CHELTENHAM PREVIEW 2014

One of the worst winters of British racing for me will finally get a lift on Tuesday when the Cheltenham Festival begins.  The ground is finally drying up and it’s expected to be pretty much good to soft on Tuesday and better as the week goes on.  Irish trainer Willie Mullins looks all set to dominate the meet with what’s generally felt to be his strongest ever contingent plus stable jockey Ruby Walsh but old faithful Paul Nicholls and bang in form Philip Hobbs are decent each way bets for Champion Trainer while, with Ruby at long odds-on, each way flutters on A.P. McCoy or Darryl Jacobs for Champion Jockey could prove profitable

TUESDAY, MARCH 11

The Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1; 2 miles; 1330 GMT)

Willie Mullins seems to have the race locked up with the pair of VAUTOUR and Wicklow Brave with the former possessing a perfect blend of speed and stamina as well as improving with every race.  He looks a good thing to open the meeting.  Those looking for an outsider to back each way could try Josses Hill who’ll run for last year’s winning owners and who is also open to plenty improvement.

SELECTION:    VAUTOUR

The Arkle (Grade 1 Novices Chase; 2 miles; 1405 GMT)

Willie Mullins’ ante-post favourite for this race CHAMPAGNE FEVER blotted his copybook at Leopardstown on last when he hit the second last fence hard (had looked in control before that) trying a Grade 1 novice chase on only his second run over fences and ending up 14 1/2l 3rd to Defy Logic and Trifolium (re-opposes).  Since then, he’s drifted a bit in the betting which makes him very much the value returning to his favourite track (won the Champion Bumper in 2012 and beat My Tent or Yours in the Supreme Novices last year).  He’s taken to bounce back to his best and that should be good enough to dispose of main challengers Rock on Ruby a former high class hurdler who proved his well being by winning emphatically at Doncaster

SELECTION:    CHAMPAGNE FEVER

The Champion Hurdle (Grade 1; 2miles; 3.20 GNT)

A cracking renewal with dual winner Hurricane Fly trying for the three-timer at 10yo up against three scintillating young stars in Our Conor (won the Triumph here last year by 15l in one of the best performances ever by a juvenile hurdler); Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star The New One (winner of last year’s Neptune Novices; beat Rock on Ruby this season); and Nicky Henderson’s pride and joy MY TENT OR YOURS who showed real courage to defeat The New One by 1/2l in the Christmas Hurdle (Kempton) after that one clattered the final fence. Nigel is confident The New One will turn the tables here where he has won 4 times and there are doubts about the selection’s stamina but he’s very much on the improve and has done nothing wrong since his impressive 2nd in the Supreme Novices last year.

SELECTION;    MY TENT OR YOURS

David Nicholson’s Mares Hurdle (Grade 2; 2 ½ miles; 1600 GMT)

Quevega returns for a tilt at an historic 6th straight win of this event.  She’s still an outstanding mare but now 10yo and didn’t have to be at her best to win last year’s weak renewal.  This year she’ll have to contend with HIGHLAND TRAVELLER a very strong travelling front runner who is 3 for 3 this season and produced a career best on last to defeat Carole’s Spirit by 2l in a Grade 2 mares 3m event at Ascot.  Whatever catches him, wins

SELECTION:    HIGHLAND TRAVELLER

 

National Hunt Chase (Listed; 4 miles; Amateur riders; 1640 GMT)

The 2 to concentrate on in a highly competitive renewal are Shutthefrontdoor and FOX ROCK.  The former should bounce back from a last outing flop after a breathing operation but the selection hasn’t put a foot wrong and always seems to have more in the tank.

SELECTION:    FOX ROCK (TUESDAY’S BANKER)

 

 

WEDNESDAY MARCH 12

Neptune (Baring Bingham) Novices Hurdle (Grade 1; 2m 5f; 1330 GMT)

None have impressed as much as Willie Mullins’ FAUGHEEN and he is confidently expected to brush these aside.  One of Red Sherlock, Rathvinden or Deputy Dan should complete the Exacta.

SELECTION:    FAUGHEEN (WEDNESDAY’S BANKER)

 

RSA Chase (Grade 1; 3 miles; 1405 GMT)

Willie Mullins’ Ballycasey will be all the rage after successfully switching to fences this year winning both races over the large obstacles first a 17f beginners chase at Navan by 8l from Mount Colah (has won twice since) then a 21f 3 runner novice by 4l from Don Cossack (re-opposes).  Balleycasey has been impressive in winning 5 of his 6 starts under Rules (ran in 3 Point to Points without winning) but his inexperience with the rough and tumble of a big festival like this is a worry and his sole defeat came at Punchestown last year in a Grade 1 novice Hurdle won by MORNING ASSEMBLY whose transition to fences has been as impressive winning two from three including beating the said Don Cossack by 1/2l in a 4 runner Grade 2 event over 22f before running very creditably in defeat behind Carlingford Lough in a 3 mile Grade 1 novice at Leopardstown.  This must be the day’s best value bet.

SELECTION;    MORNING ASSEMBLY (WEDNESDAY’S NAP)

 

Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1; 2 miles; 1520 GMT)

In the absence of Sprinter Sacre, it’s difficult to see beyond SIRE DE GRUGY who goes well here.

SELECTION;    SIRE DE GRUGY

 

 

Champion Bumper (Grade 1; 2 miles; 1715 GMT)

Willie Mullins appears to have this sewn up with his trio of   unbeaten bumpers Black Hercules SHANESHILL and Killultagh Vic.   Vibes from the camp suggest Black Hercules is the stable’s fancy but the selection made such great strides from his debut to his sophomore run that he’s confidently taken to improve again past his stable mates.

SELECTION;    SHANESHILL

 

THURSDAY MARCH 13

JLT (The Golden Miller) Novices Chase (Grade 1; 2 ½ miles; 1330 GMT)

Wonderful Charm has taken well to chasing this term and has the best form in the book but Irish raider FELIX YOUNGER, who flopped his last 2 starts on heavy ground, has a 2nd to Simonsig and a 15l defeat of Trifolium on his resume.  He could be the value bet.

SELECTION:    FELIX YOUNGER (THURSDAY’S NAP)

 

Ryanair Chase (Grade 1; 2 miles 5 furlongs; 1440 GMT)

Dynaste and AL FEROF are the 2 to concentrate on with the latter likely to bounce back on this better ground after failing to handle the gruelling conditions at Doncaster last time.  The selection won the 2011 Supreme Novices (from Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card) and has shown himself to be at least as good over fences.

SELECTION:    AL FEROF (THURSDAY’S BANKER)

World Hurdle (Grade 1; 3 miles; 1520 GMT)

Big Bucks still has something to prove after his long lay-off and disappointing run at Doncaster while ANNIE POWER is at her peak.

SELECTION:    ANNIE POWER\

FRIDAY MARCH 14

The Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1 Niovi

Talking horse Le Rocher recorded both wins under testing conditions while Royal Irish Hussar blotted his copybook rather badly at Doncaster so the one to be on must be lightly raced TIGER ROLL who remains open to significant improvement having only raced twice.

SELECTION:    TIGER ROLL

 

Albert Bartlett (Spa) Novices Hurdle (Grade 1; 3 miles; 1440 GMT)

Improvers Briar Hill (Willie Mullins) and KING’S PALACE (David Pipe) could prove difficult to split.  The former has made a meal of winning at long odds-on (raced only on soft/heavy) while the latter has carried all before him this season including beating Masters Hill by 14l in a course and distance Grade 2 novice in December.

SELECTION;    KING’S PALACE (FRIDAY’S NAP)

 

The Gold Cup (Grade 1 Chase; 3 miles 2 furlongs; 1520 GMT)

Cue Card and Sir Des Champs would have made this interesting but, in their absence, it’s difficult to oppose last year’s winner BOB’S WORTH who is a track specialist and of the top class.

SELECTION:    BOB’S WORTH (BANKER OF THE MEETING)

 

BEST OF THE HANDICAPS

Tuesday’s closing race The Rewards 4 Racing Novices Handicap Chase (Listed Race; 0-140; 2 ½ miles; 1715 GMT) looks a great opportunity for PRESENT VIEW (NAP OF THE MEETING) to make his mark.  It pays to be prominent in these large field jumping handicaps and the way he saw off a competitive field at Kempton on last suggests he can improve again.

On Wednesday, The Glenfarcas Handicap Chase (Cross Country; 3m7f; 1600 GMT) looks tailor made for BIG SHU to repeat his 2013 win with Edna Bolger’s Star Neuville to follow him home

SELECTION;    BIG SHU

Thursday’s big handicap The Pertemps Final (A Listed Handicap Hurdle; 3m; 1405 GMT) should see the spotlight fall on the bang-in-form Philip Hobbs stable whose FINGAL BAY and If In Doubt separated by 1/2l in Exeter’s qualifier with the winner, FINGAL BAY, conceding 7lbs, should fight out the finish again.  Expect them to finish in the same order as, although the latter is the more unexposed, the selection has defeated Simonsig.

SELECTION;    FINGAL BAY

Friday’s traditional closer The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase named for Nicky Henderson’s father will of course mean that the son will have a serious go for his 3rd win since 2005 when the honour was first bestowed.  But it’s NEXT SENSATION, open to improvement and still on a kind mark, that should have the best chance.

SELECTION:    NEXT SENSATION

Good Luck!

THE TERRIBLE TOUT

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