It grates with some people but
talk of Cheltenham antepost bets begins almost as soon as the previous
Cheltenham festival starts.
I’ve had some reasonable luck
down the years, backing Sublimity for the Champion Hurdle at 59-1 and a few
others that came in at shorter odds. There are lots of failures, but the wait,
banter and anticipation is well worth it.
This year, there are ample
long-shots to look forward to with a view to Cheltenham and if just one comes
in we will be in profit!
This horse is a gorgeous chasing
prospect, one of many that Michael O’Leary has. When he won at Punchestown on
his bumper debut, he looked exciting; when he trounced a decent field at Navan
on his hurdling debut, he looked special.
He will next run in Naas’ only
Grade 1 race in January. That is over a similar trip to the Ballymore Novice
Hurdle, for which this horse could easily go off favourite. Price: 14-1.
Jessica Harrington has certainly
done quite alright with the stallion Mastercraftsman – let’s just saw Alpha
Centauri wasn’t too bad – and she knows a good filly when she sees one. And in
Barrington Court, she may not have another Alpha Centauri, but she could have
the next Quevega or Annie Power.
Two things make little sense when
it comes to last season and Barrington Court. One was that she was beaten in
all three of her runs; secondly, she was sent off at least 6-1 in the betting.
But the way she demolished her rivals in a Listed race on her return at Navan
suggests she could just be quite special.
She was since bought by JP McManus and ran a blinder on her hurdling debut at
Naas. She looks a big player for the mares’ novice hurdle. Price: 14-1.
Carefully Selected was cruelly
denied in the Champion Bumper last year when Relegate grabbed him in the
closing stages; he was the middle rung of a 1-2-3 for Willie Mullins.
He had won a point-to-point as a
younger horse and later a two-and-a-half-mile Leopardstown bumper by eight
lengths. He has yet to jump a hurdle but likely this is the type of horse who
can tackle the three-mile Albert Bartlett. Price: 20-1.
Cracking Smart was trading as
favourite for the Albert Bartlett last year when he got injured. He has yet to
jump a fence but Gordon Elliott is anxious to get him out and, with Delta Work
so prominent in the betting for the RSA Chase, perhaps Michael O’Leary will
target the National Hunt Chase with Cracking Smart.
This is a gorgeous, big horse and
he may be suited by going a little slower at Cheltenham; hence this race looks
obvious. Price: 20-1.
‘The Machine’ has only ever run
once at three miles, producing an utterly extraordinary performance at
Punchestown last year, beating Penhill – who had taken the Stayers’ Hurdle
crown at Cheltenham – as if he were second-rate. Faugheen looks too slow for
two miles now but he is too big a price to let go for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Imagine the reaction of the Irish if he prevailed! Price: 12-1.
Fair enough, Altior should again
win the Champion Chase, but it is well worth repeating that you should never be
afraid of one horse. Something might happen Altior and just because Great Field
fell at Cork does not mean he cannot produce a huge performance in the Champion
Chase. Five from five until Cork over fences, JP McManus’ charge has a massive
engine. Price: 20-1.
On a recent visit to the stable,
accompanied by a racing fan suffering from a debilitating illness, Willie
Mullins showed his class by giving us well over an hour of his time, speaking
candidly about racing and life. There were humorous moments, such as when the
work rider of an unknown horse gushed about “the machine” underneath, prompting
a smiling Mullins to caution against her saying too much before the curious
visitors. It transpired that the nag was Jon Snow, a winner in France who may
end up in the Triumph Hurdle. Price: 25-1.
With Saldier, Espoir D’allen and
Mr Adjudicator in the line-up, Naas’ four-year-old hurdle earlier this season
was a cracking race, and Ruby Walsh took the steer on Saldier, who had three
different riders when campaigned as a juvenile.
Saldier fell when travelling well
at the last and still in front. I see this horse maturing into a major
contender for the Champion Hurdle. Given his Flat class, it was always going to
take time for him over hurdles, and he looked a far better horse at Punchestown
than he did when so raw at Cheltenham. Price: 25-1
Even those of you with little
knowledge of racing will have heard of Dawn Run. The most successful racemare
in the history of National Hunt racing, She won the Champion Hurdle at the
Cheltenham Festival in 1984 and the Gold Cup over fences at the festival in
1986; she remains the only racehorse ever to complete the Champion Hurdle-Gold
Cup double. She is also one of only four who have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup –
and the most recent. Could Shattered Love emerge as her successor?
Last year’s winner of the JLT at
Cheltenham made a terrific return when second to Snow Falcon at Down Royal,
with Monalee in third. She then ran on strongly to chase home Min in the John
Durkan at Punchestown. She will end up going the Gold Cup route in all
probability and jumps brilliantly, while her Cheltenham form is a major bonus.
For a mare, she is quite simply a monster. Price: 25-1.
The daughter of Mitovator had a
horrible fall in the Triumph Hurdle last season when taking on the boys, but
she won well at Killarney in May and she looked a potentially top-class mare
when scoring at Punchestown in November. She has an engine that marks her out
as something special and there is always a chance that the Mares Hurdle
favourite Apple's Jade will run in a different race. It is hard to see Stormy
Ireland going anywhere else. Price: 14-1.