Expert Cheltenham 2014 tips for Tuesday 11th March and race preview for every race shown live on Channel 4 for day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival starting from 1.30pm.
There are some moments in sport that really make the hairs on one’s neck stand up. The Super Bowl, Ryder Cup, FA Cup Final, but none more so than when that guttural roar erupts as the tapes fly back for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Festival commences. Here are my best Cheltenham betting tips for all the races shown live on Channel 4.
1.30pm Supreme Novices' Hurdle Betting Tip
This year’s curtain raiser looks to be its usual high class battle with supporters both sides of the Irish Sea adamant they have the one to lift the trophy and strike first in the week long war.
Garde La Victoire (33/1 Betfred) will appreciate the return to a quicker surface having flopped at Kempton on soft ground. He probably isn't good enough to win this but his form is of a level high enough to consider him a massively overpriced runner and he could be an e/w play.
Irving (11/4 William Hill) is the number one hope for an English winner, coming here unbeaten in four starts over obstacles. It was a decent Grade 2 field that he treated with distain at Kempton on his most recent outing, pulling well clear with consummate ease. He has won on soft ground a couple of times but as such a smooth mover he is likely to prove even better as the ground continues to dry out.
Josses Hill (16/1 BetVictor) got outstayed close home by a stronger rival in the Tolworth at Kempton, they came miles clear of the third though and the form looks solid. He beat a smart field comfortably at Newbury the time before and should get involved. The Liquidator (20/1 Stan James) was bogged down by the soft ground when disappointing behind Josses Hill last time but this quicker surface should see him in a much better light. He had previously bolted up at Cheltenham, slamming a 150 rated horse 15 lengths. Those efforts were both from the front and this bigger field will likely be harder for him to dominate.
VAUTOUR (7/2 Coral) is the big Irish hope. He proved too strong from the front for The Tullow Tank at Leopardstown last time and was a wide margin winner on good ground so this surface will hold no fears for him.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Tip – VAUTOUR (WIN) (7/2 Coral)
2.05pm Arkle Novices' Chase Betting Tip
The Arkle is next up with another intriguing Paul Nicholls versus Willie Mullins puzzle to solve. Champagne Fever (11/4 BetVictor) represents Mullins and is looking to win at his third consecutive Festival having taken the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices’ in previous visits. He jumped stickily on his chasing debut before flopping badly over Christmas when the stable suffered a number of short price reverses. He has a lot to find on what he has actually achieved over fences, his price very much reflects the reputation he forged over hurdles and his potential.
DODGING BULLETS (5/1 bet365) is the leading hope of Paul Nicholls and only found the more experienced head of Module too strong at Newbury when trying to give him 3lbs, that form makes him a strong shout for our Arkle betting tip. That was the first time he has tasted defeat over fences comfortably winning his other three starts and he sets a strong standard. Grandouet (10/1 Betfred) is another who has to improve on what he has done do far over fences. He is comfortably a stone below what he was capable of over hurdles but, if able to get back to that level of form, he is more than capable of making his presence felt.
Rock On Ruby (9/2 Coral) has won both his starts over fences, beating just the three rivals in the process. His previous exploits at Cheltenham at March entitle him to huge respect but he will need to improve on his chasing exploits to date.
Arkle Chase Tip – DODGING BULLETS (WIN) (5/1 bet365)
2.40pm Baylis & Harding Handicap Chase Betting Tip
The handicap chase at 2.40pm always poses punters a puzzle and this year it looks as wide open as any Cheltenham Festival race this week.
I fancied CANTLOW (12/1 Stan James) at the December meeting here when he went down fighting against Double Ross who has improved over a stone since. Paul Webber's charge stayed on well that day up the hill and, despite the fact that a 3lb rise makes things trickier, the step up in trip is interesting.
Hadrian's Approach (9/1 bet365) will be well fancied here for a stable that always seem to produce their inmates perfectly for the meeting. He went down by the narrowest of margins to Bury Parade at Kempton and got his head in front at Newbury last time. He was well fancied for the Hennessy in between those runs but only got as far as the fifth fence. His jumping is a concern round Cheltenham especially in a big field where sight of these fences is at a premium so we are looking elsewhere for our Cheltenham tip in this one. The form in the book does give him a major chance however.
Holywell (8/1 William Hill) has been well touted for this contest having won the Pertemps final here a year ago. Although the mark he runs off here is 12lbs below his hurdle rating, he has looked a sticky jumper and will need to be more fluent to get involved. Vintage Star (16/1 BetVictor) has held his own in some big handicaps this season. He is another couple of pounds up the weights but he continues to improve and it would be no surprise if he runs into a place once again.
Of the others to note, Green Flag (14/1 Ladbrokes) has been a model of consistency all season and could go well at a big price.
Baylis & Harding Handicap Chase Tip – CANTLOW (WIN) (12/1 Stan James)
3.20pm Champion Hurdle Betting Tip
The Champion Hurdle has lost a little of its intrigue with the withdrawals of Annie Power and Un De Sceaux, however enough remain to make this potentially the race of the meeting and the toughest of betting heats for our Champion Hurdle tip selection.
A lot has been said about Hurricane Fly (3/1 bet365) as a 10 year-old but he hasn't missed a step this season, adding to his ever growing tally of Grade 1 wins. Willie Mullins will have him spot on for this and he is very much the one to beat in his quest for a third Champion Hurdle crown. My Tent Or Yours (4/1 Ladbrokes) followed up his win in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle with victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He showed battling qualities that to some appeared a little lacking in the Supreme Novices last season and despite being gifted the Kempton race somewhat (his rival fluffed the last) his level of form is more than enough to give him a strong chance.
The one most likely to usurp the throne from Hurricane Fly is THE NEW ONE (3/1 Bet Victor). He looked a machine at Kempton on his reappearance and again at Cheltenham when making a hash of the last before motoring up the hill to slam Zarkandar six lengths. He came unstuck over Christmas when another last flight mistake was his undoing but the track and the way the race was run were a massive disadvantage to him. He is sure to get a genuine pace in this and connections feel that will help his jumping no end. He boasts a high cruising speed and with his extra stamina reserves I feel he may just come out on top.
The other pair to discuss are Our Conor (9/2 Stan James) and Jezki, both of whom will be looking to turn round this seasons form with Hurricane Fly. Our Conor was a wide margin winner of the Triumph at last years festival, he got close to Hurricane Fly last time but he is worse off at the weights. Jezki (10/1 Ladbrokes) will appreciate the much stronger pace to run at here given his winning form over further. He has looked a little short of toe over two miles this season so the harder they go in front the better chance he has.
Champion Hurdle Tip – THE NEW ONE (WIN) (3/1 Bet Victor)
4.00pm OLBG Mares' Hurdle Betting Tip
This race is all about QUEVEGA (4/6 Coral) as she looks to win this contest for a barely believable sixth year in a row! She comes here as usual a fresh horse which brings it's own problems. No-one outside the camp of Willie Mullins knows exactly how much ability is still there but she wouldn't be turning up if she wasn't working well at home and she will once again be hard to beat and therefore makes up our Mares Hurdle tip.
Cailin Annamh (16/1 William Hill) will be hoping the weather stays fair and the ground continues to dry up. She has won on soft but her best form has been on a quicker surface. She's come on leaps and bounds this season, last seen winning a Grade 3 mares’ race at Punchestown in October. It was admittedly a weak contest for the grade and her main market rival under-performed; but, if spot on for this, she could improve further.
Cockney Sparrow (9/1 BetVictor) looks the favourite's biggest danger with the step up in trip fascinating. She got within three lengths of My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, staying on all the way to the line before falling two out at Doncaster when a couple of lengths behind Annie Power. She has won over an extended 1m5f on the flat which gives hope that she will stay more than a bare 2m over hurdles and is certainly the main form threat. Highland Retreat (16/1 Ladbrokes) has done nothing but improve all season over slightly longer trips. She may not want the ground to dry out too much more but she likes to be up with the pace and could turn this into a test from the front.
Sirene D'Ainay (9/1 Stan James) is a very interesting French raider who has not been seen on these shores since runner-up to Quevega in this race last year. She has won on good ground in her native France although most of her form is on much heavier ground. If she acts in the drying conditions she has a e/w chance.
OLBG Mares’ Tip – QUEVEGA (WIN) (4/6 Coral)
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