This year’s Cheltenham Festival is set to be run on fast ground which will make experience at the track more important than ever.  Winter form producing short-priced favourites can be easily overturned.

Here’s a preview summary of the best races of each day.  All times are local (Jamaica time CDT).  Forecast going on the Chase and Hurdles is Good, good to soft in places; Cross country – GOOD.


TUESDAY, March 13

Supreme Novices Hurdle; 4yo+ Grade 1; 2 miles 110 yards; 8.30 a.m.

Nicky Henderson’s Darlan is all the rage in the ante post markets but he wasn’t half as impressive over course and distance here in December (when making a meal of landing 4/9 odds by a nose) as he has been around flat right handed tracks like Kempton and Taunton.  Last time out, he fell at Newbury (another stiff left handed track).  So we’ll begin the festival by taking on a favourite and the one to be on is still PROSPECT WELLS who disappointed twice on soft around right handed Sandown and Ascot.  Previously, he’d impressed when winning twice left handed (Newbury and Cheltenham) and just being touched off at Cheltenham in a Grade 2 event.

Supreme Novices Selection:       PROSPECT WELLS

The Arkle Chase; 5yo+ Grade 1; 2miles; 9.05 a.m.

One of the meeting’s surest things is SPRINTER SACRE (BANKER BET OF THE MEETING) who has looked like something special.  He’s a perfect 5 for 5 over the minimum trip and was trying a shade further when it was alleged that he failed to come up the hill in the Supreme Novices here last year.  It’s far more likely that inexperience and the extra trip was his downfall as he has been a revelation since switching to fences recording a perfect 3 for 3 by an accumulated 46 lengths.  Now that he’s matured, he looks unbeatable.


The Champion Hurdle; 4yo+ Grade 1; 2 miles 110 yards; 10.20 a.m.

Another phenomenal animal comes over from Ireland by the name of HURRICANE FLY and it’s unlikely that he can be beaten once he reproduces last year’s winning form.  Rumours of his decline were circulating thick and fast when he was late reappearing this season but were proved grossly exaggerated by his January 29 performance in Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Hurdle when demolishing Oscar’s Well by over 6l which was breath-taking.  Another Festival Banker.

Champion Hurdle Selection:      HURRICANE FLY



The Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As Baring Bingham Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m5f; 9.05 a.m.

Another Nicky Henderson Cheltenham gamble looks on the cards here as Simonsig has been laid out for this race ever since his impressive second to Fingal Bay at Sandown over a furlong shorter.  He followed up with an emphatic win at Kelso over 18f (2/7 odds; never off the bridle).  With Fingal Bay’s late defection, Simonsig has shortened even further in the market but this will be his stiffest test to date both in terms of distance and competition.  In three outings under rules for Henderson he’s yet to come off the bridle.  He won’t be so lucky on this occasion and his style of running may well be best suited to a flatter track.

So, it could pay to oppose him with the Irish pair of the unexposed Monksland (Noel Meade)and SOUS LES CIEUX from the all conquering Willie Mullins stable.  The selection has been brought on beautifully by the master trainer and will be peaking over this distance on the day.

Neptune Selection:    SOUS LES CIEUX




RSA Chase; Grade 1 (5yo+); 3m110y; 9.40 a.m.

Grand Crus can win this easily enough but, at the time of writing, it’s still unknown whether or not he’ll go for the Gold Cup instead and so it could pay to oppose him with one of Bob’s Worth or SIR DES CHAMPS with the latter, also from the Willie Mullins camp, representing another of the classy Irish raiding party laid out for this

RSA Chase Selection:        SIR DES CHAMPS


Queen Mother Champion Chase; Grade 1 (5yo+) 2m; 10.20 a.m.

A two horse race between last year’s first and second Sizing Europe and BIG ZEBSizing Europe is odds-on to repeat after humiliating BIG ZEB at Punchestown in heavy going on February 5 but it has been the case that Sizing Europe has been better with give underfoot and BIG ZEB best on faster ground so he must be the value to turn the tables.

Queen Mother Champion Chase Selection:  BIG ZEB


Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle; Grade 3 (4yo); 2m110y; 11.40 a.m.

Alan King has long believed that French importee VENDOR (nap) is the best of his juvenile hurdlers and has this race on his dance card ever since his impressive English debut on New Year’s Eve.  The dogs have been barking consistently in his favour ever since and this looks like one to bet on.

Fred Winter Selection:      VENDOR (NAP OF THE DAY)






THURSDAY, March 15

Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Steeple Chase); Grade 1 (5yo+); 2m5f; 9.40 a.m.

Alan King runs tough and genuine campaigner Medermit here and he won’t go down without a fight but in RIVERSIDE THEATRE (nap) he’s up against a rejuvenated horse that Nicky Henderson has always thought the world of and who will prove very, very hard to beat.  He split Long Run and Kauto Star when 2nd in last year’s King George (transferred to Ascot) and should brush these aside before developing into a Gold Cup contender next year.

Ryanair Chase Selection:   RIVERSIDE THEATRE (NAP OF THE DAY)


Ladbrokes World Hurdle; Grade 1 (4yo+); 3m; 10.20 a.m.

BIG BUCK’S (BANKER BET) has now won 15 races in a row and the last three World Hurdles.  In addition, he won a Grade 2 event over course and distance in January and his hurdling is bombproof.  He can’t be opposed.

World Hurdle Selection:    BIG BUCK’S (BANKER BET)


Byrne Group Plate (Handicap Chase); Grade 3 (5yo+); 2m5f; 11.00 a.m.

David Pipe’s importee Salut Flo is all the rage for this event but he blotted his copybook at this track last time out with a bad mistake at the third last in a Grade 3 handicap won by Quantitative Easing.  He may prove best on a flatter track and the two to concentrate on could well be Hunt Ball who has been hugely impressive winning his last three races on quick right handed tracks (the last by 10l from Cool Friend) and DIVERS, who beat Quantitative Easing when winning at the festival last year but who has struggled after taking 8 months off.  He has been quietly prepared for this by the brilliant Ferdy Murphy and will likely come here at peak.  The latter’s experience at the venue tips the scales in his favour

Byrne Group Plate Selection:             DIVERS

FRIDAY, March 16

Triumph Hurdle; Grade 1 (4yo); 2m1f; 8.30 a.m.

Baby Mix, who defeated SADLER’S RISK at Kempton and Grumeti, who was awarded a race over course and distance on January 28 are joint favourites but both appear vulnerable.  Baby Mix very much had the run of a muddling race at Kempton so SADLER’S RISK is confidently expected to turn the tables whilst Grumeti  was beaten a short head by Pearl Swan (gave 3 lbs) before being promoted.  At level weights and with Paul Nicholls confident of improvement from Pearl Swan it’s very difficult to see either joint favourite in the winner’s enclosure.   On the likely going, SADLER’S RISK gets the edge over Pearl Swan.

Triumph Hurdle Selection: SADLER’S RISK


Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices´ Hurdle Race); Grade 1 (4yo+); 3m; 9.40 a.m.

Boston Bob and MOUNT BENBULBEN stand out here.  Both have been campaigning on soft/heavy ground in Ireland with Boston Bob turning over  MOUNT BENBULBEN (howling 5/6 favourite) at Navan over 2 ½ miles in a race in which the favourite was forced to make the running and jumped to his right throughout.  You can rest assured that Gordon Elliott will have corrected whatever was amiss that day and with the positions in the betting now reversed and the extra journey right up MOUNT BENBULBEN’s street, he is confidently picked to reverse the form.

Albert Bartlett Selection:  MOUNT BENBULBEN


Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase; Grade 1 (5yo+); 3m2f110y; 10.20 a.m.

This race has been pencilled in my calendar for a repeat win by LONG RUN (BANKER BET) ever since he was a staying on second to superstar Kauto Star in the King George at Kauto’s favourite track.  Last week’s bad tumble as exercise by Kauto has made LONG RUN even more of a banker despite bullish sounds from the Nicholls’ camp about their star’s quick recovery.

Gold Cup Selection:   LONG RUN (BANKER BET)


Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup (Handicap); Grade 3 (5yo+); 2m110y; 12.15 p.m.

The festivals’ final race is the most open on paper with several quoted at 8/1 joint favourites but it’s truly a “dig-out” handicap with one of the meeting’s best bets in KUMBESHWAR (NAP OF THE MEETING) who was decent on the flat and will be fitted with the blinkers that he wore successfully there.  Over jumps he has some flashy form behind nice horses like Zarkandhar, Zaynar and Menorah and this will be a step down for him.  He could be a good thing.

Grand Annual Selection:    KUMBESHWAR (NAP OF THE MEETING)


My top three for the Meeting are:

SPRINTER SACRE (Arkle); HURRICANE FLY (Champion Hurdle) and LONG RUN (Gold Cup).

Good Luck!



One Response to “CHELTENHAM PREVIEW 2012”

  1. Mike Surridge Says:

    You are right about the Arkle Chase. The odds on Sprinter Sacre are so short that some bookmakers here have made a book without Sprinter so that you win if your horse comes first or second and another in an effort to drum up business has offered money back on any other selection if Sprinter wins.

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