2017 CHELTENHAM PREVIEW

It’s the third week in March and that means only one thing namely the Cheltenham Festival.

Unusual spring weather again this year (climate change is NOT a hoax) finds the meet should start on good to soft going Tuesday.  Five time leading trainer at this meet (four in a row ending last year) Willie Mullins and owner J.P.McManus are odds-on to win the trainers and owners titles. Mullins’ best chance of a festival winner is Festival Banker DOUVAN (Queen Mother Champion Stakes; Wednesday) while McManus’ ON THE FRINGE (Foxhunters Chase; Friday) will go for his third straight win in that race.  Both have won at the last two festivals.

Readers know we don’t invest at odds-on so, those looking for value in the Trainers Championship could try a flutter on Mullins’ Irish colleague GORDON ELLIOTT.  On the Jockeys side British Champion Jockey RICHARD JOHNSON is being insulted at 14/1.

 

TUESDAY, March 14

The programme kicks off, as usual with the Grade 1 Supreme Novices Hurdle (4y0+; 2m; Good to soft; 1330GMT; 8.30a.m. Ja Time)

Willie Mullins’ Melon is all the rage at time of writing although has only run once over hurdles when he cantered over rivals in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown (2m; Good).  He was slick and efficient over his hurdles; his only mistake came when he was left clear approaching the last hurdle; and just took a slight chance at it. He’d been a talking horse until this fine Irish debut but now there seems to be substance behind his big reputation. He has plenty of scope to improve and looks a contender but his inexperience; the weak nature of his opponents in that maiden; and his last hurdle error (jumping is always at a premium around Cheltenham) suggests there’s better value elsewhere.

The two Champion Bumper winners MOON RACER and Ballyandy attract more especially the former who has twice beaten Ballyandy and is 3 for 3 around Cheltenham. The latter showed much improved form on last  knuckling down on the run-in at Newbury to beat Movewiththetimes but has more than once given the impression he’ll be best over slightly further.

SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE SELECTION:     MOON RACER

The Arkle Chase (Grade 1; 5yo+ Novices; 2m; 1410GMT 9.10amJaTime)

It’s impossible to oppose ALTIOR (TUESDAY’S BANKER BET), 4 for 4 over fences including beating some seasoned two-milers in the Betfair Exchange Chase last time. This could be a future Champion.

ARKLE SELECTION: ALTIOR (TUESDAY’S BANKER BET)

Champion Hurdle (Gr 1; 4yo+; 2m87yds; good to soft; 1530GMT10.30amJa)

Old rivals The New One and MY TENT OR YOURS are both at double digit odds for a fourth fling at this event but this year’s renewal is weakened significantly by the absence of Annie Power and Faugheen. Both The New One and likely favourite, Yanworth, would prefer softer ground (also Yanworth sure to need a stiff test at this trip) so this could be the year everything falls right for Nicky Henderson’s talented but quirky hurdler.

CHAMPION HURDLE SELECTION: MY TENT OR YOURS (TUES NAP)

Mares Hurdle (Grade 1; 4yo+f&m; 2m4f; good to soft; 1610GMT11.10amJa)

It’s likely Willie Mullins’ Limini would have preferred a slog but APPLE’S JADE, who was beaten into 2nd by Limini in heavy ground at Punchestown, should be able to turn the tables on this better ground.

MARES HURDLE SELECTION: APPLE’S JADE

 

WEDNESDAY, March 15 (good to soft)

Neptune Investment (Baring Bingham) Novices Hurdle (Grade 1; 4yo+; 2m5f; 1330GMT 8.30 Ja)

Willie Mullins enters two here with top chances namely Bacardys (stayed on well to beat stablemate BunkOff Early in Leopardstown Grade 1; soft; 2 ¼ miles) and Let’s Dance  (unbeaten last four starts and deserves a shot against the males but may go for the longer Albert Bartlett). Both could fall victim to Harry Fry’s NEON WOLF, much improved at Haydock on last (Grade 2; 2m; soft; drew right off to beat the useful Elgin), who looks to be one right out of the top drawer and should have no problem with the better ground expected.

NEPTUNE NOVICES SELECTION:    NEON WOLF

RSA Chase (Grade 1; 5yo+; 3m; good to soft; 1410GMT; 9.10amJa)

It’s difficult to see beyond Nicky Henderson’s MIGHT BITE (WEDNESDAY’S BANKER) who was dreadfully unlucky to lose the Grade 1 Kauto Star (Feltham) Novices at Kempton (fell last with the race at his mercy).  He’s had his confidence boosted at Doncaster since and should take all the beating.

RSA CHASE SELECTION: MIGHT BITE (WEDNESDAY’S BANKER)

Queen Mother Champion Chase (G1; 5yo+; 2m good to soft; 530GMT10.30am)

Impossible to oppose Willie Mullins’ DOUVAN (BANKER OF THE FESTIVAL) with so many possible opponents re-routed elsewhere and Sire De Grugy ruled out of the Festival.

CHAMPION CHASE SELECTION:      DOUVAN (BANKER OF FESTIVAL)

Champion Bumper (G 1; 4-6yo; 2m; good to soft; 1730GMT; 12.30pmJa)

Trainer Willie Mullins has won this no fewer than eight times and his Carter Mackay has the form and scope for this (very impressive when improving markedly at Naas on last) but is priced up accordingly and there are credible opponents led by the mare FAYONAGH who couldn’t have been more impressive on debut for Gordon Elliott when hacking up by 28 lengths in a Listed Bumper at Fairyhouse. She needs only to translate her form to better ground to give the favourite kittens.

CHAMPION BUMPER SELECTION:   FAYONAGH

 

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 16

JLT(TheGoldenMiller)NovicesChase(G1 5yo+2m4fgood/soft1330GMT8,30am)

YORKHILL (THURSDAY’S BANKER) looks the obvious choice ass opponents defect right, left and centre. Top Notch from the Nicky Henderson camp, could be next best.

JLT NOVICES SELECTION:      YORKHILL (THURSDAY’S BANKER)

Ryanair(TheFestivalTrophy)Chase (G1 5yo+2m4f good to soft1450GMT9.50)

The scope of the Willie Mullins’ challenge at this year’s festival is emphasized by the fact that he runs 2015 Arkle/2016 Champ[ion Chase winner Un De Seaux  (did win a race in France over 2m5f) here instead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase which he already has locked up with Douvan.  This gives punters a chance to oppose the 3/1 favourite now he’s stretched out with either Empire of Dirt (2nd in the Irish Gold Cup) or SUB LIEUTENANT (an excellent jumper who has been top class in 4 races since switched to Henry De Bromhead). The latter is marginally preferred at the trip as the former is more of a Grand National type.

JLT NOVICES SELECTION: SUB LIEUTENANT (THURSDAY’S NAP)

Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1; 4yo+; 3m: 1530GMT10.30amJa)

Ballyoptic is a tempting each way flutter but he has been beaten three times at this trip by UNOWHATIMEANHARRY who is also 4 from 4 and a standing dish at Cheltenham.

STAYERS HURDLE SELECTION: UNOWHATIMENAHARRY

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 17

JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1; 4yo; 2m1f; 1330GMT; 8.30amJa)

Fitted with headgear and given a more positive ride, Mega Fortune beat a few of these in the Grade 1 Spring Hurdle at Leopardstown on soft going. He’s unlikely to have it as soft as he’d wish here so preference is for DEFI DU SEUIL who has won twice over course and distance and sets the standard on form plus has improvement to come.

TRIUMPH HURDLE SELECTION:     DEFI DU SEUIL (FRIDAY’S BANKER)

AlbertBartlett(Spa)NovicesHurdle(G1;4yo+ 3m; good to soft1450GMT9.50am)

Favourite West Approach must come into consideration but seems vulnerable to improvers the best of which are Wholestone  a Cheltenham specialist but may need it softer plus his jumping isn’t likely to stand up to the hurly burly of this so it’s left to DEATH DUTY (FRIDAY’S NAP) who is highly though of at home and improving all the time

ALBERT BARTLETT SELECTION:     DEATH DUTY (FRIDAY NAP)

Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1; 5yo+; 3m2f; good to soft; 1530GMT10.30amJa)

Cue Card is all the rage now that stable companion Thistlecrack can’t start but he has the same stamina niggle he has always had and a superior proposition must be another atablemate NATIVE RIVER who is improving by leaps and boubnds, stays this trip thoroughly and will be best suited by the likely goodish ground.  Djakadam could be tapped for toe on the ground and second best yet again

GOLD CUP SELECTION:   NATIVE RIVER

The Terrible Tout’s NAP OF THE MEETING runs in one of the big handicaps, the Grade 3 Coral Cup (2m5f; Wednesday, March 15; 1450GMT; 9.50 am Ja Time) in which PEREGRINE RUN may have a little to find on ratings but completed a four-timer in the Hyde Novices over course and distance in November beating the progressive pair of Wholestone and West Approach, both highly fancied (West Approach the favourite) for the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett on Friday.

PEREGRINE RUN The Terrible Tout’s NAP OF THE MEETING. Get in early and often!!

Good Luck!

THE TERRIBLE TOUT

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