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Wednesday 11 March 2015

Cheltenham 2015 - Day 3 (Thursday)

The end of an era with the defeat of Sprinter Sacre. I doubt we'll see him on the track again. 

1:30 JLT Novices Chase (2-miles & 4-furlongs)
The day opens with the 5th running of this intermediate distance championship race for novice chasers. Race trends are thin on the ground. That said,
· All 4 winners have been rated (at one time) OR142 or better meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners and were above average hurdlers.
- All 4 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival.
I’d stick to the tried and trusted LTO winners (certainly no worse than 2nd) selection method. This is a tough 2m4f, so your selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not, in my opinion, a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative.
Just about the entire field meet the criteria, so looking just on chase form I'm of the opinion that PTIT ZIG is the best value in the race. I'm not convinced the form of Vautour is strong enough, and possibly trainer Mullins is of the same opinion which is why he also has Valseur Lido in the race. Odds of 7/2 don't leave much room for error. 
No wager advised.

2:05 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (3-miles)
Before Fingal Bay won as the 9/2 fav last year, you had to go back to 2003 to find the last successful fav, and to 2005 for the last horse to win at odds under 14/1. This race has been a tricky one for punters to solve over the years.
· 15 of last 22 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb (both of the last 2 winners carried more than 11st 3lb);
· 11 of the last 23 winners won LTO.
A maximum field and not one to take a short price on. Even so, the Henderson horse CALL THE COPS won with a fair bit in hand LTO only 12-days ago and has just a 5lb penalty for that win.

2:40 Ryanair Chase (2-miles & 5-furlongs)
This race is now firmly established as a worthy Festival Championship race, and is producing winners of the highest order.
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 9 of the 10 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 6 of the last 7 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.

The fav is Don Cossack and he has the best form going into the race, but my worry is that the ground may be a bit quick for him as his best form is on soft.  I prefer the chance of the mare Ma Filleule who, if repeating last years performance here will go close (she was 2nd to Holywell in the handicap chase). Balder Succes is very consistent and he needs to improve to win this. Johns Spirit ticks a lot of boxes in this, but may not be quite good enough. Foxrock looks the type who wants 3-mile. Hidden Cyclone had his chance last year (ran 2nd) and is too old at 10yo. Both Tarquin De Seuil and Eduard aren't good enough and neither are the rest of the field. Not an easy race to fathom and, if pushed for a win wager, it would have to be Ma Filleule. However, Johns Spirit was running well in the King George when last seen until his stamina gave way and this trip is his best. At 11/1 with Paddy Power he looks the best eachway wager as he always runs a good race. 
Johns Spirit, £5 eachway @ 11/1 (Paddy Power)
All bookies are quarter-odds a place 1,2,3.

3:20 World Hurdle (3-miles)
For the first time since 2009, BIG BUCKS isn't the main talking point.
Likely trends:-
· The age of the winner should be between 6yo and 9yo;
· Good recent form is very important and the winner will likely have run 1st, 2nd or 3rd LTO;
· 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.

The overall quality of this years race is below the usual standard, hence we have a massive 17 runners. I feel that Zarkandar should have gone close last year if he was good enough (I had my money on him) and he's not shown that he's improved this season. I was on Cleeve Hurdle winner Saphir Du Rheu when he won here in January, and for me that is the best form in the race - and I think he's capable of better! I think Lieutenant Colonel will be outclassed, and Whisper should be close but he's never been as good as Saphir. The only other potential winner Un Temps Pour Tout will need to find about 15lb of improvement on his run LTO and I can't have him. Paddy Power go 6/1 Saphir Du Rheu and that looks great value as I think he should be the clear fav at about 7/2.
Saphir Du Rheu, £5 win AND £5 eachway @ 6/1 with Paddy Power (BOG, and quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)

4:00 Festival Plate (was Byrne Group) Handicap Chase (2-mile & 4½-furlongs)
This race has had winners at odds of 25/1 (three times), 33/1, 50/1 and 66/1 in past 10 years, so don’t be afraid of backing your own judgement and opposing the market.

· 18 of the last 22 winners carried under 11st;
· 13 of the previous 17 winners came here off a break of no more than 39 days;
· 20 of the last 22 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race once since 1951.

You places your money and you take you chance - good luck!

4:40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge (for Amateurs) Handicap Chase (3-miles, 1-furlong & 110 yards)
This is another Festival race suffering from“handicap compression”.
As such, the overall interpretation of the long-term weight trends for this race are changing as most of the field will be carrying more than 11st.

· 6 of the last 10 winners have carried 11st 6lb or more
· No winner in past 20 years younger than 7yo;
· Only 6 of the last 35 winners was a 7yo;
· Last year Spring Heeled was the first Irish trained winner since Greasepaint in 1983.
Being amateur ridden, you need to consider the talents of the jockeys - as happened earlier in the meeting with the excellent JJ Codd winning on Cause Of Causes. I reckon the winner will be ridden be one of the followind, Codd, O'Connor, Carroll, Waley-Cohen, Bannister or Legg as the winning jockey is always one of the best amateurs. The one I like the look of is the 7yo Clondaw Knight ridden by JT Carroll as this horse was going to be my selection in the opening days handicap chase but has been diverted to this instead. He is improving, stays 3-mile, handles the ground and is usually ridden handy to the pace. Odds of 20/1 with Paddy Power and BetVictor look generous to me. 
Clondaw Knight, £5 eachway @ 20/1 (Bet Victor or Paddy Power both BOG and quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)

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