The time has come for the Major to reveal exactly which horses I want in my portfolio before the tapes go up on Tuesday 13th March and the famous roar echos around the Gloucestershire air.
Antepost betting can be terrific fun and equally incredibly frustrating and the Major normally would recommend getting involved in Cheltenham betting only at this stage.
Markets for the main Cheltenham races open immediately after the preceding years event has been run. However, getting on early means you do not have the benefit of an entire years form knowledge, you do not see the improvers or judge the injury, prep or yard form; you do not know which horses are planned to be stepped up in trip or to go chasing.
Crucially, the vast majority of bookmakers have now gone non-runner, no-bet. This simply means a refund if your horse does not make it to the start line! Now is the time for the Major to roll out his Cheltenham antepost tips.
The festival is such a competitive betting commercial space, you also get the plethora of offers from bookies keen to get you in the habit of using their account ahead of the week. The Major will make no bones about advising which offers you should go for. The stand out must be Paddy Power who are offering a refund on your horse in the Arkle, if Sprinter Sacre is beaten. That will cost them a lot of money and we should be in the queue to take advantage.
I have broken my thoughts down into each day – I am not trying to cover every race, just my main thoughts……
One horse I don’t think will turn up (unless the heavens open) and I will miss is the Gigginstown horse, Bog Warrior. I think this is the best chaser in the making and look forward to an exciting future but his runs require soft conditions… Lets hope Aintree or Punchestown is soft enough.
Champion Trainer and Champion Jockey
My first antepost bet of the week has to be in the top trainer market where you can get 25/1 about Alan King (William Hill). He has a decent portfolio of chances in the handicaps and in Grumeti, looks to have a warm prospect, it can be just a handful of horses required to win a top trainer prize at the festival.
I would also recommend a small stake on Daryl Jacob to pick up top jockey at 40/1. If some of the Mullins horses do not travel over well or are faced by very good conditions, then I fancy getting some Mullins / Walsh mounts turned over. This then gives Daryl Jacob a great chance of winning a few on the best alternate Nicholls rides…. just a thought.
Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle, The Arkle….
Firstly, go to Ladbrokes and claim your free £5 bet! You have to do it online and you have to deposit but that’s it; a completely free £5 bet for Cheltenham’s Tuesday card….
The racing – Let’s start with the Arkle. There is no way that you should back anything unless it is with Paddy Power in this race.
Cue Card, 8/1, has been touted by his jockey as a likely front runner, which I do not think will do him much favour. Peddlers Cross, 9/2, is likely to line up here but may take his chances in the Champion Chase, where he is a top price 20/1, or the Jewson, 6/1. I would put him in the Champion Chase if I owned him as I think it is a weak Champion Chase this year, more of that later. Al Ferof at 4/1 is too short for me, although Ruby wants to oppose Sprinter Sacre with him, I am not sure there is enough in the price for a horse that has looked just short of top class. Sprinter Sacre has been described as an aeroplane and does look top drawer, the likely winner but in a race that has a habit of turning those sorts over!
Thus, the antepost Arkle selection for the Major is Menorah at 11/1 with Paddy Power. I cannot forget that the placed form in last years Champion Hurdle and despite the horse needing to put many excuses behind, it is entirely possible that the festival is the place to do it. Plus with a refund available is Sprinter Sacre does go in…. well, value indeed.
In the JLT Handicap Chase, I do quite fancy Walkon at 20/1 who likes Cheltenham and has some fair class; these staying handicap chases often suit a classy horse and I want this one on my side.
The Champion Hurdle – The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle has been dominated by Hurricane Fly. The injury prone Irish star showed all his class last year to smash his field, although on reflection, was it the strongest?
Although Binocular was reported back to his all time best at Wincanton last time, the Major has severe doubts about whether we will see that form or what it adds up to.
Zarkander looks good but has to overcome a serious lack of experience and 5/1 is no price.
Once again, the Major is looking down the list at something that might run a bigger race and the pen stops at Rock on Ruby at 14/1. This horse will be staying on to best effect at the end of the race and I just have a feeling that things might fall in his lap rather. It could be a fairly small Champion Hurdle field and things may get messy.
Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, The Neptune, Coral Cup and RSA Chase
This years Champion Chase looks a fairly poor renewal. As much as I know the yard can prepare for the big run, it looks like Big Zebs best days are behind him.
This leaves Sizing Europe, a best priced 11/10 shot and Finians Rainbow at 5/1. Now it has cost me money, but I am still of the view that Sizing Europe is very beatable and I am going to keep that instinct. My issue is that I do not think the horse to do it is Finians Rainbow, at least not this year.
Once again the Major’s eyes are wandering down the list and I settle on Wishfull Thinking a general 16/1 shot. Again a horse with some questions to answer but one with definite talent and not just place claims in my view.
The Coral Cup may be a handicap where we are yet to see the well weighted horse. Therefore I am holding my judgement until after the Imperial Cup next weekend but would register an early interest in Smad Place at 16/1.
The RSA chase is all about whether Grand Crus turns up or not. Personally I would run him in the Gold Cup. I suspect though that connections will go for the RSA and use Kauto’s declaration of fitness (Assuming that comes) as the decision point. Whichever race he turns up in, I am very interested in Grand Crus who has taken to regulation fences extremely well. 9/4 therefore that he wins the RSA is a price from heaven and we should all be relieving Sportingbet of the weight of their satchel.
The Neptune is another race in which I fancy the favourite. Now that Henderson has declared this the target for Simonsig, I think the 7/2 with Boylesports represents great value. There is not a massive amount of quality in behind this (spare Boston Bob who may not line up) so I have no hesitation in getting on early and large. This is an ideal antepost market to tip as it looks like the favourites price will only go one way.
If you want a tip for the Champion Bumper, you are in the wrong place! Try @kingofbumpers on Twitter on the day!
Cheltenham Thursday Tips – World Hurdle, Jewson and Ryanair
Big Bucks is so dominant in the World Hurdle market, it is hard to find an obvious piece of value. It is there though, in the w/o Big Bucks prices.
Oscar Whisky has been touted as a real credible threat to the champion and while the Major will believe that when he can see it, 7/4 (Hills, Power, Coral and Boylesports) is a fine price.
Although the market says he will, I don’t think Peddlers Cross will line up ion the Jewson which makes last years festival winner, Sir Des Champs, my selection at 6/1.
The Ryanair could be a cracking race this year and while Riverside Theatre returning from injury to great form shapes the market, it is Irish raider Noble Prince who the Major wants on side. 6/1 is the price, have a big slice and thank me later.
Cheltenham Friday – The Gold Cup, The Triumph
The Triumph has been shaping up well in the last month with the principles being taking each other. I am putting two up to back at win stakes; Pearl Swan, 8/1 Paddy Power) and Grumeti, 5/1 (Generally). I think this is the best form line and neither will mind the Cheltenham hill, a test many others in the field are to face into yet.
The Gold Cup is hugely interesting race this year. I am assuming that Kauto turns up, which is no certainty. If he does, he has been racing with the mind of a six year old, clearly noone has told the great horse that he is in his veteran years! That said, I would urge anyone who would back Kauto with money and not just heart, to rewatch last years Gold Cup and King George. There lies all the evidence you need that despite Long Run being scruffy at fences, he will outstay Kauto.
Long Run at 13/8 with a clear round is a great price but it is the clear round that bothers me. I also do not think this is the horses fault but rather the amateur jockey – I am afraid that the Major is in the camp that would like to see Geraghty on board and really see how great this horse can be.
The antepost tip though is two-fold and buried way down the list. I think this years Gold Cup has got the hallmarks of a race that could go to a massive outsider. Long Run might jump his way out of it, Kauto and Grand Crus might not be there, Burton Port might bounce.
The two I am interested in are What a Friend and Captain Chris, both at 40/1 – What a Friend ran to a place last year and is sure to be in the mix, Captain Chris has quality but has run a season of shockers. That said, he has always looked a spring horse and so I am relying on him coming back to form. Mainly, let’s hope that Kauto gets there and gives a good race to bow out on.
That is it, the full Cheltenham portfolio. Whatever you do, bet an amount that makes you nervous, else you won’t enjoy it as you should!