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Saturday 10 February 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - general update (10th Feb)

I've started this blog several times over the past couple of weeks, but then left it unfinished as the antepost odds available do not accommodate enough "risk" element to cover the potential of not running in the race on the day.  The "Non Runner, No Bet" (NRNB) odds are truly pathetic and I'm fairly sure that better value will be available at the Festival in March. So what's this blog about? Essentially, I'm going to try and narrow down the entries to identify the likely runners, and in the process endeavour to find some value - if it exists.

Tuesday 12th March
Supreme Novices' Hurdle:
Current fav is Ballyburn (WP Mullins) and while he looks a capable winner at this stage, I think he's a better horse at 2m4f+ (like his full brothers) and so he's more likely to go for the 2m5f hurdle on Day-2.  Mystical Power is a more likely runner for Mullins, but his form doesn't appear strong enough to suggest he's a likely winner. I'm expecting Mullins to have several runners in the race, one being Mirazur West a full-brother of Ferny Hollow, and another being Mistergif an expensive purchase given a run on 30th Jan. While you cannot ignore Henderson entries in this race, what we've seen of Jeriko Di Reponet does not suggest he's good enough to win this race.  With Gordon Elliott losing Caldwell Potter (now with Paul Nicholls) his main hope is Firefox, and this one beat Ballyburn over 2-mile on 02Dec. Firefox was then disappointing stepped-up to 2m4f, but if he lines-up for this and is in top form, he could go close. it would not surprise me to see Mullins have 4 or 5 runners in this race, and Ile Atlantique ticks a lot of boxes, and was only just btn LTO: on form, he looks the strongest Mullins entry after Ballyburn.Of the other entries, the JP McManus owned No Flies On Him could be anything as he won a good race on his sole hurdle run to date. Caldwell Potter may run in this race, but it would not surprise me to see him not run again this season, as his future is as a chaser.
I'm tempted to take NRNB odds about:
Mistergif @ 25/1 (Bet365); Ile Atlantique @ 16/1 (Bet365) and Firefox @ 10/1 (Bet365)

Arkle Novice Chase
I been taking a long-look at this race, and (even before the Dublin Racing Festival) I was liking the look of Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps. Since they finished 1st & 2nd last weekend, I've taken the odds available about the pair, and will plump for one or the other closer to the Festival.  Found A Fifty hasn't run a bad race all season, and looks to want more of a stamina test in time, as such I'm leaning more towards him as my Arkle selection. Despite winning LTO, in my mind Il Etait Temps may be best suited by a flatter track than Cheltenham, and I see him more of an Aintree horse. What of Marine Nationale?  Beaten horses at the DRF tend not to recover and win at Cheltenham - it's not impossible, but it's unlikely. If (like Sizing Europe in 2010) he'd fallen at the final fence when looking the likely winner, I could take a more positive view - but he emptied out quickly suggesting something was amiss (breathing problem?).  One to keep an eye out for is 
My Mate Mozzie: he probably has too much speed, and not enough stamina to win the Arkle, but he looks to be well handicapped.
I'm on Il Etait Temps @ 5/1 (NRNB) and Found A Fifty @ 6/1 (NRNB)

Champion Hurdle
With the front two in the betting Constitution Hill and State Man, unlikely to be beaten by another on the day, there's the 3rd place spot to find.  I was all over Bob Olinger and had an eachway voucher at 33/1 on him - but he now goes straight to Aintree.  Zanahiyr filled 3rd spot last year, but is likely to remain chasing. However, Gordon Elliott has able deputies in Irish Point and Pied Piper, and both look more than capable of taking 3rd in this race. I need to find something similar in another Festival race for a long-odds eachway double.
 
Mares Hurdle 
I really cannot see Lossiemouth running in the Champion Hurdle unless State Man can't take part in that race, and she looks a near certainty to win this. She cannot be opposed.

National Hunt Chase
At this moment, I'm still surprised that Flooring Porter is the 3rd fav as I'd be surprised if he takes part. This race still looks fairly fluid regards what's going to take part, but the "Ten Up" Chase at Naas on Sunday 11th Feb is usually a good pointer. I'm taking Minella Cocooner to beat his stablemate Nick Rockett and leap to joint-fav for the NH Chase - he's currently 8/1 (NRNB). I'm not convinced (yet) by Embassy Gardens, and this looks a good opportunity to lock-in some value.

More to come...

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