After Day Three the Brits stand at 11 winners to the Irish 9 winners. That is a fair assessment of how competitive and close then excellent racing we have witnessed for the week has been, and equally sums up the competition on the track.
Finding a winner has never been easy, and the riddles have hooked us, like trout on fly, by the complexity and mystery they have been shrouded in. For all who have enjoyed the spectacle, the sport has been at the very least mildly addictive, as we try to make head of tail of the unknown and predict how the cards will fall.
Vautour was majestic in the first race of Day Three. Some may claim that the quality of the racing on the third day of the Festival is the weakest, but the pleasure of seeing him soar over his fences was divine, and any day of racing at any festival would have been made particularly special by such feats of quality and athleticism. Put simply, he was superb, and will undoubtedly be back to pursue further success in the future. His performance was symptomatic of a few other winners on the day, dictating the pace from the front and not being being passed from pillar to post. This should be noted for Day Four; don’t give a proven front runner a soft lead.
Elsewhere Cole Harden was a worthy victor of the World Hurdle, battling bravely from the front and giving trainer Warren Greatrex a deserved first Cheltenham, Festival victory. It takes balls to put yourself out there to be short down, and to be fair to the horse, he clobbered every challenge thrown down to him well over the boundary and surged up the hill to victory. Congrats to all involved.
As we approach the final day we compile all the lessons learnt and try to turn them into profitable gambling; Willie Mullins should never be underestimated, class will always tell, leading from the front is not necessarily a bad running style and Eddy Hall always has a nose for a winner.
One important factor to keep at the front of your mind is the ground. Eddy says it’s going to wet, and if he’s right, Daffy Duck could be the best possible selection. Keep an eye on the heavens and side with a horse you are confident will be able to profit from the conditions.
The first race is the JCB Triumph Hurdle off at 13.30 over 2 miles. A race for 4 year old hurdlers, it boasts the future talent in abundance. Messers Munir and Souede are mob handed with talented young hurdlers, and their Peace And Co and Top Notch deserve their place at the top of the betting. They are but two of the many representatives from the top yards, as we see the likes of Mullins, Henderson, King and co mob handed in this affair.
Yet we pluck for a lesser known yard in the form of Robert Stephens, whose Beltor has an excellent chance. So impressive in his last start at Kempton, he has a great opportunity to give his rookie trainer a beautiful first feather in his cap. He has a great chance, and although backed in from a juicy 12/1 a couple of weeks ago, he is generally available at 6/1 and should be kept on side.
Those searching for a little more value are suggested to look towards Devilment, another high-class charge from John Ferguson. At 22/1, his victories deserve respecting and he should give you a good run for your money.
Second up is the Vincent O’Brien Country Hurdle off at 14.05. Run over 2 miles 1 furlong and featuring 26 runners, at the very best it is an utter lottery. We will endeavour to find the winner though, and pass on valuable advice.
Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins could team up for yet another 2015 Cheltenham Festival winner. The excellently named Max Dynamite looks to have a very good winning chance and at generally 10/1 should be kept on the right side.
Those sniffing out a little more value should undoubtedly side with Violet Dancer, who could provide Moore father and son Gary and Jamie with a deserved winner after disappointment of Sire de Grugy. If any rain comes he will certainly lap it up and at a general 25/1 he represents resounding value.
The third race on the card is the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over 3 miles. A race sponsored by a captain of potatoes, you’d have to have drunk a fair amount of distilled potato skin not to recognise the fact that the Irish have been utterly dominant in the novice events all week. There is no reason why this should change now.
We side here with the yard of the extremely talented young Harry Fry, who puts forward two talented charges. Preference is for Thomas Brown, younger brother of James, who has solid form over two and a half miles and is expected to step up to the plate. At 11/1 he could give win only or each way backers value, and is selected to roll in.
Elsewhere Blaklion is a proven course and distance winner, from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard that has such an impressive record at the home of jump racing, and he could well be in the reckoning when the chips are down.
The fourth race is the highlight of the week, The Gold Cup. Since the halcyon days of Kauto Star, Denman and a Long Run at the peak of his abilities, the last couple of years have lacked a dash of pizzazz that the showpiece of the National Hunt season demands. Nonetheless, the 2015 renewal boasts a high quality and extremely competitive field, and there are many runners who have a case to put forward.
Preference is for Holywell, a horse who us proven to come good at this time of year. A specialist of the Cheltenham undulations, he looks to have an excellent chance back at his favourite course, and with an uninterrupted prep he should be there or thereabouts., The only question mark is the ground, and if the rain comes and ‘soft’ comes into the description we’d have reservations.
Other value can be found in Lord Windermere, victorious in the last running of the event. His preparation this year has been better than last year, and there is no reason why he can’t frank the form of last year’s success and record impressive back to back successes. He is one for the notebook at a general 12/1.
The Gold Cup has strength in depth, and without the intergalactic star we have become used to over the past decade, should be a fascinating affair with many having a reason to put their name into the hat.
The 16.00 race on the final day of the fantastic 2015 Cheltenham Festival is the Foxhunters Chase. A race for point to pointers, the horses tend to be amateur in experience, rather than in general ability. Often a coup is landed in this event, and those at the front of the market can prove their class.
The winner could well be Paint The Clouds from the excellent World Hurdle winning yard of Warren Greatrex. Having won all his starts this year, he has looked imperious in victory and will be hard to pass. However, generally at 4/1, in a race for amateur chasers, such odds are incredibly short and better value can be sought elsewhere.
Chosen Milan has course winning form and was an emphatic winner on his last start. Available at a general price of 28/1, he has a lot of positive next to his name and is worth a flutter. We may be running out of time at the Festival, but that is no reason why we can’t still land a big priced winner. This boy, ladies and gentleman, is your ticket to the big time.
The penultimate event of the 2015 Festival, a festival that has been hugely memorable for the quality of many of its winners, if not its Championship races in particular, is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys hurdle. Run Over 2 miles 4 furlongs, it features 24 runner, and the only certainty is that it is not the race to hang your hat on if you are chasing losses built up over the past 3 days.
McKinley is selected for short priced backers. He has already claimed some impressive scalps this season, and looks the sort to be able to handle the undulations of Prestbury Park. At a general 9/1, he could give you a good ruin for your money.
Elsewhere, Pearl Swan could run into the prize money for UK champion trainer Paul Nicholls. Having had a recent wind operation, is ability to breath in his races is seen as a huge positive. At large prices ranging up to 25/1 he is selected as a good option to improve upon his current form and throw down the gauntlet to the market leaders.
The final race of the 2015 Festival is the Grand Annual Chase, this year named after the returning champion of champions, AP McCoy. A wonderful man who has made and immeasurable contribution to his sport, it would be quite incredible if the winning connections could deliver anything nearly as memorable as his contribution.
However wonderful it would be for his mount, the excellently named Ned Buntline to win, it looks like a tall order. Bar Very Wood at last years Festival, trainer Noel Meade has a poor record at Cheltenham, and I’m afraid to say AP will not triumph in his last race at Cheltenham.
The winner instead will be between Grumeti and Blood Cotil. Both look suited by the grade and have a chance to close out the Festival for connections in winning style. Blood Cotil looks nicely weighted and could closet the week in winning style for his Mullins and Walsh connections who have been so ruthless throughout the week. Grumeti on the other hand steps down in class and could get his nose in front for Mr King, a man who knows how to plunder a Cheltenham Festival handicap.
Come 17.30, the horses will have crossed the line and the curtain will have fallen for another year. The record books will have been re-written, Champions put upon their throne and solitude descending upon Prestbury Park. Whatever the outcome of the titanic struggles between the British and Irish, the bookmakers and punters, it has been a wonderful week and will sit very prominently in the memory. Particularly impressive this year were the Novices’, headed by those under the tutelage of Mr Willie Mullins, which only goes to make us more excited for the Cheltenham Festival of 2016. With that to look forward to, there is nothing in life for us to complain about.
by The Ferret
Editorial note: This is where the tips normally go, but Eddy Hall’s laptop is only workable if you are a gnome, so I’m afraid you’ll have to read the article today. Good luck.