With the National Hunt season beginning to gather momentum, now seems as good a time as any to get stuck into a juicy Lucky-15, so we can (hopefully) watch the prices fall in the build-up to the festival come March.
Gold Cup; Sir Des Champs (7/1)
Willie Mullins always seems to hit top form around March, as he descends on Prestbury with a flurry of top-class thoroughbreds.
However the Gold Cup is the one prize that has constantly eluded him. He has often played down the inevitable achievement, and he bids to break the voodoo in 2014 with last year’s runner-up, Sir Des Champs.
The 7-y-o has ran three times at Cheltenham, winning twice and finishing behind Bobs Worth in last year’s big race. He is extremely consistent and has never ran a bad race, thus far in his career.
Mullins will be hoping for enough improvement to help him give Bobs Worth a good battle coming up the hill in four months time. Regular rider Davy Russell was missing from last year’s Gold Cup due to an injury he had picked up earlier in the week. AP McCoy was an able deputy, but he always seems to find more for Russell, and the 7/1 on offer looks far too big for such a consistent sort, with there a slim chance of any real surprise packages over the course of the season.
RSA Chase; Wonderful Charm (16/1)
Wonderful Charm has always been held in high regard by the Paul Nicholls’ stable and he has shown nothing but class since stepping up to the bigger obstacles.
He made a big impression when coming over from France, landing the Grade Two Persian Punch, Novices’ Hurdle by a comfortable six-lengths, before falling short in the World Hurdle.
He was well-fancied on his chasing bow, and Daryl Jacob oozed confidence as his mount jumped expertly, pulling away from a short but select field. He made it two from two with a beautiful round of jumping and a marvellous attitude at Wincanton, which has seemingly cemented his target as the RSA come March.
The current 16/1 looks massive considering the scope for improvement the gelding has, and the fact he’s performing with such credit with Nicholls’ stable not in particularly great form.
If he carries on his firm upward curve, his jumping will put him bang in contention at Prestbury Park and the 16/1 won’t last too long, and he may well go off single figures come March.
Arkle; Grandouet (14/1)
Nicky Henderson’s high-class hurdler is looking to make a seamless transition to bigger obstacles after proving his class over hurdles over the past few years.
His sketchy jumping has plagued his career so far, and he failed to complete the round on his chasing bow, unseating at the last fence after being keen early on.
However, when the pace picked up he became a lot more fluent and he was massively in need of the run, so I wouldn’t worry too much about his performance at Sandown.
He is a very strong traveller who comes alive at Cheltenham, never being out of the first three when completing the course. Bookmakers have overreacted with his price-drift and he should still be single figures, with only Champagne Fever (who we are still yet to see over fences), shorter in the betting.
The pace is sure to be electric at the festival and this will allow him to get into a rhythm, which will sort out his jumping woes. He is sure to have a light campaign to ensure he gets to the race in top condition and his price should be a lot shorter on the day, providing he turns up unharmed.
World Hurdle; At Fishers Cross (4/1)
The shortest price of the lucky-15 looks set to be many peoples idea of a ‘banker’ outside of the obvious choice of Sprinter Sacre.
The 6-y-o looked like a horse to follow when beating (the new Champion Hurdle favourite) The New One in a Grade Two at Cheltenham in January, before going on to land the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in brilliant style.
He signed off the season with a commanding performance in a Grade One at Aintree, seeing it out best of all to win by a comfortable eight lengths.
He shot straight to the head of the 2014 World Hurdle market, alongside Big Bucks. Big Bucks is without doubt a superstar, but there has too be question marks about how much of his ability he will retain and how fresh he will be on the day.
Solwhit is undoubtedly a class-act but he isn’t getting any younger, and outside of this there isn’t really anyone that could get near At Fishers Cross if the ground comes up soft. Although the 4/1 isn’t the biggest price to be throwing into an ante-post bet, given the circumstances that may occur throughout the season, he looks good enough to boost the odds of the roll-up significantly.
Lucky 15; 0.5 points e.w
Gold Cup; Sir Des Champs – 7/1
RSA; Wonderful Charm – 16/1
Arkle; Grandouet – 14/1
World Hurdle; At Fishers Cross – 4/1
0.25 e.w roll-up @ 10199/1