Cheltenham – Day 1 Best Bets


Tuesday 11th March 2014 – Champion Hurdle Day

Life for us fellow humans can be quite mundane, the necessity to eat, sleep and earn some money along the way can be stressful, can at times be laborious and due to the desideratum of this process we live many of our days in a monochrome, monotonous and uninspiring manner. However, I hasten to add my life is not defined like this or will ever be, I just feel the need to encapsulate this time of year as it brings colour, life, anticipation and hope.

What am I eluding to? The Cheltenham Festival of course…the changing of the season from winter to spring is also a fresh awakening that will shake the core of any discerning racing fan.

The selections below are judged on mark, form, ground, trainer form, trends and from my notebook which I keep a log of all performances from key races. Consequently, I focus on the individual horse I’m selecting and not the whole field. It is important to note that each horse has been given a rating by myself and all the angles previously mentioned have been taken into consideration for the whole field and then I discount them one by one until I have 1 or 2 selections remaining.


Skybet Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 110y

It’s quite a tradition for this to be one of the biggest cheers of the festival and this has long been one of my favourite festival races; one in which I have been successful in picking the winner.

Starting with the important trends for this race one would imagine that the old adage a horse/trainer in form is always a positive no matter what the handicapper believes. Indeed, 15 of the last 17 winners of this race had won on their previous start and it seems a run and a win within forty days of the festivals is also a positive. As always many more trends can be looked at but I always find  it can ‘muddy the water’ and leave you with far more questions than answers.

For my first selection I’ve selected a galloping type who travels well and has illustrated fluidity when jumping over timber. The trainer Kim Bailey has had a season to remember and this race could be landed by one of the most approachable, articulate trainers in the game and who is quite simply a genuinely nice guy. Un Ace will be looking for good ground and judging from the current weather forecast it seems he maybe in luck.

This Voix Du Nord gelding has some quality half brothers with the likes of Tarquin Du Seuil and a horse he will be facing in this race Vaniteux who hails from the Nicky Henderson yard. The key for Un Ace is to have good ground, the pace and injection of pace the horse has shown is an ability to stay and accelerate in the finish and I think this will prove to be a huge advantage at the Cleeve Hill track.

Un Ace showed he had ability when landing a novice hurdle at Doncaster last time out, the performance from that race illustrated how well he travels but more progress will need to be made if he is to land this grade 1 prize; particularly ironing out his jumping. However, I’m willing to put him up here, on good ground at a huge price he is one that could surprise us all.

An each way bet at 51.0 each way with BetVictor is advised


My second selection is a horse I previously mentioned hailing from Nicky Henderson’s yard and who is my previous selections half brother Vaniteux. Judging on this horses profile I believe he could be one of the most progressive in the field. His recent win at Doncaster illustrated the potential he has over timber and also reaffirmed my belief that a galloping track like Doncaster is always a positive when judging how well these novices will take to a track like Cheltenham.

Vaniteux also has a win to his name at Sandown which invariably denotes another positive when looking at the climb/hill to the finish, he also beat Vibralto Valtat on that day who ran a credible 3rd on Saturdayin the Imperial Cup. Therefore, you could say the form has been rubber stamped (to a degree). Vaniteux will be primed and ready by Nicky Henderson who as we know has a terrific record around the Prestbury course and at around 10/1 it really is an each way steal.

Advise an each way bet at 13.0 each way with Bet365


Racing Post Arkle Challenge trophy Chase (Grade 1) 2m

Trifolium is probably my best bet of this year’s festival. It’s quite clear that he has come of age over fences and seems to be relishing his racing this year. His last performance in the Frank Ward Arkle Chase at Leopardstown last time out clearly showed a horse on the upgrade, jumping consistently throughout and a horse that travelled on the bridle with a high cruising speed. Going back in time his run at Cheltenham in 2012 in the supreme on good ground illustrates that he handles the track finishing a very credible 3rd that day.

Some of his recent form particularly his penultimate start was quite clearly due to jockey error in giving him too much to do late on and it seems that the tactic of running him closer to the pace is now tactically the best thing to do. I believe that his jumping will put the others to the ‘sword’ leaving them in his wake as he jumps the second last.

Bryan Cooper after his last performance at Leopardstown mentioned, “Trifolium ran too free in Navan [when beaten by Felix Yonger] and he never had a chance to settle. The last day in Leopardstown the front two went off so far in front it was hard to peg them back. We didn’t want to let Defy Logic to get as far ahead today.”

He added: “He has beaten them all off here and there’s only Champagne Fever left here I guess. He is entitled to go for the Arkle at Cheltenham now.”

Trifolium at 5.5 to win with Bet365
Time for Rupert at 13.0 each way with Paddy Power


Baylis and Harding Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 110y

Writing this before the declarations are official can be quite tricky but my selection appears to be going for this race and that’s Time for Rupert. The first thing to mention is that the handicapper is certainly willing to give him a chance, with his mark not changing from 138 since his last run and a mark which I feel is extremely lenient for a chaser who has been rated as high as 161 and averaging around the 150 mark leaves him with a superb opportunity.

Time for Rupert has a solid record at Cheltenham and ran a blinder when finishing fifth in the 2011 Gold Cup Chase, that quite clearly illustrates the class this 10 year old possessed. However, it is worth questioning whether his ability and desire to run has dwindled somewhat as he gets older? Moreover he is now a ‘little long in the tooth’ but I’m convinced he still enjoys his racing.

Firstly look at his performance in his previous run, he jumped boldly and enthusiastically, he was prominent throughout and lacked the stamina/pace to follow through to the finish line but still plugged on for second. I’m willing to give him a squeak at a nice each way price.

Ackertac is also a very interesting runner here, his current mark of 143 is certainly workable and with the ground on his side I’m expecting a big run. Tim Vaughan’s yard is in terrific form and his jockey booking of ‘Dickie’ Johnson looks a clue in itself. This Anshan gelding may be at his upper level of stamina over the three mile trip but he absolutely loves Cheltenham and has a good record at the track.

He ran in the rewardsforracing handicap chase last year at the festival and was catching Rajdhani Express up the hill in the finish losing by a neck over the shorter 2m 4f trip, judging on that performance the three miles may well work to his favour. A dark horse no doubt and at odds of 25/1 I’m sure he’ll run a credible race at an each way price.

Time for Rupert at 13.0 each way with Paddy Power
Ackertac at 21.0 to win with Paddy Power


The Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 110y

The race of a lifetime is on the cards here, these nine runners bring quality which will be hard to replicate in years to come. The proverbial ‘cigarette paper’ splits the top five in the betting and I’m intrigued to see how the pace will affect the tactics here, Captain Cee Bee is sure to set a thoroughly searching gallop and that’s why I believe My Tent or Yours will have the ‘turn of foot’ to deliver a breathtaking win for his backers.

Form lines/angles point to a horse that needs a strong gallop, a horse who likes to pick them off one by one in the finish. AP McCoy knows what it takes to win the champion hurdle and his ability to cajole and kid this Desert Prince gelding to victory will be essential. Many pundits/writers have come to the conclusion that had The New One jumped the final fence cleaner in the Christmas Hurdle and not lack the momentum generated by that jump he would of won. I, for one, disagree entirely as you must give credit to the winner.

My Tent or Yours illustrated how accurate he jumps and when accelerating and how deadly his turn of foot is. The progression he has shown this season coupled with the superb trainer/jockey combination leads me to my conclusion that he will be hard to beat.

My Tent or Yours at 4.5 to win with Paddy Power


Une Ace at 51.0 each way with BetVictor
Vaniteux  at 13.0 each way with Bet365
Trifolium at 5.5 to win with Bet365
Time for Rupert at 13.0 each way with Paddy Power
Ackertac at 21.0 to win with Paddy Power
My Tent or Yours at 4.5 to win with Paddy Power