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The day is finally here! Having put up a variety of nice (and some not so nice!) ante-post selections for the Cheltenham Festival, I will give you a day-by-day run down of my thoughts and advice as the week draws on, and any bets to be had in addition to our ante-post positions.
I am going to work on the proviso of soft ground all over for day one, given the forecast for a band of rain to hit on Monday evening – but forecasts suggest not enough to turn the ground heavy.
The Mares Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase are races where I am struggling to recommend anything – Benie Des Dieux looks rock-solid, and while Carefully Selected looks worth taking on in the 3m 6f race, it is hard to know exactly who with, as stamina will be tested like never before for some here.
Chantry House – 11/2 EW (William Hill 7 places)
Fiddlerontheroof – 6/1 EW (William Hill 7 places)
Soviet Pimpernel – 28/1 EW (William Hill 7 places)
Having advised Abacadabras ante-post at 6/1, many of you will see the fact that I am advising a further three bets in the opener and feel I should have a word with myself. But when you consider that William Hill are going an outstanding 7 places for each-way terms, then in backing Chantry House and Fiddlerontheroof, you are essentially giving yourself two bets to nothing. Both have the ability to win this, and have had lovely preparations.
Asterion Forlonge won what is usually the best trial in Ireland, but seems to prefer better ground, jumps right, and ran a time very similar to the Spring Juvenile Hurdle on the card at Leopardstown that day, when everything went right for him. The horse he beat into second, Easywork, in my eyes is a soft ground 2m4f horse, so this effort can be marked down.
Shishkin will run very well, but isn’t a great price – which is a comment you can’t angle at Soviet Pimpernel, who at 28/1 is a wild price with 7 places to go at. A cracking course and distance second in November to Quel Destin, (who beat leading Champion Hurdle contender Call Me Lord subsequently,) when perhaps coming from further back than ideal. He has the look of a horse that has flown under the radar.
Esprit Du Large – 14/1 EW (Bet365)
We have Brewin’upastorm running for us here at 9/1, which looks handy, and I was tempted to suggest backing Fakir D’Oudairies at 9/2 with the ground in his favour, but in terms of adding a further string to our bow, then look no further than the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase winner Esprit Du Large at 14/1.
With so many front-runners in opposition, this looks ripe for something that can travel sweetly at pace and then stay on – characteristics that Evan Williams’ horse displayed in spades at Sandown before Christmas.
Having advised Discorama a few days ago at 9/1 on account of his run in last year’s National Hunt Chase, I see it necessary to also suggest backing the mare that arguably went through that race like much the best horse – Henry Daly’s Atlanta Ablaze. She was done no favours by Discorama at the second last, where she ultimately took a tired fall, but up until about 100 yards before that point she was hacking all over the field.
She has been brought back this season to win a decent Listed Mares Chase at Market Rasen fresh, and on the back of another break and a wind operation, she can outrun her odds.
Supasundae – 12/1 EW Bet365 (generally 4 places)
Darver Star, advised at 28/1, is still a best priced 12/1 in places and I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off backing him now. But it is the horse that was just over 4 lengths behind Darver Star in the Irish Champion Hurdle that I am quickly coming around to, in a race where I’m sure many a pundit/punter/expert has gone around and around with also.
This will be Supasundae’s sixth visit to the Cheltenham Festival, and ultimately having his first go at the Champion Hurdle at the age of 10 smacks of missing the boat, but he looked as if he badly needed the run at Leopardstown in February, as he always does. While, if you think back to the last two runs of last season, he beat Buveur D’Air at Aintree and then chased him home at Punchestown on ground plenty lively enough for him.
Not forgetting he is a 3-time open company hurdle Grade 1 winner, something that none of the other runners can claim.
Champagne Mystery – 28/1 EW (888Sport 5 places)
Hopefully you are on Imperial Aura at 25/1 and Galvin at 20/1 as advised, and they will surely give you a decent run for your money. Deyrann De Carjac wasn’t declared unfortunately, so it might be useful to give ourselves a third arrow here – and that comes in the form of the Nicky Henderson-trained Champagne Mystery.
Wildly impressive on chase debut at Aintree at the start of the season, he has then had two starts since, both eye-catching, and ran in the same Fakenham novice chase that Henderson’s 2018 runner-up Rather Be ran in before coming here. Champagne Mystery was second to Grand Annual favourite Greaneteen at Fakenham, and looks very suited to the rigours of this test.