After a weekend of insightful action and in view of some key races coming in hot in the next couple of weeks, the time feels right to dip in with a few pre-Christmas Cheltenham ante-post selections. Some people get all uptight about talking about the festival this early, well I like to blow raspberries at those folk…
We'll keep the reasoning fairly short & sweet as always, I've no intention of sending anyone to sleep with War & Peace on these, but as usual confidence is (foolishly) high.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
I rather fell in love with imposing son of Network the moment he set foot over a hurdle in public at Killarney back in May. Joseph O'Brien’s 4yo remains green and has some filling out to do, but he’s been hugely impressive in three hurdles wins to date and left plenty to build on at Galway. Twobeelucky did that form a favour by winning at Cheltenham’s October meeting and there’s no knowing how much better Le Richebourg is to Henry de Bromhead’s useful prospect given the ease of that win and likely improvement to come. O’Brien holds him in the highest regard and the trainer too, must be held in some esteem given his achievements already. Le Richebourg of course will have a small army of Mullins, Henderson, Elliott, Nicholls & Co novices to fend off if he’s to even command a ticket to the Cheltenham Festival for any race, but I don’t think this is a Summertime one-trick pony. He looks the real deal to me, goes straight to the Royal Bond next and looks reasonably priced at 25/1 for the Supreme.
Arkle Novices Chase
Couldn’t have been more impressive at Navan on Sunday on his chasing debut and at 7 or 8/1, looks the one to be on early doors for the Arkle on day one of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. He was foot perfect at his fences and just oozed class and quality throughout, thumping Brelade by considerably further than Petit Mouchoir managed to the last day; and he did that at Navan on testing ground. He’s a right good two miler is Footpad and as it stands, the race doesn’t have the strongest of looks to it. That could all change of course, but as I sit here, Footpad looks a stonking price to win the race. 4th in Champion Hurdle, ground could be a question mark given how well he seems to handle it soft, but his run behind Buveur D'Air was a career-best effort on good ground. He’s just a class horse, hopefully he can continue to progress, remain sound and hold his enthusiasm for it. If he does, the Willie Mullins trained 5yo will probably win the Arkle.
A horse I took a while to warm to, the last time we saw Faugheen he beat the 2017 County Hurdle winner by 15 lengths and the 2017 Stayers’ Hurdle winner by 28 lengths at Leopardstown. At the time (Jan 2016), we all knew it was a good performance from the top 2m hurdler around, but it would’ve been easy to knock what he beat. Arctic Fire was arriving on the back of an indifferent run over 3m, while Nichols Canyon must’ve been miles below his best....right? Well I don’t know, watching the race back it just looks like two good horses were thumped by a monster. Fast forward a year, Arctic Fire ran marginally faster than Defi Du Seuil when carrying 11st 12lb to victory in the County Hurdle back in March, in what was probably a career best effort. The runner up L'ami Serge won a Grade 2 at Sandown and a Grade 1 in Auteuil subsequently, even Ozzie The Oscar back in 3rd has come out and won impressively first time out this season. With Nichols Canyon, The New One, Jezki and others still very much alive and kicking, the passing of time has done nothing but compliment the 2015 Champion Hurdler. All due respect to Buveur D’Air - he’s a seriously good horse - but if Faugheen comes back to his near-best, they won’t see which way he went on 13th of March 2018.
“The Machine” returns to action in the Morgiana Hurdle on Sunday. He’ll probably win. He definitely won’t be 6/1 to regain his Champion Hurdle crown if he does. We can only have faith in Willie Mullins and his team to have nursed this potential All-Time Great hurdler back to something like his best.
Supasundae - 2pts E/w 16/1 generally
An open looking market and I’m keen to have a position against the established Nichols Canyon/Unowhatimeanharry guard here. Jessica Harrington’s 7yo Supasundae fits the bill in many ways. For a start, he won a good renewal of the Coral Cup at the festival back in March, very much relishing the big field and additional stress running at the Festival can entail for a horse. The likes of Modus, Monksland, Kalondra, Thomas Hobson and Robinshill have all served that form well and Supasundae lost nothing in defeat to Yanworth when stepped up to Grade 1 level at Aintree next time. Harrington has already said this race is very much the long term plan for her son of Galileo, who's been very good on the clock, has vital Cheltenham form and he really should improve a bit more too. He needs to find about 7lb to match Nichols Canyon’s Festival victory, which is a perfectly reasonable assumption between now and March given his profile. At 16/1, I can’t leave him out.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
Coneygree - 1pt E/w 25/1 generally
2015 Gold Cup hero is yet to get the chance to fully restore his reputation as a top staying chaser in a career littered with hold ups. He suffered an overreach in the Charlie Hall, with Sara Bradstock and Nico De Boinville reporting a low sun hindered the 10yo in the jumping department, which led to him losing his action in the home straight before being pulled up. It’s forgiveable and as fragile as he is, the fact remains Coneygree has only had eight starts over fences and has few miles on the clock. I’m not suggesting he can dominate a deep division or anything of the sort, but there’s every chance he could peak again and show the brilliance of old a couple more times. I believe connections are targeting the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup) and if he turns up fit, he could easily run a very big race on a mark of 165 given his size, jumping and ability to maintain a sustained gallop - he also likes Newbury. As for Cheltenham, it’ll be a training performance just to get him there. But I reckon Coneygree has become a bit of a sleeping giant in this market, because if he makes it to the Gold Cup he is unlikely to go off at anything like a 25/1 shot and he’s even less likely to run like one.
You can get in touch with me via email: Kevin.OMalley@GG.CO.UK OR by finding me on Twitter: @KOM_GGRacing
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