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We arrive finally at the highlight of the National Hunt season with four fantastic days ahead at the Cheltenham Festival. I will endeavour to find you some great bets for each day of the racing.

Last year we ended well up for the week, so let’s hope we can replicate that success this year.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Key Trends

5 of the last 9 winners were trained by Willie Mullins who has won the race a total of 7 times.

8 of the last 9 winners were just a single-figure starting price.

The race with the roar that gets us started looks like a deep renewal with serval strong contenders going to post. Last year’s race by contrast turned out to be a one-horse race with Appreciate It romping home for the Willie Mullins. Mullins has a strong hand again here with Dysart Dynamo, Kilcruit and Bring on The Night all running for a man who has farmed this race in recent years. The other contenders of interest for many will hail from Nicky Henderson’s yard. Constitution Hill and Jonbon have both been long-term favourites for this, and the latter carried a big reputation thanks to his price tag. Unbeaten in his three starts over hurdles this season some suggested that he was a bit workmanlike when winning on soft ground at Haydock. Constitution Hill is many people’s idea of the winner, impressive on both starts at Sandown he deserves plenty of respect for the manor of those victories, although I have two small concerns. One is his lack of experience, and the other is his form. It just hasn’t to my eye looked nearly as strong as my pick here.

My selection will be Dysart Dynamo. His Moscow Flyer win blew me away visually. On the form book, I think he has done much more to date than anyone else here and can get Ireland off the mark in race one of the Festival.

Arkle Trophy

Key Trends

16 of the last 21 winners had won a Grade 1 or Grade 2 over fences

6 of the last 9 winners had won a Grade 1 or Grade 2 over both fences and hurdles

A competitive renewal looks to offer the UK one of the best chances of landing a Grade 1 winner this week. Alan King’s Edwardstone has been foot perfect bar being brought down on chasing debut at Warwick in November. It is very hard to pick holes in him, but he must buck an age stat with only two of the last 30 winners being older than 7. That said, the sample size probably isn’t big enough to have it held against him as the only reason to look away from him, but he hasn’t won in his three starts at the track and it’s been a while since Alan King had a winner at this meeting. This race is another Willie Mullins has gone well in having landed previous renewals with the likes of Douvan and Footpad among others. This year he has a strong hand with Blue Lord being the shortest price of his gaggle, I think he was just a tad lucky to win the Irish Arkle over Riviere D’etel who just made an error towards the end of the race. At the prices, I think I want to be backing Riviere D’etel to reverse the form and give Gordon Elliot his first winner of the week. She will get a bit of weight from the geldings, whilst it’s not as much as she had at the Dublin Racing Festival going this way round should suit her and I am excited to see if she can give Gordon Elliott his first winner of the week.

Riviere D’etel to win

Ultima Handicap Chase

Key Trends

9 of the last 10 winners had some form of headgear on

UK runners dominate the recent winners of this race Ireland at 0-28 in the last 15 years

If the UK doesn’t strike in earlier races on paper the Ultima is a race that on paper is going to get them off the mark. UK runners have a very strong record in the race and seem to have the knack of finding the right profile of horse to win this handicap. The field being 7/1 gives us the chance to potentially play a couple of runners at nice prices. Does He Know for Kim Bailey has plenty to like. His record round the old course is 11512 with the worst result coming in Bob Olinger’s Ballymore win. My one nagging concern is the yard form which isn’t great now. That said, I am willing to chance a turn in fortune and have him as one selection in the race. The other will come from another local yard in Fantastikas for Nigel Twiston-Davies. His horse seems versatile on the ground and has looked progressive this season. I think this type of contest could suit him. If after this race the UK still haven’t had a winner, we could be looking at an Irish whitewash on day one.

Does He Know each way

Fantastikas each way

Champion Hurdle

Key Trends

9 out of the last 11 winners were unbeaten that season

In the last six renewals, mares have a good record with 3 wins from 7 runners

Honeysuckle wins, well that probably isn’t the full story but is likely to be a popular view, the race is just not a vintage renewal with a real lack of depth. That shouldn’t be a reason to crab the odds-on favourite who has been a real star in her career to date. Wins both in the Mares Hurdle and the Champion have shown how classy she is and the travel over to Prestbury Park is no issue. She gets the benefit of the 7lbs, which looks like a gift to these top-class mares in open company. To try and get some value I will look to play our length the odds market on her for 3 or more lengths. The other bet I will have is Teahupoo without Honeysuckle. He’s one of the few in the race who is fairly unexposed and could just have a fair bit of improvement to come. Giving 7lb to Honeysuckle may prove a bridge too far, but I can easily see him chasing home the wonder mare.

Honeysuckle by 3 or more lengths

Teahupoo W/O Honeysuckle

Mares' Hurdle

Key Trends

12 of the last 14 winners were Irish trained

8 of the last 14 winners had won or placed at the Festival before

Often, we have drama and a short price favourite in this race, this year’s renewal is devoid of that ‘Mullins’ banker’ we have become accustomed to seeing here. Favourite Telmesomethinggirl has been aimed at this all year and rightfully sits towards the head of the betting. The winner of the mares novice last year, she fits both the key trends. At the prices, I think we may be able to find some value elsewhere in the race. We have two horses rated higher than the favourite and Echoes In Rain is the one I want to side with, seemingly overlooked by Paul Townend this horse was only 7 lengths behind Honeysuckle at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out, a price of 17/2 with four places makes this horse a cracking each-way bet in my eyes and could give Willie Mullins yet another win in the mares race.

Echoes In Rain EW

Boodles Juvenile Hurdle

Key Trends

French-bred horses have a great record claiming 9 of the last 17 running’s

11 of the last 17 winners carried 11 stones or more.

One of the talking horses of the entire Festival arrives here, and his reputation seems to have grown legs thanks to comments at multiple preview nights and jockey Paul Townend suggesting he is his best chance of a winner on day one. At 5/2 Gaelic Warrior will be of interest to plenty who have not just believed the hype but assessed the French form in detail. Looking at his last two runs in France, everything that finished in front of him has gone on to win at Listed, Grade 3 or Grade 2 company which is astounding. He must be the win bet option for me here, the good news is if you disagree, we have five places for each way betting purposes.

Gaelic Warrior to win

National Hunt Chase

Key Trends

10 of the last 12 winners had run in a graded novice chase

8 of the last 12 winners had run at the Festival before

The last race on day one and I think this is one the market has slightly wrong. Vanillier looks a big price when digging into his form. I always like backing horses that have won previously at the festival for all his wins came in the Albert Bartlett last season on the new course over hurdles, I do think you need to be a tough horse to win a race like that and move into staying chases it bodes well. I was pleased to see the yard return to winning ways in March after a slightly quiet spell. Trainer Gavin Cromwell has done well with his Festival runners from a small batch punching well above his weight. One of the keys to winning this race normally is a good jockey booking. This year the smaller field size probably makes it less of a concern, but Derek O’Conner has claimed wins in this race twice before and is another reason to be enthusiastic about his chances. Finally looking at the form shown this season, I think he can go close here. Stattler had a big pull at the weights when he beat him last time out, I have big respect for the favourite Run Wild Fred but just think at the prices I want to side with Vanillier, who has had this as his aim for the entire season.

Vanillier to win

 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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