Day One – Cheltenham Festival

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13:30 – Supreme Novices Hurdle (2m)

Roaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!!!!!! Ahhh it’s back!!!!! The most spine tingling cheer in any sporting event anywhere around the world, it’s the Supreme and boy does this race live up to its name.

A race which until last year was becoming slightly predictable, as Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci dominated until the almighty Altior (predicted star of this year’s festival) usurped Min and produced one of the performances of last year.

For the first time in years Rich Ricci is empty handed here, however Mullins still has a very strong hand with four entries. Mullins has the talking horse of the year in Melon but even despite Phil Smith’s much publicised assessment, he’s not for us after just one start.  His best chance could be with his second string in the shape of Bunk Off Early who has some decent Grade 1 form behind Neptune fancy Bacardys and has a very strong chance of getting the Irish and Mullins off to a flying start.

Alan King could have a great festival and Elgin represents a lovely each way chance in the first with good Grade 2 form and for those looking for a bit of each way value may prove the best bet.

However, last year’s Champion Bumper winner BALLYANDY looks to be the one to be on. Previous festival form is a major plus and Twiston-Davies seems to have a knack of getting his horses fully wound for the festival and therefore he gets our vote and keeps the Supreme title in England for another year.

Selection…

Ballyandy (7/2)

14:10 – Arkle Chase(1m7f)

Altior has cruised through his novice races and even landed a Grade 2 in open company at Newbury with Fox Norton, the 2nd fav in the Champion Chase, following him home 13 lengths behind. Phil Smith gave that performance a 170 rating which means he has 21lbs on the next highest rated in the race. You’re betting at 1/4 that he finishes.

There is not much else in the race. CHARBEL was 9 lengths behind Altior in his season opener and that is the best bit of form of the rest. This horse finished 5th in Supreme last year so we know he handles the track, he would be my selection at 5/2 in the without market and I would be tempted with a small saver on Forest Bihan at 20/1 e/w in the main market. If the race falls apart I can see him staying on strongest up the hill.

Selection…

Charbel without Altior (5/2)

Forest Bihan (25/1)

14:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase (3m1f)

Much has been made of the treatment of Irish raiders from Phil Smith, the UK handicapper, but the Irish still have one of the market principles in the shape of Noble Endeavor (10/1). Trends are there to be broken but there has not been a winner rated higher than 150 for a long old while and the irish have a stinking record in this. Both make me draw a line through Noble Endeavour who runs here off 154 and search for something at a juicier price.

Three previous winners re-oppose here in the shape of THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (10/1), Holywell (12/1) and Un Temps Pour Tout (16/1). It’s hardly a game changing aphorism to say that course form is vital so all three have to be respected. Druids in particular warrants respect, he’s now off 146, the mark he won the race off in 2015 and has been set out for this race all year. He’s sure to run well and gets the vote from us.

The other to mention is the joint fav, Singlefarmpayment (15/2). He ticks all the boxes but I’m somewhat loathe to put up the market leader in a race as competitive as this. One further down the market does catch the eye at a huge price. No, folks, not Buywise, but Coologue. He won over 3m1f here in October and is generally progressive, nudging up to a mark of 144. Prices are currently ranging from the 25s right through to an eye watering 50/1. Charlie Longsdon has had a disappointing year, striking at only 13%, but this would be just the tonic after a trying season.

Selections…

The Druids Nephew e/w (10/1)

Coologue e/w (50/1)

15:30 – Champion Hurdle (2m)

After potentially one of the most turbulent markets since Corrie’s Who Killed Tina, we’ve finally made it. You’d be forgiven for falling off your chair when seeing that this market isn’t topped by a Willie Mullins horse in the famous Pink colours which leaves this race wide open and seriously lacking superstars such as Faugheen or Annie Power. But wipe those tears from your eyes fellow degenerates, because that means one thing and one thing only…gravy showers. The fact this race is missing these superstars means it’s wide open and you can get some serious value so it’s time to fill up your wheelbarrows lads and lasses.

Yanworth looks like he has the class to win this but I’m afraid with questionable jumping and the absence of regular rider Barry Geraghty we are more than willing to oppose at 11/4. If the ground were to come up soft Buveur D’air’s chances would be maximised but again at around the 11/2 mark we can’t be backing a horse that started the season off chasing and has been reverted back to hurdles. Brain Power looks a strong candidate on his handicap form but are we asking too much for him to come and win a Champion Hurdle…we believe so. Beyond these horses there’ll be a couple of old timers guaranteed to line up in The New One and My Tent Or Yours, the same vibes are coming out of their camps as they do every year but I’m afraid they’re falling on deaf ears here at Talking Neigh Sense HQ.

The line that we’d like to be taking though is that of progression. Horses that have bettered themselves consistently throughout the season and the first of those would be our main selection and that is PETIT MOUCHOIR (who also happens to be Racing Post’s top rated horse in this race). This horse has improved 15lbs already this year in terms of his official rating and we believe Mr De Bromhead may well be able to squeak out those extra few pounds needed to win this race. He looked destined to win at Newcastle when he fell late on and then went from strength to strength pummelling 7 time grade 1 winner Nichols Canyon and Footpad consecutively. With only course form leaving a question mark over this fella we are more than happy to take that risk at the 6/1 offered.

Selection…

Petite Mouchoir (8/1)

16:10 – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (2m3f)

The market for this has been absolute carnage for weeks. At the time of writing, the big three remain in the market and this looks a straight shootout between them. Just a pound between them on the ratings, this is now set to be one of the most intriguing races of the week.

Walsh has opted for LIMINI (13/8) over Vroum Vroum Mag (5/2), last year’s winner, which is probably a tip in itself. VVM was bitterly disappointing last time at Doncaster, scrambling home by a head from the 140 rated Midnight Jazz so she can be looked over for this.

Limini is currently the market leader thanks to slamming Apple’s Jade (5/1) at Punchestown last time out. This looks the key piece of form. The debate is whether Gordon Elliot left a bit to work on with Apple’s Jade or whether Limini beat her up fair and square. The result was a bit of a shock, Jade was sent off 2/5F on the day and who could forget the stunning performance she put up at Aintree last year?

Locked in a battle all season, Mullins has gone for broke here rather than splitting two of his remaining big hitters up. Elliot probably had higher hopes for Jade following that Aintree demolition, but a couple of disappointments this year so she winds up here. LIMINI can be a bit chancy at her hurdles but she gets the vote, even at the prices. It’s hard to ignore that last performance and the hope is that it wasn’t a one off.

Selection…

Limini (13/8)

16:50 National Hunt Chase – (3m7f)

Straight off the bat the first thing to mention is that a proper jockey is crucial here. This is consistently undervalued in the market and can be a profitable strategy. Will Biddick is jocked up on Arpege D’Alene at 12/1, a nice type but Nichols can’t buy a winner in this race. Martello Tower (14/1) ground it out in the Potato Race here a few years back in the mud and should probably be respected but his form hardly breeds confidence.

Earlier in the week a strategy would have been to dutch the two market leaders of Edwulf (5/1)and A GENIE IN ABOTTLE (11/2). They have been well found but with O’Connor and The Coddfather booked you really shouldn’t be looking anywhere else. It really is men amongst boys with these two. Edwulf had been jumping like a crab with his legs tied together before the penny dropped last time out and has to be respected. The Genie gets the vote for us however. Novices staying this sort of distance is always a step into the unknown, but he shapes like a stayer. Edwulf has gone outright favourite in recent days but the stoutly bred Genie is the one for TNS.

Selection…

A Genie in Abottle (11/2)

17:30 Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase

Even though it’s over 2m 4f, you’ve still got to stay the distance. Experience over fences is also important. Potters Legend was a huge fancy here but has ended up racing later in the week, keep an eye out for him..

Itsafreebee (9/1) for Skelton is an interesting runner after the fancied Value at Risk was withdrawn early Monday morning following a setback. Harry Skelton now takes the ride on last year’s Neptune 3rd.  Nicky Henderson’s runner Hammersly Lake catches the eye at 18s with Danny Mullins an eye catching jockey booking. He has an impressive 2nd to Le Prezien (who we are a great fan of) to his name, as well as a creditable 6th in the County Hurdle in 2015, this 9 year old gets the tentative nod in a fiendishly competitive race

A fairly consistent type that has actually come down 2lbs getting a rating of 142 following a 3rd behind Top Notch, a JLT fancy, means the gelding is now quite well treated. It could be this horse’s last chance for a big one over 2m 4f, but at 16/1 we’ll happily take our chances.

Selection…

Hammersly Lake (18/1)





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