Well… We are finally underway! The festival is in full swing and what a first day. Watching the first race live on TV was pretty awesome, we can’t imagine what the atmosphere must have been like live.
Plenty of the big guns won and the bookies will be licking their wounds overnight, ready to go into battle again tomorrow.
Our second blog of the week comes from #TwitterNAPs favourite @SimplyHorseTips – A great bloke, good account to follow and a damn good tipster. Thank you @SimplyHorseTips
13:30 Neptune Novices Hurdle
Yanworth has been touted by many as a ‘banker’ at this year’s festival and while I am loathe to use this expression as no horse is certain to win, he definitely looks to have a major chance of adding to his already impressive record of four wins from four over hurdles. The step-up in trip to 20 furlongs last time out saw him beat Shantou Village here at Cheltenham by seven lengths with the rest of the field a further 10+ lengths behind and his previous winning form was franked just this weekend with Le Prezien winning at Kelso.
Yorkhill comes next in the market and will now take his place here rather than in the Supreme. He won over 20 furlongs on debut over hurdles and beat the promising O O Seven and Agrapart last time out over 2 miles. This is particularly impressive as both won prior to being beaten by Yorkhill then again on their next outing, Agrapart winning the Betfair Hurdle next time out by 11 lengths.
Bleu Et Rouge will have to prove his stamina with the step up in trip for this race but he out-battled the highly-rated trio of Tombstone, Bellshill and Petit Mouchoir over 18 furlongs last time out and is now two from three over hurdles.
There should be no concerns over the trip for A Toi Phil who has won his last two over 18f and 20f respectively, the latter a commanding 7 length victory over next time out winner Acapella Bourgeois who in turn was well clear of the rest of the field.
Long Dog would have to be considered if taking his place in the field although is also entered for the Albert Bartlett and looks to be heading for that race.
Yanworth 6/4 win
14:10 RSA Chase
More Of That isn’t the usual type to go on and win the RSA having had more than one season over hurdles before going over the larger obstacles, and the key race stats would have him at a disadvantage as he has had less than three chase starts and hasn’t run this calendar year, however, he is, without doubt, a class act and could be the type of horse to throw a spanner into the stats. He has a fantastic career record of seven wins from eight including four from four at Cheltenham, the highlight being victory in the 2014 World Hurdle.
No More Heroes has been pretty much perfect in his jumping and is a perfect three from three since switching to fences. A close third in last year’s Albert Bartlett is a positive trend for this race as four of the last six RSA winners contested the AB the previous year. However, like More Of That he hasn’t been seen since December 2015 and when looking at his career stats he is yet to win at Cheltenham and is only two wins from six over a three-mile trip.
Blaklion is an exceptional horse, a personal favourite who is all heart. He is proven over course and distance and warmed up for this race with a convincing eight-length victory at Wetherby in February. In most other races I would follow blind but in this instance I feel that the drying ground may go against him slightly and best odds of 9/1 don’t appeal for an each-way selection considering the strength of the aforementioned More Of That and No More Heroes.
Black Hercules and Vyta Du Roc and both ultra-consistent and deserve a mention but for the winner I return to More Of That.
More Of That 9/4 win – Get him enhanced to 12/1 here with BetFair
14:50 Coral Cup
At this stage there are still lots of potential runners also entered in other races so it isn’t a race to get hugely involved in prior to final declarations. That being said there are a few key stats that can be explored and my selection for the race is only entered here.
Diamond King currently heads the market and has been steadily progressing over the course of the season to get his head in front at the third time of asking at Punchestown in January. However, the stats tell us that only one winner from the last twenty-four renewals was officially rated over 148 and at 149 Diamond King may be up against it.
Politologue finished 2nd to Barters Hill in the Challow Novices Hurdle in December and although this was only contested by three, the third that day was a previous winner and Barters Hill is unbeaten in seven career runs. He won on his latest outing and looks a live danger off a mark of 142.
Rock The Kasbah, like Diamond King, would have to overcome a big negative stat as he is rated 152. However, in Rock The Kasbah’s favour he has ran three times this season (a big positive trend), won last time out (another big positive trend) and is a second-season hurdler (a third big positive trend). Furthermore he has had more experience running over similar distances to today, having won over 21 furlongs and placing over 20f and 23f respectively. In eight career runs over hurdles he has won four and placed three times so should have the ability to at least make the frame here.
Rock The Kasbah 14/1 e/w
15:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase
For me this is probably the best race of the week as we get to see the mighty Sprinter Sacre, reported to be back to his very best, take on the impressive Willie Mullins charge Un De Sceaux…. with Sire De Grugy and a few other top-class 2 milers thrown in the mix for good measure. Sprinter Sacre really needs no introduction to anyone who has followed racing for the last few years. His overall career record speaks for itself and it has been an amazing comeback from what could quite easily have been a career-ending, if not life-threatening health scare. However, as much a I would love to see him storm up the Cheltenham hill and grab another Grade 1 to add to his tally, I simply cannot see anything coming close to Un De Sceaux if he stays on his feet. An impressive winner in all 11 races he has completed he has a huge engine and the only thing that has beaten him so far is himself. Both career falls have been on seasonal re-appearance and both times he returned with a slick round of jumping so it could be that he is simply a bit ‘ring-rusty’ the first time out.
At a decent each-way price Special Tiara creeps in to this race a little under the radar but could be the answer for forecast or ‘without the favourite’ markets. Third in this race last year and an unlucky 2nd in the Tingle Creek when last seen, he has the ability to get involved.
Un De Sceaux 4/5 win – Get him enhanced to 12/1 here with BetFair
16:10 Glenfarclas Chase
It will be amazing to see Balthazar King lining up back at Cheltenham and would be even more impressive to see him win this race. With an incredible eight career wins at Prestbury Park he has to go on anyone’s shortlist especially as he goes well fresh, although given that he has been away for almost a year following a horrific-looking fall in last years Grand National he may be best watched and enjoyed today.
Josies Orders is the current favourite and ticks all the right boxes in this race for me. Twice a course and distance winner towards the back end of last year, beating the likes of Sire Collonges, Any Currency and Ballybroker Bridge in the process the 8-year-old should be capable of making it 5 wins from the last 11 renewals for trainer Enda Bolger.
All three just mentioned could be considered reasonable each way angles for this race at odds just over double figures, and Foxrock also deserves a mention although is a little short for me at around 7/1.
Josies Orders 5/2 win
16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle
Both Diego Du Charmil and Campeador have been heavily touted across social media as likely winners of this race and both French imports hail from yards who have done well in this race previously. Despite this, and rather surprisingly considering they are both closely matched at the head of the betting, neither managed a win on their most recent outing and neither have raced in this calendar year – two big negatives from a key race stats perspective.
I have decided to go with the Dan Skelton trained Kasakh Noir at current odds of 20/1 given that 6 of the previous 11 winners have returned odds of 20/1 or higher. A winner last month over 17 furlongs, beating the likely re-opposing Wolfcatcher, he showed good battling qualities which should stand him in good stead here. Furthermore, he is a French import and has raced exactly 3 times in order to gain a handicap mark, both key positive trends for this race.
Others to consider include Frodon, Fixe Le Cap and Jers Girl in a traditionally tricky race for punters.
Kasakh Noir 20/1 e/w
17:30 Champion Bumper
Ballyandy has recently moved up to head the market and is the only runner in the field proven over course and distance (although many haven’t experienced the Prestbury Park venue previously). A winner of three from four, all over a two-mile trip on ground ranging from good to soft to heavy, he looks to be a major player here.
The Willie Mullins trained Augusta Kate must go on the shortlist considering she is unbeaten in two and hails from a yard who has won this race on eight previous occasions. However, at this stage they also hold numerous entries in this race and when more than one from the yard have competed against each other it has been the 2nd or 3rd string that has emerged victorious (3 times from 4).
Another who looks to have a big chance is New To This Town who, like Augusta Kate is two from two over two miles and beat Avenir D’Une Vie at Gowran Park in January. Both wins came on pretty heavy ground so it remains to be seen if he’ll be as effective on a sounder surface but has to enter calculations nevertheless.
Augusta Kate 7/1 e/w