1 30 – The Supreme
Ballyandy 9/2 & High Bridge 16/1 EW
After the withdrawals of Neon Wolf and Movewiththetimes, amongst others, this race is now supposedly Willie Mullins’ to lose. I don’t buy that and couldn’t touch Melon with a barge pole. The drying ground is a plus for both of our picks, and they both represent cracking value. Ballyandy’s form doesn’t look the hottest at a glance, but has been boosted numerous times – especially by Messire Des Obeaux, a horse I really rate.
His Newbury run was impressive, albeit in handicap company off a lightweight, but he did it in style and showed immense battling qualities once again. High Bridge represents the EW value and I thought he’d be much shorter. He’s unbeaten this campaign and the drying out ground is a huge plus. He’s yet to be thrust into top company and Cheltenham will be his biggest test by far. It is a bit of a gamble but at the prices one worth taking. It’s always a cracking start to the festival and the open feel of this year’s renewal lends to that again.
2 10 – The Arkle
Obviously not a price the everyday punter will get involved at, but many will. Henderson’s new star will be in a huge proportion of accumulators for the day and further afield. I expect a procession from the front and barring a setback, we will get a procession. A lot has been made of Altior and he has to deliver at Cheltenham to continue his fine start to his chasing career. At 1/3 a double or treble looks the bet.
2 50 – Ultima Handicap
The Druids Nephew 12/1
An obviously competitive heat makes things hard work, but Neil Mulholland’s star handicapper has to be considered. A winner of this race two years ago off a very similar mark he looks set to go close again. The trainer is sure he is close to his best once again and if correct, off this mark should be in a position to challenge. Stamina is no issue and the quicker the ground the better.
3 30 – Champion Hurdle
Yanworth – 7/2
I’m surprised to see Yanworth so short considering the lack of support he appears to have and the unfashionable type of horse he has become. Then again, just look at Brexit and Trump; and the secret voters upsetting the apple-cart.Yes Yanworth isn’t the flashiest, far from it in fact. But, he gets the job done time and time again. The stiffer test at Cheltenham will suit him down to the ground. He’s been written off repeatedly when conditions and races aren’t to suit and has shown enough each time. At Kempton he supposedly wouldn’t have enough pace, but won. At Wincanton, one of the sharpest tests in England, he still won at a trip under two miles. Considering his trainer thinks he should be racing over three miles these wins need to be respected. The extra furlong and the speed some will ensure will make the race a test, and I know who I’d want my money on when the going gets tough at the end.
4 10 – Mares Hurdle
Limini – 13/8 & Colin’s Sister 25/1 EW
In all honesty I cannot split VVM and Limini; and unless you’re in the yard day in, day out nobody can. VVMs runs this year haven’t been what we’ve become accustomed to but I still don’t think you can write her off just yet. These reports of her not running well can’t be taken at face value. Reluctantly I’ll side with Limini, and I just think this trip brings slightly more out of her. When beating Apple’s Jade into second last time out, you couldn’t help but be impressed. I assumed something was amiss with Gordon Elliot’s mare but nothing came out afterwards. It’s a strong renewal of the race, not one I really support, but one that will be exciting to watch. As a betting heat it’s not a race I think has much purpose this year and is a binocular job rather than a money spinner.
4 50 – JT McNamara Cup
Beware The Bear – 10/1
Another typical big field, valuable handicap that the bookies love. The two Irish horses at the top of the market have a serious chance, but at a slightly longer price I like Beware The Bear. His form has worked out all season long and Henderson has always held this novice in high regard. Good ground is no issue and may even be beneficial. He’s shot up the ratings after his last romp, but looks good value for it and is still very unexposed. Henderson has booked in a top amateur that loves it around Cheltenham and I hope the Bear can sneak under the noses of many at a good price.
5 30 – Close Brothers HC Chase
Burtons Well – 20/1
Venetia Williams’ horses are flying, just in the knick of time. Burtons Well is a very lightly raced 8YO and can be fairly inconsistent. On a good day he has a number of runs that have worked out very nicely and the lowly mark of 137 is definitely not the ceiling of his ability. The ground may be a bit of a gamble, but at the odds in the most open looking race of the day – the gamble could be justified.