CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW 2015

One of the most exciting Cheltenham Festivals ever is in prospect starting Tuesday and there are several good bets at excellent prices on offer. It’s legendary A.P. McCoy’s last Cheltenham so his motivation level will be even higher than usual. You ignore any of his mounts at your peril.

As usual, expect good ground to prevail throughout and strong travellers and fluent jumpers will be favoured on this undulating left handed track with its stiff uphill finish

TUESDAY, MARCH 10

The Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1; 4yo+; 2m110y; 1.30pm GMT; 8.30am)

The traditional opener appears to be between L’ami Serge who is a perfect 3 from 3 for Nicky Henderson since coming to England (after going winless in 6 starts in France) and DOUVAN the long time favourite for the race from the powerful Willie Mullins barn. The latter won a 4yo event in France in June before performing very, very impressively in both outings for Mullins including winning the Grade 2 Moscow Flyers Novices at Punchestown. He’s only run on very soft ground but is a strong traveller who seems sure to be suited by the likely better underfoot conditions and his jumping has been foot perfect so far. Looks like a good thing here to start the meet.

SUPREME NOVICES SELECTION: DOUVAN (TUESDAY’S BANKER BET)

 

CHAMPION HURDLE (Grade 1; 4yo+; 2m110 y; 1520GMT; 10.20amJaTime)

A Cheltenham staple traditionally run at a cracking pace. This year two stand out and they are the howling favourite from the Willie Mullins stable Faugheen and THE NEW ONE, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ pride and joy. The former has the potential to be out of the very top drawer and has been most impressive in his 8 unbeaten career starts but is still a shade novicey in his hurdling and this might be the opening for THE NEW ONE who has seemed destined for this race since traffic problems seemingly cost him last year.

CHAMPION HURDLE SELECTION: THE NEW ONE (TUESDAY’S NAP)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11

Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle (Gr 1; 4yo+; 2m5f; 1330GMT; 8.30am)

A competitive event this year as the likes of Ordo Ab Chao (useful on the flat and 3 wins from 4 starts over hurdles including Grade 2 Novices over 2 1/2m on the New Course in January); Parlour Games [progressive though busy over hurdles beating Blaklion over course and distance in the Hyde Novices and Vyta Du Roc (re-opposes) by a neck at Newbury]; Outlander (classy sort who has made a great start over hurdles including winning a Grade 2 Novices Hurdle at Leopardstown) and NICHOLS CANYON [twice a listed winner on the flat and unbeaten in 3 completed starts over hurdles including two Grade 1s (unseated at 3rd flight in Grade 1 at Leopardstown as 4/6 favourite in between)].

Parlour Games could be vulnerable after a hectic campaign while the classy Outlander has ground queries to answer. NICHOLS CANYON is definitely the class of the race and, once his jumping holds up, he should take all the beating. At likely double digit odds, Ordo Ab Chao is a tempting each way alternative and a candidate for the exacta.

NEPTUNE NOVICES SELECTION: NICHOLS CANYON

 

RSA CHASE (Grade 1; 5yo+; 3m110y; 1405 GMT; 9.05 am Ja Time)

Lots of likely improvers could line up for this but the race provides the best value bet of the festival in DON POLI (NAP OF THE MEETING) a really likeable type who won over hurdles at last year’s festival and who has won both his Chase starts including a Grade 1 at Leopardstown. He surely has much more in the tank and is an exciting prospect. King’s Palace and The Young Master are also unbeaten over fences and improving. They could fight it out if the selection chooses an alternative target. Anywhere DON POLI should turn up at the festival, he is a BIG BET

RSA CHASE SELECTION: DON POLI (NAP OF THE MEETING)

 

QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (G1; 5yo+; 2m; 1520 GMT; 10.20am)

This is being hyped as a trappy betting heat but for this scribe it presents punters with the surest winner of the Festival in SPRINTER SACRE (BANKER BET OF THE MEETING) whose medical troubles since winning this race by nineteen lengths 2 years ago have been well documented. He was beaten in his warm-up for the festival on return from the long layoff but almost certainly needed the race and should come on a ton. There’s none better than Nicky Henderson at preparing a star for this festival. Whoever beats SPRINTER SACRE wins.

Should the selection not run his race then the likes of Dodging Bullets, Mr Mole (both trained by Champion Paul Nicholls) and Champagne Fever could fight it out with the last named the most likely to prevail.

CHAMPION CHASE SELECTION: SPRINTER SACRE (BANKER BET OF                                                    THE MEETING)

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 12

JLT NOVICES CHASE (Grade 1; 5yo+; 2m4f; 1330 GMT; 8.30am JaTime)

None was more impressive at last year’s festival that Vautour in winning the Supreme Novices and he followed up with another Grade 1 win at Punchestown. He was impressive again switched to fences at Navan but suffered a shock reverse to the 2nd in that race in a Grade 1 event next time out before bouncing back to beat sole finishing opponent by a distance in a Grade 2 at Leopardstown last time out. He’ll be all the rage now but there’s a nagging doubt that his jumping (made two big errors when beaten) might not stand up at the highest level and there’s real value in opposing him with Paul Nicholls’ PTIT ZIG who has been imperious in winning 3 of 4 over fences beaten only in open Grade 1 company against seasoned campaigners on last. Now returned to novice company, the jumping lessons he gave to Josses Hill and Champagne West in similar races make for a mouth watering proposition here.

JLT NOVICES SELECTION: PTIT ZIG

WORLD HURDLE (Grade 1; 4yo+; 3m; 1520 GMT; 10.20 JaTime)

Last year’s winner More of That is a defector as is 2013’s 2nd Annie Power but, in her absence, Willie Mullins has a solid second string in Briar Hill who is expected to go close but who fell in the Spa at last year’s festival when favourite and so is vulnerable over these hurdles. The two to concentrate on are the Paul Nicholls pair of Zarkandar (8l 4th in race last year and unlucky hd 2nd to Reve de Sivola in Grade 1 at Ascot in December) and SAPHIR DU RHEU who won a course and distance Grade 2 on last by a nk from Reve de Sivola and looks to have more in the tank. The latter is marginally preferred but it should pay to take note of the choice of mount made by stable jock Sam Twiston-Davies.

WORLD HURDLE SELECTION: SAPHIR DU RHEU

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE (Grade 1; 4yo; 2m1f; 1330GMT; 8.30am JaTime)

Nicky Henderson has a strong hand here but this has been the target for his massively impressive unbeaten PEACE AND CO for a long time now and he looks a high class prospect who should take all the beating.

JCB TRIUMPH SELECTION: PEACE AND CO (FRIDAY’S BANKER BET)

 

GOLD CUP (Grade 1 Chase; 5yo+; 3m2f110y; 1520GMT; 10.20am JaTime)

Impressive King George winner Silviniaco Conti has been favourite for this race since before the start of the season but he’s best on a flat track and the 3 miles of the King George may be the limit of his stamina especially on a stiff track like this. He has twice failed in this race in the past (falling when going well in 2013 and 1 ¾l 4th last year) and all the juice has gone out of his price. 2013 winner and course specialist Bob’s Worth makes plenty of appeal at double digit odds as he should be at his best and freshest come off time and Holywell, another lover of Cheltenham, is peaking at the right time. But ROAD TO RICHES has taken a quantum leap forward this season and won Ireland’s most prestigious race, the Lexus Chase, on last with 8 Gold Cup rivals soundly beaten off. He’ll need to improve again to beat Bob’s Worth and especially Holywell but everything in his profile screams big race winner and this should be his time.

GOLD CUP SELECTION: ROAD TO RICHES (FRIDAY’S NAP)

QUINIELA/EXACTA BOX OF MEETING; ROAD TO RICHES/Holywell

My Cheltenham top treble is:

DON POLI (NAP OF THE MEETING) in the RSA Chase (Wednesday)
SPRINTER SACRE (BANKER BET OF THE MEETING) in the Champion Chase (Wednesday)
PEACE AND CO (FRIDAY’S BANKER BET) in the Triumph Hurdle (Friday)

Good Luck!

THE TERRIBLE TOUT

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