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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2018 - more thoughts

I want to try and get a head-start on the form study for Cheltenham, so I'm taking an early look at some of the races on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Supreme Novices Hurdle
It is likely that there will be a big field for this race (maximum 22) and we should have over 14 runners. There are 4 entries rated OR150 or higher: Samcro (OR155), Kalashnikov (OR154), Getabird (OR152), and Summerville Boy (OR150); and all these 4 horses are LTO (last time out) winners. Being a LTO winner is very important in this race as of the last 16 winners no less than 13 were LTO winners.   Among the remainder of entries, there are only 2 other LTO winners; First Flow (OR144) and The Russian Doyen (OR139).  There is a distinct possibility that Samcro could race in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle on Wednesday over 2m5f, but if he does take this race then he will be very hard to beat.  While Getabird is clearly a class horse on what we've seen, he has only had 2 races and only beat 5 rivals LTO, my thoughts are this race may be too much for him.  As such, KALASHNIKOV who is best-priced at 5/1 with Bet365, Paddy Power, and Bet Victor looks to be the value.  The Betfair Hurdle winner has not stopped improving this season and has only met defeat once when meeting Summerville Boy at Sandown in January on heavy ground. It was likely the heavy ground that stopped Kalashnikov that day and he will surely beat Summerville Boy on Tuesday as that horse has run twice at Cheltenham this season without winning.

Arkle Challenge Trophy (Novices) Chase
There is a strong possibility that the race may have only have 6 runners, and they are likely to be Footpad (OR162), Saint Calvados (OR160), Petit Mouchoir (OR157), Brain Power (OR156), North Hill Harvey (OR150), and Tombstone (OR147).  From what I've seen Brain Power is unlikely to win even if he completes the course (he's only finished on of his 3 chase races) and Petit Mouchoir has to jump a lot better than he did when he was comprehensively out-jumped by Footpad when they met at Leopardstown in February.  Back in 3rd that day was Any Second Now, and this novice chaser is being talked of as a handicap snip for one of the novice handicap chases and that suggests to me that this race is between Footpad and Saint Calvados.  I'm not sure whether what Saint Calvados has beaten merits him a rating of OR160, and so for me FOOTPAD could well be the best bet of the opening day given his odds of 5/4.  It may be that I'm proved wrong, but Cheltenham could prove a perfect track for this horse who should stay 3-mile next season, and it would not surprise me to see this horse trading at 2/5 or shorter come the start of the race on Tuesday.

Ultima Handicap Chase - 3m1f
One of my favourite races of the year. The last 4 winners all carried more than 11st and 5 of the last 7 winners have carried over 11st. This is a race in which weight is not stopping horses like it used to mainly because the quality of horses competing in the race has risen and the handicap is more "compressed". With a maximum of 24 runners, it is likely that the bottom-weight will carry over 10st 8lb. The LTO winners are Gold Present (OR155), Yala Enki (OR152), Wakanda (OR148), Dingo Dollar (OR143); Knight Of Noir (OR142); Coo Star Sivola (OR142). I think that these races are usually won by horses with less than 12 chase races (which takes out Wakanda and Yala Enki), as you are essentially looking for a young improving chaser that is ahead of the handicapper.
The obvious candidates are 
Gold Present - still improving, 3 wins from 7 races, stays 3-mile, the only doubt I have over this horse is he hasn't run since 23rd Dec and, typically, a winning horse comes into this race off a break of about 35 days.
Singlefarmpayment - just btn in this race last year off OR142, he races off OR145 this year and he's had pretty much the same preparation.  Ignore the run on heavy LTO, as he hated it.  He could run a cracker.
Coo Star Sivola - was the fav for the Grade 3 handicap chase over 2m5f on "trials" day won by Frodon, he was probably btn by the heavy ground that day but has since won over 3-mile and comes here in top form.
Vintage Clouds - will stay every yard and more, best form shown on good-to-soft ground, runs prominently and was going well when falling 2-out last year.  Expect a bold show from this 20/1 chance.
Minella Daddy - needs a couple to pull out to get a run, he returned from a year off in January to be as good as he was.  This 8yo is likely to improve on his LTO 2nd and should run better than his 25/1 odds, he could go close.

To be continued....






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