It has been so long since my last blog entry that this rather feels like a visit to the confessional… “bless me punters for I have sinned, it has been three years since my last post….” But what better occasion to rekindle the bloggers’ torch, than the eve of the greatest horse racing festival on earth.
There has been so much analysis, punditry, media hype in the build up to this year’s festival that it hardly needs me – another public joe – to espouse his views on the event… but that’s rather the essence of the sport, isn’t it? However, it does mean I don’t need to justify my opinions in great detail as my rationale along with every other angle and perspective has been documented for me. So instead, let’s jump two-wellied straight into the punting opportunities at tomorrow’s opening day.
1.30 Supreme Novices Hurdle
In some ways, the biggest race of the entire festival. Why? Obviously, it marks the start of the meeting and with it, the release of so much penned up anticipation and excitement. If you haven’t stood in the main stand as the Cheltenham roar builds like a wave as the horses come under starting orders, you haven’t lived.
As for the race itself, it all revolves around two horses: L’ami Serge for Nicky Henderson against Douvan from the all-mighty Willie Mullins string. On the form book, L’Ami Serge should be marginal favourite, but on potential and listening to anyone from the Mullins’ yard and you’d think Douvan was invincible. He’s not, the ground will ride faster than he’s encountered in his two most impressive wins, and Cheltenham is a one-off racing environment for a horse. That said, I’ve been on Douvan ante post for a long while and I won’t be topping up my bet or having a saver.
If I was having a few quid on an outsider, I’d go with Sizing John at around 40/1 – just don’t ask me why!
2.00 RP Arkle Challenge
If Douvan has won the opener, you won’t be able to find 4/6 on Un De Sceaux who has been long time favourite for this race and odds on for a long time too. I’m a layer of this horse, to fairly chunky stakes too. That’s not to say I think he’s not a worthy favourite or most likely winner or even has the most potential, it’s just 1.72 is no price about any horse running at Cheltenham (in my opinion). This horse will set off at a break-neck speed and look to jump his rivals into the ground. He may well do so and emerge victorious with the performance of the week, but I’m prepared to be against him. I rather think he’ll have one or two for company or close distance behind and that might unsettle him. He has also got on edge in the preliminaries before… so he almost certainly will tomorrow. And finally, he has to contend with the hill up the final 1.5 furlongs.. that might just see him vulnerable to a “closer” as our American cousins say. I’d rather have the field with me at these odds. I might yet lay off some/all in running, but the plan is to see it through as he falters up the hill.
2.40 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase
My four against the sizeable field are The Druids Nephew, Ned Stark, What a Warrior and Barrakilla. However, I have backed just the one, The Druids Nephew despite being a big Games Of Thrones fan. Not a race to get heavily involved in, but hopefully I’m topping up my bank balance by 14.50.
3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
The first Champion race of the meeting and my best bet of the entire week (unless something something goes badly wrong). No points for originality, but I’m firmly with the Faugheen machine and have backed him to win well. I decided last year that I would support him in whatever race he turned up for, and nothing has changed my mind since. This is a stellar renewal of the race in my opinion, and if he’s not turned out at his very best he can be beat. But at odds against, I think this is a 5 length victory for the Mullins’ superstar. The New One may just win the race for second.
4.00 OLBG Mares´ Hurdle
By this stage, the Bookies may already have suffered a Mullins’ mauling, in which case Annie Power will be massively over bet to win this. She’s up against her own sex and looks unopposable. I’d say she’s more certain that Que Vega was in recent years and will cruise this, despite not having had a recent run. I have Annie Power and Faugheen in a rare festival double so here’s hoping.
4.40 Toby Balding National Hunt Chase
Best named race of the week.Not a race I’m crazy for, but Very Wood is my selection (with the great Nina Carberry in the irons) if he makes the line up.
5.15 CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices´ Handicap Chase
If all has gone to plan, this is a “get out stakes” for the bookmakers not punters and sensible, sober backers will be making roads to the bar or out of the racecourse. This isn’t a race I have studied or care to partake in, but good luck if you do….but remember, there’s always tomorrow.
In other special bets, Ruby Walsh must be backed at 1.65 to carry off the Leading Jockey title… he might have it in the bag by Wednesday mid-afternoon!