The day opens with the 6th running of this championship race for novice chasers.
· All 5 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers..
- All 5 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Stick with LTO winners (certainly no worse than 2nd), and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion.
OUTLANDER, £4 win @ 5/1 (available generally)
· 16 of last 23 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 24 winners won LTO.
One horse that appears to fit the bill is SADDLERS ENCORE. He’s a LTO winner and carries 10st 7lb. He’s won 3 of his last 4 races and for a 7yo is very lightly raced and this will be just his 8th race since his track debut in November 2013. Followers of the blog were on him when he won LTO, and he never gave up that day, he was very resilient. He has only been raised 6lb for that win and, at odds of 18/1 he looks tremendous value as I do like a horse that travels well, and prominently, in this handicap. However, I cannot advise a wager in a race like this.
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 10 of the 11 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 7 of the last 8 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
· The Irish have yet to win the race, and sent over Don Cossack last year who started the fav and finished 3rd.
This race is all about VAUTOUR who should win this race in a canter, much as he won the JLT Novices Chase last year. For the runner-up, let’s remove those who haven’t won at Cheltenham: Gilgamboa; Josses Hill; Oscar Rock; Vibrato Valtat; Smashing; Road To Riches; and Valseur Lido.
TAQUIN DU SEUIL, £5 eachway @ 10/1 with William Hill without the fav Vautour
· The betting market is usually good at highlighting the winner and it is unlikely that the winner will not be amongst the 1st-4 in the betting (certainly at odds less than 10/1);
· It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival;
· The last horse to win this after taking part in a Champion Hurdle was Nomadic Way in 1992.
Last years 1st and 2nd Cole Harden and Saphir De Rheu return, but all the focus is on THISTLECRACK who has been a revelation this season. If he repeats the form of his win here in January then it is unlikely that he will be beat. Last year I was on Saphir Du Rheu and he everything right then bar enough to beat the winner. He showed he was a serious top-class 3-mile hurdler NOT at Aintree, and I think he looks better than his 10/1 odds (he was the 5/1 fav last year). As I do not think Alpha Des Obeaux is good enough on what we’ve seen, for me the wager is SAPHIR DU RHEU.
Saphir Du Rheu, £5 win AND £5 eachway @ 11/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
· 19 of the last 23 winners carried under 11st;
· 21 of the last 23 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race once since 1951.
If you look only at those rated OR128 – OR141 then you omit all those carrying 10st11lb or more. I’m prepared to bend that rule and include LTO winner STILLETTO on OR142. There is also another LTO winner in this group, the mare LA VATICANE trained by David Pipe, and she’s due to run off OR142 but (with her 5lb win penalty) runs off OR138. Personally, I think STILLLETTO is a 150+ horse, and he’s going to be my main wager.
You places your money and you take you chance - good luck!
4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
· Only 6 of the last 36 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been only one Irish-trained winner since 1983, that was Spring Heeled in 2014.
SILVERGROVE, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)