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Monday, 12 March 2012

Cheltenham Festival 2012: 13th March

I would like to thank regular HCE reader, Sean Kelsey, for allowing us to publish his Cheltenham Festival Preview. Here's to a great week of racing.  

Cheltenham Festival 2012 Preview: Day 1

Welcome to my preview. I've tried to base all my selections on the form book and  watching previous races and not get swayed by hype and public opinion. I've included some eachway selections at decent prices as the bookmakers terms for the festival are as generous as you can get. There are plenty of offers available and I recommend you shop around.

At time of publishing (12th March) you must appreciate that some horses have more than one engagement and their running plans are not fixed. All odds quoted were available at time of writing, Non Runner No Bet.

I've assumed it's going to be Good to Soft ground and will try and identify any horses that would appreciate softer or quicker going.

I’ll do an update after the meeting and let you know how my selections got on.

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Day 1 – Tuesday 13th March

1.30 – William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle

A really competitive opener with Steps to Freedom, Cinders and Ashes and Darlan heading the betting. Steps to Freedom beat Prospect Wells at Cheltenham back in November and showed good battling qualities. It's fair to say the form of his last two runs has not really worked out that well. Cinders and Ashes hasn't beaten anything of note but is clearly a good prospect. Darlan was unbeaten until falling at Newbury in the race won by Zarkandar. He looked like the winner that day and and was overpriced for while.  Some have latched on to the fact that he may be better on flat tracks. I'm not so sure if this is true and think his last Cheltenham win where he beat some lower quality horses by a very small margin may have been due to a lack of fitness and the quickish ground. He's now favourite and at 5/1 makes little appeal on similar ground. Simonsig should go for the Neptune rather than this and Galileo's Choice looks very poor value at his current price. It's always best not to get too involved in the first race; convincing yourself you've got the winner in this will probably involve an expensive reality check less than 4 minutes after the Cheltenham roar. One who might run well at a price is Agent Archie. He's won two small races in good fashion and the second and third in his first race at Ludlow have come out and won since. Officially rated at 140, I think he's a couple of pounds at least better than this which puts him only a little way behind the favourites. It's possible he will improve.

1 pt ew Agent Archie 33/1

2.05 – Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase

Sprinter Sacre won on the bridle at Newbury against horses who finished sixth and seventh in last years Champion Chase. He jumped really well and was clever at a couple of fences. The only negative is that he looked the winner in last years Supreme Novices at the bottom of the hill but was out-stayed. That said he appears much better this year. At anything above evens he is probably value. Al Ferof and Cue Card are serious horses and this is by no means a one horse race. However they both look like they might be better over a little further. This really is a race to savour and I shouldn't get involved. That said Cue Card could represent a little value. I'll be surprised if any other horse gets involved in the finish. Menorah needs to jump to get round and looks a little bit behind the others anyway. Paddy Power are refunding stakes if Sprinter Sacre wins and that seems a decent offer.

1 pt win Cue Card (with Paddy Power) 6/1

2.40 – JLT Specialty Steeple Chase (A Handicap)

Up until Tullamore Dew ran at Ascot I was anticipating that he would be huge price in this. However he advertised his credentials there in coming second and has gone up four pounds for his efforts. Placed twice before at Cheltenham he seems a solid choice. The best handicapped horse in the race if you take his last run literally appears to be Baile Anrai. He ran well at Cheltenham until falling three out in a race won by Invictus. He has form on good ground but obviously needs to jump a bit better. The Package, Hold On Julio and Quantitive Easing don't look that well handicapped to me.

1 pt ew Tullamore Dew 12/1

3.20 – Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Hurricane Fly was awesome at Leopardstown at the end of January but you could argue that Oscars Well and Thousand Stars are better over further and on better ground. There are probably only a few who could beat Hurricane Fly. Last years Triumph winner Zarkandar won the Betfair Hurdle last month despite needing the run and coughing after the race. He gave weight away to all except Brampour in that race and despite looking a bit fortunate to win he's a definite trier. 6/1 looks a reasonable price. Binocular looked back to his best last time at Wincanton. You'd probably expect him to improve on that run as he does seem better after a recent race. Again 5/1 is short enough for me and Paul Nicholls didn't think Celestial Halo ran his race at Wincanton. At a really big price Brampour could run well. Last time he was raced way off the pace and stayed on past beaten horses finishing 7th behind Zarkandar. This stiffer track will suit him.

1 pt ew Brampour 50/1
1 pt win Zarkandar 6/1

4.00 – Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase

I seem to be in a minority of people who really like this race. There is usually plenty of drama but I think these races present some decent betting opportunities. Garde Champetre is still competitive and should be placed. Scotsirish is the class horse in the race (ran in the Ryanair and Queen Mother a few years back), beat Garde at Punchestowns in February and, according to most, would have won here back in December had he taken the right course. However this race is over an extra 7 furlongs and firm ground won't be ideal. At 3/1 he's short enough. The horse in front that day Wedger Paddy still looked to be full of running when he took the wrong course. His handicap mark is unchanged and at 25/1 looks a value bet. Last years winner, Sizing Australia will need good or quicker ground to show his best form; he's on a mark 5 pounds higher than last year which seems fair. This can sometimes turn into a sprint finish which would point towards Scotsirish but horses have won from the front and Wedger Pardy looks value. Uncle Junior, Double Dizzy, Maljimar and Balthazar King can all have cases made for them. Really tricky this, so when in doubt go for the biggest price of those you fancy!

1 pt ew Wedger Pardy 25/1 (3rd) 33/1

4.40 David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

Quevega has won this the last three years. Can't see any reason why she shouldn't do it again as she seems a class above the others. Terre du Vent might represent a bit of value at 33/1, she was going well when she fell behind Grumeti at Kempton. She's run in Group races on the flat in France and looks way overpriced.

4 pts win Quevega 4/7 (1st 4/7)
1 pt ew Terre du Vent 50/1

5.15 Centenary Novices Handicap Chase

Loads in this with chances. Educated Evans might have a squeak on a mark of 132. No disgrace in being beat by Oh Crick last time, he should appreciate a slightly longer trip.

1/2 pt ew Educated Evans 25/1

(Total Stake Day 1 - 17 pts)

Good luck to all.