As the weeks go on, there will be a few instances where I’d hope to acquire some bets on horses that are likely to a) Run and b) Shorten in price, at Cheltenham in March. Today, we are taking the plunge for the Arkle, the Ryanair and the RSA – all Grade 1 championship events where It’d be nice to have a couple of decent positions come the big week!
Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase
Firstly, I’m very much on the Felix Yonger fan-club board of directors. He is a relatively old novice, going into the spring as an 8yo, but by-golly he is a talented horse, one who could make his next few years count in the top class events. I think his last run can be crossed out on ground conditions and whatever race he goes for at the festival he’ll go close to winning. He is more the type of horse I’d like to smash into on the day once we know where he runs and when we can see him in the paddock ready to rock and roll. At the moment he is fairly tripless. He could easily be an Arkle or a Jewson horse and down the line he could get further. So Felix is on the cards for a Cheltenham punt, just not an ante-post one.
Champagne Fever is too short for an ante-post bet at around 4-5/1 and was soundly put in his place by Defy Logic at Leopardstown. Defy Logic is very talented but the cat is out of the bag now and I think he will find a couple too good unless it came up very soft.
One horse who has been dismissed laughably easily to my mind is Grandouet. He is available to back at 20/1 with Bet 365 and for a horse of his quality, those odds could be underestimating him. He unseated when apparently beaten on his Sandown debut and that same horse who won, Hinterland (10/1 generally for the Arkle), just denied him by a neck next time over the same course and trip. I thought he could have won that race and for him to be double the odds of Hinterland now is a tad unfair.
On soft ground at Kempton latest, they tried something new with the 7yo which I think will stand to him in terms of getting his jumping right. On soft ground he was allowed to bowl along and he was spectacularly good at some of those fences and a bit out to the left and sketchy at a couple – flawed, but far from devoid of immense promise. Lets not forget this horse has only just turned seven and was top class over hurdles. He has an abundance of class, speed and is one of the nicest moving and looking horses you’re likely to see over jumps. For all his quirks, he is still a horse of potential over fences and it is all about educating the horse and training him for the big days that could lie ahead provided they get it right preparation wise.
He ran out of puff and was comprehensively out-gunned by Dodging Bullets on the day at Kempton, but I still feel he could reverse those placings at the festival under entirely different conditions and he appears to be a value price to do so. Dodging Bullets flopped badly in the Supreme at last year’s festival, while Grandouet was very unfortunate to fall when travelling with consummate ease in the Champion Hurdle – a race he would have probably placed in had he stayed up.
Festival form is what it is all about.
He has a hell of a lot of questions to answer, but that is reflected in his price. I’m sure that Henderson will get a win into him before the Arkle and you can be fairly sure it is still his target.
With the race numbers likely to thin out, he should come down in price as a matter of course. If he does win in the meantime and the ground comes up good at a course he acts well around, he could go off at half those odds or less on the day with Barry Geraghty on board.
1pt E/w at 20/1 on Grandouet with bet 365 is the call.
This season’s staying novices have been quite underwhelming this season so far. For me, the Irish hold the aces from those heading the market – the Ballycaseys, Don Cossacks and Carlingford Loughs of this world make appeal as likely types to come out very high on the list in this division come late spring. I’ve got little desire to try and sort them out now however, and attempt to come out the other end with a well-researched and bullshit selection, only for a horse of similar ability on all known form to come out and do the business when it matters.
From the British contingent, a horse I have a lot of time for and one who is a potential improver is the Rebecca Curtis trained O’Faolains Boy. The 7yo enjoyed a good season as a novice, finishing fourth to stablemate At Fisher’s Cross at the festival last season. But his future was always going to lie over fences and he made a very pleasing debut at Ascot recently when second to Easter Day over 2m5f. It was his first run for 281 over a trip which was bound to be a bit too short. AP McCoy didn’t give the horse a hard time given that he suffered a joint problem during the summer and his jumping, on the whole, was very good and hinted at the horse having a natural technique for it.
He is entered at Warwick this weekend and would have a good chance if taking up the engagement. Alternatively the trainer has pencilled in Haydock the following week. Regardless, he is likely to show up an improved performance for his second run. Curtis, in her Racing Post stable tour, said O’Faolain’s Boy could be an RSA horse and she remains adamant that he is an exciting prospect who, to my mind at least, is being under-estimated; mainly owing to him being a dark horse, an unknown quantity – one with less than trendy connections. Hopefully he can rectify that shortly.
He is available to back at a top price of 25/1 with Bet Victor, who are offering non-runner free bet on all festival races. With that in mind, 1pt E/w at the said price is advised. I hope the horse can progress as I suspect he could and shorten up in the market.
Of the top 5 in the market, only one or two are likely to run in the Ryanair in all likelihood. Cue Card will go for Gold it seems, First Lieutenant is likely to do the same especially now with the defection of Sir Des Champs, and Al Ferof is going for the Argento Chase next over 3m, suggesting the blue riband event is firmly on the agenda provided he comes through there with any degree of respect in terms of his performance.
Dynaste flopped badly at Kempton and was beaten when strongly fancied at the festival last time. He could be more of a flat track horse and in any case, he couldn’t be backed with a terrible amount of confidence given his King George effort.
So from those heading the market, the clear option is Tony Martin’s Benefficient, who won at the festival last season and is already a Grade 1 winner this season. He race would appear to be an ideal target for him and the fact that acquiring his favoured pilot Bryan Cooper shouldn’t be a problem he looks the bet at 8/1. I’m suggesting a 1.5pt win bet at those odds which are available with a few firms.
The other to back, with a 0.75pts E/w stake and make up a 3pt layout on the race, is 12yo Sizing Europe, who is available to back at rather big looking odds of 20/1 with Paddy Power. He returned to action at Down Royal over 3m, which has blatantly never been his trip and again he was beaten by a stronger stayer. Last time out at Leopardstown, Andrew Lynch went off like a scalded cat into a strong wind on a bad day. Way too fast – and it was never going to work with talented horses stacking up in behind for a late finish. Basically he killed the horse’s speed over 12f and he had nothing but fumes in the tank for the finish on bad ground – far from ideal.
In a nutshell, Sizing Europe’s two runs this season are easily forgotten and riddled with excuses, but there is the positive aspect of them putting a fitness edge on him for his big festival target, which from the start of the season has been the Ryanair Chase according to trainer Henry De Bromhead. Yes he is getting on a bit, but lets not forget his record at the festival in spring. A 2m5f trip will be ideal on spring ground. He perhaps lacks the toe for 2m at this stage and 3m stretches him at the top level, but at his favourite track in a race he has been trained for, he is likely to go very well indeed in my opinion.
The Ryanair will attract its usual cast of talented in-betweeners, but the two horses mentioned above are seemingly most likely to run and enjoy the terms of the test and not only that, we can be reasonably certain that the race is their primary target.
Arkle: Grandouet 1pt E/w @ 20/1
RSA: 1pt E/w O’Faolain’s Boy @ 25/1
Ryanair: Benefficient 1.5pt win @ 8/1, Sizing Europe 0.75pts E/w 20/1
Just a note in terms of profit and loss for Tips Den ante-post bets, I will be staking considerably less on them than I would the normal bets and consider them to be a more fun arm of my betting strategy. I’d still like them to be profitable and lets hope they are, but the figures, for better or for worse, will not be published as part of the main Tips Den P/L.