This is what we've been waiting for - the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
As always, some simple advice, and the two main things to remember about the Festival are
1) that 55% of all the races are won by a last-time-out (LTO) winner (from a representation of about 15% of all the runners); and
2) very few races are won by horses which last ran over 84-days (12 weeks) ago - basically, before 26th December 2021. If you stick to these two factors you may miss the odd winner, but you will avoid 95% of the losing horses!
Some of the fields for the races look a bit on the small side, only 7 runners in the Champion Hurdle, but there are with some very open events presenting some wagering opportunities. Due to multiple entries, I've had a few wagers cancelled, and the impact of recent rain has resulted in a "soft ground" opening day. Just how soft the ground will be, and what (if any) affect it will have, we won't know until after the first couple of races.
I've already reviewed the main runners in the races over the past couple of weeks, so i won't repeat those notes here; but they are available of you scroll back through the blog entries.
Remember: there will be NO Selections posted on this blog at odds of under 9/4.
Last year, I said Honeysuckle was near unbeatable in the Champion Hurdle, and I did not recommend a wager as her odds were 8/11 and she duly won. I think the same of Constitution Hill this year, but I will not be recommending a wager as his odds are long odds-on.
1:30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
I'm not the best judge of novice hurdlers, and this year the "supreme" has an open look about it following the odd performance - and failure - of Facile Vega LTO. You can either look at that run as a warning that the horse has a problem and swerve, or that you have been given an opportunity to wager on a horse that should be odds-on at odds around 5/2. Marine Nationale hasn't run since 04Dec; Inthepocket is held by my selection; Tahmuras does not look good enough. The lightly raced High Definition and Diverge are both capable of considerable improvement on what we've seen to date, but will they improve? I've recommended an antepost wager on Il Etait Temps @ 9/2 (there is some 5/1 available) as his form is solid; and I'm sticking with the antepost investment.
2:10pm Arkle Novices Chase over a trip 21yds short of 2-miles
This looks to be a match between Jonbon and El Fabiolo. They were very closely matched as novice hurdlers last season, and there won't be much between them in this race. It is interesting that Mullins (trainer of El Fabiolo) also has Dysart Dynamo and Saint Roi in the race, but they both have the potential to win this if they get their act together: Dysart Dynamo needs to settle, and Saint Roi needs to improve his jumping at speed. I've recommended antepost wagers on El Fabiolo at odds of 11/2, 9/2 and 9/4 and I'm sticking with him.
2:50pm Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f
Always a competitive race run at a strong pace. Winners need to stay the trip: 13 of the last 15 winners had won over 3-mile or more before winning this race. The two that didn't win at 3-miles before winning this were (in 2015) The Druid's Nephew, and (in 2011) Bensalem - but both had run exceptional races in defeat at trips of 3-mile, or thereabouts.
I've already looked at this race in some depth at the weekend, and my shortlist is:-
The Big Breakaway has stamina to burn, and with his best runs on soft ground, and being a prominent runner, this 8yo goes on the shortlist.
Into Overdrive won the 3-mile Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day, and that was his 5th win in 6 races, and he's not stopped improving. The form of that race was franked by Sounds Russian who ran 2nd in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day. He won't want it too soft, but he's a prominent runner, and this 8yo goes on the shortlist.
Tea Clipper was 4th in this race last year, just beating Our Power, and they met again at Ascot over 3-miles in October when Tea Clipper was 3rd behind Our Power. They meet on 'levels' in this race, which puts Tea Clipper 9lb better-off, and I reckon Tea Clipper will easily beat Our Power in this race.
The novice Monbeg Genius has won his last 3 races and is clearly on the upgrade; guaranteed a run should he go to post, he goes on the shortlist.
Top Ville Ben was a class horse 4 seasons ago (won the Rowland Meyrick off OR154) and ran his best race in a long time LTO when 3rd in Ireland over an inadequate 2m5f. He is the sort who could put in an eye-catching run, and goes on the shortlist despite being 11yo.
I'm against the fav Corach Rambler (who won this last year) as he's not raced since finishing 4th in the Coral Gold Cup (Hennessey) and he's not a horse that goes well fresh (he ran at Carlisle 28-days before his last run).
Previous form in this race is usually a plus, so Tea Clipper gets a vote as I think if the ground is too soft for him he won't run. And The Big Breakaway also gets a vote as he has a touch of class. There are some great offers online, with 6-places eachway available, and as one of my early wagers has been refunded (NRNB) I'm recommending placing that on The Big Breakaway.
THE BIG BREAKAWAY - £5 eachway @ 18/1
(6-places, 5th odds a place William Hill & Paddy Power)
3:30pm Champion Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
The feature race of the day and a disappointing 7 runners go to post as the hot-fav Constitution Hill looks near unbeatable. I would not underestimate State Man or I Like To Move It, and they are both capable of improved performances on what we've seen to date. I shall personally be having a Straight-Forecast wager on Constitution Hill to beat I Like To move It, but I can't recommend this as a wager.
4:10pm Mares' Hurdle over 2m3f & 200yds
This race looks a cracker on paper with ex-Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle meeting last years' winner Marie's Rock, and last years' Mares' Novices winner Love Envoi. Throw-in another ex-Champion hurdler in Epatante and we have one of the races of the Festival to savour.
On form this season, you have to favour Marie's Rock as her win here on 1st January suggested that she's better than her OR153 rating. Honeysuckle, on the other hand, appears to be on retrograde this season, and I'm struggling to convince myself that she will be in the 1st-3 home. Nicky Henderson apparently planned to enter Epatante in the Champion Hurdle (even though he sends Constitution Hill for that race) and she looks the more likely to trouble Marie's Rock. The form of Love Envoi, whilst high class, is tricky to measure but I don't think she's capable of beating Marie's Rock.
Overall, I think Marie's Rock is the most likely winner of the race, however at odds of only 5/2 in such a competitive race on paper, I don't think that's a value wager.
4:50pm Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over 2m & 87yds
This race looks tricky. Formlines provide nothing much to go on, and trainer preparation is the key. If I were going to have a wager, it would be on something like Perseus Way who looks better than OR132, or Mr Freedom sent by another Sussex-based trainer Sheena West - who would not send a horse to the Festival unless she knew it had a chance. This is a no-bet race for me.
5:30pm National Hunt (NH) Novices Chase (amateur riders) over 3m 5f & 201yds
Just 10 runners go to post, which is more than last year (when just 6 ran) but not as many as in 2021 or the years before that. This race invariably goes to the highest (or near highest) rating, so it pays to take note of the official ratings. Highest is Gaillard Du Mesnil on OR155, which is about right for him when he's at his very best. He was 3rd in the "Broadway" over 3-miles last year, and I don't think he's improved for the extra year of racing - and I just don't think that's good enough to win this race. Chemical Energy ran a stinker LTO, so needs to recover the form of his win here in October over 3-miles. Readers of the blog are already on Mahler Mission and I'm happy that this horse will give us a good run, and this marathon trip should suit him well as he looks a dour stayer. I thought his run LTO more than entitled him to a place in the line-up, and I'm expecting a bold show. Minella Crooner was easily btn over 3-miles on 08Feb by an OR140 rated chaser, which does not auger well for him. This trip should hold no fears for Mr Coffey, who was 2nd in the "Kim Muir" handicap chase last year over 3m2f, but he only ran off OR137 then and I just don't think he is good enough. Tenzing is more interesting as he only ran once as a hurdler when winning over 3-miles. He's had 3 chases this season, and LTO was 2nd to the more experienced Mahler Mission, and he was well fancied that day. You would not have expected him to run here, but he is which suggests that there is a lot more to come than we've seen so far. I've recommended antepost wagers on Mahler Mission and I'm sticking with him.
Cheltenham Festival Antepost Wagers: as at 14-MarReplyDelete
Supreme Hurdle: IL ETAIT TEMPS - £10 win @ 9/2 (NRNB)
Supreme Hurdle: Impaire Et Passe - £5 win @ 10/1 (Coral or Labrokes) LOST
Arkle: MIGHTY POTTER - £5 win @ 25/1 (Paddy Power) LOST
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 11/2 (Bet365)
Arkle: EL FABIOLO - £5 win @ 9/2 (William Hill, NRNB)
Ultima h'cap Chase:
TEA CLIPPER - £5 ew NRNB @ 16/1 (5-places 5th odds)
THE BIG BREAKAWAY - £5 ew NRNB @ 16/1 (5-places 5th odds)
THE BIG BREAKAWAY - £5 ew NRNB @ 18/1 (6-places 5th odds)
I LIKE TO MOVE IT - £5 ew @ 16/1 NRNB (3-places, 5th odds)
NH Chase: MAHLER MISSION - £10 win @ 9/1 (Corals)
Win double at £10:
Arkle: El Fabiolo @ 9/4 & Turners: Mighty Potter @ 3/1
Marine Nationale - £5 win @ 25/1 LOST
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 8/1
Broadway Chase: Thyme Hill - £5 win @ 7/1 NRNB
Turners Nov Ch: MIGHTY POTTER - £10 win @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)
Stayers' Hurdle: GOLD TWEET - £5 ew @ 12/1 (NRNB)
These horses are combined in 4 x £5 win trebles: £20 staked
NH Chase: Mahler Mission & Churchstonewarrior / Broadway: Gerri Colombe & Thyme Hill /
Ryanair: Shishkin (banker)
1) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
2) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Churchstonewarrior @ 6/1
3) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Gerri Colombe @ 9/4 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1
4) Shishkin @ 11/10 plus Thyme Hill @ 5/1 plus Mahler Mission @ 8/1
Cheltenham Gold Cup: PROTEKTORAT - £15 win @ 9/1
Total Staked to Date: £160 (Note: £30 returned NRNB)