Monday, 14 March 2016

Cheltenham Festival Preview News

The audience at the Cartmel Festival Preview Night was terribly well behaved; there was none of the heckling that you get at other venues - except for one ignorant punter who rudely interrupted to recommend a horse which, as it turned out, had already been scrubbed from the list of entrants.

But that's enough about me, what did the real expert panellists say?

One horse had them all smiling: a good old-fashioned coup in plain site; a horse which has been brought along with just one race in mind - campaigned cleverly to maintain a favourable handicap rating. One of the few horses to unite the panellists - right at the end of the evening. Oh - you should have been there...

One of the hot favourites on the first day of the Festival is thought to have a wind infirmity - but is considered so good that they might just win anyway, without coming under the sort of pressure which could reveal the potential problem. Which horse? Oh you should have been there...

Another ante-post favourite drifted in the markets after suffering defeat last time out - but was subsequently found to have stood on a stone. Which horse? Don't worry - we were given a better priced one that will probably beat it anyway. I'll come to that later...

Selecting just a few of the panel's selections is a tricky task - after all, I want to impart enough winners to ensure that you come and pay for a ticket to next year's Preview Night. On the other hand, I don't want to give away the best information, otherwise no one will need to buy a ticket next year - seeing as it's all in the blog. At least that's my excuse -if somehow I manage to ignore all the winners and highlight only the also-rans.

So here goes: Henry Brooke thinks Min will win the first and apologises for being unoriginal. Marten Julian suggests that Buveur D'Air offers the best value. Trevor Harris (of Star Sports) and the panel Chairman (John Sexton) agree with him - who said Henry was unoriginal!

Jimmy Moffatt, trainer of the 2016 Grand National winner (in case you had forgotten) opted for Silver Concorde.

Everyone agreed that Douvan would win the Arkle Novices Chase, although the selection was truly unoriginal.

The Champion Hurdle will go to Nichols Canyon, The New One or Top Notch. Or possibly My Tent Or Yours, but only if he has learnt to settle during the two years he has been away from the track. No one mentioned Lil Rockerfeller - but I think he's worth backing each-way anyway.

Polly Peachum, Aurore D'Estruval and Bitofapuzzle were popular for the Mares' race - with The Govaness each-way for a bit of fun.

In the Ultima Chase, a race usually won by a horse with a low weight, the panel opted for Holywell, Carole's Destrier and Morning Assembly - all of whom are set to carry 11st 10lb or more. Trevor thought Kruzhlinin would go well, although Henry (who has ridden him) didn't think he'd jump the Cheltenham fences fluently enough.

On Wednesday, Yanworth will definitely win the Neptune Novices Hurdle (according to Jimmy - who says that there is no point backing losers at long prices when you can back winners at short ones). Marten prefers A Toi Phil - and Trevor confirms that there has been money for him. 

While More Of That and No More Heroes are the class horses in the RSA Novices Chase, virtually everyone agrees that this race isn't usually won by the classiest. Seeyouatmidnight is a popular selection. 

There is barely 4lb covering the top five in the betting for the Champion Chase, which begs the question: Why would you back Un De Sceaux at odds-on, when you can back Dodging Bullets at 10/1 or more? And even then, Marten thinks that Felix Yonger (10lb off the top) is better than his official mark suggests.

If Trevor is to be believed (do we ever believe bookmakers?), even the handicapper thinks Diego Du Charmil will win the Fred Winter.

In the Bumper, Henry likes Spirit of Kayaf; Marten and Jimmy go for Ballyandy, while Marten also thinks the fact that Willie Mullins isn't talking about Castello Sforza could be significant. Incidentally, Willie Mullins is about to go down in history as the man who trained the most losers ever at one Cheltenham Festival (even if he also trains the most winners).

John Sexton believes that Black Hercules will win whichever race he runs in - which should be the JLT Novices Chase on Day 3 (Thursday).

Coincidentally, Thursday is also the day that Doctor Harper is likely to appear, having held multiple handicap entries in the build-up to the Festival. He'll probably win the Kim Muir - although you could also look out for Perfect Candidate, Cause of Causes, Silvergrove and Lost Legend.

The panel are unanimous in their support for John's Spirit in the Brown Advisory Chase.

Six different horses are mentioned favourably for the World Hurdle, none of them is Knockara Beau - who I am hoping for, with every fibre of my heart.

I've forgotten what was said about the new novice race for mares, as that's when I got up to refresh my orange juice and lemonade. It was very nice.

Day four: Marten's tip for the whole meeting is Connetable. That's difficult to resist, even though I hold a 16/1 voucher for Zubayr - who was also the selection of Jimmy Moffatt. Henry Brooke is going for Leoncavallo, John Sexton for Footpad and Trevor Harris for Sceau Royal.

My favourite race on Friday (after the Gold Cup, the Foxhunter and possibly the Triumph Hurdle) is the County Hurdle. Marten is hoping that Kayf Blanco creeps into the weights - he looks outstandingly handicapped for a 33/1 shot.

Don Cossack isn't very sexy, but he'll probably win the Gold Cup. John's gone for the other Don (Poli), while Jimmy, Henry and Trevor are all not-so-secretly hoping Cue Card scoops the million pound bonus.

Pena Dorada is a 66/1 certainty for the Foxhunter (no one said that - but I think he'll probably lead them down the hill on the final circuit). Jimmy tipped Mendip Express.

And then there was that one that made them all smile. What was it called? Oh sorry... out of space...

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