I have managed to get through the first 3 days of the festival relatively unscathed and nicely ahead thanks to a cracking third day. Here’s how Day 3 selections fared. Felix Younger was a tad disappointing and finished a distant fourth in the JLT. Fingal Bay and Jetson more than made up for it in a cracking renewal of the Pertemps. Fingal Bay got the decision by a nose and a nice 7/1 payout. Jetson finished 5th but unfortunately I had been greedy and taken 16/1, 4 places instead of the widely available 14’s and 5 places. Lesson learned (well, maybe!) Dynaste was superbly produced late by Tom Scu to give us our 4th winner of the festival @4/1. In the World Hurdle it was a second place refund on Annie Power and a bit of each-way money for At Fishers Cross. More place money followed in the Byrne Group Plate with Johns Spirit a never nearer 4th. No joy in the last as Cause Of Causes opts to run through the final fence instead of jumping it and, despite rallying like a train, had to settle for second place.
And on to my selections for the final day. We open with the Triumph Hurdle. Eight of the last nine winners came from the top 4 in the betting with only Countrywide Flame bucking that trend @33/1 in 2012. One I’ve backed at the top end of the betting is the ex-Mark Johnston trained Broughton @8/1. He was a decent, tough flat horse and is now trained by John Ferguson. A head second on his hurdling debut in a Grade 2, he then went on to win a Listed hurdle race. After just two runs over obstacles he is open to bags of improvement and will be fine on better ground. So, Broughton @8/1 each-way it is for me.
On to the County Hurdle and more scope for a bigger priced selection with the winners of this race returning at 10/1, 20/1, 10/1, 20/1, 20/1, 50/1 and 12/1 in the last 7 renewals. This is as tough as it gets. Cheltenian @10/1 each-way should be there or thereabouts and, with most firms paying 5 places, he is my selection from the top of the market. Another one who looks sure to run his race is last years Fed Winter winner Flaxen Flare @20/1 and again I’ve backed him each-way, again to 5 places.
Next up is the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle won last year by At Fishers Cross. Not a bad race for favourite backers with 4 obliging in the last 4 years. This year’s favourite is Briar Hill, the Champion Bumper winner from 2013 and I’m prepared to take him on. OK, he is 3 from 3 but his last two wins were in a 3-runner and a 2 runner race and while he could bolt-up here in a canter I’d rather look for an each-way play at a bigger price. To be honest Kings Palace @4/1 could be an each-way bet to nothing having form figures of 111 this year, all on good ground and who stays further than 3 miles (won over 3m 1 ½ furlongs). He also has 2 wins at Cheltenham to his name and I’ve taken the 4/1 (win only). However, I have also had an each-way squeak on Deputy Dan @16/1. His form ties in closely with Kings Palace and he has beaten Rathvinden this season (OK, Rathvinden fell but a win is a win) who went on to finish 3rd in the Supreme Novice. In that same race he beat Splash Of Ginge by 16 lengths, who then went on to win the Betfair Hurdle (and then flopped in the Supreme Novice). Champange West’s form also ties in as he has a 1 length victory over Deputy Dan and has won his last 3. He is also 16/1. However, caution is advised as both Deputy Dan and Champagne Fever have done their winning in the mud and are both stepping up in trip (3 furlongs and 2 furlongs respectively) With that in mind I’ll just be having a couple of quid each-way more out of curiosity than anything else.
On to the Gold Cup and I just don’t think this renewal is as exciting as recent ones. It’s hard to look past Bobs Worth and this is another race where favourites have excelled, winning 7 of the last 11. In fact the last 13 winners have all come from the top 3 in the betting. That does not mean we cannot back a couple though and I remember Mon Mome trotting up the hill to finish 3rd @50/1 in 2010. The interesting one from that angle is Teaforthree who won the 4 mile Novice Chase here in 2012. Clearly he is best at further, having placed in last years’ Grand National. However, if we have one or two fallers or an unseated rider here and there, or they go at too frantic a pace from the get-go, he could possibly come late and pick off a few stragglers up the hill and nick 3rd spot. That’s the theory. And at 50/1 it’s worth testing to bare minimum stakes! So for me it is Bobs Worth @15/8 and Teaforthree @50/1 each-way. One from the top and one from the bottom, so to speak.
Next up is the Foxhunters Chase and here is an interesting statistic for you that I picked up on the ATR Cheltenham microsite. Horses aged 11 or older have won just twice in 23 renewals despite making up over 50% of the participants. A good place to start, but that still leaves 16 runners. I don’t have much of an opinion on this race so I’m going to back Divine Intavention @20/1 each-way with Sportingbet offering 4 places.
The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle race is only in its 6th renewal so not much in the way of trends to look at. For want of spending too much time over this race I have had a couple each-way in Une Artiste @25/1 and Skyfarmer @20/1 as both look overpriced. Une Artiste has festival winning form in a big field handicap and, although not exactly ripping up trees, there are probably worse 25/1 shots out there. Skyfarmer has smart form (neck second to Red Sherlock on debut) and all 4 wins have been on good ground. His latest flop was on heavy and with 888sport paying 5 places @20/1 I’ve got involved.
In the final race of the meeting, the Grand Annual Chase I am going to back four. Yes four! Two sentimental bets and another two highly speculative ones. I have already backed Oiseau De Nuit @25/1 each-way. It’s a bet with the heart rather than the head as he has been one of my favourite horses over the years and on many occasions he has carried my each-way money. At 12 years of age it will be momentous should be win. I doubt he will but I always get a run for my money with him and I am happy to back him again even though I have kept stakes to a minimum. I’ve also backed top weight French Opera @25/1. This is another horse that has made me a few quid over the years and this is another bet with the heart. He loves it around here, has good festival form and might make the frame at a decent price.
Now, after backing the top two weights I can tell you that no horse has won carrying more than 11 stone in the last 14 renewals (and I’ve just backed two at 11st 12lb and 11st 11lb!!!). So in addition, I will take two carrying under 11st. First is Nicky Henderson’s Anquetta @33/1. His recent form is forgettable and I’m just hoping it returns out of nowhere. He last won off a mark of 137 and he’s in here off 136 with Sam Whaley-Cohen’s 3lb claim. A speculative bet to say the least. Finally, I have had a nibble on Shooters Wood @33/1 who also has no recent form but has won 3 times at Cheltenham from 5 visits. Another speculative punt. In fact there is a good chance all 4 will be pulled up but you just never know and hopefully one can squeeze out a bit of place money.
Nick’s Day 4 Selections:
1.30 Broughton @8/1 each-way
2.05 Cheltenian @10/1 and Flaxen Flare @20/1 both each-way (5 places)
2.40 Kings Palace @4/1 win only and Deputy Dan @16/1 & Champagne West @16/1 both each-way
3.20 Bobs Worth @15/8 & Teaforthree @50/1 each-way
4.00 Divine Intavention @16/1 each-way (4 places)
4.40 Une Artiste @25/1 each-way (5 places) & Skyfarmer @20/1 (5 places)
5.15 Oiseau De Nuit @25/1 & French Opera @25/1 (both each-way 5 places) and Anquetta @33/1 & Shooters Wood @33/1 (both each-way 4 places)