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Monday 12 February 2024

Cheltenham Festival update - 12th Feb

Following on from Saturday's blog, I'm continuing with a look through the Cheltenham Festival programme in the search for value.  It's too early to consider the handicaps, there will be plenty of time to consider those when the declarations are made.

The 2nd-day of the Festival (13th March) opens with the
Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle over 2m5f
For a long time this was the premier novice hurdle of the season, but since Faugheen won in 2014, the winners of this race haven't really progressed as expected.  The race does illustrate the transfer of power from England to Ireland as in the past 10 years, there's only been one winner of the race trained in England and that was Willoughby Court in 2017.
I think Mullins will run Ballyburn in this race rather than the "Supreme" on the opening day. Why? Because this looks a weaker race, especially as Caldwell Potter is not running at the Festival; as such, Mullins trains all the main contenders. Slade Steel (de Bromhead) doesn't look anywhere near good enough; Mystical Power (Mullins) is more likely to run in the Supreme; as will Ile Atlantique (Mullins). As for Readin Tommy Wrong (Mullins) while he will likely run in this race, I feel he is more of a 3-miler and he also holds an entry for the "Albert Bartlett". 
Skybet offer odds of 2/1 (NRNB) on Ballyburn, and I'm taking that.

Brown Advisory Novice Chaser over 3-mile
This race, and the NH Chase on the opening day, look fairly open.  Mullins has only won this twice in the past 10 years, and his likely 1st-string Grangeclare West is apparently out for the season.  I'm expecting Fact To File (Mullins) to go for the "Turners" on Day-3 over 2m4f, and (with Gaelic Warrior seemingly unable to run left-handed) his main chance in this race was expected to be  one of  Nick Rockett, Minella Cocooner, or Embassy Gardens.  
Given how Nick Rockett and Minella Cocooner flopped yesterday, it should be Embassy Gardens and I'm tempted to take the 11/2 (NRNB) offered by Bet365.
However, the English trainers have a strong hand for this race in Stay Away Fay (PF Nicholls) and Grey Dawning (Dan Skelton). Both of these are proven at the trip and have very strong form.  The current odds offered on both Stay Away Fay and Grey Dawning are poor value, and I reckon you will be able to obtain around 9/2 - 11/2 on the day; and there's a strong possibility that Stay Away Fay will go for the NH Chase over 3m6f.
Right now, I'm only interested in the 11/2 (NRNB) offered by Bet365 on Embassy Gardens.

Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
It's near impossible to consider any other horse other than El Fabiolo winning this, and if he doesn't it will be Jonbon. However, in jump racing nothing is certain, as Jonbon proved LTO - there's always a possibility of jumping errors, although I hope that doesn't happen. What could be 3rd? There's a lot of support for Edwardstone after his win at Newbury on Saturday, but I'm not sure he's at his best at Cheltenham, and last year's runner-up Captain Guinness (currently 20/1 with Skybet) could be the one.

The only other non-handicap race (I'm not looking at the Cross Country race which should be run at another track and has no place at the Festival) is the "Bumper" but I'd want odds of 5/1 just to name a runner in the race, never mind the eventual winner.

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