We had a decent opening day at Cheltenham, with Altior winning, Ordinary World placing and Buveur D’Air justifying my confidence with a commanding win in the big one. Hopefully Day 2 proves to be equally as profitable, and first on the list is the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
Neptune Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh are the combination to follow in the Neptune, winning it four times in total and twice in the last three years. They rely on Bacardys this year, and he looked a stayer when beating Bunk Off Early last time at Leopardstown (18f sft). Bunk Off early didn’t frank the form in the Supreme though, and that has to be a worry. Neon Wolf arrives with a big reputation, and he has looked very talented on all his starts this season.
He is likely to go off favourite, but at bigger odds it might be worth chancing the only mare in the race, Shattered Love. Gordon Elliott’s 6yo daughter of Yeats gets a 7lb allowance, and with a rating of 139 that puts her right in the mix. She is a half sister to Irish Cavalier and Make A Track, so stamina should be her strong suit. She will enjoy the drying ground too, and at odds of 14/1 she could run a big race.
Stevos’ Selection: Shattered Love e/w @ 14/1 Paddy Power
RSA Novices’ Chase
Acapella Bourgeois has been well backed after his wide margin win last time, but I am not convinced he is up to this level on ground like this. He won’t get as easy a lead this time either, and I much prefer the chances of Heron Heights at a much bigger price. Henry De Bromhead’s 8yo son of Heron Island ran poorly last time (16f soft) but trip and ground were well and truly against him.
This fella is a good ground horse, and he won over course and distance on his penultimate start in a class 2 novice on nice ground. He seemed to relish the hill, and he was over 4L too good for the talented Tiger Roll. Philip Enright is back on board and he has form figures of 3111 when riding Heron Heights. He undoubtedly has a bit to find on the figures, but at 33/1 he is worth backing each way.
Stevos’ Selection: Heron Heights e/w @ 33/1 Bet365
This ultra competitive handicap has thrown up a few surprises in recent years, with only one single figure priced winner since 2009. Small stakes at big odds each way is the correct approach in races of this nature, and the one I am interested in at a price is Scoir Mear for David and Tom Mullins. This fella can be backed at 25s, but I think this good ground could suit and he has some serious form in the book.
Automated is just 10/1, yet Scoir Mear was less than 2L behind him at Navan and he is 2lb better off here. He has had very few chances on decent ground over timber, and his best run came when hosing up on yielding ground at Galway (21f) off 113. He has gone close off higher marks on his last two runs, and at odds of 25/1 he can run a big race.
Stevos’ Selection: Scoir Mear e/w @ 25/1 Skybet NB
Just like Altior yesterday, Douvan is difficult to oppose in this 2 mile chase. Willie Mullins’ pride and joy hasn’t put a hoof wrong over fences, and he is unbeaten in 13 starts since moving to Ireland from France. He has a serious engine, and he absolutely hosed up in the Arkle last year. Barring accidents, a similar scenario is highly likely here.
You won’t get rich quick backing him though, and with 10 runners in the field an each way interest is advised on God’s Own. This 9yo has been admirably consistent, and he lowered the colours of Vautour at Punchestown last April to land his second Grade 1. He will like the drying ground, Tom George’s horses are running well and at odds of 14/1 he could be the one to chase Douvan home.
Stevos’ Selection: God’s Own e/w @ 14/1 Bet365
Cross Country Chase
This is not a race I usually have a bet on, and I don’t have a particularly strong opinion. One that could run well is the Gordon Elliott trained 12yo Bless The Wings. He was runner up last year off 141 and though he has been out of sorts in recent starts, the return to Cheltenham could easily spark him back to life. He chased Cantlow home here back in December off 154, and off 2lb lower here he could reward each way support again.
Stevos’ Selection: Bless The Wings e/w @ 16/1 Ladbrokes
Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle
This race has been dominated by Paul Nicholls in recent seasons, and in Dolos he has a horse capable of completing a hat trick of wins. This son of Kapgarde has been lightly raced and highly tried, but he hasn’t had many chances at 2 miles on good ground. His sole start on those conditions resulted in a wide margin win at Chepstow, and he could be very well treated off 134. An each way interest is advised at 12/1.
There has been a lot of talk about Prospectus for this race, and Ruby is booked. However, if you fancy him then you have to fancy Dakota Moirette too, and he is 9lb better off with that rival for a 1L defeat last time. Gordon Elliott is already on the board, and he could be set to have a big week. He can be backed at 20/1, and a big run would come as no surprise.
Stevos’ Selections: Dolos e/w @12/1 BetVictor NAP Dakota Moirette e/w @ 20/1 William Hill
This is another race that I tend to give a wide berth to, as bumper form is awfully hard to judge. The majority of the Irish horses have been running on bottomless ground, and more often than not that form doesn’t replicate itself on a quicker surface. One horse that has already proven that he is effective on good ground is the Alan Fleming trained Bakmaj. He won easily on good ground last time and the drying conditions here will hold no fears.
This Barry Connell owned 5yo son of Balko was only a couple of lengths behind Carter McKay on his debut, and on better ground he could well get even closer. Denis O’Regan takes over in the saddle, and he has plenty of festival experience. Carter McKay is a 9/2 shot, yet Bakmaj can be backed at 16s. At those sort of odds he represents decent each way value, and he is a tentative each way selection.
Stevos’ Selection: Bakmaj e/w @ 16/1 Coral