Pricewise at Cheltenham – A Second Opinion
by Dave Stevos
Here we will have a look at the ante post selections put up by the inimitable Pricewise (aka Tom Segal) for this year’s Cheltenham festival. A couple of Tom’s selections have unfortunately been ruled out of the festival with injury, but below you will find my take on the horses he put up that are still on course to appear and whether they are still worth backing at their current odds.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
SILVER CONCORDE adv 33/1 now 25/1 (Coral)
It is easy to see where Pricewise is coming from with this one. This 8yo son of Dansili has previous course form having won the Champion Bumper here back in 2014 and he swerved the festival last season due to uncertainties over ground conditions. Dermot Weld always emphasises the importance of the ground whenever he talks about this horse and he needs a proper quick surface to be seen at his best, just as it was for the bumper back in 2014.
He won the November Handicap at Leopardstown on the level off a mark of 91 (15f good to yielding) on his penultimate run and he was last sighted when over a dozen lengths behind Supasundae on unsuitably heavy ground in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown. He has yet to win in three starts over timber and that is a worry, as no horse has won this race after losing on their previous start since Menorah back in 2010.
There is no doubt that he would likely turn the tables on Supasundae on better ground and he still represents value against Min at odds of 25/1 with Coral. However, this horse is extremely ground dependent so if you are considering backing him you should keep that in mind. With non-runner no bet now available with all bookies on all races he is worth chancing each way, and if it does come up soft on the opening day I can’t see Mr Weld running him so your money will be safe. Those who snapped up the 33s earlier on will be praying that the rain stays away so that they at least get a run for their money.
THE GAME CHANGER adv 25/1 now 20/1 (Boylesports)
This 7yo son of Arcadio was a decent handicapper over hurdles but he only managed 3 wins from 18 starts over the smaller obstacles for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown, and he was well beaten at the festival last year despite being well backed for the County Hurdle. He subsequently went close over timber at both Aintree and Punchestown before he embarked on a summer jumping campaign, and he went on a run of form that inspired Pricewise to put him up at 25s for the Arkle back in February.
Switching to fences looks to have been the making of him and he has won 6 from 8 since sent chasing, filling the runner-up spot on the two occasions he was beaten. His wins have come at trips ranging from 16f to 20f, and a fast run 2m at Cheltenham would likely suit him down to the ground.
However, the one common denominator in all those chase wins has been good ground and just like with Silver Concorde you are a hostage to mother-nature if you back this horse.
His form figures on his last 5 runs on soft read 92206, while his last chase 5 runs on good ground resulted in form figures of 11121. If the weather gods bless us with a dry warm week next week you will be rubbing your hands with glee before the action gets underway on the Tuesday, but if the heavens open and it comes up soft it won’t bode well for his chances. With non-runner no bet he is definitely worth chancing at 20s with Boylesports, and if he gets his ground he will put it up to Douvan and make a bold bid to enhance his handler’s excellent festival record.
Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
SHANTOU VILLAGE adv 14/1 now 20/1 (BetVictor)
Pricewise put this fella up back in January for the Neptune at 14/1 but he has been on the drift and his trainer Neil Mulholland is now taking about stepping him up in trip for the Albert Bartlett. He is only 6/1 for that race and going by the vibes coming from his yard, and also the money, it looks as though those that made a play back in January might be set to lose their stake.
If he does go in the Neptune he should have every chance. He is unbeaten on good ground from three runs, including a Grade 2 win here back in November (21f good), and he also won his point to point on a decent surface. His only defeat came behind Yanworth on heavy ground in another Grade 2 here (20.5f) back in January, but he was far from disgraced and that rival is now 5/4 favourite for the Neptune.
The fact that Mulholland is considering switching to the Albert Bartlett would suggest that he doesn’t fancy his chances of turning the tables on Yanworth in the Neptune, even on better ground. In all probability Mulholland will run him wherever his best chance of winning is and unfortunately for those who got involved back in January it looks as though your investment might go down the swanee. However, I wouldn’t throw away those dockets just yet because if he does run in the Neptune he could easily run into a place.
VYTA DU ROC adv 33/1 now 12/1 (Coral)
This 7yo son of Lion Noir looks to be a super spot by Pricewise. Anyone who got on at 33s when he put him up back in February will be delighted with their lot and the money has come for him in a big way. The best price now available is now 12/1 with Coral and even that won’t last long the way things are going. The only worry is that Henderson has suggested the 4 miler as an alternative if the ground is quick, but I would imagine that the RSA is the race he is by far most likely to run in.
He ran a massive race in the Neptune last year on good ground, and only for his final flight blunder he would have given Windsor Park a proper race. He won here in a Grade 2 hurdle (16.5f soft) back in November 2014 so his ability to handle the track is not in question. He is a dual grade 2 hurdle winner and he landed his first Grade 2 over the bigger obstacles at Ascot (24f soft) last time out.
He is versatile regarding ground, he stays, he has jumped pretty well so far on his three chase starts to date and he has proven himself at the track. He ticks an awful lot of boxes, and those who are on at 33/1 can feel good about themselves heading into the race. For me the value is probably gone at this stage and as I have already backed Seeyouatmidnight I won’t be getting involved. If it comes up soft Vyta Du Roc will probably shorten even further and if his jumping holds up under pressure he looks sure to run a big race.
CHAMPAGNE WEST adv 25/1 now 25/1 (Stan James)
Pricewise put this 8yo son of Westerner up back in January after he ran an absolute cracker here in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, chasing home Village Vic off a mark of 150. He has already won twice at Cheltenham, two novice chases at 20.5f (good to soft) and 21f (soft). His three other previous visits had seen him come second twice and fourth in the Albert Bartlett back in 2014, and at the time he was put up by Pricewise he looked a shrewd pick at 25/1.
However, things have not gone as Philip Hobbs would have liked and a mistake littered run when pulled up in a Grade 3 chase here back in January (21f heavy) was followed by an even more worrying run when he fell at the second last at Kempton in a Grade 3 handicap off 154. He has now failed to complete on three of his four last starts and form figures of FP2F do not read well going into a race that provides a massive examination of a horse’s ability to jump at speed in a big field.
Whether he runs in the Ryanair is not even certain at the moment and he is entered in four different races, including a fanciful entry for the Gold Cup. He could turn up in one of the chase handicaps, or he could still turn up in the Ryanair, but no matter which race he goes to he will need to jump an awful lot better than he has done in his last couple of races. If he manages to put in a clear round he certainly has an engine, but it is hard to be bullish about his chances and he is best watched for now, even at odds of 25/1, in my opinion.
VALSEUR LIDO adv 14/1 now 8/1 (Ladbrokes)
This was a good pick by Pricewise back in January, but unfortunately for his backers in the Ryanair this 7yo son of Anzillero is now looking like heading to the Gold Cup after falling with the race at his mercy in the Irish Gold Cup won by Carlingford Lough at Leopardstown (24.5f heavy) on his last run.
That run has convinced connections that he has the necessary stamina for the gruelling test in the Gold Cup, and although he has failed to complete on his last couple of runs, he is a much better jumper on decent ground and he will likely get his preferred surface on Friday week.
With form in the book with the likes of Faugheen, Apache Stronghold and Djakadam this was a super spot by Pricewise, but unfortunately for Ryanair ante post backers it looks as though he is headed for the big one. If he does take his chance in the Ryanair he will be no forlorn hope but he probably has bigger fish to fry at the festival.
VROUM VROUM MAG adv 10/1 (nrnb) now 7/1 (Paddy Power)
Luckily this race was non-runner no bet when Pricewise put up this exciting 7yo daughter of Voix Du Nord for the World Hurdle, because she now looks almost certain to be rerouted to the Mares Hurdle after injuries forced Willie Mullins to shuffle his pack. She is just 5/4 for that race and she will be looking to follow in the hoofsteps of that wonderful mare Quevega. The only worry is her lack of form on good ground over timber, but she won on good to firm back in France in a 12f flat race so she should be okay.
SCEAU ROYAL adv 12/1 now 8/1 (William Hill)
Those who got on at 12/1 when Pricewise put this up back in February are in a strong position going into the race. He has shortened considerably and he is as low as 7/1 with the majority of bookmakers. This 4yo son of Doctor Dino has looked the real deal so far over timber for Nicky Henderson and since arriving from France he has been first past the post on 4 of his 5 runs, beaten a nose by Leoncavallo on his only defeat.
He has course form in the book and he won the Triumph Trial here back in December (17f soft), staying on well up the hill to hold off Adrien Du Pont by almost 2L. He followed that up with a smooth 7L success in a juvenile heat at Huntingdon (2m soft), but crucially he has also shown that he handles good ground with wins at Warwick and Chepstow (first past post but demoted to second).
Having looked back at his Cheltenham win the only negative I could find was a couple of average jumps in the middle part of the race. He has also thrown in a couple of mistakes on previous runs and in a race like the Triumph, where they will go lickety split from the get go, one poor jump can be very costly. If you are considering having a few quid on I would take the 8/1 because it is very doubtful that he is going to drift before the race, and if his jumping holds up he has the form in the book to go very close.
LET’S DANCE adv 16/1 now 14/1 (Ladbrokes)
One of five possible Triumph Hurdle runners for Willie Mullins in the Triumph Hurdle and she looks the yard’s second string if the bookies’ prices are to be believed. Pricewise put this filly up the day before she was due to run in her first Grade 1 at Leopardstown, presumably in the hope that she would win and her price would shorten dramatically. However, she could only manage third behind Footpad and Allblak Des Places, so her price has remained pretty much the same.
She had previously chased home one of the market leaders for this race, Ivanovich Gorbatov, on her Irish debut at Leopardstown and she had no apparent excuses for that near 3L defeat. She is bred to be a graded performer, and her dam was a listed hurdle winner and chased home Long Run in a couple of Graded races back in France.
I’m not sure I can see her reversing placings with the O’Brien horse, even on better ground, as that gelding looks sure to appreciate a decent surface too if his pedigree is to be believed. Unless she improves beyond all recognition on the better ground I think she could be punching above her weight here and I am willing to let her run at odds of 14/1. Given her powerful connections’ festival record she can’t be totally dismissed, but on all known form she looks up against it.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
ROAD TO RICHES adv 16/1 (nrnb) now 16/1 Bet365
Noel Meade’s charge found only Coneygree and Djakadam too good in last year’s renewal and he faces a battle with owner Michael O’Leary to get him to take his chance in the Gold Cup. The Ryanair has been mooted as a possible alternative, but Meade is adamant that won’t be a sufficient test for his 9yo son of Gamut and he is desperate for him to have another crack at the Gold Cup.
It is easy to see why Meade is so keen to run him over 3m+ as both of his Grade 1 chase victories have come over 24f. He was only 3L behind Coneygree last season and given better ground he would surely have a good chance of reversing the form with Djakadam who was just 2L ahead of him in second.
However, he was beaten over a dozen lengths by Don Cossack at Punchestown last May and it is that run that is probably the reason for Gigginstown considering the Ryanair. However, I think they would be mad not to have another crack at the Gold Cup with him given his run last year and if he takes his chance he surely must be in with an excellent place chance at the very least.