Following the incredible four day Cheltenham Festival it is now the Grand National at Aintree up next for racing fans as the flat season fast approaches. The weights have been revealed so many people are looking for the best bets from Betfair for the Grand National. One horse that could be an interesting runner for the race is the Jonjo O’Neill trained Minella Rocco. He was initially allotted 11 stone 7lb and was 5th in the weights list but following the withdrawal of Definitly Red he will be moving higher up the list. He was set to contest the Cheltenham Gold Cup but following the testing racing conditions connections removed him from the race as the horse needs better ground.
Minella Rocco is a very classy horse as shown in his 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup second. The horse has always looked tailor made for a test like the National so if the ground comes right he would have to be a leader contender for the race. Another fancied runner for the race has to be the ever reliable 10 year old The Last Samuri. The Kim Bailey trained runner is coming off the back of a highly encouraging 3rd in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival. He also finished a 9 length second in the Becher Chase behind the 2018 National favourite Blaklion having also given him 6lb on the day. The Last Samuri boasts an impressive record in the National having looked the winner in 2016 only to be overhauled late on by the Gigginstown owned Rule the World. He is the current 16/1 third favourite for the race.
The previously mentioned Blaklion is the joint 12/1 market leader for the Aintree showpiece and must have a solid chance of success. He ran a highly encouraging fourth in last year’s race having looked the winner for much of the contest. His trainer is a duel winner of the race so will certainly have the horse ready for the big occasion. Blaklion has then gone on to put in a faultless round of jumping in the Becher Chase over the course. He has also been kept fresh for the race having bypassed the Cheltenham Festival so must be a big player for the 2018 edition of the contest. Check out the infographic below which covers the leading trainers heading in to the race and their top horses looking to enhance their National records.
It’s the big day at Cheltenham Festival 2018 and I hope you enjoy my preview and tips for Gold Cup Day below. A nice 12/1 winner yesterday so let’s hope for more of the same today.
1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo):
Stormy Ireland didn’t beat much on debut at Fairyhouse but when she did it she was so impressive one could only heave been left with the impression that she was a graded horse who could go to the very top and what’s more she has a huge amount of form on testing ground. Apple’s Shakira will love the surface and has been an impressive winner of her three starts over course and distance, always engaging overdrive up the home straight in testing ground. The form of her three wins has been franked via the Fred Winter and there’s plenty to like about her chances although she is short. Mr Adjudicator and Farclas were impressive when finishing 1-2 in the Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown and if they handle softer conditions then they will take a huge amount of beating. Farclas’s form on testing surfaces isn’t as strong as the favourites but he has had just the two runs and this course ought to suit him a lot more than Leopardstown did. He might be an each/way bet still. Sussex Ranger now doesn’t have to deal with We Have A Dream and does handle this ground so need sot be considered whilst Redician’s big question is if he transfers his form from the flat surface of Kempton to this most testing course; should he do so, he’s going to go well.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Stormy Ireland (11/2 general), 1 pt each/way Farclas (15/2 general)
2.10 – (New) Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+):
It’s not original but Bleu Et Rouge was second only to Kalashnikov in the Betfair on awful ground and the handicapper was probably right to give him 8lbs given how well Amy Murphy’s charge ran on Tuesday. Fourth in a major Ascot handicap before that, he ought to enjoy this test and can go well. Whiskey Sour as had much less experience but the form of his fourth in the Deloitte is now looking much stronger than it initially did and it should be remembered that he won two major handicap at Galway before going back jumping. 141 might underestimate him here if he takes to the tacky surface and he makes the second most appeal out of the Mullins battalion. The third best might be another Mullins charge in the shape of Lagostovegas, whom was a good third to a smart mare in Forge Meadow on her first race after a break in February. Before that she had finished second in a Listed contest on the flat and then before that she had been third in a Cesarewitch – form which is tacking up nicely.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Bleu Et Rouge (10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Lagostovegas (20/1 general)
2.50 – (New) Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (Class 1):
Favourites don’t have the best record in this but the way Santini managed to find overdrive to deny Black Op was extremely impressive in a Grade 2 on trials day and before that he’s proven too good for Chef Des Obeaux who has franked that form by winning a Hayydock Grade and done so in fine fashion. This ground isn’t a problem for him and he gives all the appearance of being a horse who really ought to thrive the further he goes. Chris’s Dream was deeply impressive when taking the Surehaul novice hurdle and needs serious respect and the same to go to Enniscoffey Oscar who just got up in the River Don.
Dortmund Park was a disappointment in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle when Tower Bridge won but he shaped as if something was amiss the and it’s no surprise to hear that he’s had a wind operation soon afterwards. If he is back to the form that he showed when he put a decent field to the sword at Thurles, then he could be a major player here and that potential gives him the second vote ahead of Calett Mad and Ballyward.
The biggest threat is Poetic Rhythm, who took a slog of a Challow Hurdle at Newbury from Mulachy’s Hill when he did well to reel in Warren Geartrex’s charge after he got first run. His pedigree gives plenty of encouragement for staying three miles, and the visual evidence suggests that even more.
Advice: 2 pts win Santini (4/1 general), 1 pt each/way Dortmund Park (16/1 general)
3.30 – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+): Might Bite is one of two ante post charges and extremely talented, but this new trip on testing ground is much more of a worry than any other factor in the race and he doesn’t make appeal on the day with that in mind. It’s great news for Our Duke, our other ante-post selection, and the form of his Red Mills win has been boosted out of the park by Presenting Percy in the RSA, but Jessica Harrington’s chaser has yet to put in one round of jumping that would be sufficient to win a Gold Cup and he has to be avoided. Native River, an impressive winner of the Denman Chase and this last year, has obviously claims along with Killtuagh Vic (if he stays upright), but the cards have fallen right for Definitely Red. A deeply impressive winner of the Many Clouds Chase, he made Americain look second rate in the Cotswold Chase on trials day and has been excelling himself on soft and heavy ground for a long time before this season. Rated 167, he must be bang there if repeating that run and the surface and likely strong pace will be music to the ears of Danny Cook and Brian Ellison. Total Recall is respected although he must improve whilst Edwulf’s amazing win in the Irish Gold Cup gives him solid form claims.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Definitely Red (12/1 general)
Already Advised for Members on 27 October: 1 pt each/way Our Duke (10/1 general), 1 pt each/way Might Bite (8/1 general)
4.10 – St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase:
Burning Ambition is skinny in such a huge field bit his form, including a good second to Gilgamboa, is first class and he will take the beating with a clear round of jumping. Pacha Du Polder was a disappointment upon his return but he won this race last year with a fine ride from Bryony Frost and along with Wonderful Charm, should go very well in a bid to give Paul Nicholls another winner. Wonderful Charm might have won last year had he gotten going even a stride earlier
Foxrock’s form is first class but his travel issues are very off-putting and that leads one to think differently in terms of an each/way benefit. On The Fringe’s form figures in this contest read 43114 but he’s now 13 and vulnerable to younger legs here – Caid Du Berlais has impressed for Rose Loxton since moving from Paul Nicholls and deserves a lot of respect.
Advice: 1 pt win Burning Ambition (7/2 general), 1 pt each/way Wonderful Charm (7/1 general)
4.50 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145):
Willie Mullins has a fine record in this and Deal D’Estruval would have been a contender in any of the handicaps this week following his second in the Coral Hurdle. He bumped into an even more well handicapped horse in the shape of Off You Go there but the form has been boosted by the third Grand Partner winning off 130 in a useful handicap hurdle afterwards. The form of Diese Des Bieffes’s fifth in the Lanzarote has been sensationally franked since and on that basis he is impossible to leave out of the portfolio. From that race, winner William Henry was a fine fourth in the Coral Cup, Spiritofthegames was third in the Betfair Hurdle behind Sky Bet Supreme runner-up Kalashnikov, third Red Indian was runner up at Towcester and then sixth in the Coral Cup, fourth Topofthegame won a Grade 3 handicap at Sandown and was third in the Coral Cup, the seventh Le Patriote won at Ascot and the eighth Dentley de Mee was second in the EBF Final at Sandown on Saturday.
Flawless Escape ran into the handicap snip Total Recall over hurdles in the William Fry handicap hurdle at Leopardstown and is another who must go close although Carter McKay’s third in the Moscow Flyer and the staying novices’ hurdle at Leopardstown makes him look extremely well treated off 138 and this trip and ground ought to really suit.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Deal D’Estruval (8/1 general), 1 pt each/way Diese Des Bieffes (8/1 general)
5.30 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5YO plus):
Take a flyer on the veteran Dresden, who has won impressively on soft/heavy the last twice at Catterick and Wetherby. A staying on sixth last year, he is 3lbs lower now despite being in better form and he’s 2/1 over 2 miles this season. He might not be as much of a plot job as many others in this race but this big field and strong pace will really suit him and he can outrun his price. Doitforthevillage has had two good runs over hurdles as a prep for this and he’s only 4lbs higher than his last chase start – a very taking win here in November. The form of that hasn’t worked out so well but he displayed all the attributes he’ll need here and appeals as being too big in a minefield.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Dresden (33/1 general), 1 pt each/way Doitforthevillage (40/1 general)
Good luck today and for individual Gold Cup Day race previews and tips please check out our Cheltenham Festival 2018 Race Previews and Tips.
All the punters eyes are looking towards Cheltenham Festival 2018 which brings all the best horses from around the UK and Ireland together for top sport and with it excitement, passion and drama. Here are the three top favourites for the week’s big race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Sizing John (NON-RUNNER)
Sizing John is one of the stronger contestants in this year’s Gold Cup; at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, he was the Gold Cup winner. He is a Jessica Harrington trained thoroughbred racehorse. Jonathan Burke was the rider in most of the races, while more recently, the jockey Robbie Power is the rider of Sizing John.
Before winning the Gold Cup, he had already won the Future Champions Novices Hurdle in 2014 and Craddockstown Novice Chase in 2015. The year of 2017 was his best year by far. He won the Kinloch Brae Chase, Punchestown Gold Cup and the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in that single year before winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup that year as well.
However, his performance this season have not been up to the par. He lost at Leopardstown by a staggering 32 lengths which is not the sort of performance one would hope to see from a horse trying to retain his crown.
Although not pleasing everyone by his manner of victory, Might Bite has finished where it matters this season; in front. He’s now won his last 5 races and remains unbeaten since Feb 2017. His trainer is none other than the legendary trainer Nicky Henderson who already has won the Gold Cup twice. He won the big race in 2011 with Long Run and then again in 2013 with Bobs Worth. According to his handler, Might Bite is in his best of form and clearly a top favorite for the Gold Cup.
Most recently, Might Bite showed us his talents at the King George VI Chase over Christmas. A year previously, he had suffered a fall in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase but Nicky Henderson got his compensation Boxing Day win this time with Might Bite.
Nicky Henderson decided to not run him for the February Denman Chase and he will now head directly to Cheltenham to compete in the Gold Cup with Sizing John and Native River and other top National Hunt horses.
What happened during the last year’s RSA Chase speaks volumes about the calibre of Might Bite. In that race, he had lost his lead during the final part of the race when he veered wildly to the right. But extraordinarily, he managed to claw back to victory by finishing first in the final few strides.
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It was really after the Denman Chase at Newbury that punters started to consider Native River for the coming Gold Cup more seriously as he has become somewhat of a forgotten horse having not been seen since last season. Although some would have had their eyes on him for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018, ever since he finished third in last year’s renewal, beaten just 2 3/4 lengths.
He had a terrific last season having won the Ladbrokes Trophy, Welsh Grand National and the Denman Chase for trainer Colin Tizzard, whose stable is now firing after a poor January. Native River has taken a while to come to himself following last year’s Cheltenham Festival but now that he has proved himself again by winning the Denman Chase he is also one of the top favorites for the Gold Cup.
Before we get stuck into my Ryanair Chase preview, JP has asked me to remind you of our Cheltenham Preview on Facebook at 7.30pm on Monday that you can access more previews and a whole raft of other useful stuff with info on tickets, accommodation, night life, race schedule and more here: Cheltenham Festival 2018
The Ryanair Chase, one of the newest additions to the Festival calendar, has been much maligned during its time in the Thursday slot, with the chief argument against it being that talent was drained from the Champion Chase and Gold Cup, weakening two Championship races as a whole. However in the 12 renewals of the race so far, we’ve seen fine festival performances from stalwarts such as Imperial Commander (a future Gold Cup winner), festival favourite Alberta’s Run, Cue Card and Vautour, all before last season’s incredible performance from Un De Sceaux.
Un De Sceaux is the right place to start, given just how dominant he was from start to finish last year in what was arguably a career best performance, having set out from the front and getting all his rivals under the pump from a good distance before two mega leaps sealed victory, as you can see below.
In 8 Weeks time, it's St Patrick’s Thursday at @CheltenhamRaces Festival! ☘️
🎥 In 2017 Un De Sceaux raced to victory in the Ryanair Chase! pic.twitter.com/GVTt3GZFhm
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 18, 2018
He has since won twice this season, taking the Hilly Way apart before landing the Clarence House with ease when second favourite Brain Power fell. In his old age, he is a more uncomplicated horse who ought to take the beating, although this could be a stronger renewal than last year.
Waiting Patiently, the rapidly progressive northern raider now trained by Ruth Jefferson, made it five without defeat over fences in fine style at Kempton in a Listed contest where the decent yardsticks Art Maresque and God’s Own were swatted aside with a fine turn of speed between the last two fences.
Waiting Patiently lives up to his name to make it 5 out of 5 over fences in the 32Red Casino Chase at Kempton
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) January 13, 2018
As a novice, he had beaten improved Politologue at Haydock when getting 3lbs – form that has just looked better and better since – and there is a feeling that he is one of the most unexposed of the senior chasers in the field, with the promise of more to come and speed to burn.
Cue Card is a former winner of this race, although rising 12 – however he was going very well when falling in the Gold Cup last year and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to show something like his best in the Ascot Chase. The return of Paddy Brennnan to the saddle is an interesting late change, with the two having shared their best moments together, but he does have something to prove against horses at their peak now.
Douvan didn’t make the Red Mills Chase, which suggests a comeback for the festival is unlikely in this, and Min looks sure to go to the Champion Chase. Yorkhill hasn’t shown much in either of his two runs this season but wind the clock back and he’d been beautifully ridden by Ruby Walsh to take the JLT from Top Notch – some of the best form in this race – at the last festival and he’d have beaten the subsequent Grade 1 winner had he gone left handed at Fairyhouse afterwards.
The worry is that he wasn’t beaten by the trip in the Dublin Chase, but we know this is his ideal target and it’ll surely be where he goes – with or without Ruby Walsh.
Gigginstown are yet to win this despite a lot of trying and in Balko Des Flos they have an uber solid contender. He’s been saved for a tilt at the Festival since finishing second to Road To Respect, a career best effort, in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown. He might need to find more here – especially given the speed that many at the top of the market have shown – but he promises to be a solid each/way proposition and perhaps front running tactics might be employed.
Frodon’s latest win on trials day means he has to go for Graded chases now and the Ascot Chase ought to tell us whether he can hack it in this company – the percentage call is to go against him given that he was ten lengths behind Top Notch when they last met.
Cloudy Dream, second in the Arkle last year, is of more interest – he’s been going over 3 miles without much success and a decent surface and this trip might bring out the best in him.
NOTE: This post has been updated to account for the withdrawals of Fox Norton and also Top Notch. The amendment took place on the 7 March 2018.
1 pt each/way Balko Des Flos (6/1 general)
The Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival 2018
An ever intriguing renewal of the Pertemps and one in which my views have changed considerably as the likely field becomes more clear. Gordon Elliot’s Glenloe has clearly been laid out for this race and has a favourites chance for sure as some of his form has worked out extremely well. In particular his Naas run in November when sandwiched between Oscar Knight and Diamond Cauchois looks solid as they have been put up a combined 34lbs since. He hasn’t been lost in the market however as he is currently favourite for the race. A slight concern for me with him would be his strike rate. When all is said and done he has one win from 8 starts over hurdles and whilst he could be a few pounds well in, his only success over hurdles came in a maiden hurdle at Navan where he won by a neck. He travels very well through his races but doesn’t seem to find a great deal for pressure, albeit some of that in his most recent runs may have been as a result of his jockeys lack of desire to run to his very best form with this race in mind. His breeding is absolutely perfect for this race and you have to respect his form and his connections. He looks certain to run a solid race.
Preference however at the prices is for Denis Cullen’s A Great View. He ran a massive race at Leopardstown over Christmas when narrowly beaten by Mine Now. He came from the clouds to get involved and the manner of that performance suggested that a very strongly run race at Cheltenham will be right up his street. His pedigree is full of stamina and everything he has done on the racecourse supports the fact that he stays very well. He finished fifth last time out under Barry Geraghty when given too much to do and Barry was very easy on him during the final half mile, making very little attempt to close on the breakaway leaders. It looked a pretty cynical ride to me and having not had a hard race he has had the ideal preparation to leave everything behind at Prestbury Park. This race looks ideally suited to him and a sounder surface may also bring about further improvement. With a nice weight he looks a serious contender, particularly given he had Glenloe over 7 lengths behind him at Leopardstown (now 5lbs worse off with him) and he saw out that race far better. If he can stay in touch turning for home I can see him coming with a storming run up the Cheltenham hill.
2pts E/W – A GREAT VIEW @ 25/1 (Betfair)
Comrades in arms, we are almost there. The Cheltenham Festival is now less than a week away at the time of writing – indeed in less than week we will all have made it to the halfway point of the Cheltenham Festival 2018.
Before we get stuck into my Champion Hurdle preview JP has asked me to remind you that you can access more previews and a whole raft of other useful stuff with info on tickets, accommodation, night life, race schedule and more here: Cheltenham Festival 2018.
We know have a very strong idea of the final field for the Champion Hurdle on Tuersday, which the market expects to be won for the second year by Buveur D’Air. The defending Champion was brilliant when taking last year’s edition, and three of the horses he had in his wake have since dominated the novice chase division to boot.
Given that exodus, he hasn’t had much competition this season – well none – which some might suggest is a worry, although he only had the one hurdles run last year before this and it didn’t prevent him from taking apart what looks a stronger field. However, we know all of this, and he’s probably short to recommend before the day, where you might get a bigger price if any bookmakers try to take him on (or enhance him in the morning).
Faugheen’s return in November had tongues wagging and fans dreaming of an incredible battle between two Champions, but the nature of his bounce at Leopardstown suggested a horse who had lost the spark of previous years, and whilst his run in the Irish Champion Hurdle was a creditable one, it appeared to confirm that suspicion and it appeared that there was nothing more to give there.
Opposition compared to last year already appears thin, but it’s easy to forget that My Tent Or Yours was a fine and clear second in what appeared to be a stronger renewal last year and his one run this season saw him fight incredibly hard in ground that was perhaps softer than he wanted, and that continued a brilliantly consistent run of efforts which saw him finish runner up at the three major festivals last year.
The better the ground, the better his chances and he’s comfortable off both a fast and slow gallop, with Aidan Coleman having built a fine rapport with his charge. He is 6lbs worse off with Melon from the International Hurdle, but he found more than the Mullins charge that day and appears to come alive in the spring, whilst appearing to be one of the most reliable horses in the field.
Yorkhill has been mooted as an option here, but it is worrying that he was so abject in the Dublin Chase and his jumping of hurdles did not convince before he went chasing. A fast run two miles ought to suit but there are too many questions. The removal of the hood could help Melon run better than he did in the Irish Champion and he will certainly get a gallop to aim at, although the form of the Supreme has perhaps not worked out quite as hoped and he’s been outsped up the hill once and outbattled the other time.
Elgin’s connected have stumped up £20,000 to come here and they must be admired, although they are perhaps in a rock and a hard place with regards to his mark. His gutsy defeat of a decent horse in Ch’Tibello giving him 4lbs reads well, although he still needs to find a career best, perhaps by 10lbs, and Ch’Tibello himself has been beaten by much of this field. Mick Jazz took advantage of Faugheen’s blowout to take the Ryanair Hurdle at Christmas but was behind him in the Irish Champion Hurdle and this could be a step too far for him (or should on all evidence).
A big priced contender that has caught the eye is Verdana Blue, entered in both this and the Mares’ Hurdle. She was well behind Kalashnikov in the Betfair Hurdle but was travelling as well as any of the horses if not better before coming to a stop in the heavy ground and it’s not impossible she’s a lot better than her mark of 145. This is another leap here, but her form ties in well with Elgin, a convincing winner of the Kingwell Hurdle, and the likely ground and pace should really suit her.
1 pt each/way My Tent Or Yours (10/1 general)
Ante-post – 27 October 2017 for Members
3 pts win Buveur D’Air, 2018 Champion Hurdle (4/1 Sportingbet, 7/2 general)
It’s Ladies Day at Cheltenham Festival 2018 and I’m looking forward to meeting up with JP and sharing a few pints of Guinness. Let’s hope we can celebrate a few winners together. Enjoy Day 2!
1.30 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Baring Bingham):
Nothing is a certainty at Cheltenham but Samcro hasn’t put a single foot wrong and it will take a fine performance to beat him. The manner with which Gordon Elliott’s star dismissed Duc Des Genievres in the Deloitte was astonishing and it also gave his form real substance over hurdles too for the first time, something underlined by the run of Paloma Blue (fourth there) in the Supreme yesterday. With a fine ante post position on Next Destination to boot, we can have an each/way shot with Duc Des Genievres, who has found only Next Destination and Samcro too good in his two starts. He was pitched into the deep end of Grade 1 company on both occasions which gives an extremely positive vibe about him, and the ground has turned right for him too.
Advice: 3 pts win Samcro (8/11 general), 1 pt each/way Duc Des Genievres (12/1 general)
Already Advised for Members: 1 pt each/way Next Destination, 2018 Ballymore Novices Hurdle (8/1 Boylesports)
2.10 – RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+):
This is very well contested and the field are hard to split. On the basis of yesterday’s National Hunt Chase, not much separates the best of the British and Irish novice chasers and Black Corton’s trashing of Ms Parfois, giving hr a Grade 1 penalty, looks rock solid now and whilst he has been on the go since the summer, he shows no sign of abating and a bold bid ought to be expected.
Monalee’s win in the Flogas Novice Chase over Al Boum Photo and Dounikos is rock solid form and all three ought to go well again with the step up in trip perhaps ideal for Al Boum Photo and Dounikos against Monalee, who appeared to have real zest at that trip.
Presenting Percy’s second to Our Duke, when he made him pull out all the stops, is the best form in the race and there’s no reason for him not to go close.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Black Corton (15/2 general)
2.50 – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3):
William Henry’s Lanzarote win has worked out brilliantly and he might actually have been leniently treated with just a 6lbs rise for it. Spiritofthegames was third in the Betfair Hurdle behind Sky Bet Supreme runner-up Kalashnikov, third Red Indian finishing runner up at Towcester, fourth Topofthegame winning at Sandown (also runs here, is on worse terms but can go very well) and the seventh Le Patriote winning at Ascot and the eighth Dentley de Mee taking second in the EBF Final at Sandown on Saturday. The ground ought to be fine too.
Advice: 1 pt each/way William Henry (8/1 general)
3.30 – Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+):
This ought to be a thrilling spectacle here and it’s one to savour mainly with a good position. The bet of the top three is Min, who was so impressive in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown which looked a fantastic preparation for this given the pace that Special Tiara showed that day. There have been no holdsup with his preparation, whilst Altior was lame on Monday and has already got the bounce factor to cope with, whilst Douvan has been off since sustaining a pelvic injury in this last year and needs great leap of faith to be backed.
Advice: 2 pts win Min (7/2 general)
4.10 – Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase):
If the Last Samurai takes to these obstacles then he’s got to have a major chance but Cause Of Causes has win at the Festival for the last three seasons and knows this course like the back of his hands so there’s no great appeal to take him on with Tiger Roll or Auvergnat.
Advice: 2 pts win Cause Of Causes (3/1 general)
4.50 – Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3):
Mitchouka hasn’t put a foot wrong in all her starts this season and has some of the very best form courtesy of her run ins with Espoir D’Allen. A couple of wins should have done her confidence the world of good before this too and a big run is hoped for. Paul Nicholls has done well in this so his Act Of Valour is second choice after a return to form at Musselburgh. He fought well to beat Look My Way on debut at Newcastle and that form has not worked out badly at all.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Mitchouka (12/1 general), 1 pt each/way Act Of Valour (10/1 general)
Good luck today and for St Patrick’s Day and Gold Cup Day previews and tips check out our Cheltenham Festival 2018 Race Previews and Tips.
We hope you enjoy the replay of our Cheltenham Festival 2018 preview below. Our final preview will take place on Monday 12 March and I hope you can join us then on our Facebook Page at facebook.com/jpfestival – please visit now to set a reminder.
You can find individual Cheltenham race previews and tips in our Cheltenham Festival 2018 section.
Many people have a race that they look forward to most during Festival week for different reasons, and mine is the Arkle. This year’s renewal looks to have four top-quality novice chasers duking it out over some of the toughest fences in the country, and if there’s any reason to wish the festival was here already, this race is it.
Before I get stuck into the nitty gritty of the Arkle, JP has asked me to remind you of our Cheltenham Preview on Facebook Live at 7.30pm on Monday and that you can access more previews and a whole raft of other useful stuff with info on tickets, accommodation, travel, night life, race schedule and more here: Cheltenham Festival 2018
The favourite for this since November has been Footpad, a name familiar to those readers here – he was fourth in the Champion Hurdle last year – and that position has been earned with three fantastic displays over fences. He was a short price for his chasing debut when going up against the useful yardstick Brelade, but even the most cynical of observers had to be very impressed with the manner of his jumping and the sheer ease with which he managed to break his maiden over fences.
Indeed, Willie Mullins – arguably the man with the most 2 mile chasing talent in recent times – speaking effusively about his jumping. “He’s as good a novice as I’ve seen schooling at home”, the Cloustton handler said.
He was long odds on favourite to take the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown, when his main rival Death Duty didn’t have the pace to live with him and was beaten before falling at the last, with Footpad coming home 11 lengths clear of Any Second Now. He then had a long awaited duel with Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Arkle, when a cleaner season (more on that later) and more experience helped him to another comprehensive victory, which has set him up perfectly for an assault on this prize.
— OLBG Betting Tips (@OLBG) February 3, 2018
Petit Mouchoir was second that day but will surely be on a more equal playing field come the Festival. Henry De Bromhead’s front running grey took the Ryanair and Irish Champion Hurdles last year, getting the better of a fantastic battle with Footpad on the latter occasion, and then he was a fine third in the Champion Hurdle itself. Coming from a yard known for improving horses that go over a fence, there was much excitement before, and even more after his chasing debut at Punchestown when he produced many impressive leaps from the front.
However, a setback afterwards robbed the eagerly expectant racing crowd of a clash at Christmas, and effectively shoehorned him to the Irish Arkle. On his first start since October, he understandably made some mistakes – including cuts at the first and second – but he managed to keep Footpad within sight and was beaten just five lengths at the line, having stuck to the task late when fitness was sure to be at a premium.
With that behind him, we ought to see the gap between the two come much closer this time around.
A spanner was thrown into what the market had as a two-horse race when the French import Saint Calvados twice and impressive winner in handicaps at Newbury, stepped into graded company with remarkable aplomb as he dismantled his rivals in the Kingmaker Chase. He admittedly had only three rivals, but there were 22 lengths between him and the 143 rated Cyrname, with North Hill Harvey even further behind in third.
A repeat of that performance would give the front two a serious amount to think about – but there are questions for Saint Calavados to answer himself. Firstly, the question of how he’ll handle what’s likely to be the fastest ground he’s run on in his career, and secondly, he will be taken on for the lead in a fashion that he hasn’t experienced before. His engine cannot be doubted, although he has much to prove in this context.
Brain Power was a super hurdler and also impressed on his chasing debut at Kempton, but his unseat at the last in the Henry VII (beaten) and in the Clarence House gives jumping worries. North Hill Harvey won a well contested novice event at the beginning of the season over course and distance and then took the Arkle trial, but others have caught up since and his latest effort was a worrying one despite the fact he likely wouldn’t have won.
Shantou Rock was second behind Sceau Royal at Doncaster and well beaten, whilst Cyrname, the winner of the Wayward Lad, looked happy upped in trip when just beaten in the Scilly Isles.
River Wylde won a smart novice chase on his debut but he did not like the soft ground when coming off 18 lengths worse off with North Hill Harvey next time. This ought to suit more although he’s not been seen since and is sure to strip fitter for it. The same has to be said for Capitaine, a faller when held in the Henry VII Chase.
On a line through Demi Sang (beaten over 40 lengths in Irish Arkle) Avenir D’Une Vie and Saturnas will struggle to lay up with the bigger names here.
NOTE: This post has been updated to account for the withdrawal of Secau Royal. The amendment took place on the 7 March.
1 pt win Petit Mouchoir, Arkle (11/4 general)