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Cheltenham Feature Day 1

Mon 14 March 2016

We are into the middle of March and that can only mean one thing for jump racing fans! Cheltenham is upon us once more and those holding juicy ante- post betting slips do not need to wait much longer. Tomorrow afternoon there will be a hush and then as the tapes rise and the Supreme field obediently walk towards the tapes a mighty roar will be unleashed that echoes out into the Cotswold Hills. There was a time when everyone would have to have another sip of their drink before unleashing another roar or even two but the starting procedures are more robust these days and the tapes do not get rushed.

The forecast is suggesting there will not be any rain at all this week and that festival goers will even see some occasional sunshine. A lot of the form coming into the festival is on soft winter ground and this winter especially so. It is likely the ground will be close to good to soft for Tuesday but towards the end of the week it will be genuinely good ground. This will be great news as it means that we will see horses finishing their races and it is always an exciting spectacle seeing fences being jumped at speed. It will mean that those horses with jumping frailties will get found out as the tempo is quicker than what they have been used to. Victoria Pendleton will have to be especially careful to sit quiet and let her horse guide her as she will be going much faster than she has gone before outside of a velodrome.

We will break this up into a four part series and the idea of it is to help people out in the placepot and try and find some horses that might be of interest at bigger prices for those that want to have some fun bets. The shorter horses will of course be mentioned but each way alternatives will be provided. If you are going I hope you have a fantastic week and if you are staying at home watching in the armchair then I hope a fantastic four days racing lies ahead.




1330 Supreme Novices Hurdle


This race has revolved around  Min for the last few months, a horse Willie Mullins has improved out of all recognition.  The Supreme is often a race where the fancied runners do well and therefore you need something near the head of the betting for your placepot. I would steer you towards Altior as he is proven over the track and he is battle hardened , he handles the ground and he looks to be improving. He has been well backed in recent weeks but I think he is a solid placepot proposition. If you want a long shot I would put forward Silver Concorde at 16-1. He is a Champion Bumper winner and the ground will suit.


1410 Racing Post Arkle

Douvan is quite rightly long odds on and while he does not quite look bombproof he is not far from it. He looks like a natural leaper with an engine to match and his mistake in the Racing Post two runs ago will have done him good.  You just can’t leave him out. The field has cut up and only the first two will count for place purposes. I would add in The Game Changer for the placepot at 14-1, he will enjoy the ground and he looks progressive. I am not sure about Vaniteux and he could easily disappoint.

1450 Cheltenham Ultima Handicap Chase

We enter the first minefield of the Festival where there is a mix of young progressive sorts and wise veterans who are not cutting it at the top level and are moving back into handicap company. My first choice is Regal Encore at 16-1, he has the ability to win this and I hope the better ground will see him in a better light. My next selection is Morning Assembly, he has course and distance form and I think this race is made for him. You need to be atleast triple handed for the placepot in a race such as this and my last selection is Theatre Guide. He has always threatened to win a decent handicap and finally did at Kempton last time. Whilst he has been hammered by the handicapper he will come into the race full of confidence and he has the ability to overcome his new mark.

1530 Champion Hurdle

Willie Mullins has the first two in the betting for the Champion even though both Faugheen and Arctic Fire are injured. I don’t think it is a vintage Champion hurdle and I think Annie Power will be incredibly difficult to beat with her allowance.  Horses like The New One and Peace And Co have been unimpressive this season  and My Tent Or Yours has been off the track for over 700 days. Nichols Canyon was disappointing last time and whilst Annie Power fell here last year  it was unfortunate. Ruby asked her to quicken going into the hurdle and they just met it wrong, it happens in jump racing and was not due to a flawed technique. She is a classy mare and jumps well, she deserves  a win at the festival. Lil Rockerfeller  seemed to handle better ground in the Salmon Spray last time really well and travelled as smoothly as I’ve ever known him to. There is a big risk that his jumping may suffer dropping back in trip but he is improving and at 33-1 I would be putting him in the placepot with Annie Power. Many of the other principals just might not run their race.


1610 Mares’ Hurdle

Another mares’ hurdle with a Willie Mullins hotpot leading the market. Vroum Vroum Mag seems extremely versatile, hurdles, fences, 2m or 3m and she seems to be able to rise to the challenge. I find it very difficult to see her getting beaten. Polly Peachum looks extremely solid too as she is extremely consistent and was second in this last year but the horse I would be putting alongside Vroum Vroum is Stephanie Frances. Her chasing campaign has been a disaster but she is a classy mare and was steadily improving over hurdles before that, decent ground will suit and 33-1 is a big price for her.


1650 The National Hunt Chase

The last leg is the toughest of them all and if the placepot has come this far then we need some luck to make it over the finishing line. Many of the horses are not guaranteed to stay and you have to make some assumptions when analysing the race. The classy Pont Alexandre is my first selection at 6-1, I hope the better ground will help him to see out this marathon trip. Second up is Native River at 8-1, his stable are flying and on better ground I think he can get home over 4 miles too. My last selection is Vintage Vinny at 33-1, he may well not stay but if he gets in a rhythm out in front and the ground dries out enough he has plenty of ability.


1730 Novices’ Handicap Chase


The last is an extremely tricky contest and not one I would be too confident at finding the winner of. It is tough as a lot of the horses are coming here on the back of Novice Chase wins and this is a totally different proposition. Bouvreuil has had time to get over his disappointing effort last time and has the ability to win this on better ground. I am hoping Thomas Brown will have learnt from his unseat last time and he is my each way selection at 16-1.


I wish everyone good luck and I hope you have an enjoyable week.

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