The Cheltenham Festival for 2019 commences tomorrow at 1:30pm when the most welcome roar in sport will herald the start of the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
I've no real handle on the juvenile hurdle form, but having watched FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES demolish what was supposed to be top-class field on 26th January, after which he was considered a major player in the 4yo Triumph Hurdle market, I cannot understand how he's 11/2 for this race when he is in-receipt of the 8lb "4yo's" allowance. With a rating of OR150, he'd be competitive without the allowance, so if he's as good as he was in January then he will take all the beating.
The opening day is one of the best days' racing in the calendar, and while there are championship races on all the other 3 days of the Festival, the opening day is the best.
Straight after the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, we have the Arkle Novices Chase over 2-mile and how this race develops will depend on the effect of the weather the evening and through the night. A real rainstorm is expected and we could end up with soft ground in the morning, which would not be good for the likes of LALOR. If the ground is on the soft-side, it could pay to support a horse with the ability and stamina to stay 2m4f and there is a horse that's under the radar in this respect in DUC DES GENIEVRES trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend. This horse massacred a talented field of novices at Gowran on 16th February over the same C&D as the Grade 2 "Red Mills" Chase won by Monalee (with 2018 Gold Cup 3rd Anibale Fly in 2nd ) and he did it in a time that was considerably quicker. That's food for thought. So far, I've considered 3 horses capable of being involved in the finish of the "Arkle" and all 3 - Duc Des Genievres, Hardline, and Knocknanuss - go to post.
Yesterday I posted a preview of the "Ultima" Handicap Chase over 3m1f and came up with a shortlist of 3: UP FOR REVIEW, BEWARE THE BEAR and OLDGRANGEWOOD. Since posting, there has been an almighty market move for UP FOR REVIEW from 14/1 to 8/1 as the world and his dog cotton's on to the fact that this horse could be "chucked-in" running off just OR148. As I said to my old mate @EpsomAl yesterday afternoon "this horse could be another Total Recall" (Total Recall won the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase off OR147 and is now rated OR155).
I still think BEWARE THE BEAR has an excellent eachway chance, and if the rain stays away from Cheltenham (doubtful, but you never know) then OLDGRANGEWOOD will make a mockery of his 80/1 odds.
The disappointment of learning the declarations for Tuesday & Wednesday was learning that MORTAL was not in the 4-mile NH (Novices) Chase, and was running in the 3-mile RSA Novices Chase instead. The RSA Chase is a much tougher assignment for MORTAL and while I hold a 16/1 antepost voucher on his for the race, I doubt he's much chance of beating the market leaders.
I was glad to see MIN declared for the Champion Chase as that means he will not be in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday. Unfortunately, POLITOLOGUE has also been declared for the Champion Chase so my slim possibility of laying-off my antepost wager on his for the Ryanair has gone.
The final 3 races on the card on Wednesday: the Cross Country, the 2-mile Juvenile (4yo) handicap hurdle, and the Bumper; hold no real interest for me. So I will be leaving the office at about 4pm on Wednesday and driving to Cheltenham to meet friends old and new, drink a few beers and enjoy the atmosphere.
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Monday, 11 March 2019
Cheltenham 2019 - one day to go and the tension builds!
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