At 11am this morning we had the 48hr declarations for Tuesday, the 1st day of the Cheltenham Festival, and immediate reaction was "what a disappointment". Just 8 runners in the "Supreme" Novice Hurdle, and only 6 in the "Arkle".
However, it is still the Festival and we should make the best of it. I've walked the dog, and reflected on what might have been (ie worst case scenario = total cancellation), and the main thing is "the show must go on!"
I'm glad that my individual antepost wagers in the "Supreme" (Metier), the Mares' Hurdle (Dame De Compagnie), and the NH Chase (Next Destination) are still live and we have the value. I'm confident of all 3 going close and - fingers crossed - we will have at least one winner. In the "Arkle", the most likely winner of the race Shishkin is now the 1/2 odds-on fav. I've included him in a few small multiple wagers, but that took no particular skill. I also have Honeysuckle (Champion Hurdle) and Concertista (Mares' Hurdle) in small multiple wagers, and hopefully I will go into Day-2 with some reasonable profit.
Todays blog revolves around the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f to be run at 2;30pm on the opening day. I've had some good fortune in recent years and found the winner in 2019 and 2020, and with just 16 runners I'm fairly confident of finding the winner this year. Only 3 runners aged 10yo or older have managed to be placed in the past 10 years, so I'm happy to strike them from the calculations. That's OK Corral, Admiral's Secret, Vintage Clouds, Fingerontheswitch, and Soupy Soups; and of those the most likely to be placed is Admiral's Secret as he ran a cracker LTO but as he's never raced beyond 2m4f we know nothing of his stamina.
The fav is Happygolucky, but he's only run 3-times and his last race was on 11Dec, and I really don't think that form is good enough. Very few horses win at the Festival off a run before Christmas. The 2nd-fav is One For The Team who has yet to win a chase race! He's run a couple of good races and I was particularly impressed with his run at Newbury on 28Nov when 2nd, but LTO at Doncaster in the SkyBet Chase he was disappointing. The 3rd-fav is Aye Right and I've followed his form since his seasonal debut when an impressive run in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase set him up for a good 2nd in the Ladbroke Chase behind Cloth Cap. He was giving Cloth Cap 14lb that day, and if they met next week he'd be receiving 8lb; that is the best recent form in the race. Unfortunately, I feel he's not improving but he is consistent.
Of the remainder, Alnadam is another who has not raced beyond 2m4f, as is Nietzche; and the Irish-trained Discordantly looks to be on a tough handicap mark at OR142 and hasn't completed his last couple of races. Cepage ran well in this race last year off OR155, but he faded on the run-in. He's now rated OR158 and his best form is all at trips under 3-mile so while he should again run well, I can't see him winning this. The 8yo Delire D'Estruval is well-handicapped on OR143 but his recent experience is on right-handed tracks and at trips around 2m4f, so stamina is in doubt. The Wolf ran in last year's "Albert Bartlett" and was 7th of 19 in that race, but was probably flattered as the fron-4 pulled well clear; he's not shown the required form to win this as a chaser.
The 2 in this race that really interest me are: Milan Native and Pym.
Milan Native won last years Kim Muir over 3m2f, and that was his first race beyond 2m7f. If he runs to that level on Tuesday he will be very hard to beat. He showed the win was no fluke when beating Discorama in October, but having run poorly in his most recent couple of races he's had wind surgery. That the stable have left him in the race as their only representative is a big plus in my opinion. He's 9/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with paddy Power & Betfair)
Pym hasn't been seen since 28Nov, but that's not too much a problem for a horse that goes well fresh. When he's good, he's very good - and a mark of OR154 is workable. He is clearly well though of, as an entry in the RSA (now Brown Advisory) Chase last year won by stablemate Champ, shows. He could go very close, and I'm sure Nicky Henderson will have him cherry-ripe. He's 16/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with Paddy Power & Betfair)
Day-1: Ultima Handicap Chase
MILAN NATIVE: £5 eachway & £5 win = £15 staked @ 9/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with Paddy Power & Betfair)
PYM: £4 eachway & £4 win = £12 staked @ 16/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with Paddy Power & Betfair)
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