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24th April 2024 2:40 pm

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

The 2024 Cheltenham Festival – The Kneesup Overview

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

Whatever happens, please ensure that you only bet NRNB. Also remember that if there is a non-runner in Doubles, for example, the bet becomes a Single. Thus an 11 bet Yankee (1x 4, 4×3, 6×2) with a non-runner becomes a Patent (1×3 – 6×2 – 3×1 with 1 stake returned).

Champion Day – Tuesday, March 12

13:30 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

It is still assumed that BALLYBURN will come here rather than The Baring Bingham on Wednesday. I think the value has gone in TULLYHILL who was my e/w shot in this after his run LTO winning by 9l over 2m in heavy at Punchestown. Willie was very enthused afterwards. I like the look of FAVOUR AND FORTUNE for Alan King, who is progressive. He’s won 2/3 and is rated 136… if he doesn’t run here back him ante-post for the Aintree Top Novice Hurdle.

14:10 – Arkle Challenge Trophy

QUILIXIOS has had something of a chequered career since winning the Triumph in 2021. In the 21/22 season, he spent much of it behind Teaupoo in graded hurdles; missed 22/23 through injury; and came back this season, with a decent performance in a Limerick Beginners, a dreadful run in a 3m chase at Punchestown which was at least ½m too far and then hosed up at Naas in January. This is his only entry at Cheltenham, and Henry has also avoided putting anything else in the race. Henry has won this twice previously and placed twice as well – 12/1 looks value.

14:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase

I keep looking at CREBILLY – will he come here or the Plate? The market says the Plate where he is 5/1 Favourite, as opposed to here where is 11/1. Rated 140 he will have a decent chance whichever one he goes for – I’d just rather he came here – given Jonjo’s proven Ultima winning record.    I don’t think MONBEG GENIUS will run (Anywhere thanks to Lady Moaning), but THE GOFFER is being backed at 8s having run well in this last year coming 4th – and it could be argued, was produced too early for his run to be effective. 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 a price collapse. 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. Nonetheless, I think he is the wrong price at 16/1.

15:30 – Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Will you wheeze a little less, said the trainer to the horse
There are many, many people want to see you on the Course
See how eagerly the others advance the line at trotting pace
And the bookies are all waiting to see if you’ll be fit to join the race
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the race?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the race?

With apologies to Lewis Carrol and The Mock Turtle’s Song

If CONSTITUTION HILL is in, you’re looking for the third – if he’s not you’re looking for the second. And if he’s not where does LOSSIEMOUTH run? On the big odds front and without being silly, you could make a logical case for COLONEL MUSTARD at 100/1 (remember you’re betting NRNB), whose G1 Hurdle form is 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. That race – the County Hurdle – also had PIED PIPER in second, who on Official figures you’d have somewhere around the top 5, as opposed to a 33/1 shout.  On a going day that looks backable. I fancy ZANAHIYR – but his best form is over further and he might go to Aintree instead. I can safely ignore NOT SO SLEEPY as I simply 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 an ante post price of 25/1

16:10 – Mares’ Hurdle

GALA MARCEAU’s prep race LTO was a shocker, and there is every chance that The Master of Closutton will cancel her ferry ticket. On the other hand, she is the only horse to have beaten LOSSIEMOUTH and at 20/1 NRNB she has a proper e/w chance of making the frame. It is not too difficult to imagine LOSSIEMOUTH perhaps being a bit keen over the longer distance… perhaps getting tapped for toe up the hill… but at 20/1 do I care? LOSSIEMOUTH’s International Hurdle on Trials Day will also have suggested the possibility of running in the previous race – perhaps more so with the potential absence of CONSTITUTION HILL. 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 25/1 looks sexy. The trainer isn’t short of long-price possibilities in this, as he also runs HISPANIC MOON who won a G3 at Punchestown a little over a week ago. She quickened away in eye-catching style.

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 carrying 11st8lbs – 11st 9lbs. All of them had 5+ career starts,  and this year it was won by EAGLE FANG who will want it Soft. The Boodles has been the target for some time according to the trainer’s assistant. He’s 14/1. Syd Hosie runs LATIN VERSE, a 33/1 shot. He beat a well-regarded Alan King horse by miles at Ludlow LTO and he looks overpriced.

17:30 – National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

Another Irish gravy train (6 of the last 7) from the Mullins-Elliott combo. Ben Pauling won it in 2019 and having heard him recently talking this one up,  after the G2 Reynoldstown, I rather started to hope that HENRY’S FRIEND might lower the tricolour. He seemed to manage the extra distance and to have something eye-catching about him. So far so good – but Ben is also thinking of sending him to Aintree instead! He’s 20/1 NRNB.

Ladies Day – Wednesday, March 13

13:30 – Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle

If it weren’t for Paul Nicholls’ poor record in this race, you’d have to quite fancy the chances of CAPTAIN TEAGUE at 16s. Since his 3rd in The Champion Bumper, he’s won a G2 (10l) at Chepstow, 2nd with a 5lb penalty in a G2 at Chelty, then he won the Challow. Sadly none of Nicholls’ Challow winners has ever gone on to win a Novices at the Festival – but as Sally Bowles is heard to wail in Cabaret; “Maybe this time…” Harry Fry’s GIDLEIGH PARK is a 14/1 shot and he’s entered in this and The Albert Bartlet, but I think, as do many more professional judges that he’ll handle the stronger pace he’d get in this. Before his Trials Day victory, he’d been held up in his runs so you pay your money and you take your choice. Wherever he goes this is a classy horse – a proper 3m Chaser in the making.

14:10 – Brown’s Advisory Novices’ Chase

Tricky Tricky Tricky… I think GIOVINCO will go to Aintree, and I think THREE CARD BRAG who would meet the trends, will go to the NH Chase. MEETINGOFTHEWATERS could be anything and I suspect will be seen on Tuesday with THREE CARD BRAG providing a seat for a Mullins amateur. (There’s no such thing I hear you cry). SANDOR CLEGANE 22/1 has my attention as he has just one entry, and his trainer is 1W 7P 13R with his Festival entries. If he turns up he will be shorter. GREY DAWNING beat Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Graduation chase at the Betfair meeting in November at Haydock off a grinding gallop. A sketchy antepenultimate jump put him a close-up second to GINNYS DESTINY; he took the scalps of APPLE AWAY and BROADWAY BOY at Warwick, and everywhere one looks one can see the swathe cut through field after field by a very good horse. I think he could win and 13/2 looks like a backable price. The only problem is,he might well go for The Turners!

14:50 – Coral Cup Hurdle

At a guess I would say GUARD YOUR DREAMS is probably well in here by some 5lbs. He won a Cheltenham Handicap off 140 in Oct ’21, was third in the G2 Ascot Hurdle, won the G2 International at Cheltenham in Dec 21 and was then placed in a string of G2s and G3s before unseating in the Aintree Hurdle and going wrong then or shortly after. He has only just returned this season, running slap bang into Lossiemouth and Nemean Lion going down by 12½ and 17l respectively. For this race, the handicapper has given this very tough campaigner a mark of 133 fully 10lbs less than his last winning mark. Given he’s only 8 and seems to have retained a fair amount of his old abilities I think he is nailed on for a place. FIRST STREET hasn’t won since winning the Gerry Fielden off 146 in November ’22, but he ran 3rd to Lossiemouth in January and third to Constitution Hill the month before. He’s not going to go to The Champion Hurdle (surely) and he’s got an entry in this, the County Hurdle where he was third last year, and the Martin Pipe. I think he’ll come here, and 20/1 looks decent.

15:30 – Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase

EL FABIOLO should win this and we need to back our selection now as this will almost certainly cut up to a six/seven runner field and we need to lock in our places sooner rather than later. My selection for outsider honours is the former decent novice GENTLEMAN DE MEE.  He beat EDWARDSTONE in Apr ’22 at Aintree when odds-on and he won the Dublin Chase at the DRF last year. In this year’s renewal won by the favourite, he was 16¼l 4th, but I think it fair to say that Dany could read the writing on the wall, some distance out. If he turns up today’s 40/1 will be super value.

16:10 – Cross Country Steeple Chase

There is no value in this market at all. 2/1 and 9/2 the next 4. I suppose if I could be bothered – and I can’t – I could find a reason to back STATTLER who won The National Hunt Challenge Cup in 22 and Pulled Up in the Gold Cup in ’23.

16:50 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

Dan Skelton has PEMBROKE entered for this. He was the favourite for the County Hurdle last year but jumped poorly and came home three days behind the field. This year he has had six races and his figures are 2-4-1-1-3-3. Huzzah you cry – and yet in those six races, he has only competed against 17 other horses. Whether the cold hard steel of competition will have sharpened him up I can only guess – but to his credit, a brace of those he’s beaten are now rated 150+ so he might be far better than his 143 mark. Dan targets this race and I’d prefer to see PEMBROKE here rather than The Plate where he also has an entry.

17:30 – Champion Bumper

Irish, Irish, Irish, Willie, Willie, Willie. The winner of this year’s Mares Bumper at DRF will do for me and that is FLEUR AU FUSIL at 20/1. She might go to Aintree instead – so remember NRNB. THE YELLOW CLAY priced at 10/1 has been talked up by Jamie Codd whose views are always worth listening to.

St Patrick’s Thursday – Thursday, March 14

13:30 – Turners Novices’

ZANAHIYR 25/1 has had a good season so far with two decent graded runs before converting to Chasing. His debut saw him run into FACT TO FILE and his poor jumping didn’t aid his cause – but he did have Minella Cocooner 26l in third. 4th in the 2021 Triumph Hurdle and third in the last two Champion Hurdles (13l 3rd to Constitution Hill and again at Aintree 3½l). With a decent round of jumping he could well make the podium from his 25/1 mark. AMERICAN MIKE 20/1 won the 2022 Bumper, and has beaten FACT OR FILE by 3l at Navan on debut. He’s something of a Navan specialist (left-handed is his obvious preference), where he’s 12411. He has plenty of stamina and this might now be too short. Suggestions are that he might be aiming for The Irish National after this – his only Cheltenham entry. Overall this is a cracking race and I could make a case for three of the top 5 without breaking sweat – but I hope GREY DAWNING runs in the Brown’s Advisory.

14:10 – The Pertemps Network Final

HECTOR JAVILEX 33/1 despite his in-and-out form and the rather strange entries has qualified again – returns for a second crack despite running abysmally in last year’s Pertemps (14/1) after running too free and burning up, yet he still looks capable. Is this a plot or just the way it’s panned out? ICAREALLEN is Willie Mullins’ only entry, and this looks to have been his planned runner since qualifying in November.  His 10/1 currently available will not be there in a week. CLEATUS POOLAW (8/1) is the Fat Gordy equivalent, as in been laid out for this and will shorten.

14:50 – Ryanair Steeple Chase

This will almost certainly be a single-figure field, as many of these have other entries, so getting value now is vital. FUGITIF (20/1) won the December Gold Cup and was third in the re-scheduled Clarence House, 6l behind Jonbon. His only Festival entry I can see no further.

15:30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

The profile of this race and the types contesting appear to be changing the entire trend pattern – and that also suggests that we could see another surprise this year. Willie Mullins has got MONKFISH and JANADIL in this, but I think he will also keep ASTERION FORLONGE in (AF’s only Cheltenham entry), and currently priced at 50/1. The list of horses that this one has had behind him is like a G1 Hall of Fame directory. He is way too big a price and whilst TEAHUPOO and IRISH POINT might fight out a finish, ASTERION FORLONGE could well pick up the pieces.

16:10 – Festival Plate

Will CREBILLY come here or The Ultima?  Wherever he goes he is a threat. Ben Pauling’s SHAKEM UP’ARRY was third in this last year and I see nothing to suggest he cannot improve on that. He was then 4th at Aintree and then had almost seven months off after a wind op. Then ran a stinker at Stratford, but started to shine again at Newbury in the Coral Gold Cup but again weakened near 25f finish. He dropped back in trip, thank heavens, for the New Year Paddy Power Chase, where Stage Star pulled up leaving SHAKEM UP’ARRY to win by 7 ½ lengths. THEATRE MAN was runner-up to Ginny’s Destiny in the Trials Day handicap Chase, staying on strongly up the run-in. He’s not a three-miler and I wonder if this might end up too fast for him. MEETINGOFTHEWATERS meets several trends and 20/1 is sensible.

16:50 – Ryanair Mares Novices’ Hurdle

How can the market still be showing QUEENS GAMBLE, who is out for the season? The Favourite wins and I really cannot see anything I fancy beyond that.

17:30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Sometimes the handicapper does something that leaves you mystified and that is the case with Anthony Honeyball’s Irish-bred FORWARD PLAN who has gone up 3 for his LTO victory of 133 in Kempton’s Coral Trophy, where he beat Al Dancer (152), Bowtogreatness (133), Flegmatik (140) and Sam Brown (152). FORWARD PLAN has been improving all season, and before Kempton, he ran a blinder, to finish a neck second in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster. The handicapper only put him up 4lb for that – despite the winning time being 2.65 seconds faster than standard! He did jump one noticeably right – but his 16/1 price is way wrong for this. If COOL SURVIVOR comes here instead of the Ultima, he must have a podium chance. ANGEL’S DAWN has claims.

Gold Cup Day – Friday, March 15

13:30 – Triumph Hurdle

Joseph O’Brien trains NURBURGRING is a very classy animal, with winning graded form and has been in close contest with a number of these. He was first-past-the-post with WODHOOH (giving him almost a stone) and was just behind KALA CONTI and KARGESE in a Leopardstown G2 giving them weight for the sex allowance. If they all turn up, he’ll be 3 lbs better off with KALA CONTI for ¾l  and has about 2ozs to find with KARGESE off the same mark.

14:10 – County Handicap Hurdle

Joseph O’Brien hits my list again either here or in the Martin Pipe with COMFORT ZONE (33/1 here 25/1 Martin Pipe). He has had fitness issues, but he is very decent when he does turn out. He beat Jazzy Matty (who won Boodles last year) on his hurdling debut; and was third behind Lossiemouth and Zarak the Brave in a Fairyhouse G3. He won the Triumph Trial here last year on Trials Day and I’m assuming he’ll come for this as he is thus a proven CD winner. If he turns out he’ll be shorter, if he doesn’t NRNB. I have also spent most of this year hoping for better for Gary Moore, who has by any measurement had a pretty awful year on so many fronts. His charges appear on a number of my fantasy horse lists and among them is TEDDY BLUE, who is a 40/1 shot and who has always promised to sweep home in a big handicap. He’s been placed in the Gerry Fielden, The Betfair Hurdle, The Swinton, and a decent Ascot handicap in Feb coming 4th of 14. He wears more kit on his head than Gertrude Shilling,  but I think the drop back to 17f will help as well. PIED PIPER (14/1) was second in this last year and is back off only a 2lb higher mark – but I’m told he will carry a claimer.  This has been the target all year and the price is too big. KING OF KINGSFIELD has been steadily backed in the last week – possibly because Ruby Walsh thinks he is a nailed-on certainty since the weights came out. He’ll be around  5s on the day and is 7s now – but I’m inclined to wait at that sort of price.

14:50 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Runner up in an Irish race that has often clued up the winner is STELLAR STORY (33/1). He’s beaten Ile Atlantique and Caldwell Potter in a bumper, won on his hurdling debut, and was then done for toe in a G2 at Navan. 2nd in a Limerick G2 and then 4th in a G1 at the DRF where he jumped lazily. He has entries in the Baring Bingham and Martin Pipe. This might suit him better. GIDLEIGH PARK is being backed and is now 12s. He was forced to make much of the running – which is not his style – and if he’s kept off the pace this will suit him as he is considered a staying chaser in the making. Harry Fry will know what is best as he won this with Unowhatimeanharry in 2016. Wherever he goes he is a G1 winner in the making.

15:30 – Cheltenham Gold Cup

Surely the value here is BRAVEMANSGAME? 16/1???  Runner up to GALOPIN DES CHAMPS  last year he was priced at 6/1 and I really can’t see where the price disparity is given his runs since. Anose to GdC at Punchestown, 2nd at Weatherby to GENTLEMANSGAME giving 6lbs, 2nd in the Betfair Chase, 2nd in the King George after interference from Shiskin’s fall. How can he not make the frame? Keep AHOY SENIOR on your market radar, 66/1 is too big for a 166-rated chaser who was unlucky perhaps in the Cotswold Chase and was short of room on the bend LTO with some sloppy jumping. With his racing head on and a strong pilot to keep him focussed he is within 10l of the winner I would hazard to suggest.

16:10 – Festival Challenge Cup Foxhunters

No strong views yet

16:50 – Mares’ Steeple Chase

Willie Willie Willie… PINK LEGEND is the wrong price. If she turns up, she’ll be closer to 16s. Won’t, can’t win – but has podium potential with some luck. She was – lest you forget – 2nd and 3rd the last two years! See you had forgotten.

17:30 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle

COMFORT ZONE I have already talked about. THANKSFORTHEHELP 25/1 was the favourite for last year’s Pertemps but something was amiss. I can’t make out whether the horse is wrong or there is some other plan – but this is almost certainly David’s hope for winning his Dad’s race. FIRST STREET I have also mentioned elsewhere.

 

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