THE 2019 Cheltenham Festival starts here as @VoiceOfValue takes a look at some of the early prices on the opening day of the Greatest Show on Turf.
1.30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle
This is a wide open race to start the festival off but ELIXIR DE NUTZ has rock solid form. He is highly likely to place in my opinion and has a strong chance for the win. He has won his last three races including two over course and distance and he should be a shorter price in my book.
Al Dancer was excellent in winning the Tolworth but is now a bit short and Fakir D'oudairies is another one to concerned about with his four year old weight allowance. Grand Sancy is another one who is a fairly big price in my view after winning the Kingwell in open company last time (beating Sceau Royal and Vision Des Flos) and if that form is to be taken literally then he should be one of the favourites here.
Elixir De Nutz and Grand Sancy would be my two against the field in this. I'm having a bet on Elixir De Nutz now and will look for extra place terms and potentially slightly higher odds on the day for Grand Sancy.
2.10pm Arkle Chase
There are a remarkable number of entries at this stage for the Arkle this year, signalling that there isn't a standout favourite as there has been in past years.
For me though I think GLEN FORSA is a great price. Make sure you take NRNB because he is also entered elsewhere but he would be about 2/1 if he was trained by Willie Mullins and I have no idea why Lalor is shorter than him in the betting.
Glen Forsa's jumping and galloping last time out were absolutely sensational and although he only had two rivals that day they were good quality and he blitzed them. His other two wins also stack up and he looks a great bet to me.
The each way value might be with Paloma Blue who is a classy horse and has done nothing wrong over fences so far. He can be backed at a double figure price.
2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase
A tough handicap which I will revisit on Monday when we know more about the intended runners. For the time being my focus for the race is on the following horses:
Minella Rocco – previously classy horse who is either gone at the game and will be out the back of the telly or it's a Jonjo and JP plot job in which case he could win this with the old cigar and newspaper out. And then he'll go and win the Grand National. His price is a bit short now so maybe best to wait until the day for a bit of price competition. Win only might be the way to go with this one because I think he will either be boom or bust.
Discorama – I thought this one might go for the four mile race later on the card but if he goes here he will be equally interesting. He fell last time out when going really well and he looks like a strong stayer with plenty of potential.
WALT – it's taken this lad a while to get going but in his last few runs he has looked like a good staying handicapper and he should squeeze in at the bottom of the weights here if there are a few more entries diverted to other races. I would be very interested in him he gets in and I think I'll take some each way value on him just now with the NRNB concession.
3.30pm Champion Hurdle
What a race we have in store here. I am happy to admit that I have been flip-flopping back and forth on this for weeks.
The reigning champ Buveur D'Air is hard to see past but the fact that he is up against two potentially top class mares is a big worry. The mares receive a 7lb weight allowance which I think could make them too hot to handle for the current king.
My problem then is which of Apples Jade and Laurina are going to be the one to do the business? I'm still uncertain and although I think Laurina could be different class she hasn't achieved anywhere near as much as Apples Jade or Buveur on the track.
The only fly in Apples Jade's ointment is that she has been to Cheltenham last year and disappointed in the Mares Hurdle when she looked a good thing. Her form this season though has been on a completely different level, even compared to what Buveur has achieved in winning his two Champion Hurdles.
For that reason I'm backing APPLES JADE to get the job done in what is sure to be a brilliant race.
4.10pm Mares Hurdle
I think this race could provide me with the value bet of the week.
LIMINI is an absolutely brilliant bet for the each way snidey boys like me. She is clearly at least the second best horse in the race (once Apples and Laurina go for the Champion). Her rating is very close to Benie Des Deux yet she is considerably higher in the betting.
In my opinion you can more or less forget the rest of them (perhaps with the exception of Stormy Ireland who is a decent mare) and this is an each way bet to nothing. Get the price while you can because there is no way this mare is allowed to go off at 7/1.
4.50pm Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase
RIDERS ONTHESTORM is the one that I like for this. He jumps well and is a progressive young chaser who could win this on his way to bigger and better things.
Interestingly his trainer Tom Taffe has only ever had one horse entered in this race in the past and he won it. That's worthy of note on its own.
I'll hopefully have one or two more for this race at bigger prices by Monday night but I am still working through some of the form.
5.30pm National Hunt Chase
This race is an absolute slog for novice chasers over four miles and it definitely takes a certain type to win it.
DISCORAMA fell at the last fence when running Ballyward close last time out and he looks like good value to me as things stand at more than double the price of Ballyward.
If Ok Corral turns up with Derek O'Connor on board he has a strong chance but he is a fragile horse and is far too short in the market for me.