Monday, 14 March 2016

Cheltenham Day One

Well it's here the first day of the Cheltenham Festival - On your marks!! - The big roar of the crowd will ring out at 1.30pm tomorrow and battle will commence with the bookies!!.

I will be covering the races as I have done all season by concentrating mainly on the two stables that we have been following ie Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton. However I will also be looking at each race individually in order to provide my unique insight into finding some other winners along the way and commenting on anything else that catches my interest over the festival week.

It promises to be a fantastic weeks racing and please feel free to comment below on anything festival related.

Don't forget I have no connection to either stable so there will be no inside information whatsoever - it's purely down to looking at what has been said in the past about the stables runners by connections and form.

So without further ado lets get down to business.

Cheltenham - Good to soft, soft in places. 
There is a real chance that there will be some patches of good ground on the course tomorrow - so getting faster all the time.

1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle

Not sure that either of the Skelton runners is good enough to win this and the best they can hope for in my view is a place. Mister Miyagi is ideally suited by a strong run race which he will definitely get here. He is genuine, a very good jumper and the stable think plenty of him. He won a Class 3 maiden hurdle at Cheltenham on his first start back on 23/10 in a pleasing fashion and then won his next start on 28/11 at Taunton equally well. The going and distance should be perfect today and I don't think anything can be read into the jockey bookings as Ian Popham rode him last time out.
North Hill Harvey started the season finishing 2nd to Barters Hill at Huntingdon where after making a mistake two out was allowed to come home in his own time with there being 21 lengths back to the third horse home. He jumps well and the stable have been impressed with him and he showed improved form next time out when winning at Cheltenham in a Claas 3 NH novices hurdle over 2m 1f on soft going. He always travelled well there and after making headway from two out he took up the lead after the last flight to quicken away for a four and a half length victory. He then ran another good race when second at Huntingdon to Ma Du Fou.

Willie Mullins Min bids to follow in the footsteps of stablemates Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan and make it Mullins sixth win in the race. He has warned that Min is not as good as the latter two in what could be a fair renewal, Min hasn't run in the last 45 days which so many winners down the years have done but that stat didn't stop Douvan last season and it's looks a likely scenario again. Nicky Henderson has saddled plenty of horses who’ve gone very close in this race in recent years(last win 23 years ago), and his Altior and Buveur d’Air should be bang there at the finish.

2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

No stables entries in this and Douvan looks to be on a level above any of his six rivals. Sizing John looks the pick of the Irish runners behind Douvan and it is a weakish looking renewal of this and it should be a penalty kick for Douvan.

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Southfield Theatre finished 2nd in last seasons RSA after making a mistake at the top of the hill and in doing so suffered a nasty injury. He'd been beaten just a nose in the previous years Pertemps so clearly acts at the track. He prefers better ground so the more it dries out the better for him. He needed the run on his return against Coneygree and was then disappointing at Aintree when 4th of 4 behind Don Poli when fitted with a tongue strap. Nicholls has never won the race and no doubt he would like it on his cv but whether this is the horse to do it I don't know but he should outrun his odds of 20/1 as with a better start to the season he would have been higher than 150c.
The leading players look to be Out Sam, Doctor Harper, Kruzhlinin and Holywell. Whilst Indian Castle 4th in the race last season off a 5lb higher mark,when hampered when staying, on wears cheek pieces and 33/1 is good value. The best of the Irish looks to be Morning Assembly who although 9 probably is capable of further improvement given his previous form, but there are 24 runners and this race will be as competitive as ever.

3.30 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Recent defections due to injury of last year’s first two Faugheen and Arctic Fire are big losses to the
season’s top 2m hurdle and with last seasons third and fourth also not in attendance we can break new ground. Willie Mullins still has Annie Power, Sempre Medici and Nichols Canyon at his disposal but it’s an open contest and any one of the 12 could win on their day and it may be worth backing a couple at ew prices. My Tent Or Yours and The New One have been placed previously  so they should be respected, although they ain't getting any younger. Peace And Co is overpriced at 20/1 on last seasons form and Camping Ground and Lil Rockerfeller could also outrun their odds long odds and it's an intriguing race.

4.10 OLBG Mares Hurdle
Tara Point has her 5th run for the stable and her first of the season having not run for 441 days. She is a nice horse that will appreciate better going so the more it dries out the better
Harry Skelton takes the ride on Stephanie Frances so you would imagine she is the stables first string in this. She finished 2nd to The New One on her return and has since fallen on both her chase starts. Back in a hurdle, she has winning form at the track but she is probably up against it with several others having shown better form.
Willie Mullins will no doubt be keen to keep his winning run in this going and Vroum Vroum Mag and Gitane Du Berlais are his two against the field. Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle both placed in this last season should go well again with the latter reverting back to hurdles and she's the best value for me at 14/1. The Govaness, a non runner last season, will have plenty of supporters too.

4.50 146th Year of the National Hunt Chase Challenge Trophy
Paul Nicholls runs Vicente here and has booked the services of the talented Will Biddick which is a definite plus. Vicente is suited by going left handed and good ground so he should like the conditions. He is a winner of 3 chase races this season and he's a horse that goes well fresh so his 95 day break is in his favour. He stays well and his last 3 runs have been at the track. He is the highest rated in the field on 153c ie 4lb higher than the next best and that usually is a strong pointer in this as they go off at level weights. Provided his jumping holds up he should go very close and 16/1 is an excellent price.
Minella Rocco(Derek O'Connor) is an obvious contender representing connections with a particularly good record in this race but 6yo's have a very poor record in this. Ballychorus(Mr S. Clements) has decent form claims and comes from a yard whose two previous Cheltenham Festival runners finished first and third. The ability of the Jockeys plays a big part in this race and Mr J J Codd Noble Endeavour, Ms Nina Carberry Southfield Royale and Mr Sam Waley-Cohen Definitely Red should all be bang there come the finish.

5.30 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase
The last race of the day and Nicholls saddles two in this handicap which he won with a 5yo Chapoturgeon in 2009.
Bouvreuil, another 5yo, was 2nd to Qualando in the Fred Winter last season and he was expected to improve for the run when returning at Cheltenham in mid November. He was then given a very tough assignment at Sandown in the Grade 1 Racing Post Henry VIII novices chase in which he was poor 5th and last of the finishers behind the useful Ar Mad. He then beat Vyta Du Roc at Doncaster in receipt of 11lbs on his favoured soft going before finishing 5th of 5 back at that track 3 weeks later in a Grade 2 novice when said not to be at his best. He is the mount of Sam Twiston Davies so is presumably the stable first string and he should appreciate this step up in distance
Katgary has run well at the festival before when second in the 2014 Fred Winter. He has been lightly raced this season and should run well for Nick Schofield who maintains the partnership.
Willow's Saviour is one of Dan Skelton's core horses having won the Ladbroke hurdle a few years ago. After a while on the sidelines he returned at Warwick in a 4 runner Class 3 novices chase which he won by a neck from Venetia Williams Aso. He was then set a tough task in a Grade 1 at Sandown when 4th behind Ar Mad, one place in front of Bouvreuil above before returning to winning ways in a Class 4 novice chase. 
Although this is a handicap there is very little between them in the ratings with 5lb covering the entire field of 20 runners but two who look like fighting out the finish are Aloomomo and Javert (who is unbeaten over fences when completing the course) both have progressive profiles and the latter looks to be the better value at 16/1.

2.50 - Southfield Theatre 0.50 points ew @ 20/1 with several bookmakers
4.10 - Bitofapuzzle 0.50 points ew @ 14/1 with Bet365, William Hill and Betvictor
4.50 - Vicente 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with several bookmakers
5.30 - Javert 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with William Hill - 14/1 elsewhere

Good Luck!!

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