Final ante-post tips and advice for the Cheltenham Festival 2014
With the Cheltenham Festival less than a week away now is the ideal time to look through the main races, outline the likeliest runners and select my final ante-post bets.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins still has nine horses engaged in next week's Festival curtain raiser but Ruby Walsh is set to ride Vautour ahead of stablemate Wicklow Brave. Nick Schofield is set to keep the ride on the Paul Nicholls’ inmate Irving, after an impressive performance at Kempton a couple of weeks ago. The surprise winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, Splash of Ginge, heads to the race, with connections hoping he can ‘out battle the big guns’. Nicky Henderson seems keen that Vaniteux has put himself in the picture by working brilliantly at home. Stable jockey Barry Geraghty faces a tough choice with Josses Hill also looking probable to lining up – a decision will be made by the end of the week.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Tip – At the prices, I like the look of WICKLOW BRAVE (7/1 Coral). The fact that Ruby Walsh has punted for stable-mate Vautour doesn’t worry me too much. The horse has a great cruising speed, and I can’t see the hill posing any problems for him. His jumping was a bit sketchy last time out, but I’m sure his trainer will have schooled him time and time again since. Wicklow Brave will be looking for his sixth win on the bounce, and I think he can do it.
Arkle Novices’ Chase
From the beginning of the season this race has looked to be one if the hottest of the week, and I don’t think it will disappoint. Current favourite Champagne Fever finished a disappointing third last time out in a Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December, but he was impressive in a schooling session on Sunday, and Mullins’ stable jockey Ruby Walsh takes the ride. Former Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby takes his chance over the larger obstacles after disappointing over hurdles at the beginning of the season. He’s won twice since, but is yet to face serious opposition. Last year’s county hurdle winner Ted Veale takes his chance in the race for Tony Martin.
Arkle Novices’ Chase Tip – You can make a case for half a dozen of the contenders, but I really like the look of TRIFOLIUM (5/1 BetVictor). I think an Irish horse will win the contest and Trifolium is the one that stands out for me. His jumping is superb and he looks to have grown up and matured a lot in the last 12 months.
Ruby Walsh seems confident that Hurricane Fly can capture a third champion hurdle and why wouldn’t he be. He’s last years winner, he seems to be improving after every run he’s had this season, and he’s beaten some of his rivals in the race already. AP McCoy has opted for My Tent Or Yours, however after the revelations that this horse has had a minor set-back he could well switch to Jezki. Connections were happy with Our Conor’s racecourse gallop on Sunday, and The New One has done little wrong this season trouncing Zarkandar in December. We still don’t know whether Un De Sceaux goes in the race – I’d love to see him in it as I think he would be The Fly’s main danger, but with Walsh saying the horse isn’t suited by Cheltenham yet, I can’t see it happening. It was confirmed this week that connections of Captain Cee Bee will supplement the horse for the Champion Hurdle, for a nice price of £20,000. He is sure to bring the pace of the race up to the speed it needs, which is sure to help the owner JP McManus’ two other horses – My Tent Or Yours and Jezki.
Champion Hurdle Tip – I can’t see pass HURRICANE FLY (11/4 Betfred) in the race, and as an each way bet I’m going for JEZKI. Irrespective of who rides the horse, at the current prices he looks the best each-way bet in the race.
Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
Yet again Mullins saddles the favourite for the race. Faugheen is five from five and looking to continue the unbeaten form. Ruby Walsh is not a confirmed booking as of yet, but Walsh himself says he’s leaning towards the horse, stating that he represents the best novice he’s ridden all year. Trainer Dessie Hughes will be bidding for a fourth Neptune Hurdle win at the festival with Lieutenant Colonel a confirmed runner in the race. Nicky Henderson sends Royal Boy to the race.
Neptune Novices’ Hurdle Tip – I really like the look of RED SHERLOCK (5/1 bet365). He isn’t a definite runner in the race yet, but is very likely to take his place. He’s unbeaten and was extremely impressive when beating Rathvinden last time out at Cheltenham on trials day. He’s a real stamp of a horse too and a looker, and I was taken by him straight away.
RSA Novices’ Chase
Current favourite of this race, Ballycasey fell in a schooling session on Sunday, but is none the worse for it. However, question marks remain as to whether this horse has the requisite experience to win this race. Smad Place, who has been third in the World Hurdle for the last couple of years will line up in the race for Alan King. Barry Geraghty looks like he’ll keep the ride on Ascot’s RSA Trial winner O’Faolains Boy, with Morning Assembly’s jockey still undecided, but Davy Russell is on standby.
RSA Novices’ Chase Tip – I’m going for AP and CARLINGFORD LOUGH (10/1 BetVictor) in this race. He was unlucky last time out when unseating at the last, but before that he stayed on well under pressure to win at Leopardstown over the festive period. He’s a tough horse with a tough jockey on board, and in a gruelling race like this, this is what you need.
With the news that Sprinter Sacre won’t defend his crown this race has become wide open. Sire De Grugy is a worthy favourite having taken full advantage of the absence of Nicky Henderson’s stable star. His record around Cheltenham isn’t particularly appealing and I think he’s beatable. Henderson sends Captain Conan to the race, with Sizing Europe attempting to win the race once again. Mullins and Walsh send a strong fancy too in Arvika Ligeonniere, who was a commanding winner last time out.
Champion Chase Tip – KID CASSIDY (11/1 Stan James) beat the favourite Sire De Grugy over the course and distance in November, and on his day he is a class act. Despite his unpredictable nature, I’m prepared to take the gamble as I think he is a horse full of potential, and McCoy know which buttons to press during the race.
JLT Novices’ Chase
McCoy has opted for Taquin Du Seuil in the race, with Barry Geraghty on Oscar Whisky, with potentially another dual between the two up the hill. Felix Younger seems the main danger to them both providing the ground comes up better.
JLT Novices’ Chase Tip – On course form, you can’t ignore the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained DOUBLE ROSS (14/1 Stan James) with son Sam on board. His form at Cheltenham is exceptional and he obviously loves the course. At the moment he is quite a big price, and as such represents my each-way fancy for the race.
Two greys head the betting for the race, with Al Ferof and Dynaste currently joint favourites. Dynaste was runner up in the Jewson last season, and disappointed last time out in the King George, but was found to have muscle problems after the race. Al Ferof was a possibility for the Gold Cup but last week it was confirmed that he would go for the Ryanair, with connections thinking that the drop back in trip will help.
Ryanair Chase Tip – I’ve fancied BENEFFICIENT (5/1 BetVictor) for this race all along, and now that he’s a confirmed runner in the race, I daren’t go against him! He won the Jewson last season, and was victorious last time out at Leopardstown in December, beating the likes of Hidden Cyclone and Arvika Ligeonnaire. I think he’s a horse with a plenty of potential.
The biggest question leading up to the Festival was answered this week, with the confirmation that Annie Power will head to the World Hurdle, setting up a mouth-watering dual between her and the horse that’s dominated this race in the past – Big Buck’s. JP McManus runs two in the race, with McCoy choosing to ride At Fishers Cross, who came close to his best last time out. His other runner, the unbeaten More Of That is an interesting contender, who is relatively unexposed so far but may find that the race has come too soon.
World Hurdle Tip – I’ve thought throughout the season that whatever race ANNIE POWER (15/8 Coral) goes in, she’ll win it. So as this is the race she heads to, this is the race she wins. I do think she’ll stay the three miles, and I really can’t see her being beaten.
Triumph Juvenile Hurdle
This race is full of French imports with Calipto and Activial leading the charge. The Paul Nicholls trained Calipto has settled in well on British turf winning two for two, whereas Activial is not a definite runner with trainer Harry Fry yet to make up his mind. Irish raider Guitar Pete seems to have been around for ages, and was an impressive winner last time out beating the likes of Ivan Grozny and Plinth, who could both head for this race.
Triumph Juvenile Hurdle Tip – Yet another French import is LE ROCHER (6/1 Betfred) who I saw win on Trials Day, and I was really taken by him. He’s won on both starts in the UK on heavy ground, but I think he can perform whatever the ground. He’s a slight type who looks to me like he may be even better on firmer ground. He possesses the all-important course form too, and for me is the one to beat.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Nicky Henderson has confirmed that his main fancy in the race will be Captain Cutter, who beat the likes of Oscar Rock and Timesremembered last time out. David Pipe and Tom Scudamore have been quite bullish about Kings Palace – he’s run three times and won three times this season, but has been off the course since December which isn’t ideal. Trainer Oliver Sherwood suggested this week that Deputy Dan is likely to head to this race, and if he does I think he has a great each way shout. His best form has come on the heavy ground, but he’s also acted on better ground and when watching him this season, he’s looked to have bags of potential.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Tip – Like most horses fighting for favouritism in this race, BRIAR HILL (11/4 bet365) has an unbeaten record. Last year’s bumper winner has done little wrong since, and has been looked after by connections, placing him in light races probably a Grade below his ability. He’s had time to mature and learn the ropes, and I think his preparation has set him up nicely for this race.
This week AP McCoy confirmed that Teaforthree will take his chance in the race, and Nicky Henderson stated that Hennessy winner – Triolo D’Alene will also go to the big race on the final day of the Festival. Henderson’s other runner is of course last years winner Bobs Worth who heads favouritism, with King George winner Silviniaco Conti also in with a shout. First Lieutenant is a consistent horse who always gives his all and he should be in with an each-way shout, and could trouble the market leaders.
Gold Cup Tip – LAST INSTALMENT (7/1 Stan James) turned a few heads when winning the Irish Hennessy last month, making the likes of First Lieutenant and Tidal Bay look like average horses. Before his injury this horse showed us what he was capable of, and I think he is capable of finishing first past the post in the Gold Cup. Bryan Cooper is likely to be on board, and he knows how to ride at Cheltenham after a successful Festival campaign last season.
Simply follow these simple steps –
1. click on the above link
2. create an account and enter your details
3. your initial bet will be matched up to £25