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GG Cheltenham Ante-Post Book – 31st January

We’re right in the middle of some of the most informative racing in terms of Cheltenham Festival clues and we saw some incredible efforts in the weekend just gone. I’ll run through the best of those, and we’ll take a look forward to the Dublin Racing Festival but before that I’ve got another ante post suggestion to consider.

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ANTE-POST OUTLOOK

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
  • 21st November – FLOORING PORTER (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – 12/1 generally)
  • 28th November – MINELLA COCOONER (National Hunt Chase – 16/1 generally)
  • 5th DecemberCHAPEAU DE SOLEIL (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – 33/1 generally)
  • 19th DecemberBRECHIN CASTLE (Champion Bumper – 33/1 generally)
  • 3rd JanuaryIT’S FOR ME (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 10/1 generally NRMB)
  • 10th January – HERMES ALLEN (Turners Novices’ Chase – 14/1 NRMB)
  • 16th January – HIGH CLASS HERO (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – 12/1 generally NRMB)
  • 23rd January – JETARA (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – 12/1 generally NRMB)
  • 31st January – ARGENTO BOY (Champion Bumper – 16/1 generally NRMB)

ANTE-POST SELECTION

ANTE-POST SELECTION: CHAMPION BUMPER – ARGENTO BOY (16/1 generally NRMB)

Across the weekend there was an abundance of serious performances and often that can mean some are over-hyped and some are under appreciated. ARGENTO BOY’s bumper win on Saturday most definitely falls into the latter.

With Patrick Mullins over in Doncaster it was left to Jody Townend to take the reins and this effort was well above average. Having taken the lead about ¾ of a mile out he was faced with challenges turning for home after reducing his lead. Quickening away and I thought on another day he could have won by even further if there had been more pace on early.

The second was making his rules debut, but as a 6yo having achieved a peak RPR in points of 94 which is a fair number. The third was a Henry De Bromhead runner who was switching back to bumpers from two hurdles efforts, brought down in the first of those early on then reported to have never travelled next time out. The 4th was also making his rules debut but another point winner who managed a 92 RPR in that win.

Now that’s hard to sell the form as being worldly, but it is testament to that fact it wasn’t a weak bumper and I think that by the time it’s been franked, the proverbial horse will have already bolted. The fact the yard had another eye-catching bumper winner on Sunday has masked this horse I feel, and the comparative prices for the main event in March of 16/1 for this lad vs the 6/1 for stablemate JASMIN DE VAUX seems extreme.

Our lad posted an RPR of 115 which is 13 points lighter than JASMIN’S 128 but I have touched on the fact I think ARGENTO could have been more emphatic given what he did in the race. JASMIN beat a three times bumper runner who had been beaten 11, 13 and 15 lengths by nothing of note, the third was a point winner achieving an RPR of 81 but also beaten by nothing of note in a bumper prior and 4th has been beaten three times prior in bumpers with unattractive form too. Certainly, the pair look very nice prospects, but I don’t see the gulf in price being truly reflective of the difference between them and I believe the main change I make in the price is that ARGENTO BAY should be shorter as opposed to JASMIN being any bigger.

Now we do have a big bumper coming up this weekend at The Dublin Racing Festival but A DREAM TO SHARE is the favourite and he can’t run in March having had too many bumper runs. The same is true for second favourite REDEMPTION DAY and the third favourite currently, JALON D’OUDAIRIES, is already favourite for March, but on him I do think REDEMPTION DAY looked to shirk it the last day so I’m not sold.

Finally, ARGENTO BOY is a half brother to Champion Bumper winner BRIAR HILL who also achieved an RPR of 115 on debut and was equally underestimated when landing the main prize in March at 25/1. Willie Mullins was very complementary of our selection’s performance, so much so that he brought him into the conversation while being asked about Sundays bumper winner JASMIN DE VAUX. So, if me liking him isn’t enough to sell the case, surely Willie liking him does?

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Performances From The Weekend

SIR GINO was the emphatic victor in his match against BURDETT ROAD and for all that there were seven runners in the race, it was very much just about the main two. Sent off a narrow 5/4 second favourite, SIR GINO had been the subject of support having opened around 13/8 and boy was that support warranted. He looks far more complete than he did on his British debut and the way he quickened clear after James Bowen asked for just a little more was phenomenal. I have no doubt that he is by far the best Juvenile we’ve seen this season, so much so that I’m not sure whatever happens in the Spring Juvenile this weekend will be able to stop him going off favourite. History has shown us that we do need to pay attention to what happens over in that race in Ireland though so for all that I think he’ll shorten up, it’s worth waiting with for the time being.

LOSSIEMOUTH was the best juvenile from last season and by some way, however her performance in The International was sparking for more than just conviction towards the Mares Hurdle in March, it forced cries from racing to see her take on CONSTITUTION HILL instead. I was very taken with what she did, so much so I also felt instantly that it’ll will be some race when that pair face off. However, that was her first foray into open company, and she came off very well in the weights. She also took on rivals who would prefer different conditions to produce their optimum and so in turn we do need to stay grounded. Willie Mullins targets races for a reason, and the Mares’ Hurdle has been the target as that’s where he believes her best chance of victory stands. I think you’d struggle to find many people who disagree with that now and there’s plenty of time down the line for this newly turned 5yo to throw her towel into the ring with the big boys.

JADE DE GRUGY had left a big impression on her hurdling debut and stepped up again to power clear in the Grade 3 Solerina Hurdle. That came over 2m2f and on slow enough ground and it’s imperative to remember her hurdle bow was on even slower ground. She looks right up there with the best of the Irish Novice Mares, but doesn’t scream to be miles clear of her nearest market rivals but it’s hard to imagine her out of the frame in March.

DYSART ENOS is flying the flag for British Novices in the Ante Post markets and once again Fergal O’Brien afforded her a weak race to visually impress in again. My biggest frustration with this approach is not being able to get a tangible handle on how good she might be as for all that I understand the avoidance of carrying a penalty, there have been deeper races that she could have come out on top of. Still, she looks to have as much chance as any in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, but whether she will produce in a bigger field and more tactical race will have to be seen on the big day, and in terms of forming an opinion on how she handles that, I’m not sure we can regardless of the Aintree bumper win last season.

EMBASSY GARDENS made it two from two over fences and Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old appears to have the National Hunt Chase at his mercy. I’m not so sold that the depth of his races amounts to much and his three wins over obstacles have come in fields of 6 or less so there’s certainly a big enough question mark about whether he should be priced as short as he is for March, but you can’t really argue with him heading the market.

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Coming Up This Week

This weekend is predominantly about the Dublin Racing Festival but before we run through some names there, Sandown’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase looks like a decent enough renewal should both HERMES ALLEN and CORBETTS CROSS face off.

Now onto the juicy stuff!

Four Grade 1’s and a Grade 2 on Leopardstown’s Saturday card starting off with the 2m 6f novice hurdle where PREDATORS GOLD left a taking impression on debut before running well in second after having been dropped back to the minimum trip. He looks a stayer so has a favourites chance in here. Last week’s recommendation JETARA will take on the boys and Jessie Harrington has hinted that they may skip Cheltenham in favour of Fairyhouse. I however, am hoping that she finds this company and trip too much on likely testing ground which sees her back in the Mares Novice picture.

Second up we have the spring juvenile where it’s another Willie Mullins and Gigginstown Stud favourite, this time in STORM HEART who looks Irelands best Juvenile. SALVATOR MUNDI has been a talking horse having run behind SIR GINO in France, however with the owners also picking up the winner, I’d suggest he might be kept for next season to retain his Novice status. HIGHWIND, BUNTING, KALA CONTI, KARGESE and MAJBOROUGH are other notable entries.

Race 3 is the Irish Arkle where vibes suggest GAELIC WARRIOR could run over the trip he did last season before stepping up again in Cheltenham. MARINE NATIONALE has a strong favourites chance although any drying of the ground would be appreciated by him. FACILE VEGA might either not run this weekend or if he does it would look likely to be in the longer Novice Chase according to the betting. I’d prefer to see him skip it this year and go to Cheltenham and the Arkle a fresh horse and it wouldn’t surprise me if GAELIC swerves this left-handed meeting too, but we’ll see.

In the last Grade 1 of the day we’re going to see round three of FASTORSLOW vs GALOPIN DES CHAMPS in the Irish Gold Cup and with the score 2-0 to the former, you’d be hoping that GALOPIN shows more of the same from last time than he did the twice previous that they met.

The Grade 2 bumper ends the card where A DREAM TO SHARE, REDEMPTION DAY, JALON D’OUDAIRIES, YOU OUTTA KNOW and JOYSTICK are just a handful of the big names that should run.

Onto Sunday and the second day in Leopardstown there are three more Grade 1s before the curtain closing Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper. The first is the second Novice Chase over 2m 5 ½f where FACT TO FILE is the Ante-Post favourite with GRANGECLARE WEST just in behind. I’ve given a mention to GAELIC WARRIOR, FACILE VEGA and CORBETTS CROSS who are next in the betting, but all have other options.

Following this it’s the chance for the 2-mile novice hurdlers to shine and BALLYBURN still holds his place right near the front of both the Supreme and Ballymore markets. Surely a facile victory here will see him run in the Festival opener? FARREN GLORY, SLADE STEEL and stablemate DADDY LONG LEGS will be trying to land this too.

Next up we’ll see EL FABIOLO in the Dublin Chase and after JONBON’s defeat at the weekend, anything other than a loss for EL FABIOLO should just see him handed the Champion Chase in March. DINOBLUE might end up in the Mares Chase but looks likely to give him most to think about in receipt of 7lbs here.

The last Grade 1 on Sunday is the Irish Champion Hurdle where STATE MAN will bid to continue his domination of this division away from CONSTITUTION HILL. BOB OLINGER showed signs of the old BOB in the Relkeel at Cheltenham so could give him a scare at the least.

The Mares’ Bumper closes the Dublin Racing Festival and both AURORA VEGA and FEMME MAGNIFIQUE look to have outstanding claims.


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