Yorkhill Sparks Excitement

Willie Mullins was left in a peculiar position, as we entered day three of the Cheltenham Festival.

Having been accustomed to ‘Ruby Tuesday’s’, where the grey-haired maestro would guide home many of Mullins’ machines to get punters off to a flyer, we were left open-mouthed as the pair drew blanks.

After 14 races, Mullins had no winners. Was this real life?

Rumours that all was not well in the Mullins yard began to surface and subsequently, his Thursday runners started the day rather week in the market.

Yorkhill, many peoples idea of a Festival NAP went from 11/10 to 6/4 on the day, though this in truth may well have been down to the horse in question, not the trainer.

No one can question Yorkhill’s engine, he is racings equivalent of a Porsche. Sharp, goes through the gears smoothly and often looks a million dollars. However, the horse has his quirks.

At Aintree last season, Paul Townend has his arms all but yanked out of their sockets for a large part of the race before the Graham Wylie-owned charge someone managed to reserve enough energy to scramble home.

It was here you realised just what he was capable of and it was arguably more eye opening than his Neptune victory, where he shattered the heart of the flamboyant Yanworth.

Yorkhill’s jumping career was solid but not spectacular. He jumped out to his left at times but no jockey had needed to get to the bottom of him.l in his two starts over fences pre-Cheltenham.

His performance at Leopardstown led to people to ask whether it was best for him to be out in front for so long, as he seemed to idle up the run in, having previously moved nicely clear.

This, coupled with an error-strewn opening to Yorkhill’s final public schooling session meant there were still plenty of questions to answer at Prestbury Park.

And answer he did. In some style.

He travelled powerfully for Ruby Walsh, having been buried towards the rear, a position in which he seemed thrive.

Moving through the race, he jumped impeccably, grew in confidence and approaching two out, he found himself with a dream run up the inside.

It was here you realised just what he was capable of and it was arguably more eye opening than his Neptune victory, where he shattered the heart of the flamboyant Yanworth.

Yorkhill’s jumping career was solid but not spectacular. He jumped out to his left at times but no jockey had needed to get to the bottom of him.l in his two starts over fences pre-Cheltenham.

His performance at Leopardstown led to people to ask whether it was best for him to be out in front for so long, as he seemed to idle up the run in, having previously moved nicely clear.

This, coupled with an error-strewn opening to Yorkhill’s final public schooling session meant there were still plenty of questions to answer at Prestbury Park.

And answer he did. In some style.

He travelled powerfully for Ruby Walsh, having been buried towards the rear, a position in which he seemed thrive.

Moving through the race, he jumped impeccably, grew in confidence and approaching two out, he found himself with a dream run up the inside.

He moved stylishly to draw alongside Top Notch, who was also moving well.

Yorkhill winged the second last and moved powerfully away. Top Notch hit the top of it and although he rallied well, he failed to ever get back alongside Yorkhill, as Mullins’ charge fought well to claim the JLT, meaning wins at back-to-back festivals.

Again, he didn’t do too much in front and idled slightly towards the line but the manner in which he took himself to the front, was eye catching.

His only defeat came at Punchestown, which arrived just two weeks after a tough race at Aintree.

Given a nice break between the races, he looks a machine and excitement is high ahead of next season.

He is versatile and has plenty of options available to him, which obviously isn’t ideal from an ante-post point of view but given the esteem in which he is held, you have to fancy he will be given a chance at the big one.

Although all the initial fancy prices have since disappeared, the 8/1 looks fair value and it would be no surprise to see him develop into an elite chaser.

Selection: Yorkhill to win the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup @ 8/1 (Various)

Prince Of Scars Could Land RSA Crown

We’re only just entering the very early stages of the National Hunt season but there’s already whispers of the Cheltenham Festival after a very enjoyable Cheltenham Showcase meeting.

One of the most enjoyable betting feelings (although it nearly always ends in tears) is taking fancy prices about a horse early in the season and then sitting smugly as it continues to shorten until the day of the race, should it actually make it unscathed, at Cheltenham.

It carries obvious risks and isn’t always the greatest money-making scheme, though there are definite reasons to suggest singles and perhaps doubles, could be worth pursuing if you think the price is right.

One horse in particular who could be worth following en route to The Festival is Gordon Elliot’s Prince Of Scars. The former classy hurdler looks set to embark on a Novices’ Chase campaign this season and after showing plenty of ability last year, he looks interesting in the big races at Cheltenham.

However, if you are contemplating a punt on the horse, be prepared for the fact he will only run, should the ground be sufficiently soft. Cheltenham in March is a question mark, as we have seen extremely heavy or rattling quick, so that has to be something to bear in mind.

Still, if you are committed to the cause, then the current 33/1 for the RSA Chase could prove to be very tempting. Those towards the head of the market have plenty of question marks about potential engagements over hurdles/fences, 2m4f & 3m, so it could be a race to steer clear of, if you’re not overly fond of taking a risk.

Prince Of Scars made a rather inauspicious start to maiden hurdling, though his runner-up effort in a Listed Hurdle on his second start over the obstacles suggested he had some ability. He was put away for a decent break after switching to the Gordon Elliott yard and that seemed to do the trick, as he has since won three of his four races.

He won a handicap hurdle a shade cosily on his first start for the yard before showing battling qualities, to follow up soon after in a thrilling finish at Navan. His home work must have suggested he was worth a go in better company as he was seemingly tossed in the deep end in the Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown in late December.

The Heavy ground seemed to work in his favour as he travelled beautifully before pulling clear of genuine top quality animals, Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Arctic Fire.

He swerved Cheltenham and waited for the subsequent softer ground at Aintree where he ran on well without ever threatening Thistlecrack and Shaneshill. 0pair are real Grade One animals, so finishing as close as he did was a solid effort.

The scope he possesses and his action over hurdles, suggest he may be suited to fences and in a recent interview, Gordon Elliot suggested he is looking forward to the soft ground so he can get Prince Of Scars back out.

Elliott is usually brilliant at finding an opportunity for a horse early on and if he can show he get round in style, the 33/1 for the RSA may well shorten. All things being well, we will be treated to a wetter Cheltenham this season and this lad may well turn up as a real contended in the RSA.

Selection:

1pt e.w – RSA Chase – Prince Of Scars @ 33/1 (bet365)

 

Punchestown Festival – Day Five

The second race of the day at Punchestown is where we start off our final day at the venue, and the selection is Vesper Bell from the Willie Mullins yard. He has always been held in very high esteem by connections but failed to sparkle earlier in the season. However a valiant effort in the Grand National, finishing a fading thirteenth, is enough to show he is heading back onto the right track, and the shorter trip should suit on Saturday.

He seems to have turned a corner with his jumping, and should he manage to reproduce his effort from last year’s race, where he finished runner-up to the classy Goonyella, he should go very close. The 7/1 on offer is very fair each-way value, and it would be no surprise to see Ruby Walsh battling it out at the finish on-board the eight-year-old.

Next up is the Four Year Old Champion Hurdle is a very interesting race, with Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll and Aintree Grade One winner Guitar Pete re-appearing in this fascinating affair.

Both are high-class animals and look set to have a real chance, but it as outsider in the shape of Fox Norton who really catches the eye at a tempting 18/1. He missed Cheltenham to stay fresh for Aintree, where he traveled wide the entire way round. He was eased into the race approaching four out, and look set to be in with a major chance as the race began to heat up approaching the straight. However the extra ground he had taken it’s toll and he faded approaching the final two flights, finishing a disappointing sixth.

He finished an encouraging second behind the re-appearing Royal Irish Hussar at Market Rasen, before managing to reverse the form in a very impressive manner at Doncaster, when he landed a Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle, getting the better of Broughton, with Royal Irish Hussar 16 lengths further back in third.

He will come on for the Aintree run and the better the ground, the better his chance on Saturday. Nick Williams wouldn’t send him over without a real chance, and although this looks an extremely hot race, he has to have a major chance at a cracking each-way price.

Then, there is a very competitive affair in the Setenta Sports Handicap, in which Upsie looks to have a major chance for Willie Mullins, who has landed four of the last five renewals.

Ruby Walsh has opted for the mare (after JP McManus’ retained rider AP chose to ride favourite Regal Encore), and if she can follow on from her high level of form so far this season, she will go very close at 11/1.

She is two from two at Punchestown, including a win at last year’s festival, but arguably her best run was last time out, when finishing third behind Thousand Stars and Get Me Out of Here in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse. He was give a very patient ride by David Casey, who sat his mount fifth until getting serious after the proverbial bird had flown, but when he asked questions he got an instant response from the six-year-old and she flew home to finish third, nearly snatching the runners-up spot.

She is set to be ridden a lot more prominently under Walsh tomorrow, and although it is an extremely open race, she looks set to have a major chance at a brilliant price, where four places are paid with bookmakers.

Selections;

3:05 Punch: Vesper Bell @ 7/1 (Various)

4:20 Punch: Fox Norton @ 18/1 (Coral)

5:30 Punch: Upsie @ 11/1 (Ladbrokes)

 

Punchestown Festival – Day Four

All three selections were placed yesterday, which shows we are managing to get on the right track, despite a whole host of shock results.

Outsiders have been the flavour of the week, and hopefully tomorrow will follow suit to some extent, as our first selection is The Romford Pele in the 4:20, at an extremely tempting 16/1.

Rebecca Curtis’ charge has been campaigned at the highest level, and has a whole host of respectable runs behind top class horses, such as finishing runner-up to Balder Success, Court Minstrel and a brave third behind Taquin De Seuil. He boasts fantastic form, and should he manage to perform consistently, living up to the high hopes that the Curtis team have for the seven-year-old, he should go extremely close.

He was last seen finishing a staying-on fourth in a handicap at Cheltenham earlier this month, and that should put him spot on for Friday’s challenge, where the extra distance on better ground should suit. Paul Townend takes the ride, and he knows the Punchestown track extremely well, which is an added bonus in itself.

It is a very open race, with Some Tikket looking the biggest danger, as he aims to follow up his impressive victory at Fairyhouse. However he has been hiked up eleven pounds for that effort, and he will have to improve to ensure he visits the winners enclosure once more. So for this reason, the 16/1 for Romford Pele looks a more than fair each-way bet.

The next race is a very open affair, with a trio of Nicky Henderson horses heading the market. Une Artiste and Nadiya De La Vega look like very interesting contenders, however Barry Geraghty has sided with Utopie Des Bordes, who has already landed a Grade One Chase over in France. She arrived with a big reputation, but has so far failed to fire over hurdles, although her fifth at Aintree behind Doctor Harper (Thursday’s Hurdle winner Jetson, finished in fourth), showed she is heading back in the right direction.

The six-year-old is having her first start over the bigger obstacles since transferring the Nicky Henderson stable from across the Channel, and she could be potentially well treated off a rather lenient mark of 136. The 4/1 looks fair and it may not last very long, thanks to the punters latching on to the Barry Geraghty factor, after the jockey has been in great form so far this Punchestown.

She should go very well, and at the very least, make the frame.

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The final piece is advice may be rather boring, but looks a very solid treble. Champion Hurdle hero Jezki lines up again on Friday against Hurricane Fly and Steps to Freedom, and he is currently trading at 11/10.

It looks a straight shootout between Jezki and the magnificent Hurricane Fly, however ‘the Fly’ has never enjoyed fast ground which it looks set to be over in Ireland, and Jezki should be able to confirm his Champion Hurdle placings. Jessica Harrington’s gelding is 1/1 at Punchestown having won at the festival last year, and he should be able to keep that record in tact, thanks to his magnificent mixture of fluent jumping, speed and stamina.

He should be added with Vautour, who looked the real deal when landing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in the most impressive fashion. He is up against an arguably weaker field than he faced at Cheltenham, and he looks like a horse firmly on the upgrade so it would take something special to upset Willie Mullins’ five-year-old. He has the potential to go on to bigger and better things, and will be hoping to stake a claim for next year’s Champion Hurdle with a big performance on Friday. The 2/5 is extremely skinny, but he looks as close to a banker as you will find all week.

The final selection to the ‘boring but hopefully solid’ treble, is Arctic Fire. He has run extremely well all year, in the highest novice company and looks set to gain compensation for a series of solid efforts, by finally landing a big one.

He finished close behind the highly rated The Tullow Tank twice, before producing his best run last time out, when only just failing to get the better of Lac Fontana in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Lac Fontana has since been out and franked the form by landing a Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and this all points towards Arctic Fire proving extremely hard to beat for the duo of Mullins and Walsh.

At 4/5 he completes the 4.29/1 treble, which will hopefully we ensure we enter Saturday with a healthy profit.

Selections;

4:20 Punch: The Romford Pele @ 16/1 (Ladbrokes)

4:55 Punch: Utopie Des Bordes @ 4/1 (Various)

Treble;

Jezki, Vautour & Arctic Fire @ 4.29/1 (Coral)

 

Punchestown Festival – Day Three

The week seems to be moving at a rate of knots, as we pass on to Thursday and day three of the festival across the Irish Sea.

Ned Buntline can kick-start our Thursday with a win in the second race of the day, following a string of valiant efforts at the top level. He finished runner-up to Champion Hurdle hero Jezki in his debut bumper back in 2012, and has been a talking horse in the past for the Noel Meade yard.

There has always been extremely strong vibes around for the gelding, and his second in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival show he is continuing on his journey to the top, after looking the likeliest winner the whole way around under the ever patient Paul Carberry.

He has only been raised two pounds for that effort, which looks extremely fair, and the Champion Jockey Tony McCoy takes over the reigns, in the colours of his boss JP McManus. It is an extremely open race, but back on the quicker ground, with a lenient handicap mark, Ned Buntline can take advantage and land a valuable prize on his way to better things next year, at an extremely tempting 11/2.

It could prove to be a quickfire double for JP McManus and AP McCoy, as World Hurdle third, and Aintree Hurdle runner-up At Fishers Cross lines up to battle with the mighty mare Quevega.

Quevega is the extremely warm favourite at 10/11, and is likely to go off a lot shorter with the majority of the Irish contingent seeing her as ‘the good thing’ of the week, thanks to her tremendous record which sees her unbeaten in her last nine runs, as-well as winning six out of eight attempts at Punchestown. However, At Fishers Cross has been running consistently well at the top level, and there has always been the belief he is yet to show us the best of his ability, even though he has produced some fantastic runs already in his career.

He traveled magnificently at both Cheltenham and Aintree, but failed to see out his races after forcing the pace at the wrong times. McCoy will have learned a lot from these races, and will be out to atone for making the error of opting for the wrong horse in the World Hurlde last time out. Quevega is a magnificent mare, but faces an extremely tough challenge tomorrow, so if McCoy can nick a few lengths from the front on the second circuit, it will be interesting to see how Ruby Walsh chooses to play his hand on-board the favourite, after usually swooping with a late run.

She will be very tough to beat, but the ultra-consistent At Fishers Cross is sure to be there battling it out at the finish, and the 9/2 on offer is too big to ignore.

The final selection comes in the shape of Balder Success, who landed the Maghull Novices’ Chase in tremendous fashion at the Aintree meeting. His mix of solid jumping and ability to see out his races means he will be extremely hard to beat, and the six-year-old heads the official ratings, which speaks volumes about his chances over in Ireland.

Alan King ensured his gelding missed Cheltenham in an attempt to arrive at Aintree as fresh as possible, before going on to prove his superiority in the two mile chasing division at Punchestown. Wayne Hutchinson takes the ride and the 11/4 looks extremely fair considering there are plenty of holes in the form of the favourite Champagne Fever, with the Arkle runners failing to fire next time out. He is worth chancing at the prices, and he should prove value against the Irish raiders.

Selections;

4:15 Punch: Ned Buntline @ 11/2 (Racebets)

5:30 Punch: At Fishers Cross @ 9/2 (Various)

6:40 Punch: Balder Success @ 11/4 (Boylesports)

Punchestown Festival – Day Two

After a magnificent opening day at Punchestown, with the highlight undoubtedly being Sizing Europe bowing out at the top, following a performance reminiscent to one of his high-class efforts in his younger years when winning the Champion Chase, we look ahead to a very open day two over in Ireland.

It will be hard to beat day one in-terms of class, following magnificent performances from Faugheen and Sizing Europe, however there is still potential for a few high-class performers to show their stuff on the big stage.

The likeliest candidate looks set to be Beat That, who was extremely impressive when landing the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree this month. He oozed class the whole way around, traveling like the best horse in the race and even managed to hit the second last quite hard, before pulling away after landing the last in great style. The six-year-old ending up crossing the line a comfortable four lengths ahead of his nearest rival, with the highly-rated Seeyouatmidnight a further 26 lengths back in third.

He looks a likely improver, and he looks as though he could maintain the hot streak for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, who landed a winner on the opening day of the festival with Cool Macavity. Cheltenham Festival winners Don Poli and Very Wood line-up again for Gigginstown Stud, and look the main dangers, however it may pay to side with a horse firmly on an upward curve, in the shape of Beat That.

The Punchestown Gold Cup looks set to go the way of Ireland, with Lyreen Legend looking to have a great chance, facing his ideal conditions for the first time this season. He traveled smoothly throughout the Cheltenham Gold Cup, joining the leaders three out on the bridle, before jumping errors came into play, and he failed to see out the race. The drop down in trip, on quicker ground will suit him more than others and he looks set to go very close with the master of suspense Paul Carberry in the saddle.

It is an extremely open race, with On His Own and Boston Bob battling it out at the head of the market. However, there is no clear favourite in-terms of class, and the 8/1 for Lyreens Legend looks more than a fair each-way bet, with bookmakers paying out on the first three home.

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The final selection is in the Grade One National Hunt Flat Race, and goes the way of the masters of the bumpers, with Black Hercules who represents the duo of Willie and Patrick Mullins.

He was sent off a warm favourite for the Cheltenham Festival equivalent, but set too strong a gallop out in front and eventually faded back to fourth late on. He lost his unblemished record in the process and will be back out to atone for this, with Mullins opting to take the ride on the gelding as opposed to the more fancied Shaneshill for the same connections. He looks set to mount a real challenge from the front this time around, and he must manage the pace a bit better if he is going to reverse the form with the Cheltenham one-two who reappear in the shape of favourite Silver Concorde, and the aforementioned Shaneshill.

Patrick Mullins has a fantastic record riding in these type of bumpers, and he is an able replacement, taking over from Ruby Walsh. The 9/2 looks extremely fair, and should Mullins manage to continue his fine form with another winner or two earlier in the day, the price will not last too long.

Selections;

4:55 Punch: Beat That @ 2/1 (Various)

5:30 Punch: Lyreen Legend @ 8/1 (Winner)

6:05 Punch: Black Hercules @ 9/2 (Various)

 

Punchestown Festival – Day One

Arguably there is only festival in the world that comes close to matching the Cheltenham Festival for it’s raucous atmosphere, and that is the Punchestown Festival. Fortunately for us, it is that time of year once again and the countdown is nearing it’s end, as action gets underway on Tuesday afternoon.

After a record-break 2013 festival, Willie Mullins will be hoping to go close to matching his 13 winner figure, and his best chance of doing that on day one looks set to be with Faugheen.

The high-class gelding managed to keep his unbeaten record in tact despite noticeable jumping errors in the Neptune at Cheltenham, and came away from the week as one for the notebook. He showed his massive engine when powering away from the field by four-and-a-half lengths, and he is going to be extremely hard to beat on Tuesday afternoon.

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He looks a magnificent prospect for the future, and should he win impressively his price will shorten for next year’s Cheltenham Festival, as in 2013, this race was won by this year’s Champion Hurdle winner Jezki.

He is bidding for back-to-back Grade One glory, and already has course form, having beaten Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Josses Hill by a mammoth 22-lengths on his debut at the track last year. This form has been franked plenty of times, and he should take all the beating back in Ireland.

His 4/5 price seems very fair, and he is more than likely to go off around the 4/7 mark, with the Irish punters backing Mullins from the very start. However, it is another one of his runners that could go very close to matching Faugheen, in the shape of Wicklow Brave. We need to forgive his last run where he went out like a light, but earlier on in his career he had threatened to be a high-class hurdler, before fading away in his last two runs. He is an interesting contender, and should definitely be considered to make the placings at 14/1.

The Boylesports.com Champion Chase looks a very hot race, with Hidden Cyclone topping the market at 4/1. He has finished in the placings on his last six starts, including a valiant second behind Dynaste in the Ryanair Chase on his last visit to the track. He should go extremely close, but just seems to lack the required quality to get a win at the top level, consistently falling just short.

This means, we should side with Module, with Tom George’s runner bypassing Aintree when well-fancied, to have a crack at the Punchestown feature. He has been in great form this season, landing the Game Spirit Chase in tremendous fashion, before finishing a fair third behind the highly-rated Sire De Grugy at Cheltenham, in the Champion Chase.

A repeat of that run should see him go extremely close, and the decision to pull him out of his engagement on the day, at Aintree, suggests he holds high hopes of a big effort here at Punchestown. The in-form Barry Geraghty takes over from Paddy Brennan, and his mount should go extremely well in the flat track in Ireland, with the current 5/1 looking more than fair.

The final Grade One of the day could well make it a double for connections of Faugheen, with Djakadam looking set to hold a real chance.

He was travelling extremely well in the JLT Novices’ Chase, before coming down four from home, and he will be out to atone for that error on Tuesday. It is significant that Ruby has opted for Djakadam over RSA Chase favourite Ballycasey, as he must be performing with some vigor at home.

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The five-year-old receives nine pounds off his rivals, and this could be the difference between him and favourite Morning Assembly who comes into the race off a respectable third in the RSA. He is a high-class chaser in his own right, and is the worthy favourite if we’re going on form in the book. However Djakadam looks open to vast improvement, and the master handler Mullins should go extremely close to notching another winner, should his mount be none-the-worse for his Cheltenham fall.

The last selection of day one, is The Game Changer for Gigginstown Stud, whose runners have been in fine form of late.

The five-year-old was traveling extremely well before being hampered two out, behind the highly-rated Josses Hill in a Grade Two at Aintree. He ended up finishing well down the field after failing to recover from the mishap, but you can guarantee if he had managed to get a clear run, the result would have been a lot different and he would not be 16/1 for Tuesday’s handicap hurdle.

Davy Russell takes over the reigns, and should the gelding manage to settle early on, he will be able to mount a real challenge in what looks a very open race. The trip and ground look no bother to him, and with a clear run this time around, he should go very close at an attractive price.

Selections;

Win Patent: 42.2/1

4:20 Punch: Faugheen  @ 4/5 (Boylesports) 

5:30 Punch: Module @ 5/1 (Various)

6:40 Punch: Djakadam @ 3/1 (Boylesports)

 

E.W Singles & Double: 254/1

4.20 Punch: Wicklow Brave @ 14/1 (Betfred)

6:05 Punch: The Game Changer @ 16/1 (Bet365)

Cheltenham Festival – Day Four Preview

For the second time this week, we return with two good priced places out of three, but still no winner.

Friday looks a good day to end the festival in style, and there is plenty of value flying around.

The Triumph Hurdle looks a typically competitive curtain raiser, and the vote in this goes to the highly rated Calipto. Paul Nicholls hasn’t been in the greatest form, but has talked very highly of his four-year-old who remains unbeaten in Britain, winning twice since coming over from Ireland.

He oozed class when winning at Newbury both times, beating the highly-rated Activial (subsequent Adonis winner), in the process. He looks a likely improver, and should take all the beating according to trainer Paul Nicholls, who seemed rather bullish when describing his geldings chances in the opener.

A nifty hurdler who travels like a dream, should appreciate the stiff finish, and the ground should hold no worries. It is a very open race, but his current price strikes value, especially when there are firms offering money back for second and third placed finishers.

Daryl Jacob was extremely emotive when finishing a nose second behind Fingal Bay on Thursday, and this looks the ideal opportunity to land a big prize to ease the pain of missed chances so far. He will have his fair share of supporters, and the current 9/2 shouldn’t last too long.

Elsewhere on the card, Fingal Bay’s team of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson team up with the interesting Cheltenian who landed the Champion Bumper back in 2011.

He is lightly races over hurdles, having only had four runs, but he showed he still possesses plenty of ability when finishing a close fourth in the Betfair Hurdle last time out. The form of the race has worked out well with Dell’ Arca and Smashing finishing right in the mix in the Coral Cup.

The eight-year-old is running off a very generous mark of 137 and should go extremely well on his preferred better ground. The 10/1 looks a cracking each-way bet taking all things to account, and he will more than likely go off a single figure price.

Another interesting runner in the Martin Pipe is Don Poli. Willie Mullins five-year-old has improved with each run, which culminated in a smashing victory in a Grade Three at Clonmel.

The trip looks a tad on the sharp side on Friday, but his ability to maintain a solid gallop may be deadly if Fogarty decides to take him from the front.  He looks a likely improver, will be staying on best of all and the vibes from the stable have all been positive, with a big run expected.

He is currently 12/1, which looks a solid each-way bet given the form Mullins has been in so far this week.

The final selection of the day, and meeting looks to be the best of the bunch. Ned Buntline has been a talking horse from the Noel Meade stable from day one.

The six-year-old has solid form in the bag, including finishing a very close runner-up in his maiden behind none other than the Champion Hurdle hero, Jezki.

He has never finished outside of the first three, and has a bold jumping style which looks suited to the obstacles at Cheltenham. He is ridden by his perfect match in the ultra-calm Paul Carberry who has a sixth sense when it comes to producing his mounts at the perfect time.

JP McManus has had a fantastic week so far, and Ned Buntline could round it off in the perfect manner. He is on an extremely generous mark, and if he can replicate his best form, he should go extremely close. The 10/1 with Boylesports will not last long, and he is sure to be one of the biggest gambles of the day, especially if JP’s go well earlier in the day.

Selections:

Triumph Hurdle: Calipto @ 9/2 (Boylesports or 4/1 with Paddy Power, money back if second or third)

Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle: Cheltenian @ 10/1(Bet365)

Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle: Don Poli @ 14/1 (32Red)

Grand Annual: Ned Buntline @ 10/1 (Boylesports)

Cheltenham Festival – Day Three Preview

It has come to the point in the week, where punters are either chasing losses, or attempting to play up their winners and make it a really good week.

The focal point of the day is undoubtedly the World Hurdle and the clash between the proven Big Buck’s who is aiming for his fifth World Hurdle, and the Irish heroine Annie Power who has swept all before her this season.

Annie Power is a worthy favourite after swerving the Champion Hurdle and potential clash with Quevega in the Mares Hurdle, to take up her entry here, but she will not have it her own way. She exudes class, and the vibes in Ireland are all extremely positive, so you can guarentee she will be a very warm favourite (potentially around the Evens mark, once the Irish support arrives), and this offers very little value.

Big Buck’s returned to the track after 420 days off, to put in a stellar performance when looking the likely winner everywhere apart from the line in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January. He will come on for the run, and if he has retained his level of form from previous years, he surely has to go close and 3/1 seems very fair.

However the value lies with the JP McManus pair, who will be hoping to continue JP’s run of good fortune, after his 1-2 in the Champion Hurdle.

More of That has ran out an impressive winner on his last three starts, and with Jonjo having his bunch in great form, he should run well at 10/1. However preference is for At Fishers Cross, who Tony McCoy has opted for, after having the choice of the pair.

Rebecca Curtis trains At Fishers Cross, and she is in fantastic form, having already trained a winner at the Festival this week (O’Faolain’s Boy). The seven-year-old bounded away to land the Albert Bartlett at last year’s meeting, to announce himself as a serious staying hurdler. He confirmed the promise when landing a Grade One at Aintree in impressive fashion, on similar ground that he will encounter on Thursday.

He started the season a short-price for the race, but he has progressively drifted (8/1 now) after jumping worries and two poor performances led many to believe he wouldn’t turn up for the race. Yet, a very positive run when returning to somewhere near his best form, finishing second (ahead of Big Buck’s in third), at Cheltenham in January. The ground will be no worries, and he’s returning to a track where he has ran four times, winning three of those, and finishing second in one. All things point to a big run, and the in-form duo of Curtis and McManus could be celebrating once more.

Elsewhere, there are two other decent-priced runners that are of interest. The first is Wonderful Charm in the JLT Novices’ Chase. He has performed well all season, taking to fences like the proverbial duck to water. A strong traveling speed, bold jumping style and the fact he arrives fresh are three very big positives for Paul Nicholls’ runner.

His only defeat over fences came at the hands of Oscar Whiskey (who re-appears tomorrow), but he was giving away eight pounds to the winner, and only went down by half-a-length. He acts well around Cheltenham, and should be able to reverse the form.

His biggest challenger looks to be Felix Yonger, who was second in the Irish Arkle last time out. He looks a big danger, but is prone to throwing in a dodgy jump from time-to-time, and it may pay to stay with the stronger jumper, in Wonderful Charm, currently an 11/2 chance.

The final selection of the day comes in the lucky last, another McManus owned gelding, in the shape of Cause of Causes, who seems to thrive in big fields. He has finished second in his last two starts, and has been laid out for the Cheltenham Festival, having been entered in a whole host of races. The fact he takes this engagement, is telling and although he faces still opposition, especially in the shape of the well-fancied Indian Castle, he should be able to throw down a big challenge.

The six-year-old looks to have a big future, and has a positive jockey booking in the shape of Nina Carberry, whose experience around Cheltenham, may pay dividends. The former Ladbroke winner is extremely consistent, a solid jumper, and you are sure to be guaranteed a solid run for your money, at a very tempting 7/1.

Selections:

JLT Novices’ Chase: Wonderful Charm @ 11/2

World Hurdle: At Fishers Cross @ 8/1

Kim Muir Challenge Cup: Cause of Causes @ 7/1

E.W Patent @ 467/1

Cheltenham Festival – Day Two Preview

Following the roller-coaster opening day of the festival, we can expect more of the same as we approach day two. It was a case of ‘close but no cigar’ for us, as we had two decent priced places, but no winner. Hopefully that will change on Wednesday.

Ligeonniere’s a Champion:

Fast and frenetic was the theme of Tuesday’s racing, and that trend looks set to continue, with the two mile Queen Mother Champion Chase headlining the card.

The race is sadly missing arguably the greatest chaser of the last decade, as last year’s winner Sprinter Sacre misses the chance to retain his crown following a heart problem, as his trainer Nicky Henderson feels the eight-year-old wasn’t 100% in the build-up to Cheltenham.

However, there is still a stellar cast, headed by the horse that just keeps on improving, Sire De Grugy. Gary Moore’s charge has had a fantastic season so far, winning four out of his five starts, including two group one’s. Yet, he is seemingly less effective going left-handed (which of course, Cheltenham is), and this is a major worry to any punters steaming in at around 2/1. He is officially the best horse in the race, but there are too many question marks to be taking such a short-price.

So, elsewhere there is plenty of value in the race, and the horse that really takes the fancy is Arvika Ligeonniere from the Willie Mullins stable, who is currently trading around the 7/1 mark.

The nine-year-old is a consistent sort, that has been plying his trade at the top level for many years, and comes into the race in good nick, having comprehensively trounced the useful Toner D’oudaries at Punchestown, in what will serve as a solid prep.

He disappointed in last year’s Arkle, when failing to show any signs of his usual form, as Ruby Walsh was forced to pull him up before two out. However, he has came back stronger than ever, and looks real each-way in a rather condensed field.

Captain Conan is going to be a real danger, but it tends to pay to stick with the Walsh and Mullins combination, so Arvika Ligeonniere looks the selection at 7/1.

Tough for Lough:

Elsewhere on the card, there is yet another strong Irish chance as a big field lines up for the RSA.

carlingford lough

Arvika Ligeonniere’s connections, are seen in force, with the warm favourite Ballycasey, however it may pay to side with Galway Plate winner, Carlingford Lough.

The eight-year-old has been on the boil all-season, and has put together a string of big performances in both handicap and graded company. He warrants his place near the head of the market on the back of a comfortable success in the Group One, Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown, and then travelling nicely before falling at the last, in a race won by Ballycasey last month.

John Kiely’s gelding looks to have a real chance with his mix of stamina and sharp jumping, in what looks to be an extremely open race. It often pays to side with consistency, and Carlingford Lough is as consistent as they come. Couple that with the added bonus of Tony McCoy in the saddle, and this makes a very attractive 10/1 shot.

Go go Golantilla:

The last selection of the day falls in the bumper, and goes the way of Golantilla. Tony Martin’s six-year-old was third in last year’s race behind the highly rated Briar Hill, and it was thought then that he would go on to have a big year.

Yet, he has only been seen once on a racecourse since, when finishing a distant second at Naas last month. He traveled beautifully through the race, but failed to see it out, staying on one pace towards the death on soft ground. He will certainly have come on for the run, and the vibes from the stable are seemingly positive, which makes the fact he was pushed out from 8/1 to 14/1 following his last run, a slight overreaction.

Tony Martin always has his horses in top nick entering the festival, and the fact that the patience has been shown to have another crack at the bumper as opposed to go over hurdles speaks volumes, and he looks a cracking each-way bet at 14/1 to end the second day.

Selections:

Champion Chase: Arvika Ligeonniere @ 17/2 (BetBright)

RSA: Carlingford Lough @ 9/1 (Coral)  

Champion Bumper: Golantilla @ 14/1 (Various)

E.W patent @ 1169/1