Cheltenham Festival 2017 selections in full.
SUPREME NOVICE HURDLE
Kicking things off is the Supreme, won by the all conquering Altior last year. this years race is headed by the Willie Mullins trained Melon trading at around 3/1. He beat Broken Soul very convincingly in Ireland on his sole start for the champion trainer and is reported to be an absolute monster at home and just on that alone and is enough for me to back him in this. You might think that’s very erratic and you’d be right to think that, however have you seen the line up in this? It’s a very poor renewal. I think Ballyandy lacks star quality but saying that he doesn’t really need it to win this. River Wylde looks to have solid form and could be a big one at 8/1 and interesting Labaik is said to go. Well, he’s refused to run in several of his last few outings but is said to be an absolute machine when he does fancy it, might be worth risking it at 50/1.
The Arkle next, won by the absolutely outstanding Douvan last year when he justified his odds of 1/4 by seeing off Gold Cup contender Sizing John yet again in easy fashion. It’s pretty much de ja vu this year, as it’s headed by 1/3 shot Altior. I can not see any situation where Altior doesn’t win this. It’s a real shame that Min hasn’t made it because i’ve gone on all record and put myself on the line all season by saying I believe Min could’ve beaten Altior here and I still do believe that Min could run him very very close. But that is all pointless now as Min isn’t here, so Altior will destroy this field. On the others I think a real good each way bet is the Ricci owned, Mullins trained Royal Cavier. He looked to be going the best when coming down at the last (I know yeah) in a graded contest last time out in Ireland and I think 14/1 is a great each way price for him.
I really like the look of Singlefarmpayment as my best bet in this one. He seemed to be travelling nicely at the trials meeting here last month before being brought down and does go well round Cheltenham, currently trading at around 15/2 I still think that’s more than a decent enough price for him to get in the frame. The Druids Nephew could be a huge player at 10/1 if the ground is dry enough, he’s now off the same mark which he won this off back in 2015.
Probably one of the most underwhelming Champion Hurdles of all time this with a poor line up to say the least. Desperately missing the big guns such as Faugheen and Annie Power. My strong fancy for this race comes in the form of Alan Kings Yanworth. He’s come in for some criticism for a few short priced workingman like efforts this season but he has nevertheless won all of his starts. He’s only lost once over hurdles and that was to Yorkhill here last year in the Neptune and I believe he is better than all of these, the ratings back this up also. Again, like many of the races today you could make a case for just about all of these. Brain Power is being tipped to run a big big race for Nicky Henderson at 8’s and I like the looks of Footpad for Willie to maybe scrape a place at 16’s
I originally wrote this as Limini just turned over Apples Jade at Punchestown which changed the whole complex of this race quite dramatically. It still didnt really effect my predictions in any way mind as I’ve always believed that Vroum Vroum Mag will take this. There will be people out there that say well, Apples Jade beat Vroum Vroum Mag earlier in the season, Nichols Canyon beat Faugheen once upon a time. The vibes havent been great at all for Vroum Vroum and with Ruby choosing Limini it certainly raises various alarm bells as he’s rarely wrong when it comes to choosing Willie’s horses. I’m keeping faith with Vroum Vroum though and I hope she can prove the doubters wrong under Paul Townend. Paul Nicholls Lifeboat Mona is certainly not without a shout at 14/1 and the same for Gavin Cromwell’s Jer’s Girl who could respectively outrun her odds at 10/1.
NATIONAL HUNT CHASE
Another difficult race with lots of big prices being branded about in this years National Hunt Chase. A selection i’ve got down for this is Beware The Bear, he’s done really well this season winning a couple of good races in the process and could very well continue that form here. A Genie In Abottle is the favourite for this trading at around 6/1 and I personally think thats a little short for a race like this at that stage but he has been running very well over in Ireland in some big races for Noel Meade which is why he is that price. But, i’d be willing to take him on with Beware The Bear. I fancy Edwulf and Champers On Ice to also put in good runs and could certainly make up the placings, 6/1 and 8/1 respectively.
NEPTUNE NOVICE HURDLE
The Neptune this year is headed by a huge hype horse in Neon Wolf, trading at around 5/2. I’m a big fan myself of this horse having seeing him win very impressively when beating Elgin at Haydock in January, I believe a repeat of that performance would certainly make him the one to beat here. I like Willie Mullins Bacardys to chase Neon Wolf home at 6/1. Winner of the Grade 1 Deloitte in Ireland and will certainly stay this trip, one of my each way bets of the festival.
The RSA is headed this year by my Lay of the festival in Might Bite trading at an absolutley ludicrous 5/2. Granted he has won impressively in several starts this season but the races he’s won are hardly the most inspiring and certainly dont justify him being this short price wise for this, he may hack up and prove me wrong but i’d more than happy to take him on with Willie Mullins Bellshill. He ran an absolute stinker last time out but before that he’d won impressively on his last three starts over fences and now he’s been pushed out to as big as 12/1 I think that’s a great price for him to get in the frame for this.
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
I mean, this pretty much looks like a forgone conclusion doesn’t it let’s be honest. There’s not much if anything that you could pick wrong with Douvan, I suppose the slight things are that he doesn’t seem to perform quite as well at Cheltenham as he does back in Ireland and he still hasn’t beat all that much barring Sizing John and Shaneshill. However he should still be winning this with the minimal of fuss. Fox Norton has performed well since going to Colin Tizzard and in particular has won well around Cheltenham this season and is probably the one to follow Douvan home closely followed by Special Tiara who was third behind Sprinter Sacre and Un De Sceaux in this last year. These pair are a general 8/1 and 14/1 respectively.
This year’s Cross Country is a field dominated by JP McManus owned horses headed by 7/4 shot Cantlow. We all know that Edna Bolger is immensely successful in these and is looking strong in the betting to take another one here. However Cantlow was beaten at Trials Day at Cheltenham back in January by then 50/1 shot Urgent De Gregaine, a French raider ridden by Felix De Giles he traveled powerfully and a repeat of that will surely see him in the money. Previous Cheltenham Festival winner Cause of Causes is an interesting runner and has been put in as second favourite at around 11/2. I also like the other Bolger runner in the Auvergnat in this, he unseated on Trials Day however won well next time out at Punchestown. Therefore I am feeling a Bolger 1-2 here with Cantlow and Auvergnat.
A Willie Mullins shot is somewhat of a short priced favourite to take this years bumper in Carter McKay. Trading at a general 3/1 he traveled very very powerfully to win a bumper in Ireland last time out and I don’t think Patrick Mullins had to move on him, a repeat of that would take the world of beating here.
JLT Novices Chase
Another Willie Mullins hotpot heads this year’s JLT in Yorkhill. Winner of last years Neptune beating Yanworth in the process. Despite some questionable jumping in chases this year I think he’ll take the world of beating here, trading at around 13/8. Nicky Hendersons Top Notch is next in the market at a general 4/1, i’m a big fan of Top Notch and I think the market has got it spot on making him the chief threat to Yorkhill. Paul Nicholls Politlogue is an interesting one as he looked superb at Ascot in December but wasn’t overly impressive at Haydock after and Noel Meades Disko is a very consistent performer only finishing out of the top three once. He won a Grade 1 last time out very impressively. These pair are 13/2 and 8/1 respectively. Yorkhill is however my selection.
PERTEMPS FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE
The Pertemps Final this year is headed by a cracking story of a horse in Tobefair. He’s won all seven of his races since moving Deborah Hamer and there’s nothing saying that he can’t take this, trading at a general 11/2 it would be some story if he did go on to win this. Davy Russell has thrown all sorts of verbal abuse Phil Smith’s way after he’s all but ruined Presenting Percys chance in Davy’s words after giving him a high weight. But my fancy for this is a horse i’ve seen win twice this season at Haydock in the Tim Vaughan trained Dadsintrouble. He’s trading at a general 10/1 and I reckon that’s a cracking price for him to get in the frame here.
With Don Poli being ruled out of the Gold Cup it does effect the line up for this years Ryanair as Gordon Elliot may well move second favourite Empire of Dirt over to replace Don Poli there. Willie Mullins Un De Sceaux heads the field at a general 3/1. He has seemed to settle down a lot better lately in particular when winning the Clarence House here very well on trials day. There has been some questions about the 2m 5f trip however connections don’t appear to think that’s an issue as he did win over that distance back in France earlier on in his career. The problem is there’s not much to take him on with here only the horse that came second to him in the Clarence House in Alan Kings Uxizandre. He trades at around 11/2 and I believe he is the chief threat to UDS here having showed a lot of promise in that comeback run, his first run since giving AP McCoy is final festival winner in the 2015 Ryanair beating Don Cossack in the process. That being said I do still fancy Un De Sceaux to take this for Mullins with Uxizandre running him very close in second.
The Stayers this year is headed by an absolute revelation of a horse, a horse that i’ve actually labelled as my current favourite National Hunt horse in Unowhatimeanharry. I tipped him up last year in the Albert Bartlett when he won at 12/1 after following him through his winning run in that campaign and he hasn’t looked back winning every run since. He is an absolute machine and I will truly love it if he takes this as well. He trades at around 6/4 and he thoroughly deserves to be that price. If you haven’t already guessed he is my selection here. His main danger looks to be the legend that is Jessica Harringtons Jezki. He made his comeback in January when winning quite cosily before getting beat on ground he doesn’t like by Tombstone after, he trades at around 6/1. Possibly my each way bet of the festival is Cole Harden in this. He won this race back in 2015 and ran a cracking race behind Unowhatimeanharry in second in the Cleeve here on trials day, he’s a front runner that is a very good each way chance at 9/1. Mullins duo Shaneshill and Clondaw Warrior also have decent each way shouts trading at 8/1 and 14/1 respectively. Mon the harry though!
BROWN ADVISORY PLATE
A tough one now in the Brown Advisory, well they are all tough, but this one in particular. Headed by last years Coral Cup winner, the Gordon Elliot trained Diamond King. He’s a general 6/1 to take this however i’d be looking to take him on with a fairly big priced outside chance. This is Phil Hobbs Village Vic, i’m a big fan of this horse and he loves it round Cheltenham running some big races around here this season. He ran respectably behind Vautour in the Ryanair here last season and I think his front running tactics could see him massively outrun his 16/1 odds here. A great each way price and chance for this.
MARES NOVICE HURDLE
Two impressive Willie Mullins mares look to lock horns here in Lets Dance and Airlie Beach. Lets Dance is the general favourite trading at a general 13/8 and the latter 5/2. I’ve been a huge huge fan of Airlie Beach this season as she’s won all of her starts winning a Grade 1 in his latest start. However I think Lets Dance just edges this encounter as I think she just has that extra bit of class. Carrying the Ricci silks I think Lets Dance will take this for Willie Mullins, she has won her last four starts and was 4th behind Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph here last season so also has a bit of experience on her side. Another one to look out for is Warren Greatrexs La Bague Au Roi she’s won six of her seven starts and Greatrex has been very bullish about this mares chances in this and could be a huge price at 8/1 to get in the frame.
Phill Hobbs Defi Du Seuil is the strong favourite for this years Triumph and I honestly can’t see him getting beat here. The champion jockey Richard Johnson rides and he’ll be desperate to get him home in this, trading at around 7/4 it’s certainly one to lump on. I wasn’t at all impressed with Charli Parcs last time out so my each way fancies in this are the Irish pair in Mega Fortune and Bapaume, 7/1 and 9/1 respectively.
Another strong favourite at the top of the market in this in Gordon Elliots Death Duty trading at best price of 2/1. Elliot has been very bullish about him in all of the preview nights saying at one stage he’s not scared of any of the opposition and I think that could be another reason to get involved with this strong fancy. I think Willie Mullins mare Augusta Kate could make a race out of it and chase Death Duty home in second, trading at a general 5/1.
With no Thistlecrack it really has turned into a really open Gold Cup this year headed just by Colin Tizzards Cue Card at a general 10/3. There’s no denying he was looming up in this last year and we don’t know what would of happened after (he wouldnt of got past Cossack) but unfortunatley I think he’s too old now. He may well prove me wrong as it isn’t the greatest renewal and he could just take it but my fancy is Willie Mullins Djakadam. I think he’ll out battle the other Tizzard runner Native River and finally take the contest after finishing second in the previous years. He’s still fairly young and I believe his preparation this year has been a lot better than previous and a repeat of last years run might just be enough to win this time around.
Edna Bolger’s On The Fringe heads this in an attempt to make it three wins from three in the race trading at around 11/8. When I look down the card it is just littered with horses that On The Fringe has already beaten throughout the years and nothing really strikes me as anything to take him on with. Ask The Weatherman has been in good form in points win three on the bounce before winning on the racecourse, however i’d certainly be looking at doing a Defi Du Seulil, Deathy Duty, On The Fringe treble here. On The Fringe to make it three from three.