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25th April 2024 3:45 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

Cheltenham Festival Day 1

These Donors Are AMAZING Thank You

William S – MEJi – Peter N – Nigel B – Ken C – Mark S – James D – William M – Fiona M – Julian A – Jonathan H – Mrs V.M – Pete BN – Gavin C – Thom S – Sarah C – Mark S – Sam H – James R

As of 8:30 am on Monday, the ground was Soft all over, and the Cross Country was Heavy, Soft in places.  Some drizzle was possible on Monday. Showers are forecast for the early hours and into the morning on Tuesday (3-4mm). This will be Soft, sticky ground and beginning to dry.

Champion Day – Tuesday, March 12

13:30 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Six of the 12 are WPM-trained, and TULLYHILL was my original e/w hope after his last run, winning at Punchestown by 9l in heavy. Willie was very enthused afterwards. He is now 3/1 favourite. My problem is that I think he can be a sloppy jumper, and I know he’s had intensive schooling with David Casey, but front-running tactics, sticky ground, sloppy jumping and a price around 5/2 makes me nervous, and I think I’ll give him a miss. Likewise I’m not touching anything of Nicky’s – probably until Aintree! I spoke to one of the work-riders the other day, who was so adamant that nothing was wrong – I was really worried. FAVOUR AND FORTUNE for Alan King, is progressive and has won 2/3. The question is whether he is underrated at 136 and should be around 140 in which case his 33/1 is wrong and he should be half that. With half a dozen bookies offering four places, any price better than 20s would be excellent. I also have a thing for ASIAN MASTER and MISTER GIF. The former has always looked above average his form against more fancided Closutton novices such as Jimmy du Seuil and beating Better Days Ahead all suggest some real class. MISTER GIF won at Limerick and really wasn’t asked any serious questions, winning by 18l.  However, it did take his claiming jockey until after the first hurdle down the back straight to pull him up.

I’m going to back those three against the field for four places.

MISTERGIF 3 pts e/w – FAVOUR AND FORTUNE 1½ pts e/w – ASIAN MASTER 1½ pts e/w

14:10 – Arkle Challenge Trophy

The very first trends I applied, 14/19, had won or been placed at Cheltenham before, and 14/14 had won last time out (it was also 18/22), I narrowed the field down to HUNTERS YARN and IL ETAIT TEMP. together with QUILIXIOS and JPR ONE. Last week, I advised you to back QUILIXIOS as my e/w selection at 12s, so that ticket is already secured. As I said at the time, this was his only entry at Cheltenham, and Henry avoided putting anything else in the race.

QUILIXIOS 4 pts e/w

14:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase

I’m surprised that MONBEG GENIUS is running; it will be interesting to see if Lady Moaning is there. I want to see YeeHah do the interview… Last year’s fourth, THE GOFFER, remains interesting and has received persistent support. He is 2 lbs lower this year, he’s had a Punchestown pipe-cleaner recently, and he has been the subject of some organised syndicate betting, resulting in his current odds – which are now too short. NTD has been telling everyone that WEVEALLBEEENCAUGHT is way better than his 134 mark – although it’s easy to get confused between Experience and Expectation. I thought he was the wrong price at 16/1, and at 11s, he’s probably correct… IF his mark is wrong as NTD claims! Gavin Cromwell’s STUMPTOWN won the Paddy Power here in January and was a ¼l second in the Kim Muir last year, giving the winner 4lbs. He comes here just 6lbs shy of that Paddy Power mark. The blinkers are retained here, and Gavin Cromwell has had 11 winners from 44 British race raiders, so he must be respected in this ground and conditions.

STUMPTOWN 4 pts e/w

15:30 – Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Look, I don’t think the top two are opposable – so as I suggested some time ago, I shall have the tiniest wager on COLONEL MUSTARD e/w at 66/1 based on his G1 Hurdle form of 233. He’s been within 3l of Jonbon,  9l behind STATE MAN at Punchestown’s Festival and was a 3l 3rd to that one at Cheltenham last year. I can safely ignore NOT SO SLEEPY as I don’t see a 12yo making the frame, whereas I can see ZARAK THE BRAVE aged 5, coming here and turning in a podium finish  at a current price of 22/1

ZARAK THE BRAVE 1 pt e/w – COLONEL MUSTARD ½ pt e/w

My guess is you’re better off getting on sooner rather than later—if they have only seven runners, they’ll be playing two places.

16:10 – Mares’ Hurdle

GALA MARCEAU’s prep race LTO was a shocker, but she is the only horse to have beaten LOSSIEMOUTH and at 22/1, she has a proper e/w chance of making the frame. It is not too challenging to imagine LOSSIEMOUTH perhaps being a bit keen over the longer distance… perhaps getting tapped for toe up the hill… but at 22/1 do I care? LANTRY LADY won a Mares Maiden last March and then wasn’t seen until this February when she took Gowran’s G3 Red Mills Trial by 9l. Since then, Henry has been pretty quiet about her, and 20/1 still looks a decent price. The trainer isn’t short of long-price possibilities in this, as he also runs HISPANIC MOON who won a G3 at Punchestown LTO. She quickened away in eye-catching style.

GALA MARCEAU 2 pts e/w – Lossiemouth to beat any of the three mentioned 3 x 1 pts SFC

16:50 – The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

There is an Irish race that has produced 4 of the last 5 Irish winners (they have won the last six Boodles if that makes sense). It is at Naas in February, and the GAA-rated Hurdle is a consistent guide to Boodles winners, rated 136-139, who carry 11 st 8 lbs – 11st 9 lbs. All of them had 5+ career starts, and this year, it was won by EAGLE FANG, who will want it Soft. According to the trainer’s assistant, the Whatever-Its-Called-Now has been the target for some time. He’s 22/1. NDAAWI has solid claims.

EAGLE FANG 4 pts e/w

17:30 – National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

EMBASSY GARDENS 5 pts Win – HENRY’S FRIEND 1 pt e/w

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