I will be covering every race on every day of the Cheltenham festival for Bettingtools, and as ever I will be trying to find the best value bets. Hopefully we can find you a winner or two, and first up is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Ballyandy and Melon are fighting it out for favouritism in this race, and of those two I would prefer the chances of the more battle hardened Ballyandy. However, this is not just a two horse race by any means, and I like the look of a couple at more generous odds. Bunk Off Early really impressed me with how he jumped and travelled in the Deloitte at Leopardstown (18f), and he did well to go so close given that he pulled so hard early on. A fast run race over 2 miles on better ground could be ideal for him, and he has to have every chance at odds of 6/1.
High Bridge is another horse that has impressed me this season, and he has an interesting profile for this race. He ran well in the bumper here last year and he was won impressively on all three hurdle starts. He has a bit to find on the figures with the principals, but there could be more to come and at odds of 16/1 he is a definite dark horse in an intriguing race.
Stevos’ Selections: Bunk Off Early @ 6/1 BetVictor. High Bridge e/w @ 16/1 Coral
I have tried my very best to see a way that Altior can be beaten in this race, but barring accidents he wins doing handstands. He is one of the most exciting horses in the sport right now, and although he is not a betting proposition he is still well worth watching. He has a high cruising speed, he is a spectacular jumper and he possesses a devastating turn of foot. Hopefully he wins and sets up a mouth-watering clash with Douvan in the Champion Chase next season.
His eight rivals will be likely fighting it out for minor honours, and at a huge price perhaps Ordinary World can reward each way support. Henry De Bromhead’s 7yo son of Milan has been transformed by the switch to fences, and he chased Min home last time on his first chase start at the highest level. He has earned an official rating of 146, just a pound inferior to second favourite Charbel who is 10/1. Ordinary World will appreciate the return to better ground and at odds of 50/1 he could sneak a place.
Stevos’ Selections: Altior @ 2/7 Paddy Power. Ordinary World e/w @ 50/1 William Hill
Ultima Handicap Chase
The first handicap of the festival looks as competitive a heat as ever, and you could make a case for any amount of them. Near the head of the market Holywell has attracted support, and given his festival record it is easy to see why. Jonjo O’Neill would have trained him with this race in mind, and off 5lb lower than when second last year he ought to go well at odds of 12/1.
At a bigger price, A Good Skin looks interesting off a nice low weight near the foot of the handicap. Tom George’s 8yo son of Presenting loves decent ground, and he was a good second in the Kim Muir last season off 138. He has never finished out of the first five in four runs here on decent ground (form figures 4251), and he is 4lb lower than for his good effort here last year. He could well outrun his odds of 33/1.
Stevos’ Selections: Holywell e/w @ 12/1 Skybet. A Good Skin e/w @ 33/1 Bet365.
I am really sweet on Buveur D’Air for this race, as you will know if you read my ‘Stats That Matter’ piece, and in my opinion he should be favourite. Nicky Henderson also runs Brain Power, but he has yet to prove he is a Grade 1 level hurdler. Yanworth is the current market leader but his jumping has not convinced and you can’t afford to make many mistakes if you want to win a Champion Hurdle.
Buveur D’Air has beaten the main Irish hope Petit Mouchoir on the previous two occasions they have met, and he was well ahead of him in the Supreme before beating him again at Aintree. At a huge price Cyrus Darius could run a nice race. He looked a horse with a bright future when hacking up in a Grade 2 at Aintree in 2015 before injury intervened. He looked back to something like his best last time on unsuitable ground and he could outrun his odds of 40/1 for Brian Hughes and Malcom Jefferson.
Stevos’ Selections: Buveur D’Air @ 4/1 Ladbrokes NAP. Cyrus Darius e/w @ 40/1 Coral.
This is an absolute cracker of a race with some big reputations on the line. The Ricci pair of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini take each other on, with the former hoping to repeat her win in this race last year. Apple’s Jade is another to consider, though Limini comfortably had her measure last time. However, I won’t be backing any of those three at the prices, and at 33/1 I think Midnight Jazz has the form to figure.
Ben Case’s likeable 7yo daughter of Midnight Legend has been ultra consistent this season, and she only just failed to hold off the late challenge of Vroum Vroum Mag in a Grade 2 last time. She has run respectably on both previous visits to Cheltenham, and while she has a bit to find on the figures she has done nothing but improve with each run this season. At odds of 33/1 she should give each way players a run for their money.
Stevos’ Selection: Midnight Jazz e/w @ 33/1 Boylesports
National Hunt Chase
This Grade 2 four mile marathon requires stamina in abundance, and it is a race in which official ratings can often go out the window. Nigel Twiston Davies runs two, and I prefer the chances of Ballycross as opposed to the shorter priced Calett Mad. Twiston Davies won this with a 129 rated 6yo called Tricky Trickster back in 2009, and Ballycross has a similar profile.
He was pulled up last time, but that run came too soon after two fine handicap efforts at Chepstow. On both those runs (23.5f) he was doing all his best work at the finish, and he shaped as though crying out for further. His pedigree also suggests that stamina could be his strong suit, and in an open race he could run well at odds of 40/1.
Stevos’ Selection: Ballycross e/w @ 40/1 BetVictor
Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
This 2m 4f handicap chase is a very open looking race and Foxtail Hill looks like going off as favourite for Nigel Twiston Davies. He is only 7/1 though, and at a much bigger price I think Powersbomb could be worth an each way interest. This fella should really be coming here on the back of three straight wins, and he went agonisingly close last time despite almost falling two out.
He has been a revelation since sent chasing by Brian McMahon, and he has booked a top class pilot in Jamie Codd. His best recent form has come at 17f, but he showed when a staying on 3rd up the Galway hill (21f) over timber last year that he will stay this trip. He can currently be backed at 25/1, and if he puts in a clear round he should be there or thereabouts at the business end.
Stevos’ Selection: Powersbomb e/w @ 25/1 Bet365 NB