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Monday 12 March 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2018 - Day 1

With the ground expected to be heavy (soft in places) and very likely to cut up badly over the course of the day, we could have some unpredictable results on the opening day of the Festival. 
My advice - keep things simple, look for form on testing ground, even over shorter trips or in hurdle races if you are weighing-up the form in a chase race.  As always, I keep in focus LTO winners (the Cheltenham Festival is not a place to seek to recover form), and young improving horses that (hopefully) are not yet exposed to the handicapper.

Let's run through the card for Tuesday
1:30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle over 2-mile & 87 yards
I do not enjoy these 1:30pm starts to the Festival in order to squeeze an extra race in at 5:30pm. With Samcro going for the "Ballymore" over 2m5f on Wednesday this race is more "open".  With experience of just 2 hurdle races, I think this will be too much for Getabird; he may turn out to be a decent horse but he will need to be exceptional to win this.  I'm also doubtful about Kalashnikov on this ground although I think he has a favourite's chance - he is my choice on form but only to a small stake. Summerville Boy has twice been beaten at Cheltenham so while he will handle the ground, the track does not bring out the best in him.  All-in-all, the race looks set up for an outsider to win especially on this heavy ground, something like First Flow or Us And Them who both have winning form on heavy ground and look unexposed at this level.
A no bet race for me.

2:10pm Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase over 2-mile.   
Very disappointing having only 5 runners for this race.  With Robinshill outclassed, and Brain Power not looking good enough - even if he runs a clear round - the race is between FOOTPAD, Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados.  At the current odds, FOOTPAD has to be value at 5/4 (you may even find 11/8) and could be my biggest wager of the day.  Petit Mouchoir barely stayed 2-mile as a hurdler, and there must be a huge doubt about the horse being competitive over this trip as a chaser on this ground. What can we make of Saint Calvados?  Obviously, a talented chaser but his win at Warwick LTO in February is difficult to assess.  My opinion is that if the injured Sceau Royal was running then the betting would be very different regards Saint Calvados, he would be more 5/1 than 3/1 with Sceau Royal and FOOTPAD likely joint-favs at about 6/4.  FOOTPAD has done absolutely nothing wrong, jumps well, stays up to 3-mile (never mind a strongly run 2-mile) and I honestly think the horse should be trading at odds-on, possibly 2/5.  

2:50pm Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f
I'm a bit disappointed that this race only has 18 runners, I expect the ground has scared a few away.  Regular readers will know that I've looked at this race already and posted my shortlist on Saturday.  All those on the shortlist go to post: Gold Present (6/1), Singlefarmpayment (6/1), Coo Star Sivola (9/2); Vintage Clouds (10/1) and MINELLA DADDY (14/1). 
Since writing this blog on Monday morning the odds on Gold Present have drifted to 11/1 with PaddyPower, BetVictor and Boylesports - this represents tremendous eachway value as the horse must be in the 1st-4 if he completes.
If Gold Present wins this race then my advice is to immediately put the mortgage on Might Bite for the Gold Cup on Friday.  I am expecting a big run from Gold Present and the only doubts are that he comes here having last raced before Xmas Day, and he has top-weight.  On this ground, I think both of those factors are a negative. The ground will also not help Singlefarmpayment or Coo Star Sivola, although I expect big runs from both.  I watched Vintage Clouds run in the race last year and he was under a hard drive from a long way out, I'm not so sure Cheltenham is his course. That leaves me with MINELLA DADDY - were it not for a year off with injury then he'd have gone close in this race last year.  But for a minor last fence error LTO he would have won, and he looks a class horse on a low rating of OR139 - he was sent off at the same odds as Might Bite when they met in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day in 2016.  MINELLA DADDY is my idea of the winner of this race, and I'm on at 16/1 already and will likely double-up my stake on the afternoon of the race. Odds of 20/1 available with Paddy Power and plenty of 18/1.

3:30pm Champion Hurdle over 2-mile
I am getting very bullish on the chance of FAUGHEEN with this wet weather likely putting an emphasis on stamina - and Ballymore/Neptune winner over 2m5f FAUGHEEN has no doubts on that score. The odds-on fav Buveur D'Air has a lot going for him but this will be his first proper since winning at Aintree last April and while he will be fit, will he be a bit ring-rusty?  Honestly, I cannot see anything else getting close to this pair, and the best of the rest could be the Gordon Elliot trained Mick Jazz.   Odds of 6/1 about FAUGHEEN look to me to be an eachway "no brainer".

4:10pm Mares Hurdle run over 2m4f
This looks a complete shoo-on for APPLE'S JADE who really should be running in the Champion Hurdle and would likely go close in that race. If you are looking for a daily double, you won't go far wrong with APPLE'S JADE & FOOTPAD; pays the equivalent of 5/2 should they both win.

4:40pm NH Challenge Cup Novices Chase (amateur riders) over 4-mile 
This race has recently developed into the premier novice chase for staying novice chasers, however this year the race does not look as strong as in previous years.  Every horse carries the same weight of 11st 6lb apart from mares who get a 7lb allowance, and this race is invariably won by the horse with the highest official rating - it is as simple as that.  The ground could have a big effect on the result this year, and there are some horses with potential and very little form to go on that may surprise.   Obviously NO COMMENT with just one chase race has huge potential but odds of 11/2 leave no room for error.  The Gordon Elliot pair of JURY DUTY and MOSSBACK cannot be ignored given Elliot's record in this race.   However,  I'm quite taken with the mare (and her 7lb allowance) MS PARFOIS as she stays 3-mile-plus, handles soft/heavy, runs prominently, has a decent jockey in the saddle in William Biddick.  Odds of 7/1 are tight but we may get a bit more on the day if the Irish gamble on their horses.

5:30pm Novices Handicap Chase over 2m4f
It is really disapppointing that this top novices handicap is run at the end of the 1st day of the Festival. and at the very least, the race should swap places with the Mares Hurdle.  I've had a brief look at the race and a horse I watched win at Cheltenham over the trip in January MISTER WHITAKER catches my eye.  He's improved with every run, obviously handles course and ground, gets in on bottom-weight of 11st 2lb.

My wagers:-
1:30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle - no bet
2:10pm Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase - FOOTPAD - £10 win @ 5/4
2:50pm Ultima Handicap Chase - MINELLA DADDY - £5 eachway @ 20/1
3:30pm Champion Hurdle - FAUGHEEN - £5 eachway @ 6/1
4:10pm Mares Hurdle - no bet 
4:40pm NH Challenge Cup Novices Chase - MS PARFOIS - £5 eachway @ 7/1 
5:30pm Novices Handicap Chase - MISTER WHITAKER - £5 eachway @ 10/1

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