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Matthew Sutcliffe’s Cheltenham Value Punts – Day 4

L'Homme Presse, Cheltenham

After an immensely successful Wednesday at the Cheltenham Festival, Matty Sutcliffe is seeking to end the meeting on even more of a high. He has six selections across five races on the Friday, including along-term fancy in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Published: 11.30am, Thursday, March 14th (Odds correct at time of publishing)

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1.30 Cheltenham – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo) – Mighty Bandit 40/1 0.5pt EW 4 places 

MIGHTY BANDIT was part of the large consortiums of Caldwell-owned horses leaving connections in a dispersal sale following the tragic circumstances leading the owners to part from the game for a while, and there were a few eyebrows raised when Mighty Bandit was sold to Jim and Claire Limited for 420,000 euros, to be trained by Warren Greatrex. 

Greatrex has had a quiet few years in racing but is no stranger to festival success with Cole Harden taking the then named World Hurdle in 2015, and Mighty Bandit looks awfully overpriced to hopefully bring the limelight back into the Greatrex yard. 

There was a cloud around Gordon Elliott’s horses when Mighty Bandit was beaten ten lengths in the Grade 2 Dublin Juvenile Hurdle on Boxing Day at 13/8, but there was a medical excuse for the effort and supposedly a wind issue too, which has hopefully been ironed out having had a wind-op in January.

The fact that he was sent off 13/8 there in a race which threw up last season’s Triumph first and second suggests far more was expected, and we’re better off judging him on his impressive debut, where he clocked a quicker time than State Man did over the distance later on in the card. Mighty Bandit settled well behind the leaders there and stormed clear up the run-in, beating the subsequent Fred Winter winner by nine lengths. 

If tapping back into the promise of that first effort then he can easily outrun his odds and at least fill the frame, which is what the dam’s half-brother did in 2005. 

JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race)

2.10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Westport Cove 20/1 1pt EW + Mr Freedom 0.5pt EW 50/1 (66/1 365/Coral) 5 places 

WESTPORT COVE finished last when a 33/1 shot for the Champion Bumper last season, but the occasion evidently got to him as he was beyond keen under Danny Mullins in front. His keenness remained an issue in his first two runs this season, though he got the job done in rather workmanlike fashion first time up this season. He was again too free in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice at Leopardstown from the front, but he was one of four to pull up in attritional conditions, with the third beaten 44 lengths. 

Under a change of tactics and a first time tongue-tie equipped to his hood won on debut, Westport Cove settled much better held up in a four-runner affair where he was beaten half-a-length on heavy ground at Clonmel by the strong favourite Quai De Bourbon, who currently stands at 4/1 favourite for the Martin Pipe, given a mark of 140. Given Westport Cove has been given a mark of 139, a pound lower, he looks overpriced at 16s considering the market position of Quai De Bourbon. 

After State Man won the County Hurdle in 2022 off 141, the rules changed for the race as a novice now has to have at least four runs to qualify for the race, and the performance of Westport Cove in a Listed contest behind Tullyhill absolutely smacked of minding his mark/qualifying for a run in the County. For all he won easily, Tullyhill was given a freebie in front. Westport Cove again settled perfectly well and the headgear combination, but was held up well in rear. He jumped and travelled well, making a good move two out but once Tullyhill had flown, the three in behind were given a tender ride to say the least. 

Now he has learnt how to settle, coming off the pace in a strongly run, packed County will play perfectly into his strengths. He has copious amounts of speed, a turn of foot and jumps fluently, the ideal mould of a County winner. I’d imagine he’s much better than a mark of 139 and hopefully I’ve landed on the ‘right’ Mullins horse for the race. Michael O’Sullivan takes the ride who bagged himself two Festival winners in Marine Nationale and Jazzy Matty last season, and his two rides for Willie at this years festival saw him finished third in the Coral Cup on Shanbally Kid and fifth in the Champion Bumper on 66/1 shot Fishery Lane. 

The other who may be a tad overpriced here is MR FREEDOM, who’s 2lb wrong at the weights after incurring a 5lb penalty for a win last time out. While he may lack some of the ‘star quality’ of these, the five-year-old son of Sixties Icon doesn’t know how to run a bad race, and was a massive eyecatcher in last year’s Fred Winter, staying on into fifth to be beaten four lengths after multiple in-running issues. 

He comes into the County Hurdle on a career high mark, but he recorded a personal best on RPRs last time out when taking a Class 3 handicap off top-weight giving 12lb and 18lb to the second/third, and that was on soft ground despite the large majority of his best form coming on quick ground. 

This stiffer test on the New Course should suit him as he stays 2m4f, and should the leaders go off hard which is often the case in this handicap, then Mr Freedom has a big chance to be staying on for the placings from the rear, as he thrives on being held up off a strong gallop. 

BetMGM County Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race)

2.50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – The Butcher Hollow 50/1 0.5pt E/W 4 places (5 with SkyBet) 

The Albert Bartlett has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent seasons, with just one winning SP below 11/1 in the last ten seasons. Four of the last ten winners were wearing a tongue-tie, and five-year-old BUTCHER HOLLOW is one of just three applied with the aid here. Five-year-olds have won just two renewals of this contest, but Butcher Hollow has the scope of a strong, robust stayer who can improve for this step up to a stiff 3m. 

The son of Kingston Hill is a point-to-point winner over 3m, but showed enough speed to take a Galway bumper last October, from which the form has been boosted in several places. He was kept to 2m on hurdles debut when travelling strongly upsides Jigoro, who was the speedier type in the finish and easily pulled nine lengths clear. That one then bumped into Supreme second Mystical Power in a Grade 2 and was then given a ‘considerate’ ride behind Tullyhill in Listed company next time out. 

Butcher Hollow then bumped into Mares’ Novices’ hope Jade De Grugy, again travelling comfortably upsides her before she pulled away, but Cooper’s mount kept on well himself and was 11 lengths clear of the third. The drop down in trip went against him next time out at Naas, but he was only beaten eight lengths by Pertemps favourite Cleatus Poolaw, again shaping like going up in trip would suit. 

He’s out of a Definite Article mare who’s a half-sister to the 2009 Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle third According To Dick so there’s stamina in the pedigree, and this step up in distance could see him go one better than the proverbial bridesmaid he’s been to some classy types. 

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race)

3.30 Cheltenham – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – L’Homme Presse 12/1 1.5pts EW 3 places (Also advised 16/1 AP WIN) 

Last year’s winner Galopin Des Champs will likely prove a tough nut to crack but we’ve seen already this festival that these short favourites are there to be taken on. L’HOMME PRESSE is a horse I simply adore, and though we’ve already taken 16/1 on him ante post, he can still prove the biggest threat to the favourite and 12/1 is a shade overpriced from an each-way perspective. 

He returned from a lengthy absence after injuring himself in the King George with a solid performance against Protektorat in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield in January, shaping as if very much needing the run. The drop back in trip going right-handed at Ascot was a strange decision next time out where beaten by Pic D’Orhy, but in hindsight it was a lovely prep for a Gold Cup to keep him ticking over as he stayed on well against one absolutely primed for it. 

His record left-handed reads 1111311 and is unbeaten at Cheltenham, including a comfortable win in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase here in 2022. Venetia Williams’ string are in much better form after hitting a flat spot, and while he’s unraced over this distance, he shapes very much as if he’ll thrive for the stiff Gold Cup test and can give the favourite something to think about. 

Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race)

4.10 Cheltenham – St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (5yo+) – Quintin’s Man 25/1 0.5pt EW 3 places 

The huge Schiaparelli gelding QUINTIN’S MAN has a good record in the pointing sphere, and ran a good race at Haydock last time out in a race that’s seen the winners go well in the Hunters’ Chase here in recent years. 

He’s one of just three course and distance winners in this field, having stormed 17 lengths clear in a Hunter Chase here last season, posting the highest winning RPR in the last ten renewals and his course experience suggests he’s overpriced at 25/1 with the excellent Darren Andrews on board.

St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
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Added: 10.30am, Friday, March 15th (Odds correct at time of publishing)

2.50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Search For Glory 30/1 1pt EW 4 places 

Remarkably, the only horse in here to have won at the distance and is a proven thorough stayer is SEARCH FOR GLORY. While recent history would tell you that’s not necessarily a negative, with the ground set to be one of the worst in recent years, I’d rather be on the side of a proven stayer, even if Search For Glory lacks the flashiness of the likes of the unbeaten Reading Tommy Wrong and Gidleigh Park. 

The Fame and Glory gelding is more exposed than most in here, but acquitted himself well in some Graded tasks last season, including the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. Though he pulled up in this race last season, he retains novice status and his experience there will help him this time around. 

Search For Glory improved for cheekpieces this season, taking a Grade 3 on heavy ground over three miles at Cork before a two-length fourth to Loughglynn at Limerick. He returned to winning ways at Clonmel giving weight away to a progressive six-year-old rated 8lb higher, and given he raced a tad behind the bridle there, the newly fitted blinkers may spark further improvement. 

While Gordon Elliott hasn’t won this contest yet, he’s had plenty run with credit such as Three Card Brag, Fury Road, Commander Of Fleet, Fagan and No More Heroes, and this dour stayer can go close to giving him a first win. 

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race)

5.30 Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145) What’s Up Darling 8/1 NAP 2pt WIN 

I’ve been at my wits’ end trying to decipher this contest and find one from a value perspective, and in my lengthy deliberation I’ve missed a better price on my final selection, which is WHAT’S UP DARLING

The Martin Pipe has a habit of throwing up a future graded performer and we already have one here. The Shirocco gelding won a Grade Three at Navan in November on Heavy ground over two miles, beating a well-fancied stablemate who ran to an RPR of 146 when beating Ashdale Bob off a break last time out. Elliott won that race at Navan three times prior with future Cheltenham types, such as Abacadabras who was just touched off in the Supreme by Shishkin, Mengli Khan who was third to in the Supreme to Summerville Boy, and the infamous Labaik who won the Supreme later that year. The fact that Elliott ran What’s Up Darling in that race suggested he thought he had the speed to be his Supreme horse, but his pedigree (brother to Your Darling, 2x 2m5f winner) suggests he’ll improve for further. Elliott’s kept him to 2m In Graded company, beaten seven lengths in the Royal Bond and nine lengths by subsequent Mares Hurdler fourth Lantry Lady, shaping like a step up in trip will suit. I like the angle that he’s qualified in runs over two miles despite all the evidence pointing to needing further, and he can improve with ease beyond a mark of 137 now stepped up in trip in ground he’s proven on.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race)

Matty Sutcliffe’s Cheltenham Value Punts

1.30 Cheltenham – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo) – Mighty Bandit 40/1 0.5pt EW 4 places 

2.10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Westport Cove 20/1 1pt EW

2.10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Mr Freedom 0.5pt EW 50/1 (66/1 365/Coral) 5 places 

2.50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – The Butcher Hollow 50/1 0.5pt E/W 4 places (5 with SkyBet) 

3.30 Cheltenham – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – L’Homme Presse 12/1 1.5pts EW 3 places (Also advised 16/1 AP WIN) 

4.10 Cheltenham – St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) (5yo+) – Quintin’s Man 25/1 0.5pt EW 3 places 

Added Friday

2.50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+) – Search For Glory 30/1 1pt EW 4 places 

5.30 Cheltenham – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145) What’s Up Darling 8/1 NAP 2pt WIN 


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