Fresh from his triumphant treble at Sandown on Saturday for Community Members, here are Will Kedjanyi’s thoughts and tips on the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham Festival 2015. JP With over a month to go before the Festival, the ante0post games have already begun, with Un De Sceaux’s Irish Arkle romp diverting both Vautour and Gilgamboa to the JLT in all likelihood. But this does not render the race pointless from a betting point of view, with the presence of such an imposing favourite there may be a small turnout which makes ante-post each/way betting tempting if you can find a runner to turn up (Josses Hill for me, God willing!). The legion of contenders Mullins means that nearly every race’s market is subject to his plans and even the National Hunt Chase isn’t able to escape this, with Don Poli currently a 3/1 favourite. A previous Festival winner, having taken the Martin Pipe Hurdle in fine style, he is two from two over fences, having won well on his debut at Gowran Park before knuckling down to draw well away from Apache Stronghold in a fantastic Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown. The form of that race – with Apache Stronghold three lengths behind and the pair 11 lengths clear of the third that day – entitles him to go to the RSA Chase as favourite if connections so choose. However, he is not the only horse that connections have who could go to the RSA with Valseur Lido having beaten Apache Stronghold by 8 lengths in the Drinmore. Mullins has yet to give confirmation on either target and with both entered in Sunday week’s Grade One Flogas Novice Chase (in reality, the P.J Moriarty, a common route for Mullins’ RSA candidates) at Leopardstown, we will be none the wiser until then at least. In any case, there are still three each/way places to fight for should he turn up and with nothing guaranteed, it’s worth looking at other options. Should Gigginstown decide not to run Don Poli, then Wounded Warrior looks a sure thing to be their representative and he fits the bill of a typical contender. Noel Meade’s charge found things happening far too quickly for him at Christmas – most likely when massively below form – when nowhere in the Shannon Airport Novice Chase, but upped to three miles for the first time over fences, he turned the Woodlands Park Novice Chase into an absolute procession at Naas when last seen, travelling well on the lead before grinding a good field into the ground from the last. Before his Christmas disappointment he had been second to none other than Don Poli (admittedly on that one’s chasing/seasonal debut), and a convincing winner over Blood Cotil, so his form stands up well through his chasing career, a view backed up by the fact that he has the fifth highest RPR in the field at the time of writing. The step up in trip should really suit him given how long he has taken to get going over fences, so there are no worries on that count and he makes each/way appeal with Valsleur Lido likely not to run and Don Poli not a certain runner either. In the event that Gigginstown did run Don Poli – in which case he would be a fantastic bet on the morning of the race – then Wounded Warrior’s presence would have to be considered doubtful and that would leave the door open to the large British contingent and Sego Success looks to be chief amongst them. Alan King’s charge has looked and out and out stayer since his disappointing debut over fences in October. Had it not been for a bad mistake at the fourth last he would surely have gotten much closer to the winner that day, and he bounced right back when beating none other than Sykbet Chase winner If In Doubt at Doncaster. His last run was easily his most impressive, when taking a Listed Novice Chase at Warwick where he took the entire length of a long straight to get past Grand Vision late on. His jumping was once again rock solid and it is very encouraging to know that he recorded a winning time that dipped below Racing Post standard, the only one on Classic Chase Day. While many horses could be suited by a marathon trip, Sego Success is definitely in need of it based on a visual impression and that only strengths his case in my eyes and it’s hard to see him doing anything but thrive for this trip. With just seven starts under rules and only three over fences, he can still improve. Connections are undecided as to where to send The Young Master – Neil Mulholland indicated to the Racing Post that the RSA Chase may be the most likely option – but given his hugely progressive streak, with the form of both his romps at Wincanton (for which he was infamously disqualified) and Ascot standing up very well, he would be a massive player if coming here. Southfield Theatre lost nothing in defeat when second to Carraig Mor, trying to give a lead and 7lbs at Newbury, but the fact that he has not been seen since November doesn’t help his chances. Nevertheless, he is one to look out for if seen in the coming weeks and would be another of interest if turning up. Mala Beach’s fourth at Christmas has him matched closely with Wounded Warrior but he didn’t jump well that day and despite being a stout stayer over three miles, he didn’t end his race strongly so there may be stamina doubts too. As De Ferbet looked a sick horse when last behind Wounded Warrior last time but was a very impressive winner before that; He’s unexposed but was beaten fair and square by Paddy Power 4th and likely Thyestes second (heavy faller) The Job Is Right. I find it hard to see Thunder and Roses running with Gigginstown having two other options and Cogry’s form doesn’t look upto the required standard. Vroum Vroum Mag’s connections surely have other ambitions that may include the Mares Hurdle. Vivaldi Collonges will surely be much better for this extreme trip but he’s had just the one run so far and more experience (in a bigger field over fences) is a prerequisite. This race may well have suited Very Wood, but two blowouts since his chasing debut make him unbackable. Return Spring would be a lot shorter had it not been for his Classic Chase blowout but he has flopped at the last two Festivals and was a poor 5th behind Ned Stark at Wetherby today (Saturday 31 January). Of the others, it’s hard to see Perfect Gentleman running here and Broadway Buffalo would want softer ground to show his best. Advice 1 pt each/way Wounded Warrior, National Hunt Chase (10/1 Sportingbet, Skybet) 1 pt each/way Sego Success, National Hunt Chase, (12/1 Skybet, Coral) For our exclusive Community Members only preview of the RSA Chase, JOIN US for just £6 per month. You’ll also get £10 off admission to our Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening in Cheltenham on Friday 6 March, tips every day and much more – learn more about Free and Community Membership.
With the days counting down until the Cheltenham Festival 2015 – there are now less than 9 weeks until the Supreme Novices Hurdle – many of the leading contenders will either be in their box waiting for the big day or approaching their last runs (as I write, this is Monday the 12 January, just less than two weeks away from Trials Day). This is an ideal time to start looking at the Festival ante-post lists, with the bookmakers and punters on a fairly even footing as far as evidence goes. Of course, there’s the question of who goes where, and with nearly every Willie Mullins novice that must come into the equation, but he looks to have two very strong contenders for the Arkle. Un De Seacux is unbeaten when staying on his feet and has looked nothing apart from a monster, winning twice in France to increase a burgeoning reputation that has been kept intact since going over fences, despite his fall at Thurles on debut. His claims are obvious and he will take a good deal of catching here, but there are questions for him to answer. While it is understandable that he missed Punchestown and Cheltenham last year for the prize money available in France, he has never run on anything better than soft ground – a massive question mark considering that he’s unlikely to get it in Ireland before the Festival where the going is of course likely to be more good than soft. While his victory against Smashing was very impressive – as you’d expect – going from the front in the pressure cooker situation of the Arkle is going to be a very different situation for him and it remains to be seen if he does get the lead he wants. Being a short priced favourite at this stage and with the ground doubts, he can be avoided. The value may actually be coming from inside his own stable, with last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Vautour as big as 8/1. He was far shorter before a Leopardstown blowout at Christmas when 1/4, where he ended up 17 lengths behind Clarcam – but there are plenty of reasons to forgive that. While the big mistake that ended his challenge was worrying, poor movement through the race – something highlighted by Mullins recently – suggested that he wasn’t 100% right and that was most likely compounded by the deluge that Leopardstown suffered on St Stephens Day which left him floundering in soft ground before he ended his chances 5 out. While it’s true that he did beat Clarcam in soft ground on both their chasing debuts, the ground that day was far easier to cope with than at Leopardstown, and if anything the bloodless nature of that victory shows just how off form he was there. Vautour has run twice on good ground under rules – and in those two runs he slaughtered the Supreme Novice field and then won easily enough at Punchestown afterwards. While his jumping obviously will need to be up to scratch, there will have been plenty of work done at Closutton and we should hopefully see a better round if he does go in the Irish Arkle or a smaller chase before the Festival. The same connections had Champagne Fever beaten under similar circumstances before being beaten in the Arkle in the very last stride. It is no new phenomenon for Arkle winners to have had setbacks on their way to the title and at 8/1, he appeals as the value in the race. Clarcam has to be hugely respected following his impressive win at Leopardstown. Gordon Elliot’s charge has clearly improved hand over fist and has looked a natural chaser, although the lack of a weight for age allowance is a significant negative come the day. Gilgamboa was a disappointment in the Supreme Novices, having travelled menacingly into the race before a mistake ended his chances, but in just two runs as a chaser he has already shown his accomplishment and has to be strongly considered. His debut win was followed by a deeply impressive performance at Limerick, when having Adrian Des Mottes – giving no small amount of weight to the previous winner in a strong field for the Grade – on toast before she fell at the last. An extremely strong traveller, his jumping has convinced more than most at the top of the market and while he’s also entered in the JLT, an entry into the Irish Arkle would suggest that he will remain at the minimum trip. A previous ante-post bet of mine, Josses Hill looked a ready made chaser last season and actually made a very promising debut – more so than many would have imagined – at Ascot behind Ptit Zig, but the lack of improvement in his jumping at Doncaster last week was worrying with no fluent jumping until the last, which he jumped well before being pushed strongly out to beat the 145 rated Solar Impulse. It is entirely possible that he can improve with experience – which he simply must have more of – but the long amount of time spent in the air and poor technique are both worrying for such a test and he can only be left out of calculations. Vibrato Valtat and Sam Twiston Davies got some stick after being beaten at Cheltenham in November but under Noel Fehily he has shown no end of resolution and speed in winning the Henry VIII and Wayward Lad Novices Chases. He will love the strong gallop on good ground and prices close to 20’s are probably too big. For all that he still needs to improve (something that’s not out of the question). A big price contender of real interest would be Sgt Reckless, who has been strangely campaigned since winning well on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter and who was in the wrong place at the wrong time in last year’s Supreme. He appears overpriced, but time is running out for him to gain experience. Ptit Zig would have been of serious interest but will go the JLT after his impressive New Year’s Day win, and Valseur Lido is surely going to there or the RSA Chase as Willie Mullins has hinted. Advice 1 pt each/way Vatour (8/1 Paddy Power, Stan James, Winner, Spreadex) 1 pt each/way Gilgamboa (12/1 Totesport, Betfred, Ladbrokes) For our exclusive Community Members only preview of the RSA Chase, JOIN US for just £6 per month. You’ll also get £10 off admission to our Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening in Cheltenham on Friday 6 March, tips every day and much more – learn more about Free and Community Membership.
Look at your clock and rejoice. There is less than a month until the most important week in the calendar – the Cheltenham Festival 2018. Yes, those four days are less than four weeks away and as part of the build-up to the epic festival it’s time to shine a light upon a race that hasn’t had the microscope treatment here – the Betway Champion Chase.
Two deeply impressive performances over the past month has injected a huge amount of potential into the race, and also ignited a rivalry which is by no means unfinished – that of Altior v Min. Altior, so deeply impressive when trashing Min in the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle two years ago, didn’t get a chance to have the rematch that so many had hoped for with the Irish raider when he suffered and injury last year, and in his absence, belted older opposition in the Game Spirit before then winning the Arkle, putting away the penalty kick that he was given by the fall of Charbel.
Some suggested that he wasn’t at his best that day, and his wide margin win in the Celebration Chase afterwards – arguably a more impressive performance – suggested that could have been the case, although there was no doubting for many that he was the best 2-mile chaser in training.
One had expected to see him more than once this season, but fortune was not kind to Nicky Henderson, who found out that Altior had made “a whistling noise” during his work in the lead up to the Tingle Creek, for which he had been a hot favourite – it turned out that he needed a wind op. So away he went, with the Game Spirit the one chance he would have to run before the Cheltenham Festival. Thankfully he made it, and as you can recall, he oozed class in tracking Politologue and then moving past him in a manner of seconds, with Nico de Boinville having an easier time on him than he did for any of his wins last year as he won by four lengths on the bridle.
If that’s what he can produce after such a long time off, imagine what he could produce with improvement – although there is one major caveat. Firstly, the dreaded bounce factor. This is shown by the small but incredibly eye catching (or worrying if, like me, you are a fan of the horse) sample size with over 30 horses having run at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time in a season with 600-day breaks – producing only one winner. That said, none were Altior. There are always different interpretations of statistics which result in many websites and analysts posting tips throughout the Cheltenham Festival 2018.
Min, who met Altior two seasons ago in the Supreme, is accepted not to have run to his best that day and was making into a fine novice chaser before injury intervened and robbed us of a rematch last year. Previously a deeply impressive winner of the Racing Post Novice Chase, his knee injury ruled him out of the spring before a visually impressive return at Gowran over 2m4f. He didn’t have much of a workout there – he did go off a 1/9 shot – but the style enthralled many and it was no surprise that he was sent off long odds on to take the Dial-A-Bet Chase.
However, he found things much tougher there and at many points looked to be struggling against Simply Ned through the straight before he drifted into the general line of Nicky Richards’ horse, and the disqualification that he suffered was deserved. However, that was arguably his first real race since last Christmas and he was a different horse when sitting off the lightning quick gallop in the Dublin Chase.
Special Tiara – the winner of this last year – set a terrific pace and jumped with the verve he’d last showed in March, stringing the field out by 15 lengths after the first fence and refusing to relent until well after the last, By tat time, Min, who was clearly in his element, was tracking him and ready to go and win the race in style, which he did, and announce himself as a huge player. He duly won by seven lengths and is sure to go well at the Festival, but it would not be a surprise if Special Tiara was able to improve on that effort.
Whilst he is now 11, it must be remembered that the better the ground, the better Special Tiara is, and should we get the same surface as last year, then he can surely be expected to go well again. He should improve physically too – he did not get a full runout in the Desert Orchid Chase and had only appeared in the Shloer Chase before that, his seasonal reappearance. He might be more restrained at the Festival but set a strong pace when outlasting his opposition last year and with his target absolutely confirmed, appeals as being overpriced at 16/1.
It will be a surprise to many that I have not mentioned Douvan, odds on for this race last year and serenely unbeaten before that, until now. However, at the time of writing, it is not a certainty that he will run in the Red Mills Chase at the weekend, and should he win that then the Ryanair begins to look the stronger option for him anyway.
Politologue had no answer to Altior in the Game Spirit but might not be the worst each/way option given that he was not going to have been at 100% either (due to a combination of race targeting and a January flu jab) and his extra stamina makes him an attractive choice here. He hasn’t put a foot wrong in jumping terms all season, especially in the Tingle Creek when he got the better of Fox Norton, and he can run well.
Un De Secaux is likelier to defend his title in the Ryanair, unless there was a deluge of rain. Great Field is an incredibly exciting horse, but his problems have robbed him of a clean crack at the race and he is next season’s horse. Last season’s neck second Fox Norton was out jumped when Politologue beat him in the Tingle Creek, and it could be that he’s happier at the Ryanair trip – he certainly looked it when he was a super winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree last season. Ar Mad was third in that race, but beaten fair and square whilst he’s better going right handed. Charbel, fourth there, doesn’t look good enough to run the finish out of a field this good. Yorkhill won’t be running here following his disappointing showing at Leopardstown, and neither will Top Notch unless the ground becomes seriously testing.
1 pt each/way Special Tiara, Champion Chase (16/1 general)