IT'S been an absolutely brilliant week so far for the sport of jumps racing. It's not been brilliant on the winners front with so many of my selections being placed but Presenting Percy and Altior were a good boost and all the each way returns add up.
As I type this Ballyalton has finished placed for another decent each way return at 25/1 and Mall Dini has finished second when he looked like he was going to get there. A wee bit frustrating but I'm certainly chapping on the door.
Anyway, one more big deep breath and we go again for the final day.
1.30pm – Triumph Hurdle
(2 miles, 4 year old novices only, hurdles)
I am fairly confident about APPLES SHAKIRA for Nicky Henderson in this one although the Irish duo of Mullins and Elliot just seem to be unstoppable the year so we really do need to be conscious of their runners including Stormy Ireland, Farclas and MR ADJUDICATOR, the latter of whom has strong form and I think will go well for a confident Paul Townsend. I think the sensible thing to do here is back Apples Shakira to win and Mr Adjudicator each way without going mad on either of them. These juvenile races are tough to predict as we saw on Wednesday with a 33/1 winner in the Fred Winter.
2.10pm – County Hurdle
(2 miles, hurdles, handicap)
One of the races at the festival where you really need some luck in running but also a lot of class. It's a strong end-to-end gallop for two miles so although your horse needs to be able to travel at a decent pace it is also likely to need to have plenty of stamina.
I like two in this which are CHESTERFIELD and my old pal REMILUC. Chesterfield is a 20/1 shot and looks to have been aimed at this race all along. Seamus Mullins has worked the oracle with the horse and managed to get his handicap mark down to 140. He had a win in a bumper race a couple of weeks ago just to get him perfect for the race and soft ground is no issue.
What can I say about REMILUC that hasn't already been said? He isn't fashionable and often isn't particularly well supported in the market but he continually outruns his odds. We backed him when he won at 20/1 over course and distance in January and we backed him again at 50/1 when he grabbed a place in February. He is tough and consistent and although he might find one or two of them a bit too flashy for him here once again he looks overpriced to me. Go on Remiluc!
2.50pm – Albert Bartlett
(3 miles, novices only, hurdles)
I advised a bet on SANTINI a few weeks back and he is now the favourite. I think he'll go close and my only concern is thathe is perhaps lacking in a little bit of experience. He is a worthy favourite though and if you haven't backed him already get a win bet on him. My second selection is CALETT MAD for Nigel Twiston Davies. He looks a dour stayer and has loads of experience and he looks the type to me that could go past some tired horses up the hill in the soft ground.
3.30pm – Cheltenham Gold Cup
(3 miles 2 furlongs, fences, top chase in the UK)
This is the big one. The one that they all want to win. I will keep this short and sweet because I already did a comprehensive runner-by-runner guide a couple of weeks ago. I recommended a bet then on DEFINITLY RED and all of those points remain equally valid now. If anything the rain has worked in our favour and he is now best priced 12/1.
Given what we saw in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday with Balko Des Flos hacking up I am no inclined to also advise a bet on ROAD TO RESPECT for Noel Meade. He beat Balko Des Flos over Christmas time and should be shorter than his current price.
I should also say that if you fancy backing Might Bite I think the current prices of 4/1 or 9/2 are perfectly fair and I wouldn't put you off doing that. It's just a little bit too short for me to recommend a bet.
4.10pm – Foxhunter Chase
(3 miles 2 furlongs, hunter chasers only, amateur jockeys only)
I usually have a strong opinion on this race but it's wide open. The point that I always make is equally valid here where amateur jockeys are concerned. The best amateurs have a real advantage so the likes of Jamie Codd, Derek O'Connor and Nina Carberry are appealing. The one I like at a big price is ridden by Lorcan Williams who is decent without being a superstar at amateur level but he is perfectly capable of getting the job done here on VIRAK. The horse was previously rated in the high 150s over fences and has been given a break and switched to hunter chases where has won 2 from 2, ridden by Lorcan Williams both times. He has a really strong chance here I think.
4.50pm – Martin Pipe Hurdle
(2 miles 4 furlongs, handicap hurdle, conditional jockeys)
Traditionally referred to as ‘the boys race' this race is for young trainee jockeys only so a good song jockey can be very helpful. The one I am very strong on is EARLY DOORS for Joseph O'Brien and ridden by JJ Slevin who is a very capable conditional. Indeed, Slevin won this very race last year on Champagne Classic and I think he can repeat the trick here. I had heard whispers from Ireland about the horse a few weeks ago and true enough he has shortened a bit in the betting. This is his handicap debut and I think he may well have been underestimated.
5.30pm – Grand Annual
(2 miles, fences, handicap)
The last race of the festival and while it is absolutely helter skelter and some luck in running is required I have had a good bit of luck in the race including last year when ROCK THE WORLD stormed up the hill at a lovely big price to end the week on a high. Since then the horse has been bought by JP McManus, campaigned every quietly and runs again off a 6lb higher handicap mark this year. Although he probably wants slightly better ground I don't think that will be a huge issue and he simply must be backed at big odds.
I'm having a second pop because it's the last race and there is plenty of value about. DOLOS runs for Paul Nicholls who is waiting for his first winner of the festival this year although hopefully he gets it before Dolos runs with Virak in the Foxhunters. Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham reckons that Dolos will love the frantic pace of this race and is a very confident jumper. I would agree with that and think the horse looks very progressive so we'll go with Rock the World as the steady older horse who has walked the walk and Dolos as the potential young improver.
Good luck to one and all on the last day!
- 1.30 – Apples Shakira – 2 point win at 13/8 with Betbright
- 1.30 – Mr Adjudicator – 1 point e/w at 8/1 with Betbright
- 2.10 – Chesterfield – 2 points e/w at 16/1 with Betbright
- 2.10 – Remiluc – 1 point e/w at 40/1 with Betbright
- 2.50 – Calett Mad – 2 points e/w at 16/1 with Betbright
- 2.50 – Already advised – Santini – 2 points e/w at 8/1
- 3.30 – Road to Respect – 2 points e/w at 11/1 with Betbright
- 3.30 – Already advised- Definitly Red – 2 points e/w at 20/1
- 4.10 – Virak – 2 points e/w at 12/1 with Betbright
- 4.50 – Early Doors – 3 points e/w at 8/1 with Betbright
- 5.30 – Rock The World – 2 points e/w at 20/1 with Betbright
- 5.30 – Dolos – 2 points e/w at 14/1 with Betbright
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