Cheltenham Festival Betting Preview Tuesday 15th March

Cheltenham Festival Betting Preview Tuesday 15th March

by 10th March 2016

At last jump racings annual jewel in the crown is nearly upon us. The jump race lover’s pilgrimage to the West Country of the UK commences next Tuesday (March 15th) for 4 glorious days of top notch competition, unrivalled heartbreak and ecstasy.

This year’s preview is not easy due to the ‘where will they go’ conundrum of the Mullins battalion, the seemingly invincible horse army making its way across to the UK to sweep all before them in any race of their choosing, even with the defection of the 2 main Champion Hurdle hopes, Faugheen and Arctic Fire the Tuesday looks like a Mullins benefit meeting ………………

Tuesday March 15th

Supreme Novices Hurdle

The opening race of the festival and the roar of the crowd really get the adrenalin pumping. As for the race itself it is difficult to look beyond those at the head of the betting.

Min is the talking horse and has been ever since his arrival from France and his status at the head of the betting is unlikely to change between now and 13.30pm on Tuesday.

Mullins also has a strong second string in Yorkhill, although it would appear Min is undoubtedly the stable first string there has been some betting moves for Yorkhill against Min (in the last 48 hours) and a rumour that Ruby will ride Yorkhill, unless or until that is proven to be the case, Min has to be considered the Mullins number one.

What of the home challenge ….

Altior for the Henderson team has had a stellar season and looked imperious in his wins. Not seen out since December, one assumes due to the terrible ground conditions, his fitness should not be of concern, hailing from the Henderson yard. What will be of concern however, is the ground, which, with less than a week to go is currently soft. Unless the ground dries out appreciably, to be on the good side of good to soft then I think Altior might be in trouble.

Buveur D’Air for the Harry Fry team has looked good in his 2 runs (and wins) this season. The victory at Newbury in November was devastating with plenty of decent horses behind and came in soft ground.

Verdict: Willie Mullins knows the time of day and unless Min has had a training set back, it is difficult to get away from. With regard to a home alternative, if the ground remains on the soft side I would pick Buveur D’Air e/w over Altior from the home challengers. The quality of the field (prior to declaration) is such that you could not discount a challenge from a longer priced combatant and of those priced in double figures, Long Dog for Mullins again, which goes on any ground or if the going remains soft, North Hill Harvey is potentially too big at around 33/1.

Arkle

Once again we face a Mullins shorty in Douvan, a machine of a horse and a Cheltenham winner from 2015. It is, rather boringly, impossible to see beyond Douvan for win purposes, so let us look at the field to see if we can get an e/w or betting without the favourite alternative.

Sizing John, another entrant from the Emerald Isle is priced around 8/1 in the ante post markets and this is decent e/w value.

Of any at bigger prices, we have to look at how the race will be run. Douvan is likely to shoot off so any other front runners either spoil the party or cannot win. Sizing John likes to come from behind in his races so that is another tick in the box but are there any others … At a generally available 14/1, is The Game Changer, also for Ireland, from the stable of Gordon Elliott, the issue with TGC is that he really needs the ground to dry out as much as possible, however, with the forecast – that is a possibility.

Verdict: This is not a sparkling renewal of this great race, although, that is not to say it would not have a great champion in Douvan, because if Douvan stands up Douvan wins. For the each way pokes, Sizing John at 8/1 is excellent value and The Game Changer at 14/1 on good ground is a major player for the places.

Champion Hurdle

Now we hit the real first ‘will they, won’t they’ conundrum of the Mullins team, Annie Power.

Ante post favourite since the defections of Faugheen and Arctic Fire will the Mullins team drop Annie Power back 1 mile in trip? Remembering her fall last year at a sedate gallop to victory, will the high cruising speed mare be able to cope with the jumping rigours of a full on, fast run, Champion Hurdle? I have doubts.

So, what are the alternatives.…

The Fighting Fifth hurdle winner, Identity Thief, has not been since December but I think that has been the plan. Already proven on soft (or worse) ground, this Irish raider has solid claims, although the drier the ground the more doubts creep in.

Nichols Canyon, again for Mullins, is a multiple Grade One winner and also lowered the colours of the ante post odds on favourite Faugheen on the latter’s seasonal reappearance. Also, proven in soft ground there is still a lingering doubt whether in this class in a truly run Champion Hurdle, NC would quite be good enough, although NC has some decent flat form on decent ground.

The only other alternative to consider, in my opinion, is the Henderson trained My Tent or Yours. Proven in this race and on good or softish ground at top level, MTOY is the wild card after such a long layoff. Nicky Henderson desperately wanted to give MTOY a prep race but could not afford to bottom the horse in the terrible conditions we have had in 2016 so that has not been possible and this is the issue? Being fit at home is not the same as being race fit and even in a substandard Champion Hurdle; you will still need to be top notch. If MTOY can win this on comeback, you can only applaud and doff your cap to a masterful training performance.

Verdict: This is the toughest race of the Grade One highlights of the festival to sum up. I am not convinced Annie Power’s jumping will cope with a real fast run race, despite her ability to cruise along at very high speed. Nichols Canyon, despite the multiple Grade One wins just does not quite convince me as a Champion Hurdle winner in waiting, although drying ground will be a bonus for both NC and My Tent or Yours, however, MTOY surely has too big a task without a run under the belt so …………… Identity Thief it is as the selection, in the hope that if the ground really dries out IT can still show his form.

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