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GG Cheltenham Ante-Post Book – 15th November

The November Meeting at Cheltenham typically stamps the start of some serious racing with Grade 1’s flooding the weeks following right into the New Year. That means the tide is turning in favour of seeing those special prospects being unleashed.

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Here I will list all my advised Ante-Post bets for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival:

  • 1st November – LUCCIA (Mares’ Hurdle) – 16/1 generally
  • 7th November – ALLAHO (Ryanair Chase) – 5/1 generally
  • 15th November – FACILE VEGA (Arkle Chase – 9/2 generally) + GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (Gold Cup – 2/1) – Double pays 15/1 generally


This week I’m going to chuck up a double because I think the time to strike is now and both horses I’d love to have in the book. Individually they are probably not going to excite too many readers, still I’m not putting them together without considering the risk and reward which I believe looks fair so let me explain….

We’ll start with FACILE VEGA who, on the Supreme Novices Hurdle form from last year, has something to find with current Arkle Favourite MARINE NATIONALE. That horse had a non-typical prep into Cheltenham especially with the long break before hand but it worked for him and even going into an Arkle with just a single run has been done before by WESTERN WARHORSE. So whatever his path, it’ll likely be slightly non-conventional. I mention that because his trainer has come out and sighted the slow ground as the reason he won’t even be entered this weekend, in a race which was originally outlined. Instead, he’ll be saved for a Beginners Chase at Christmas. Now I’m sure he doesn’t possess a crystal ball, so I’m not sure he’ll be guaranteed the ground in Christmas, but he might ensure that he has a weaker race to start off in. That’s a huge negative if true, but in fairness the ground will be slow this weekend.

Rather than stake my case on the demise of MARINE NATIONALE; FACILE VEGA had a bad day in the Dublin Racing Festival which I don’t believe was simply down to the ride or the pace that he went. Still, he was able to put himself into contention in a Supreme then bolt up at Punchestown matching MARINE’S 158 RPR from Cheltenham. I also believe FACILE will improve more for a fence than his market rival will, and that’s based on their physical presence and racing styles plus a little bit in the breeding. So, all that said, I think FACILE VEGA is a 2 miler, I think he showed that he’s a very fast horse and that he can settle enough to run well on the main stage. Of course, I fear MARINE, he’s beaten him already and could well do again, I’m just less convinced by his experience and possible preparation that I think he would rather take on FACILE VEGA at a festival where he bombed last season in the DRF than he would in a Beginners chase on a wet Saturday in Navan. I’d have the pair joint favourite for what it’s worth which is why I want FACILE VEGA on board

GALOPIN DES CHAMPS might not need much selling, but he was an emphatic winner of his Gold Cup last season and I believe the Punchestown run was not him at his best. Yes BRAVEMANSGAME was beaten too that day, but I don’t believe that form will stand up. In addition I don’t think he was actually at his best in the Gold Cup either so theres more to come from the 7 turning 8yo. GERRI COLOMBE I will touch on in this column but for now I’ll just say he’s a bit of a way off being in GALOPIN DES CHAMPS league and while I don’t think his price will contract too much between now and March, I do think FACILE’S will. So, we can roll that advantage into a reasonable priced double and there’s only one other horse racing in March I’d trust more than GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, and he’s long odds on for the Champion Hurdle.

ANTE-POST SELECTION: FACILE VEGA (Arkle Chase – 9/2 generally) + GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (Gold Cup – 2/1) – Double pays 15/1 generally


Clonmel Oil Chase

Where else is there to start than with ALLAHO. He won as he should have in all honesty, but that ground was testing and visually he didn’t look quick as quick as he has done. He was entitled to need the run even more than he usually does, given he’s been off the track so long so it was a job well done. I do think it’ll have taken a bit out of him so would probably like to see him untested again before Cheltenham but I trust Willie to plot his way there and he’s very much the one to beat as I talked about last week.

T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase

ALLEGORIE DE VASSY was giving tons of weight to both INSTIT and MASKADA and won well with her stablemate the closet finisher to her. On adjusted figures she was 2lbs worse off with INSTIT than in a Handicap so the victory of over 2 lengths was good. She’s always threatened to be a seriously good mare but while it was a decent weight carrying performance, she’s posted better RPR’s than that and was only 1lb inferior in her first ever run over fences last Christmas. No IMPERVIOUOS this year to contend with but she’s still not blowing me away, but then maybe in this sphere she doesn’t have to do much more.

On that note I’ll bring in the disappointing MASKADA who, whichever way you spin it, looked lacklustre and probably a season back at 2 miles beckons so Mares Chase supporters surely can’t have been pleased with what she did but again she was mentioned last week with the price and race quoted so I was almost in that camp too.

Barberstown Castle Chase

Away from that race but in the same division we saw DINOBLUE win for Willie Mullins as another candidate for the Mares chase in March but I’m still staggered that people view her as a leading challenger when I appreciate she’s bred to stay, but she just doesn’t look like it in her races. Great performance from her, not as good as ALLEGORIE’S though and I think backers of hers for that race are bonkers.

Ladbrokes Champion Chase

GERRI COLOMBE knuckled down in the closing stages to win a race that on paper he was expected too, but you must remember this was his first battle in Open company. It was also far from straightforward from two out and he touched an in-running high of 36 having been sent off at 4/7. His RPR of 168 would need improving on to win a Gold Cup in March but he’s entitled to be improving so we’ll find out more next time out. It was another performance this where his connections will have been more than happy with the outcome.

Stan Mellor Memorial Novices’ Chase

STAY AWAY FAY was probably my most notable effort from the last week and while very much like GERRI in that he was expected to win, I really thought he was beaten, and beaten some way out. The Exchanges would have agreed as he touched in incredible high of 130 have been sent off at 5/6. What I would say is that he reminds me of a MINELLA ROCCO with the very late end pace so for me I’d rather see him in a NH Chase, but he deserves to showcase himself at 3 miles before then and wherever he ends up in March, he’s going to have a big say.

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It’s often the phrase “it’s not all about Cheltenham” is spouted by me but while we have The November Meeting this Friday, Saturday & Sunday we do have some big names running elsewhere so it’s imperative we keep an eye on those too.


First name to note is IT’S FOR ME who runs in Punchestown on Thursday sporting a hood on this hurdles debut. One time favourite for The Champion Bumper and finishing 5th when sent off just 6/1 he flopped at Punchestown but showed prior to the Spring that he’s a horse with a big engine. He might be a little forgotten right now but a taking debut here could see him well touted for March once again.

Staying in Ireland before we look at Cheltenham we have a really nice Listed Chase on Friday in Wexford which sees MINELLA CROONER, BRONN and GAILLARD DU MESNIL entered. It would be MINELLA CROONER who I’d have an eye on for this season as the change of ownership to those that owned MOUNT IDA hinted at him potentially being a Kim Muir horse this season. BRONN is relatively unexposed but to date has looked like a proper 3 miles test him enough so you’d hope he’s strengthened coming into this season, and in doing so he could force his way into the better races. GAILLARD DU MESNIL was the NH Chase winner and a Grand National 3rd so you’d think this season would be about that race in April once again.

Saturday in Navan there’s a Grade 3 Novice Hurdle which doesn’t look very deep and CROKE PARK would look a very likely winner of that, but just remember it’s not a deep race so judge it as such. The Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle follows this where BEACON EDGE, BOB OLINGER, HOME BY THE LEE, SIRE DU BERLAIS & ZANAHIYR could be among the declarations with another Grade 2 straight after, this time for the Chasers. BANBRIDGE, CAPTAIN GUINNESS, DANCING ON MY OWN, DYSART DYNAMO and SAINT ROI are all entered so it looks a tidy enough race. The most eye-catching race could be the Beginners Chase though where AMERICAN MIKE, FACILE VEGA, GAELIC WARRIOR and INTHEPOCKET are entered. The latter has all but been confirmed for the race and I’d expect/hope that FACILE VEGA starts his chasing campaign as I’m expecting him to progress as much as any novice hurdler from last season.

Sunday still in Navan we have the Grade 3 Monksfield Novices hurdle where CROKE PARK is again entered along with no less than 5 others form his own yard and two from the same ownership. The Troytown would be the feature race on the card but again it’s a Beginners Chase that’s got me salivating as we have the likes of AMERICAN MIKE and GAELIC WARRIOR again but alongside FACT TO FILE, FAVOURI DE CHAMPDOU, KLASSICAL DREAM & SAINT FELICIAN. The card is closed with a Mares Listed bumper which contains QUALIMITA who was bought for a huge amount after winning her point by 30 lengths. I do think it’s fair to say though just 4 of the 13 runners finished so let’s see what she can do under rules before letting the price tag dictate our expectations.


Right into Cheltenham now where Friday sees two Novice Grade 2’s with JPR ONE attempting to show his true potential in the Arkle Trial (with a small field anticipated) while CAPTAIN TEAGUE headlines the Hyde Novices Hurdle, although Willie Mullins could send Mare SPACE TOURIST in against him, for a marker or to come with a chance is the question? We must touch on the Cross Country which is run as a Handicap this time of year but hosts GALVIN & DELTA WORK among the entries with 2021 winner of this race BACK ON THE LASH entered too. 

Saturday sees the Paddy Power Gold Cup headline the card which starts with a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle where BURDETT ROAD will be turned back out inside 2 weeks after an impressive victory at Huntingdon. Jockey Harry Cobden speaks very highly of this lad and he might not have much to beat. There’s a 3 mile Novices Chase which houses 8 and 9yo’s MISTER COFFEY & ALAPHILIPPE but both BROADWAY BOY and GOOD RISK AT ALL could face them. As for the Gold Cup itself, you’ll have to tune into this week’s Weekend Watch for our thoughts on that.

Sunday hosts one of my favourite days racing of the year with an often informative Novices Handicap Chase alongside the Shloer Chase and The Greatwood hurdle. The Shloer could see JONBON back at Cheltenham where he seeks his first win at the track and with EDWARDSTONE, NUBE NEGRA and EDITEUR DU GITE all lined up to take him on, he’s going to be proving he’s best of British if managing to land this. In the Greatwood I’ll give you a Weekend Watch spoiler as this race won’t be covered directly but will get a mention. I am incredibly keen on top weight NEMEAN LION; however as it stands I’m waiting to see if LUCCIA lines up too, because I’ve sworn I’d back her first time up in a Handicap, but you’d think the Mares Hurdle race she ran in just two weeks ago might have taken enough out of her.

Check out this weeks Weekend Watch podcast, where Andrew Mount, Dave Young & Kate Tracey guide us through the six ITV races on Saturday, including four of the key races from the Cheltenham card:

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