THIS is Part 2 of my early bird special for Cheltenham. This week I'm going to look at some of the short priced favourites across the Festival. Are they certainties or will they be helping to fill the bookmakers' satchels?
There are a good number of short priced favourites at this stage and firms going non-runner no bet just makes those a lot of those prices even shorter. I know some of you like to throw a handful of these type of horses into an accumulator or other multiple bets so let's have a look and see if any of them are worth it.
Footpad – The Arkle (Tuesday)
Current price: 5-4
Thoughts: A good quality hurdler who has improved significantly now switched to fences. He seems to have the measure of Petit Mouchoir although that rival should improve for his last run and doesn't have masses of improvement to find with Footpad. I have a sneaky suspicion that we are overrating the Irish form for the novice chasers this season compared to the UK horses. Saint Calvados and Sceau Royal have both looked good so far and I thought Saint Calvados' win last weekend was particularly impressive. If you backed me into a corner he is who I would see as the value bet. Footpad is probably the most likely winner but there is too much competition for me to get excited about 5/4.
Verdict: Hold off for now
Buveur D'Air – Champion Hurdle (Tuesday)
Current price: 4-9
Thoughts: Very difficult to see past last year's winner. His prep has gone very smoothly whilst rivals have fallen away. A fully-fit Faugheen from two years ago would run him very close but we might not see that horse again. The current Faugheen has disappointed and I can't advise a bet on him. The rest of the field is disappointing quite frankly. If Yorkhill switched back to hurdles that would at least make for an interesting prospect but that looks unlikely. Let's hope the real Faugheen turns up and makes a race of it but as things stand I can't pick any holes in the jolly.
Verdict: He's a racing certainty
Apple's Jade – Mares Hurdle (Tuesday)
Current price: 4-6
Thoughts: Last year's winner hasn't lost since, winning four times and looking classy in the process. The only risk I can see is if Vroum Vroum Mag makes her return from injury. She is entered this weekend at Navan and if that goes well she will probably take her chance at Cheltenham. Even if that is the case though, Apple's Jade deserves to be a short-priced favourite. I wouldn't back against her and she looks like a good thing again this year.
Verdict: She'll win this
Samcro – Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Wednesday)
Current price: 4-5
Thoughts: There should be plenty of opposition to Samcro in this race but he looks like he is on a different level to the rest of the novices on all the form we have seen so far. Get him in your accas.
Verdict: Should bolt up
Altior – Champion Chase (Wednesday)
Current price: 8-11
Thoughts: It's always tricky when a horse has been out with an injury because I'm a firm believer that they rarely come back quite as good as they were and those who do, like Sprinter Sacre, are the real superstars. Altior has come back from an injury and looked really good last weekend in beating Politologue who is a decent yardstick. Min looks likely to be his main rival and if Douvan wins at the weekend in his unexpected comeback he could also be a surprise challenger but Altior should have enough for both of them. A class act.
Verdict: Stick on
Laurina – Mares Novice Hurdle (Thursday)
Current price: 6-5
Thoughts: She has only had two starts in Ireland but looks absolutely breathtaking. This race doesn't take much to win and she looks like a good thing to me.
Verdict: A winner
No specific recommendations for bets on these horses at this stage but if you want to put the five that I like above into an accumulator or multiples for a bit of fun I won't put you off.
Part 3 of the Early Bird Specials will be out next week with more tips and a full preview of the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself and I'll also be back with my regular Saturday column this weekend. Stay tuned…