One of the most hotly anticipated events on the racing calendar begins this Tuesday as the Cheltenham Festival gets underway and our top tipster is here with all the information you need ahead of day one at Prestbury Park.
- 7 of the last 8 winners all previously have won a graded race
- Won 50% of hurdle races
- 17 of the last 18 winners were aged 5 or 6
- Deloite/Chanelle Pharma Hurdle, 2021 Winner Appreciate It, Ballyadam (2nd), Blue Lord (3rd)
- Willie Mullins normally throws plenty of darts but has won 4 of the last 8 renewals, this side of the Irish sea and Nicky Henderson has won 2 of the last 5.
Appreciate It is likely to go off a pretty short price to get favourite backers off to a flying start but it`s interesting only one clear fav has actually won since 2004.
Despite his trainer’s record in the race that’s not the only statistic counting against his chance with no beaten horses in last season’s champion bumper having won since 2012, add in that no horse has done the Leopardstown Xmas G1/Supreme double.
Backers also have to worry about him being a year older than the ideal age range for this race. Looking at the horse himself though he’s unbeaten in 3 starts over hurdles this season having beaten most of the Irish challenge and ran a solid 2nd place in last season’s champion bumper so deserves to be top-rated in the field.
All those races have come on soft underfoot conditions though and there has to be a concern he could just be vulnerable to something who has a bit more pace on this drying spring ground.
Metier heads the home challenge; the Harry Fry runner is another who is unbeaten on 3 starts over hurdles and won the Tolworth in heavy conditions last time out. He’s had plenty of time to recover but it’s still a concern the record of winners from that race than winning at Cheltenham despite the recent upturn back on a sounder surface.
He has to be respected but I just feel the Irish form overall comes from a stronger stock of horses and for that reason, I’d be looking to look elsewhere. The other main British hope looks to be The Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory. Connections have added cheek pieces which is a little off-putting for me and as we have seen in the past by plenty of good ones it`s a tough ask to do the Betfair-Supreme double.
Blue Lord looks to be the Willie Mullins second string but we know that`s no negative based on previous festival data. He has mixed it with the best of Ireland in the shape of his stablemate and the Ballymore favourite Bob Olinger so his form has substance to it.
He was also at a much earlier stage in his career than those horses and should have more improvement to come. He was keen early at Leopardstown last time and was caught out of position when the pace quickened.
I’d expect him to be able to settle in a handy position this time of what is likely to be a more favourable fast pace and it would not be a surprise to see him get closer on this occasion.
His sire Blue Bresil has not had many at the course but it`s interesting his progeny have a decent record of 4 wins and some placed efforts mainly thanks to the likes of Le Prezien and Ibis Du Rheu.
The other horse I’m keen to have on my side here is the 2nd from Leopardstown race Ballyadam. Yes, he has been put in his place by the favourite on 2 occasions but he got much closer last time despite a final flight blunder. He looks the type to improve for this spring ground and fits the profile of many past winners.
Each Way: Blue Lord
- A victory last time out, last 11 winners.
- Won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase, 15 of the last 21.
- Raced at Cheltenham in the past, 13 of the last 16 winners had won (or been placed)
- 11 of last 13 already rated 151+
- Arkle Novice Chase, 2021 Winner Energumene, Franco De Port (2nd)
- Nicky Henderson 6 victories and numerous place efforts to his name
- Willie Mullins Won 4 of the last 6
With the late withdrawal of Energumene the race has lost some of its edge. Last season’s Supreme winner Shiskin has taken the switch to the larger obstacles in his stride being unbeaten in his 3 starts this season.
There looks no obvious reason to oppose the Nicky Henderson trained runner who is banker material for those looking to play him in multiples. Allmankind is also 3 from 3 over fences but he has plenty to find with his main rival on overall form and I`d be keen to take him on in some way.
This keen traveller is likely to be the pace to the race and I can see him setting things up for something who sits of the pace slightly and become vulnerable himself late on.
The horse who I think is most likely to benefit and makes appeal in a forecast or without the favourite market is Franco De Port. The Willie Mullins trained runner was disappointing when well fancied for last season’s Coral cup which is a slight concern however he may have found that large field experience against him at that stage of his career.
He won his first 2 chase starts including the Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas before only finding Enegumene to strong last time when making a serious mistake early at the Dublin Racing Festival. If Paul Townend can get him into a nice early rhythm, he could just be the one to out run his odds.
Each Way: Franco De Port
- Previously ran at the Cheltenham Festival 9 of the last 11
- Wearing headgear 8 of the last 9
- Novice or second season over fences
- All of the last 11 winners finished Top 6 last time out
- Last 6 winners ran at Cheltenham that season
- Normally a race for the English Nicky Henderson, David Pipe & Jonjo O`Neill have trained multiple winners
The market looks to have this about right with the Kim Bailey trained runner Happygolucky being well found in recent weeks. This light raced novice looks to have a nice profile for this being a course and distance winner over the larger obstacles when last seen back in December.
He also put in a good run to finish 4th in last season’s Martin Pipe. Conditions look ideal and it`s hard not to see him going close. Scottish raider Aye Right has some top-class handicap form to his name this season including as 2nd place finish in the Ladbroke Trophy.
Good ground will suit but I think he may just be better suited to a flatter course. One who will have no issues with the course is the Nicky Henderson trained Pym.
He didn’t run much of a race in last season’s RSA chase but prior had put in a bold display when beating Imperial Aura. Nicky Henderson is a master at targeting these races and I have the impression this has been a long term target this season and the light campaign is no surprise.
Good ground will be in his favour and he has gone well fresh in the past with a record of 3 wins from 6 and 2 places when returning from 2 months or more. He is unproven in a larger field may be down to his prominent racing style but this is a smaller field for the race than usual and at the prices is worth having on your side.
The lightly raced Alnadam put in arguably his best performance to date when winning at Sandown last time, he could be flattered by that heavy ground success though and I`d be worried about his lack of course experience compared to a couple.
Milan Native won last season’s Kim Muir of an 8lb lower mark and would have chances if arriving in the same form. That has to be the worry though after a couple of below-par efforts. He`s had a wind opp since but others look more solid on this type of surface.
Vintage Clouds is fully exposed being an 11-year-old but he appeals as the type who could pick up a place. Cheek pieces go on for the first-time, headgear always good in this race. He ran 8th in this last season but is now 8lb lower and hasn’t been running to badly this season.
Each Way: Vintage Clouds
- A victory last time out, 8 of the last 10 also unbeaten that season
- Previous Grade 1 winner, rated 157+
- 12 or fewer runs over hurdles
- 6 of the last 12 winners ran in the Christmas Hurdle Kempton, 2021 Winner Silver Streak, Epatante (2nd)
- Between them Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have won 9 of the last 12 Champion hurdles
A fascinating renewal of the race and one in which promises to be the highlights of the week in terms of both race and after story.
The unbeaten 10 from 10 Honeysuckle was the winner of last season’s Mares hurdle has taken her form to another level again this season including a comfortable victory when beating Abacadabras in the Irish Champion last time.
She’s hard to falter on those efforts but the slight concern for me is this turning into more of speed test than she has seen in the past. The quicker ground is a concern and at the likely short price, I`m happy to look elsewhere.
The other mare in the field is last season’s champion hurdle winner Epatante. She was slightly disappointing when beaten by Silver Streak but that looked to be a case of the favourite not running to her best that day and you would expect her to turn that form around on this occasion.
Drying ground is most in her favour of the market principals and she would be the one for me out the front 3 in the market. It would be a great story if Goshen can right last seasons Triumph Hurdle final flight mishap for connections.
He had the race won that day and looked set to go on to better things this season. That has not been the case though until last time out when bouncing back to what looked like the Goshen we knew when comfortably beating the solid graded performer Song For Someone at Wincanton.
That was run under pretty testing conditions just like last seasons Triumph and for me he`s just not the same horse away from those types of underfoot surfaces. Willie Mullins runs 3 in a bid to uphold hid fine record in the day 1 highlight.
James Du Berlais is unraced in the UK or Ireland and adds a could be anything to the race but the yards main hope looks to be last season’s second Sharjah.
He needs to find a couple of lengths with the mares in this line-up but he was coming from an unpromising position in last seasons champion hurdle and with the likely quicker ground playing to his strengths I expect him to run a big race once more.
The other who looks a bit bigger in the market than he should is Abacadabras. He has work to do with Honeysuckle and has proven himself hard to win with here at Cheltenham the last couple of occasions.
That said he was taking on the like of Envoi Allen and Shiskin which is no easy task so back on a sound surface he is another I want to be under these conditions.
Each Way: Sharjah
- Market leaders worth following, Fav or 2nd Fav won on 10 occasions
- Previously won over the distance, 12 of the last 13 winners had won over at least 2m4f
- Won or placed against the boys in a graded race,10 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2
- The Previous seasons renewal
- Willie Mullins, 9 victories from the 13 renewals of the race. Irish-trained mares (11 of last 13)
It’s hard to not like the chances Concertista here and she is taken to continue her trainer’s excellent record in the race.
The 7-year-old already has a victory and second-place finish to her name at the last 2 festivals and the comfortable manner of her 2 successes this season point to her being a better horse since stepping up to this type of trip.
Ground conditions look fine and with her holding most of the field on various form lined is expected to be tough to beat.
Roksana arguably has the best form of these having consistently mixed it with some of the best stayers in England this season and was only beaten 12 lengths in this race last year behind Honeysuckle.
The big concern for me though is she is likely to find things happening a little too quickly for her at a crucial stage and that`s enough for me to not be with her at likely odds.
At fancy odds Floressa could be the one to hit the frame, she`s well suited to this type of test on a quicker surface and might have a bit of improvement in her still.
Each Way: Floressa
- First or unplaced in last start
- Last run not in a handicap and may have been against older horse
- No more than 3 runs over Hurdles, 10 of the last 16 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
- 12 of the last 16 winners were rated between 124-134,
- Ran in the Adonis at Kempton or Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown
- Gordon Elliot and Paul Nicholls have both won the race multiple times. Willie Mullins yet to win the race.
Plenty of interesting profile horses here in this ultra-competitive handicap. Paul Nicholls looks to hold the best chance of the home runners in the shape of Houx Gris.
The gelding has only had the one run in the UK when third at Chepstow, he’s hard to assess but the sounder surface should suit and the yard has won this with a similar type before.
Dermot Weld is arguably the best target trainer around and it`s no surprise to see his runner Coltor towards the head of the market. He has to be respected just due to the fact connections are allowing him to take his chance but I don’t think a mark of 127 is going to put him well enough in here.
Willie Mullins has failed to win this to date but it`s surely only a matter of time before that changes. Youmdor needs to bounce back from a below-par run last time but could be interesting under drying conditions while Saint Sam’s form has been finishing behind Triumph hurdle fancies Quilixios and Zanahiyr.
Another excellent trainer to target a race with a horse is Joseph O`Brien and his pair of Busselton and Druid`s Altar offer plenty of appeal. The former is closely matched with Saint`s Sam and with drying ground expected to suit along with the addition of cheekpieces he is likely to be involved.
Marginal preference however is for stablemate though who looks to have the ideal profile compared to previous winners of the race. He’s an uncomplicated prominent runner and with it’s interesting connections keep faith with Hugh Morgan who won on him last time out and will be able to claim a handy 5lbs.
Each Way: Druid’s Altar
- Ran at a previous Cheltenham Festival, 7 of the last 11 winners
- Experience in a Graded Chase, 10 of the last 11 had contested such a race.
- 1st or 2nd place finish over 3 mile or more that season
- Last 8 winners rated 142+
- Aged 7 or 8, 10 of the last 15 winners
- Gordon Elliot has won 4 of the last 8 renewals
The is a lot like about the chances of Galvin here and it’s no surprise to see a pretty short price. He only found Imperial Aura to good for him here at last years festival and has since won his 4 last races including a victory here over 3 miles when last seen.
That race was 144 days ago which should not be an issue, the drying ground will also be in his favour, my slight concern would be is if this was to be run at a good pace and him seeing out the trip fully.
Next Destination has not taken much racing in the last couple of seasons. He has had more of a campaign this time around since joining the Nicholls camp and after a promising run behind Roksana over hurdles he since won his chase 2 starts.
His lack of experience over the large obstacles puts me off a little for a race of this nature but more can be expected from the unbeaten chaser.
Escaria Ten has looked progressive this season, he lacks experience at this level though, seems to thrive on testing conditions and was disappointing here over hurdles last season so that’s enough to put me off at likely odds.
David Pipe is not likely to have too many runners at this season’s festival but he has done ok with his chasers at the meeting in the past and he looks to have another good chance here with Remastered.
The 8-year-old is 3 from 3 over fences this season including a victory last time in the grade 2 Reynoldstown. His best form to date has come on testing surfaces so that’s a slight concern but he appeals as the type who could just get them all at it from the front here and whatever beats him will know they will have had a proper test against this progressive type.
Selection: Next Destination
Each Way: Remastered
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