Ante Post Zone: A bad couple of reverses for the portfolio as Kalashnikov’s lack of jumping experience was shown up by Dynamite Dollars in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase. We can keep hope with the Arkle project however, as Cheltenham will surely suit him much more than Kempton did, just like Santini. Slow ground in the Spring also wouldn’t be a terrible thing and he did thrive when getting his toe in towards the end of last season. Paloma Blue got back on track with a victory at Leopardstown but he was in a big argument with Real Steel when he came down and that form does not look strong, so he will need to find improvement again if he is to justify Arkle quotes.
Today Annamix (see below) runs and that ought to make some more changes to what is a very open Supreme Novices’ Hurdle market as no horse has really grabbed the market or taken the formbook by storm. Many of the best two mile hurdles have also been slowly run, and around tracks less stiff than Cheltenham, and it would be no surprise to see more changes before the tournament.
12.10 – Sky Sports Racing Maiden Hurdle (4yo): One imagines that all the attention will be on the Seiches-Sur-Le-Loir AQPS winner Elite Charboniere, but there is no real interest in betting on this contest.
Advice: No bet.
12.45 – Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (4yo+): One to watch with a regards to the final itself in March. Walk To Freedom was an impressive winner of the Produstown Hurdle when beating subsequent chase winner De Name Escapes Me and also the Tara Hurdle winner Salty Boy, and he should enjoy this step back up in trip after finishing fourth at Navan. Robbbin’hannon bumped into a very smart horse at Clonmel but now has that run under his belt and the 7lbs claim of Daniel Holden now. This also sees the return of Grand National second Pleasant Company.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Walk To Freedom (10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Robbin’hannon (22/1 general)
1.20 – Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (4yo+): There are questions over all of these contenders but Tower Bridge was third in the Sefton Novice Hurdle and also a winner of a Grade 1 here over hurdles in February. If his bad chase debut is forgiven then he can become a useful chaser and Joseph O’Brien has been in fine form, which gives him the verdict over Barcardys, Borderline Chatho, and Gun Digger in what’s a trappy old contest.
Advice: 1 pt win Tower Bridge (9/2 Ladbrokes, Paddy Power
1.50 – Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+): A fascinating matchup between the wide margin Hatton’s Grace winner Apple’s Jade and the wide margin World Series Hurdle winner Faugheen. Apple’s Jade’s win in the Hatton’s Grace was a truly stunning performance and a wide margin career best, so it’s no surprise to see her as the favorite here, although this undoubtedly will suit Faugheen more than the Morgiana, when he went toe to toe with Tombestone and left himself a sitting duck for Supasundae. It might be a contest to enjoy.
Cracking Smart’s novice hurdles form, tying in with Next Destination closely, has worked out really well but this is a daunting comeback from 355 days off. Bapaume was trashed behind Apple’s Jade in the Hatton’s Grace and also Faugheen in the World Series Hurdle but he’s had a run under his belt this season and should only be getting stronger given that he’s still just five.
Jezki doesn’t look to be the horse of old, and the same can be said of Shaneshill. Early Doors looks overmatched.
Advice: Watch and enjoy.
2.25 – Irish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle (4yo+ 80-116): A couple of horses are stepping back over hurdles and look well handicapped on the basis of their chasing form, including Mighty Stowaway and Lake Takapuna. Both are giving a fair amount of weight to The Church Gate, an impressive winner at Fairyhouse over a good surface when putting in a career best on his first run since june, and perhaps he might be the choice with good ground looking to be a great help to him.
Advice: 1 pt each/way The Church Gate (9/1 general)
3.00 – Savills Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+): As said, followers are already on Aniable Fly and he’s still value at general double figure prices but Road To Respect looks to have a strong chance of making it back to back successes and would be the choice on the day.
Already Advised: 2 pts each/way Anibale Fly (12/1 Paddy Power), 26th December
Advice: 1 pt win Road To Respect (5/2 general)
3.35 – Midland Legal Solicitors INH Flat Race (4-6yo): There will be lots of money for General Counsel and Hell On Earth, but it’s worth remembering that both have had reversed in the two bumpers run so far and with strong contenders in the market too.
Advice: No bet.
Precious little will separate the five runners in the Irish Independent Hurdle (1.40) where Farclas, Espoir D’Allen, Sagalawy and Stormy Ireland are all reunited. The four have clashed heads over the past year and on many occasions but Espoir D’Allen has only run below form once and if this ground doesn’t blunt his speed too much then he can make it six wins from seven runs for Gavin Cromwell. Stormy Island, the freewheeling frontrunner who beat her elders by eight and a half lengths last time at Punchestown, will be the one the whole field has to catch.
The biggest Cheltenham Festival splash could be made in the Future Ticketing.ie Maiden Hurdle (2.10) where we finally get to see the arrival of Annamix, favorite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, on Irish shores. Willie Mullins’ five-year-old has been the subject of much excitement for well over a year now since getting positive reports from Rich Ricci, and it was much anticipated that he’d make his debut last season before injury prevented that. Second in the Prix De Saint-Voir over 800 days ago, he was behind a subsequent winner and then nearly 10 lengths ahead of a a then three year old who was beaten next time out by none other than Delta Work. So we know his form is strong, but we have to see how he operates – many a favorite has been beaten this season.
Big Nick, second on his bumper debut at Limerick a year ago, and point winner Cool Getaway add more intrigue to the race and give us a chance to assess the strength of the form, assuming all three run to their full potential.