It’s not long now until racing fans’ Utopia gets underway. Everybody will soon be descending upon Prestbury Park as the 2013 Cheltenham Festival gets underway. As always, we’ll be greeted with the Cheltenham roar as the action kicks off with the Supreme Novices Hurdle. The market is headed by Irish raider Jezki who is no bigger than 7/2. He’s looked ultra impressive so far, and is expected to improve for the better ground. He may well go off shorter on the day and plenty of people will think his price is too short. He’s not put a foot wrong over hurdles so far, but let’s look at the leading horses that could lower Jezki’s colours.
Un Atout leads the challenge, available generally at 7/1. If Jezki’s odds are short, then there’s more than a case for arguing the same is true about Un Atout. He’s only made three starts in his career so far, with one of them a bumper race last season. He’s faced no serious opposition in his two starts over hurdles, however he’s won both in fine style, and he certainly leaves the impression that he’s a very good horse. If you’re backing him at 7/1 then you’re clearly think he could be a special horse, as he has no form at the moment to justify that price.
My Tent Or Yours comes next in the market. Trainer JP McManus recently snapped up Jezki for a large sum, but many people will be thinking he already had the winner of the race with Nicky Henderson’s 10/1 shot My Tent Or Yours. With smart bumper form in the book from last season, he created a fine impression when beating a subsequent Grade 1 winner despite pulling hard. He received what looked a very soft ride when getting turned over in heavy ground at Newbury, however he got himself firmly back in track when hacking up against some fair rivals at Huntingdon. The fast pace of a Supreme will likely help him settle better, and JP McManus might be fancying a one-two in the race.
River Maigue gives trainer Nicky Henderson extra strength in the race, and he is also best priced at 10/1. After running a fine race on his hurdling debut at Cheltenham when finishing second, he showed plenty of improvement when a convincing winner next time out at Kempton. He easily accounted for New Year’s Eve on that day, who was one of the best bumper horses around last season. Like his stablemate he’s still a very raw horse, and with plenty of improvement to come he rates a serious threat.
Puffin Billy comes next in the market, with 12/1 available with a few firms. He’s four from four in his career and yet to be troubled. A facile win in Grade 2 company last time out at Ascot marked him out as a real potential star. Barry Geraghty has been on board on two occasions, including at Ascot, and he’s been very complimentary about Puffin Bully. Given the calibre of horses he rides you have to take that as a positive. A step up in trip to the Neptune has been talked about as a possibility, so that is one thing to be wary of.
Dodging Bullets comes next, representing Champion trainer Paul Nicholls at odds of 14/1. He has plenty of experience under his belt now, having run three times last season without winning. That did include some fine efforts though, including fourth place in the Triumph Hurdle. He’s clearly matured, and is perhaps being overlooked slightly. He was well held in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle last time out, however, with Darlan being touted as a strong contender for the Champion Hurdle the form may actually be very solid. I have to question his form overall and I’d agree with his position in the market.
Melodic Rendezvous rounds up the top six challengers to Jezki, also available at 14/1. He marked himself out as a horse of potential when finishing second in the Punchestown Champion Bumper last season. Turned over on his debut over hurdles, he has made amends for that since, winning at Cheltenham before going on to land the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown. The form looks pretty solid, though the ground was heavy and that can often see horses run below par. You could certainly argue he is overpriced, given he’s a Grade 1 winner. He seems to enjoy testing ground which we don’t usually see at the festival, but you never know what the weather will do. There are of course plenty of other horses that could win the race, however those six are the ones that look the most likely to challenge Jezki at this stage.
This was a guest post from CheltenhamZone.com