Cheltenham Festival Day 1 Preview
After all the build-up, a pretty low key day on the betting front. Smaller than usual fields leading to less competitive races which minimise the betting opportunities.
I had penned in a couple of horses on day one at decent prices but connections have opted for different races or withdrawal.
Frustrating, I’m hoping there’ll be better to come later in the week, though I see on Friday just 12 declared at the 5-day stage for the Triumph Hurdle. A Triumph Hurdle should have 20 plus runners rattling around!
It’s going to be a bit different this year, maybe a bit more restraint required in not to get drawn into the short priced ones where there’s little value in the price!
Nothing too complicated in the opener. The Irish horses look well ahead of the English contenders and Appreciate It has proved himself the best of those who turn up here.
He is the most likely winner, the only problem is the price. There’ll be plenty on at much juicier prices but at odds on all the value looks to have dried up.
No bet for me, sit back and enjoy the virtual roar as the tapes go up.
Selection: Appreciate It
1.55 Arkle Challenge Trophy
Like the opener, a disappointing number of runners with just the 6 declared. We could still be in for a treat though as Shishkin heads the entrants.
He put up a very decent time performance at Kempton over Christmas, one which would be good enough to win an average running of the Arkle. Given that Shishkin did it in such style too bodes well for his win prospects here. His price reflects all this and I’d never be a player at 4/9.
Options elsewhere in the race?
I think the market has slightly underestimated the prospects of Allmankind. From a time perspective, his latest run at Warwick was on a par with what Shiskhin achieved at Kempton.
Allmankind is a bold front runner, he’ll need to jump better than at Warwick where he threw himself into a couple of fences getting away with mistakes that Cheltenham might not forgive.
Captain Guinness appeals at 8/1. He’s given us a glimpse of what he might be capable of but hit the deck twice when running potentially his best races.
Last year in the Supreme Novices’, the race won by Shishkin he was in with every chance when first being badly hampered 3 hurdles out and then brought down by a faller at the second last. Then on his lastest run, he looked like the only horse capable of putting it up to Energumene. Captain Guinness was moving up on the leader and travelling strongly when he fell at the second last.
Energumene looks some horse and I would have favoured him over Shishkin if he’d made it to the Arkle, so at 8/1 Captain Guinness makes some appeal.
Just 6 runners, not an obvious race in which to be betting each way, but, I do think Captain Guinness to be placed at 2/1 seems a fair price, with the win bet as the bonus should he come home in front.
Selection: Captain Guinness
14:30 Ultima Handicap Chase
The one I’m interested in here is the Nick Williams trained novice chaser One For The Team.
Williams won this race with another novice Coo Star Sivola who was a very well backed 5/1 favourite when victorious. I’m guessing the intention this season has been to bring One For The Team to his peak for the Ultima.
In terms of handicap mark, there’s strong evidence to believe One For The Team is on a very winnable handicap mark of 140. His runs behind Shan Blue and Next Destination, in the context of this race, and on past performances on the clock give him a big chance.
Those runs were earlier in the season and you have to look beyond his latest run in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster where he ran an absolute shocker. I’d expected One For The Team to win that day and made him a strong bet at 13/2.
He needs to bounce back from that poor Doncaster run, if he does then he looks well enough treated to be involved here. Enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by the current price, the double-figure odds are long gone and at 8/1 there’s only a little juice left.
With the concerns over the latest below-par effort, I’m not getting carried away but, a small stake bet for me at the price.
Selection: One For The Team
15:05 Champion Hurdle
I favour Epatante and Sharjah in this, a little rain would be nice for Epatante. Thoughts on the race are here ‘Champion Hurdle Preview’
Selections: Epatante/ Sharjah
15:05 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
Concertista was hugely impressive when winning the Mares’ Novices’ in 2020, her run a Leopardstown in December was an even better performance and she comes here at a peak.
It’s hard to look past Concertista but at 11/10 I’m inclined to search elsewhere.
Roksana is a class act and a better horse than anything Concertista beat in the 2020 renewal. She’s not far behind Concertista and could push her hard here. Roskana is around a 3/1 chance and I think the market has the front 2 about right in the betting.
Floressa, at her best, is just a little behind the front 2 in the betting. She’s very talented but lost a few races she was entitled to win, her latest effort at Doncaster be a prime example. She has shown her best form at Newbury in the past, whether the course is a factor or just a coincidence it’s difficult to pin down. Trading close to 50/1 on the Exchanges, that seems too big. Floressa certainly has place prospects.
Returning to the Concertista race at Leopardstown in December. Finishing second that day was Minella Melody.
It takes a bit of a leap to think that Minella Melody could reverse the pure form with Concertista but it becomes about price versus chance and at 16/1 I reckon Minella Melody has been underestimated, certainly for the place part of an each-way bet.
The Leopardstown race is a strong piece of form and a 6 1/2 length second to Concertista is better than all bar Roksana have published before. That was Minella Melody racecourse best, she is on an upward trajectory and with just 7 runs over hurdles so far then its possible that there is still better to come.
Minella Melody looks value at the prices for a place and with some hope that she could progress and get close to Concertista.
Selections: Minella Melody
16:15 Boodles Fred Winter
Finally a competitive race with plenty to go at.
I’m going to play 3 horses at prices here.
Firstly, Nassalam priced at 30.0 plus on the Exchanges. His run behind Adagio at Chepstow in what was probably the best juvenile hurdle this side of the Irish Sea points to his chance here. Nassalam carries top weight in the Boodle but an excellent time performance at Chepstow suggests he is overpriced.
Next, I’m interested in Balko Saint at prices of 40.0 on Betfair. The Jane Williams gelding ran 3rd behind Duffle Coat and Adagio here back in November. That day he raced in 2nd before getting outpaced and then staying on very nicely up the stiff Cheltenham hill. That left the impression that Balko Saint would be suited by a full-on Boodles pace and hustle. The form of that race is decent, I think Duffle Coat is a decent prospect, as already stated is Adagio.
Balko Saint had a winning prep race a couple of weeks back. That was a nothing race and I’m not paying too much attention to the raw form. Back in a strongly run contest, I think Balko Saint is on a nice mark and overpriced.
The final one in the Boodles is Longclaw.
Not seen since November when Longclaw ran 4th at Wetherby behind the aforementioned Duffle Coat. That run points to Longclaw being on a winnable mark of 132. At prices over 90.0 on Betfair, that’s too big and he looks worth an each-way bet in this.
Selections: Nassalam/ Balko Saint/ Longclaw
National Hunt Challenge Cup
I was very keen on Remastered for the Ultima but connections have chosen to go for this race.
Remastered is certainly on a nice handicap mark and was a decent price ante-post in the Ultima. Here, off level weights against fellow novices I think his chance is not as good. He’s been well backed in the past few days and at around 6/1 I see no value now in the price.
Remastered has shown he is a much better chaser than he was hurdler, this could be quite some spectacle as he’s a slick, enthusiastic and aggressive jumper who usually goes from the front. He could have this field under pressure from some way out.
So while I like Remastered, the price is just too short as he takes on at least 3 horses in Galvin, Next Destination and Escaria Ten who have posted better past efforts.
It’s difficult to choose between those at the head of the market, the prices look about right and with nothing standing out at bigger prices then this is a watch and enjoy race for me.