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Tuesday 5 February 2019

Cheltenham Festival latest

What an interesting weekend of horseracing. 
We had added another few pieces of the Cheltenham Festival jigsaw, and taken a few away, and the overall picture is starting to become a bit clearer.
The Arkle betting market had a re-jig following the win of Le Richebourg at Leopardstown in the Irish "Arkle" on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he beat nothing new, in fact he beat all the same horses that he had already beaten, only he did it a bit more easily.  He is definitely the best 2-mile novice chaser seen so far in Ireland, but the formlines are difficult to match-up with the British form.
Here in England, the market is still dominated by Lalor based on that phenomenal display on his chasing debut at Cheltenham, but don't forget he flopped when next out (and that was the last time we saw him).  Connections reckon he was beaten by the soft ground on that run at Sandown in early December, and they are deciding not to risk another run before the Festival. Based on the trends, that's not a good idea, and I would not be willing to take odds shorter than 5/1 for this horse. 
Kalashnikov is another who will likely go straight to the Festival without another run, but he was unable to contain Dynamite Dollars at Kempton on 27th December and that horse has since won again. I'm sure Cheltenham will suit Kalashnikov more than Kempton, but if there are less than 10 runners in the Arkle then he may not get the pace he craves. Dynamite Dollars is a consistent performer who gets the job done, and he should be capable of running a decent race in the Arkle; but (not being a top-class hurdler) he may find 1 or 2 too good for him on the day.
In the autumn of 2017, Cilaos Emery was on the verge of breaking through as a Grade 1 hurdler, but injury curtailed that season, and he reappeared at Gowran Park last week to win comfortably over 2-miles on his chasing debut. Unfortunately, he didn't beat much but what he faced in the race, he beat well. As such, it's difficult to know what to make of Cilaos Emery, as he will have to run about 20lb better than this (at least) to win the Arkle at Cheltenham.
Only one bookie is offering "non-runner, no bet" on the Arkle (Skybet) and so I would like to take the current odds about the horse that I think has shown the best chase form seen this season over fences, and that is DEFI DU SEUIL who won at Sandown on Saturday. For me, this was the performance of the weekend as I already thought "Defi" was the best novice chaser we've seen this season - he was giving Lostintranslation 3lb when they met at Cheltenham - and he proved it on Saturday.   I think he could on his way to being the best Arkle winner we've seen in a few years and so I've taken the 16/1 offered about him for the Arkle by Bet365. You can get 8/1 NRNB with Skybet but I think it's worth the gamble for the increased odds that he runs in the Arkle rather than the JLT.  He's a Triumph hurdle winner, he's very quick, he loves Cheltenham, he jumps well (he slipped on landing on loose turf at the first of the railway fences and recovered well) - how could connections not go for the Arkle? If he lines up for the Arkle I cannot see him starting longer than 4/1.
Apple's Jade looks like she can win the Champion Hurdle, but she's not a 165+ hurdler yet on what we've seen.  Remember she beat Supasundae 20-lengths on the 2nd Dec over 2m4f, so beating him again by 16-lengths on the same terms over 2-miles was always on the cards.  The disappointment was Melon, who looks to have lost his way, had he run to his rating (OR162) then he would have been a close 2nd, but I'd say Apple's Jade has improved about 7lb since she was 3rd in the Mares Hurdle last March. When you include the 7lb mares allowance, that means the colts will have to run to at least 167 to beat her in the Champion Hurdle. Now, on my ratings, Buveur D'Air hasn't run to 167 since winning the Aintree hurdle over 2m4f in April 2017, and he's going to find it very hard to contain Apple's Jade, but it is within his scope.
I'm none-too confident now about my speculative wager on Sharjah, but this horse does have a helluva turn of foot and he may be able to lay-up and come with a run, but will he cope with the Cheltenham hill? I'm confident that I should be able to lay-off my wager on him on the day and recover my stake.
Mortal may have had an issue with the ground, but I'm not so sure, as he travelled well enough when beaten behind La Bague Au Roi on Saturday. I've already placed small wagers on him for both the RSA and NH Chase but he doesn't look good enough, and I can see him not coming over for the Festival.

Cheltenham Festival Portfolio
Arkle (novices) Chase  
DEFI DU SEUIL, £10 win @ 16/1 (Bet365)
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £28 at SP on the day)
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1 (William Hill & Betfair)
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day - Betfair)
RSA Chase (Novices 3-mile)
MORTAL, £11 win @ 16/1 (Paddy Power)
NH Chase (Novices 4-mile)
MORTAL, £9 win @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)

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