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)

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 – Day three’s best bets!

After a rather disappointing day at the office, following a couple of no-shows and an unfortunate runner-up in the shape of Tofino Bay, we look ahead to Thursday where we will try and wrestle some cash off the bookmakers.

And with it comes a slightly different approach. With the amount of short-priced fancied horses running tomorrow, it could pay to ditch our each-way single, value, and chance our hand at a few multiples.

The opener looks set to go the way of Dynaste, who side-stepped a crack at the RSA (a race in which he would have won in my opinion) to go for this potentially easier task. The only real danger on paper looks set to be from Captain Conan and also Aupcharlie from the in-form Willie Mullins stable.

Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins pre race, before Back In Focus's impressive win

Mullins has had a fantastic festival so far, with five winners and Aupcharlie’s form took a massive boost yesterday when Back in Focus (who he just failed to beat at Leopardstown) and Tofino Bay (who he just went down to last time out) battled out a thrilling finish.

He finished third at the course on his only start, back in the Champion Bumper, and looks set to go off a lot shorter than his current 6/1.

However he may run in to one too good in the shape of Dynaste, who has been a revelation since turning to the bigger obstacles. His jumping is immaculate, and there is no question about his staying ability. These attributes combined with the fact that he has already won over fences at Cheltenham make the  7/4 on offer look big enough to tempt most.

For this reason, you could start the day with a Dynaste/Aupcharlie forecast and hope for a big return, or separate the pair and use Dynaste as the start of a win multiple, and Aupcharlie as the beginning of an each-way equivalent.

The next race could go the way of Paul Nicholls who is yet to get on the board this festival. He has made no secret that he feels Sam Winner could bounce back to form off a very generous mark of 140. The former Triumph Hurdle fourth had been out of sorts following his run at the festival, as he was sent on a chasing campaign.

However he has been brought back to the smaller obstacles, and over a course from where he has a 50% strike-rate, winning two from four, he has to be fancied. He has a brilliant action over hurdles, and a high cruising speed which is key to his chances.The current 9/2 strikes me as a solid each-way bet, and should be combined with Aupcharlie to hopefully make a solid start to proceedings.

cheltenham races

The win double is completed with First Lieutenant, who was well-fancied for the Gold Cup, before being pulled out for an attempt at the competitive renewal of the Ryanair.

He has been placed in three graded races this term, the most recent of which was when he was seen finishing a head second behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase.

This is arguably the best piece of form on offer in the race, and the fact he has been put away especially for a crack at the festival, is an extra positive, and enhances the 11/4 shots claim.

He faces stiff opposition in the shape of former Champion Bumper winner Cue Card and last year’s Ryanair winner Riverside Theatre, however this has been a solid week for Ireland so far and I expect Davy Russell’s mount to do the business at what looks a lot bigger price than he should be.

The single of the day comes in the shape of a potential handicap-plot from the David Pipe stable, Ballynagour.

He won his sole start on British soil by 19 lengths, and is a relative unknown quantity. He never really got out of third gear that day, and although he will have to improve to land this, he looks as though he still had plenty in the locker and could well be a likely improver.

His rating of 143 could turn out to be incredibly soft, and the 7yo looks destined for bigger and better things. The 9/2 on Betfair won’t be around for long, and it could end up being one of the best backed horses of the festival.

Advice:

1 point win double: Dynaste & First Lieutenant @ 8.84/1 (Paddy Power)

0.5 point e.w double: Aupcharlie & Sam Winner @ 37.5/1 (StanJames)

1 point win: Ballynagour @ 4.5/1 (Betfair) 

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2013 so far – +13.77 points