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Two words – Sprinter Sacre. Two more –  simply superb.

4:00 Coral Cup (A Handicap Hurdle) Grade 3

One of the most competitive races during the four days and plots for this race are hatched even a year in advance. Many in with a chance without one outstanding candidate so a chance is taken that Mr Watson can improve on his previous course win and run well for Jonjo O’Neill. Rattan could stay on from the back and bely his long odds. Un Beau Matin has a chance but needs to brush up on his jumping

4:40 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Grade 3

Another competitive handicap with many unexposed types from the major stables. From the smaller yards, Habesh is interesting at 40-1 as the race he won earlier in the season included horses who have gone on to much better things. Ruacana might be worth an each way punt at 16-1

5:15 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A National Hunt Flat Race)

No obstacles here, the horses have only each other and the undulating stiff track to contest with. Willie Mullins farms this race and has three runners this year, with Union Dues the stables main hope. Vieux Lion Rouge could run a big race for David Pipe at 33-1. However, Golantilla won well earlier in the season and is the selection despite not lighting up the course on a recent gallop

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Cheltenham Festival 2013 – Tuesday

It’s here. The biggest festival of the racing season in the incredible surroundings of Prestbury Park. Cheltenham 2013 has arrived.

1:30 William Hill Supreme Novices´ Hurdle Grade 1

The opening race has been a sinkhole for market leaders and it’s advisable to leave My Tent Or Yours to the favourite backers. The Irish have won the majority of recent renewals and i think it’s heading that way again. Un Atout is going to be a star but has been running in slowly run races with few runners and might find this too hot. Jezki has followed a similar route to last years stable representative Steps To Freedom but should finish closer without winning…because i think we’re going to kick off the 2013 festival with Champagne Fever. A front runner from the magnificent Willie Mullins yard, with stamina to run further than the 2 miles here, this improving type won at the festival last year.

Let’s hope stable jockey Ruby Walsh has chosen wisely.

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Champagne Fever – above – can leave us all smiling

2:05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase Grade 1 A race steeped in history with a roll of honour that features many of the sports great 2 mile chasers. Low on numbers this season but high on talent and it appears to be a duel between the Donald McCain trained gifted granite-sewn Overturn and another jewel from Nicky Henderson‘s Seven Barrows stable, Simonsig. Whilst the former comes with a celebrated flat pedigree, the latter has speed but is also bred for jumping and it’s this discipline, allied with proven soft ground form, with which i expect to see him come home the victor. The 2012 festival’s leading jockey should have an armchair ride.

2:40 JLT Specialty Handicap Chase Grade 3

A 24 runner handicap chase is just what we need to get stuck into on a cold March day and it’s advisable to shop around for the best odds and offers – some bookmakers will be offering first 5 places.

12 of the last 13 winners have carried less than 11 stone and 6 of the last 10 had won on their previous start, which is nice because this fits the profile of Loch Ba. Winner of 2 of it’s last 3 races, this improving type jumps and stays well. 12-1 each way is lovely, although if Pete The Feat is back to his best, 33-1 would be far too big a price.

3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy Grade 1

The race of the day, with returning champion Rock On Ruby and the 2011 winner Hurricane Fly both lining up. Throw in Zarkandar from champion trainer Paul Nicholls yard, previous winner Binocular and his Seven Barrows stablemate Grandouet and this is one hot race. However, the first two in the betting are Hurricane Fly and Zarkandar and i think we can concentrate on those. Both horses and stables are in better form than last season and it could be close but The Fly has more class and finishing speed and is taken to regain his crown.

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Hurricane Fly – by name and by nature.

4.00 Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (A Cross Country Chase)

For some, an interlude for going to the bar. For others, a welcome addition to the festival. Proven form and stamina is as important here as in any other race and Outlaw Pete looks sure to finish in the first four and is a rock solid each way bet at 5-1.

4:40 OLBG Mares´ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares´ Hurdle)

Now an established festival race and the source of many a punters beer and betting bank with the legendary Quevega going for her 5th straight victory in the race. Many will consider the Mullins trained champion bomb proof, with a rating well above her rivals, but i believe she’s vulnerable. Her best races are in Ireland after she has had her annual season opener here and this term she faces her toughest rival yet in Une Artiste. The Nicky Henderson 5 year old is improving and has been trained for the race. With course and soft ground form in the bag, she’ll put it to the Irish mare and these two should do battle up the famous hill.

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Above – the Henderson trained Une Artiste draws on her talents to win at Cheltenham

5:15 Rewards4Racing Novices´ Handicap Chase

The closing race on Day 1 and a tricky little puzzle of Novice chasers. With the first four places paying a return for each way bets, it’s advisable to look for value as most winner had crossed the line first only once prior to racing here. With the testing conditions, it could pay to favour a front runner and at a massive price of 50-1, Restless Harry makes some appeal. A course winner, this talented horse has been struggling to get home over trips farther than this and it could be that the blinkers just improve his strength in a finish. Has a chance of finishing in the first four and that would pay handsomely at the odds. The Druids Nephew and top weight Rajdhani Express are two others to consider in an open contest.

Good luck !

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