Cheltenham festival is the possibly the biggest racing meet in the jump calendar year and the first day is upon us. I’ve hit the form books and come up with a few of my picks for the first day. The roar is nearly upon us so let’s get stuck in!
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
No winner in the last ten years has had a rating of less than 150 and ten of the last 12 winners have all won on their last outing. Therefore, out of all the runners we can now cut the field down to just the five runners, those being Asterion Forlonge, Sishkin, Fiddlerontheroof, Abacadabras and Allart. The favourites have a patchy record at best in this race, and because of that, I will be playing something at a bit more of a price. The horse I think will win is Abacadabras; the form of its run in the royal bond is rock solid in the fact it ran stablemate, and many people’s idea of a festival banker (Envoi Allen) so close, I feel represents great value at the odds.
Arkle Novices’ Chase
Notebook is likely to go off as a strong favourite for this race following its last two wins in grade 1 chase over in Ireland, and beating two of the main other market principles (Fakir D’oudairies and Cash Back). However, I think we can take this favourite on, based on how it ran at the festival last year (12th in the Ballymore), I am hoping it is a horse that doesn’t enjoy the track. I would therefore be backing Brewin’upastorm who, although lacks a recent run, has some rock solid hurdle form from last season (4th in the Ballymore and 2nd in the Mersey) and has won both its chase outings; here’s hoping the champ can get this one home for us!
National Hunt Chase
Let’s see if we can finish off the day with a winner so we have a few beer tokens for the evening festivities. A race, that if you look at the stats, revolves around two of the big powerhouse trainers – Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott – who have taken 5 of the last 8 winners between them. The favourite is trained by the former, although I think it is far too short of a price given its jumping, which can sometimes leave a bit to be desired. That takes us onto the Elliott trained horse of Ravenhill – the ground could be a slight concern but the form of its 2nd in the Kerry National and the fact that Jamie Codd is riding, who has won this race twice and in my opinion one of the best amateurs out there, is the reason I will be backing this horse in the lucky last.
Fingers crossed there are a few winners from my picks but fear not, the Guinness will still be flowing either way. Good luck and enjoy! 🤞🤞🍻🍻
Onto day 2 and after the heroics of Ravenhill in the last yesterday, means we have a bit of a pot to play with today. Although it was J P McManus’s birthday yesterday, I have a feeling he may be getting a late birthday present for himself with a lot of his horses having lively chances today. Let’s kick things off with my first selection.
For me, this race is all about whether Champ can put its last run behind where it fell when having the race at its mercy. I believe that if it can put in a solid round of jumps then it could win this race pretty easily. However, as was evident in the dipper here last time that is a big ‘if’ and a bit of a leap of faith. The main danger would seem to be Minella Indo, who won the Albert Bartlett last year and has won 4 out of 5 times at distances over 3 miles. However, I will stick by Champ and hope it can repay me by winning.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
Onto the big race of the day – the champion chase – what could have been one of the best races of the meeting. However, unfortunately, Altior is injured and has had to pull out, which is not only a shame for the race itself but also the price on my selection, which is Defi Du Seuil; the horse has improved for every run this season and in my opinion will win this with relative ease as I have not really been impressed with its main market rival –Chacun Pour Soi. Therefore, I am going to have a good punt on this one and hope it can pay for my Guinness for the rest of the day!
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
My final selection of the day comes in possibly on paper, one of the more open races of the day. However, if we investigate the stats, three of the last four winners have been rated at 133 or above – this instantly narrows it down to 12 horses in the race. The second stat that I find interesting is that 13 of the last 15 winners have all had a previous run within 37 days and from my previous 12, that leaves us with just 6 horses to pick from, which are Aramax, Langer Dan, Zoffee, Bajan Excell, Night Edition and Saint D’oroux. Of these six, I am leaning toward Aramax because of how emphatically it won last time out at Naas, which was used last by the same trainer as a prep run for last years winner (Band of Outlaws). He is an unexposed horse and can hopefully pick us up some pennies.
As always, no matter the outcome have a great day and enjoy yourself!
Day 3, and we are well in truly in profit for the week no matter what happens for the rest of the festival, thanks to Mr McManus. The Thursday has a great race card with some very competitive races – let’s see if we can build on our profit and find a few winners.
Marsh Novices’ Chase
An ultra-competitive novice chase with a few past festival legends running. My heart is saying to back Faugheen and there would be no more popular winner of the week if it was to do so. The 12-year-old is in stellar form since returning to the track this season with a form of 111 since last November. However, the stats are against it as all past winners have been six- or seven-year olds so this narrows the field down to 8 runners already. To narrow it down further, 8 of the 9 winners have been 7-1 or lower in the market, which at time of writing narrows the field right down to two; Itchy Feet and Mister Fisher. Of the two, I think Itchy Feet has the more substantial form to offer so that’s were my bet will be going.
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
I think this race could be one for the Irish trainers to claim and I am focusing my views on Gordon Elliot’s runners, those being Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller. Sire Du Berlais, who was last year’s winner of this race, is now 7lb higher; however, he still could be ahead of the handicapper and this has undoubtedly been the plan for some time. The second runner, The Storyteller, is a Grade 1 winning chaser and is a previous festival winner – this seems to have been its target for the season and this will be where my money is going. Let’s hope we will be seeing Davy Russell’s trademark celebration come post-race.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
As always, let’s see if we can find a winner in the lucky last to fill our pockets for the evening’s drinks and inevitable curry! As per my selections yesterday, I think J P McManus will have the winner of this race, it’s just deciding which one as he has two runners – Fitzhenry and Champagne Platinum. The one that has drawn my eye is Champagne Platinum; the way it was a staying on third in a grade 1 in its last race could mean the extra distance will draw out more improvement and if it has improved its jumping, I feel with top amateur Mr Derek O’Connor on board, we should have ourselves a winner.
Good luck with all your bets and I’ll see you in the Guinness Village! 🏇🏇🤞🤞
Good morning and onto the final day of the festival Gold Cup day – always a highlight of the racing calendar. Firstly an apology, we drew a blank yesterday. However, I think we can honour with a bang today and beat these pesky bookies!
Always a really competitive race – a kind of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ race as they go at full tilt over the two miles. Unlike a lot of the previous races at the festival, I actually think the Brits hold all the aces and the three at the top of the market, and deservedly so, are the three I’m going to focus on; these are Allmankind, Solo and Goshen. The one I’ve fancied ever since hearing an interview by it’s very shrewd trainer is Goshen, it has run 3 times over hurdles and has a combined winning lengths of 68; this has been it’s target ever since the yard bought it for the owners so fingers crossed we can start the day with a winner.
Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle
A competitive little hurdle race up next. However, my eyes have been drawn to one horse in this race for a number of weeks. This horse has form that ties in with last year’s champion bumper winner and this year’s empathetic Ballymore winner – Envoi Allen, that horse is Thyme Hill, as mentioned, 3rd in last year’s champion bumper so clearly the track should hold no worries for the horse. It has also gone onto win 3 class 1 hurdle races this season so looks a really exciting prospect. I’m hoping the champ can give it a peach of a ride and get us home in front.
Onto the big one then and as ever, a real competitive renewal this year. I honestly think I could look at this race and change my mind numerous times. However, the ground has come good for my selection and unlike a lot of the other horses it has had one prep run and come straight here, for me it just feels like that’s because the horse is so straight forward that the trainer is happy to come straight here. My selection for the big one is Al Boom Photo I’m hoping to see similar scenes to last year with Willie Mullins lifting the cup after the race!
Fingers crossed we have full pockets at the end of the day. Thanks for reading this week and if you have made any money from following me, good on you, and maybe you’re even feeling charitable and could donate some of your earnings to the Injured Jockeys Fund?! You can find out more about their invaluable work, here.
Author: Scott Kneeshaw, Account Developer – Accident, Health, Sports & Contingency
Opinions expressed are solely Scott’s own and do not express the views or opinions of McClarrons Sport.