The 5-days declarations for the opening day were posted at lunchtime today (Wed 08Mar) and there are a few non-runners in my antepost wagers. As expected, Mighty Potter is a NR for the Arkle as he's the fav for the "Turners" on Day-3; so that's £5 lost. Also in the Arkle, my eachway wagers on Boothill and Sir Gerhard are both NR's, but these wagers a NRNB so the stakes totalling £20 are refunded. The main wagers on Impaire Et Passe & Il Etait Temps (Supreme Hurdle), El Fabiolo (Arkle), and Mahler Mission & Churchstonewarrior (NH Chase) all all still "live".
Onto Day 2, and it starts with a couple of top novice races. Remember, this is a 4-day meeting with 28 races and you cannot possibly have an angle on every one. Pick and choose your targets, and sometimes there isn't a wager worth having, like in the Champion Hurdle were unless you had a significant wager on Constitution Hill sometime last summer at odds of 2/1 then all you are looking for is finding the placed horses, and that can be tricky for very little reward.
Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f
Possibly the most influential novice hurdle at the Festival, this still has an enormous number of entries and I'm not tempted to consider a wager until the weekend when we will know a) what is most likely to run, and b) the likely ground. I'm not convinced that Hermes Allen (trained by Paul Nicholls) is good enough to win this, but Mullins has a hatful of horses to choose from - and he usually leaves it late to make his final choice for this race.
Old Brown Advisory Novices Chase (Broadway) over 3-miles & 80yds
I like this race, mainly as it takes some winning and the form is usually a good guide to finding the winner. This year we have a fav in Gerri Colombe who looks like he might not be outclassed were he in the Gold Cup on Friday. He does have to test him stamina at this trip, but he looks more than capable. The 2nd fav, The Real Whacker, has won both his chase starts but the strength of the form in those races is debateable, and I think his odds could take a walk on the day. If you fancy his chances, then I would wait until the day of the race and leave your wager late. Sir Gerhard holds an entry for this race, but I really can't see him running on what will be only his 2nd chase race, and the "Turners" (if he does run) is more suitable. As such, I think Thyme Hill could go off the 2nd-fav at around 7/2, and we know he stays the trip, jumps well, and handles the course - and readers are on him at an average of 15/2. Don't underestimate Stage Star (Nicholls) who should ensure a proper test of stamina , as will the consistent Thunder Rock. No further wagers in this race until the day.
Coral Cup (h'cap) Hurdle over 2m5f
At the time of writing there are still 87 entered, so expect a full compliment of starters in this race which has a maximum of 26 going to post. I will hang on for a few days.
Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
This is being billed as another "match" as it was last year, only this time Energumene is meeting Edwardstone. Last year, readers of the blog were on Energumene at the extremely generous odds of 4/1 and scooped a massive win. This year the race does not offer the same value. To be honest, if Energumene runs his best form then there's not much between the leading pair. Their conqueror at Cheltenham in January was Editeur Du Gite, but will he be allowed to dominate the race again, I doubt it. One that could surprise them is Gentleman De Mee, but only if he improves another 7lb and I'm not sure he can. I can't see any value in this race, I think the betting has it just about right.
Cross Country Chase over 3m6f
Another race that I don't think should be run at the Festival.
Grand Annual H'Cap Chase over 2-miles
This is a tricky race, and one which usually sparks a gamble or two in the market. I think the Mullins trained Saint Roi could be the gamble, as he's entered for the Arkle and was presumably aimed at the race, but isn't good enough - so he will end up in this race by default. Keep an eye on Riviere D'Etel trained by Gordon Elliott: he was well fancied for the Arkle last year, and has a touch of class about him, yet he's running off OR149.
Champion Bumper over 2-miles
Another race that I avoid.
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