Cheltenham Day One

 

IbisDuRheu1.jpgAt last here we are with four days of the best national hunt racing ahead of us. A kitty is in the pot and hopefully I will see some profit by the end of the week.  Winners or losers, one thing is for sure it will be a rollercoaster of a ride with the usual thrills and spills. I’m not sure there will be as many favourites go in this year, result for someone like me who likes to look for value. The week will consist of a blog each day and selections for each race alongside a write up. The end of the blog will the have my selections for the day.

Good luck everyone and enjoy the next few days. I would really appreciate it if you could RT the blog once you’ve read it, I’ve put a lot of time into my write ups and form study and want to see if I can beat my number of reads from previous years.

1:30 Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle

The bog surprise for the opener was the defection of MOON RACER to the Champion Hurdle. I thought he had much more of a chance in this.  MELON is the well supported favourite and there have been good signals coming out of the Mullins yard about his chances. Short priced favourites have not had a good record in this, as the yard found out with MIN last year. My worry for MELON is his experience, with only one run to date it will take a special horse to win this from that number of starts; yet he could very well be special.  BALLYANDY is the next contender and won the bumper last year at the festival. He has not had a great year but returned to form off a veery good mark in the Betfair Hurdle last time.  It’s a real shame MOVEWITHTHETIMES is out as he was one of my big contenders. RIVER WYLDe has done nothing wrong this year and is 3 form 3 over hurdles and he looked impressive in a strong finish against another contender today, Elgin. I can’t see the latter reversing places but I can see RIVER WYLDE running them close.  A cracking opening contest and while MELON could be a potential star I’m not sure one run under his belt will give him the experience needed for the hustle and bustle of the opener. My money is on RIVER WYLDE at better odds.

SELECTION : RIVER WYLDE 8-1 (Paddy Power)

2:10 Racing Post Arkle Trophy

This race can only go to one horse in my opinion and probably in everybody else’s too. ALTIOR has been nothing but superb this season and I can’t see anything else in the pack getting close to him in the Arkle. He loves his jumping and really attacks his fences something you need in this race. ALTIOR all the way and I’ll take SOME PLAN to win without ALTIOR at 7-1.

SELECTION : SOME PLAN without ALTIOR

2:50 Ulitma Handicap Chase

The first big handicap of the week to look at in detail. Those of you who have read my blog over the years will know I have to start with HOLYWELL. He has looked so disinterested in every race this year and age is definitely catching up with him. He ran a cracker in this last year behind UN TEMPS POUR TOUT and he has a full 12lbs less on his back today. He is also racing of his lowest rating here since he beat MA FILLEULE off OR145. Three pounds higher today, spring weather and better ground should see him there. My question mark is around his approach this season. He may have lost his love for the game. IBIS DU RHEU is another one who has to catch my eye; he has always been touted as a smart horse and his win here last year in the Martin Pipe Conditional shows he likes the better ground and the track and Nichols is a shrewd placer of his horses and this is one of his that carries my money. He is a horse who fits the profile of a well treated novice. I’m not discounting A GOOD SKIN either on this better ground he has been knocking on the door all season but just not quite being good enough and he has dropped to a very nice mark.  Interestingly the champ also rides him!!! A cracking race!

SELECTION : IBIS DU RHEU 12-1 (Bet365) and A GOOD SKIN ew 25-1 (Bet365)

3:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle

I was really surprised that the Pipe team opted for this race for MOON RACER, and I think they have been suckered in by the money and the hype; while he is very, this is a hell of a step up! The ground could have really gone against BUVEUR D’AIR, he has done nothing wrong all season and looks a very smart horse. If he handles the ground he will run close but I think it is still soft enough for him to run well. He travels really well and has a good finishing speed; something crucial in this race. THE NEW ONE has always run consistently but I think he missed his opportunity the other year and placed horses from previous years have a poor record. YANWORTH may be the best chance on paper for JP McManus and he looked very good on better ground  when he beat THE NEW ONE by 3 and a half lengths. Of the others BRAIN POWER has won really well the last twice and will love the drying ground and I think he has the best chance of upsetting the McManus duo. For me BUVEUR D’AIR looks very smart and he has my money.

SELECTION : BUVEUR D’AIR 11-2 (Paddy Power)

4:10 OLGB Mare’s Hurdle

This is another belting race and one of my top selections of the week runs in this. The Mullins team could have run half a dozen in this and interestingly have opted to include VROUM VROUM MAG in this. I thought they would go the Champion hurdle route with her. LIMINI is favourite for this after beating APPLE’S JADE. That mare has continued her very smart form from last year but couldn’t peg back LIMINI last time but she will be there in the finish. My money goes on LIFEBOAT MONA, she went into my notebook when she destroyed the field at Ascot in November. She followed that up with other win at Sandown and she has gone up 17lbs in the ratings. She looks a very smart horse to me and her style of coming late will suit her up the hill and they could set it up for her to come from off the pace. She has form on better ground but has generally won on softer ground, so that is my only concern.

SELECTION : LIFEBOAT MONA (nap) 18-1 (Paddy Power)

4:50 JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup

This is the longest race of the festival and is a cracker for those horse who love a marathon test. ARPEGE D’ALENE should have run much better than he did last time at Ascot and he has shown how much petrol he has in the tank in a couple of good runs here behind SINGLEFARMPAYMENT and then TOUR DES CHAMPS. It shows to follow horses that have run well at Warwick in this race and FLINTHAM is one of those. He was so courageous last time at Ascot by BIGBADJOHN giving him 4lbs, they’re off level weights today so he could run better and he has previously won at Warwick off a mark only one pound lower and he could run a cracker from the front. DANCING SHADOW won for the blog last time out at over 4m at Musselburgh and he steps up again in class today. Normally the winner of this needs some grade 1 experience so he falls short of that but you couldn’t help but be impressed by how he stayed on that day and there looked like there was more in the tank to me. He’s been raised 8lbs to a mark of OR139 and he should run a big race and he will appreciate the drying ground.TIGER ROLL is the Irish raider with top class form that catches the eye and he won the Munster National well last year  and is ultra-consistent. What a race, this is what solving a handicap problem is all about.

SELECTIONS : FLINTHAM e/w 25-1 (Ladbrokes) and DANCING SHADOW e/w 28-1 (Paddy Power)

 

5:30 Close Brothers Novices Chase

 

It pays to stay with the top few in the market for this race but it is another cracking puzzle to solve. FOXTAIL HILL is a worthy favourite and he meets lots of the trends including winning last time out. He drops to a class one from a winning a Grade 3 last time when beating SAPHIR DU RHEU and he has THOMAS CRAPPER well behind. That one won well the other week. My selection though is TWO TAFFS, he has been running well all season and on ground that has been too soft in my opinion. He ran well behind FLYING ANGEL last time on heavy ground  and previously couldn’t quite I’ve with POKER SCHOOL at Kempton. Good ground will help and he has cheekpieces on for the first time, horse with first time headgear have a very good record in this as do horse who didn’t win on either of their first chase starts and he also has the Cheltenham specialist Davy Russell on. Lots of ticks in lots of boxes.

SELECTION : TWO TAFFS 10-1 (Ladbrokes)

First day selections:

£5win TWO TAFFS 5:30 10-1 (Ladbrokes)

£5 win LIFEBOAT MONA 4:10 18-1 (Paddy Power)

£2.50 e/w IBIS DU RHEU 2:50 12-1 (Bet365)

£2.50 e/w DANCING SHADOW 4:50 28-1 (Paddy Power)

 

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Sandown

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Well last week must have killed many a pundit and lined the satchels of those bookies. Some very big priced winners didn’t help anyone last weekend. My selections were based on good ground and then the heavens opened, annoying to say the least. That persistent rain also chucked all form out of the window and certainly left me scratching my head. I thought ITV’s coverage was really good and it will only get better; people will never be happy however. They have to ‘dumb it down’ to try and increase people’s understanding and get people involved in racing. Their first Opening Show this morning was again very good and had some good pieces on there. I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop the programme.

On to today:

Ive been waiting for LIFEBOAT MONA to run again and wondering when the years would send her out again with the festival in mind. She was superb last time when waltzing clear of her rivals at Ascot in November. She has been raised a huge 13lbs to a mark of OR140 for that. I think she could and should improve further and she is entered in the mares hurdle at the festival. She up against some better rivals today in BRIERY QUEEN and DESERT QUEEN and they will make her work harder, but she should take this. I would be tempted to go for the other mares race at the festival if it was me and based around the mark she will probably be.

In the 32RED casino chase HOLLYWOODIEN really caught the eye at Wetherby last time on Boxing Day and he will improve again but an 8lb rise in the ratings may slow him down. DE FAOITHESDREAM was hoping up last time before falling and his jumping an let him down but I expect him to be going well from the front again. This is I think will set it up for GARDE LA VICTOIRE, who despite his weight, has the class to beat these. Two miles won’t be a problem and he was just pipped in the HALDON Gold Cup and ran well over behind YANWORTH last time. This is a drop in class and he should prevail.

COURT BY SURPRISE has been running well recently in defeat, both against his rivals. today and young horses. In a form line through LOOSE CHIPS, who beat him by 1/2 a length previously, he is 6lb better off at the weights for such a short distance defeat. He was running well when he didn’t really stay the trip when ROCKY CREEK won last time, this drop to 3 miles will help him. At Doncaster last time, youth and bette ground for me were the cause of his defeat and he was eased once they went away. I can’t ignore his mark of OR128, sandwiched between two previous winning marks. His could be real each way value in this.

Selections:

£5 win double LIFEBOAT MONA 9/4 (WILLIAM HILL) 1245 Sandown and GARDE LA VICTOIRE 2/1 (WILLIAM HILL) 150 Sandown (WON = £48.75)

£2.50 e/w COURT BY SURPRISE 28/1 (SPORTING BET) 300 Sandown (unplaced)

Stats

Placed £150

Returns £193.75