DAY ONE might be just around the corner but @Voice of Value is still finidng value in the ante-post markets and here takes a look at Thursday's card at the Festival.
1.30pm JLT Novices Chase
Defi De Seuil is likely to be the favourite for this. He has improved this season for the switch to chasing and looks a nice horse but he has also been beaten by Lostintranslation and was thumped on chase debut too.
It might not be a vintage crop of novices this year but I am tempted to take the favourite on. Real Steel looks the best of the Irish and is an interesting option. He has perhaps been overlooked slightly because he wasn't a top class hurdler but he looks much better over fences and his two wins in Ireland have been against decent opposition.
The one that I am going for though is VINNDICATION for Kim Bailey. Until his last run he was unbeaten in 7 previous runs and I think that recency bias is working against him here. It wasn't a bad run behind the aforementioned Defi De Seuil and Lostintranslation last time when he looked uncomfortable the whole way round but still kept on really well to finish a close third.
I fancy Kim Bailey to have him in better shape for this today and he looks a decent value bet to reverse the form.
2.10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
I have two selections in this race both of which I think we should back now rather than wait until Thursday. Regular followers will know that I am a big fan of Ian Williams both on the flat and over jumps and there are few trainers better at targeting horses for a big race.
His entry here is FIRST ASSIGNMENT who has some really good form with Paisley Park this season, finishing less than 2 lengths behind him and Shades of Midnight who has also won twice since. First Assignment is very much unexposed, has never finished out of the top 4 and could be a good bit ahead of his handicap mark.
My second selection is another unexposed horse. THERMISTOCLES has improved with each run for Joseph O'Brien and has every chance of stepping up again. Irish-trained horses have a good record in this race and he looks likely to be involved, having coped well with a large field handicap at Leopardstown last time out.
2.50pm Ryanair Chase
I am firmly of the view that Footpad is a bad favourite for this race. He would be of interest on a speculative basis at bigger odds but his form this season doesn't justify favouritism and his lifetime form leaves a question over whether he really wants to be running over this distance in my view.
I like several of the alternatives but the most obvious one for me is ROAD TO RESPECT. He is a definite Grade 1 horse and is very consistent. He was 7-1 a few days ago which was far too big but that has gone now and I still think he is worth a bet at the current price of 5-1.
You know you are getting a solid horse who will be there or thereabouts coming over the last fence.
3.30pm Stayers Hurdle
Paisley Park is the obvious favourite here and rightly so. His form has been far and away the best over this distance this season.
The main threat in my view was last year's winner Penhill who is now a non-runner. Paisley Park therefore looks a strong favourite and I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him.
I’ll be sticking him in my win multiples for the week and if he drifts to 2/1 on Wednesday night or Thursday morning I’ll also be having a win single on him.
If you are looking for a bit of value I think Supasundae at 7-1 NRNB is again a rock solid bet to finish in the places and could be the one to capitalise if Paisley Park slips up on the big occasion.
4.10pm Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate
It’s almost as hard to remember the full name of the race as it is to pick the winner.
SPIRITOFTHEGAMES is the one that I like as things stand. He was a nice handicap hurdler last season and will enjoy the pace and hustle and bustle of this big field handicap chase.
We know that the Skeltons can get one ready for the big occasion and he looks a good bet to be involved at the finish.
4.50pm Mares Novice Hurdle
Posh Trish is the one that looks consistent and has been undervalued in favour of the potentially flashy Epatante.
She is the top rated horse in the race although Epatante gets the 5 year old weight allowance which puts her ahead on ratings.
Whilst Honeysuckle was still in the race last week Posh Trish was a nice each way bet but I think she is short enough now at 5-1 best price and I will wait until Thursday to see if she drifts back out a bit.
The potential value as things stand is QUEENOHEARTS for the Stuart Edmunds stable. She has done nothing wrong to date and is likely to improve again so it’s worth taking a chance on her at a nice double figure price.
5.30pm Kim Muir Challenge Cup
I say it every year but it is so true: the jockey is crucially important in this race because they are all amateurs and with all due respect some of them truly are amateurs. The top amateurs like Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor are as good as the professionals and are very valuable to have onside in these races.
Another good amateur is Sam Waley-Cohen who is likely to be on board an old friend of mine in this race. THE YOUNG MASTER and I go way back (to the RSA in March 2015 in fact when I think he finished last) and such is his up and down profile that some of my less forgiving followers have taken to calling him The Young Disaster.
I also swore never to back him again but he has had a resurgence this season that can’t be ignored. He has a nice advantage here with Sam Waley-Cohen in the plate and if he is in the mood (that’s less than a 50/50 chance to be fair) then he is well equipped to take care of his opponents here.
At a double figure price I’m willing to give him a chance and I’ll take the roof off the place if he can do it. Be sure to take NRNB because they might miss Cheltenham completely with him if they don’t like the ground on Thursday.
12:00 Sedgefield - Race: 1
12:20 Yarmouth - Race: 1