Being my last piece before the big week in March, my focus once again will be on the Cheltenham Festival. Some of my bets so far are sitting in pretty good positions, with Appreciate It, Abacadabras and Fakiera in particular, all running brilliant races at the Dublin Racing Festival.
I certainly haven’t lost hope with some of the others, Minello Indo especially I think there is plenty of juice in his 20/1 for the Gold Cup currently. It’s not an overly strong renewal and given he’s saved his best for Cheltenham the previous two seasons; I think he’s great value.
This race has quite an intriguing set up from a betting perspective. It looks as though Concertista will definitely be heading here as she’s been the leading mare over hurdles in Ireland so far this campaign (excluding Honeysuckle).
Aside from her, participants are slightly up in the air. Honeysuckle looks destined for the Champion Hurdle, Roksana may miss Cheltenham altogether but could run in this or the Stayers’ Hurdle if lining up at Prestbury Park.
Verdana Blue is generally kept at two miles, Dame De Compagnie and Elimay have been chasing this season, while Benie Des Dieux has been ruled out. So out of those near the top of the market, Concertista could have this race at her mercy.
Considering how severely this contest could cut up, Indefatigable looks a hugely appealing bet. For a horse that takes her form to a different level when getting to Cheltenham, I don’t understand why she’s the price she is.
Four runs at the track have resulted in a fifth in the 2019 Mares’ Novice Hurdle, a Listed win, a second to Dame De Compagnie (conceding weight) and a win in the 2020 Martin Pipe.
She’s a really solid mare and given her rating of 149, that doesn’t give her much to find with the market principles. I’m not sure she got the three miles at Kempton in November and in the Relkeel at the same venue against the boys, she was ridden very aggressively in what was a well run race.
A return to Cheltenham will help her massively and the drier the ground, the better she’ll be.
Even if the likes of Roksana and Dame De Compagnie show up here, Indefatigable is right up with them on the figures and would have a great each way shout at the very least, but is sitting at 33/1 compared to 9/2 and 11/1 respectively for the aforementioned pair.
Soft ground wouldn’t be exactly what she wants, (it wouldn’t be terrible for her chances, she goes on it no problem), but I’d be more confident if there was some good in the description as that seems to bring out the best in her. Either way, I think it’s a great value bet.
Back Indefatigable @ 33/1 Each Way (or 25/1 Each Way NRNB)
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Gaillard Du Mesnil leapt to the top of this market following his win at the Dublin Racing Festival and all in all, it was an impressive performance. He quickened nicely after the second last to get on Stattler’s tail and put it to bed after the last. For some reason I just can’t get on the bandwagon, it was a solid Grade 1 win for sure, but he’s had to be asked fairly seriously to beat what are in my view, relatively slow horses compared to what he’ll be up against at Cheltenham.
That is by no means to say he can’t win, but I prefer others at the prices.
I feel the same about Bravemansgame, he’s a lovely looking horse who’s already a Grade 1 winner. But I can’t listen to anyone rave about what he’s done so far, at all. His two novice wins were good, but if he was even going to run at Cheltenham, he should have been winning them as he did. The Challow was farcical if you ask me, which is why I can’t have him at the price.
Star Gate looked a shadow of what he was at Sandown, The Glancing Queen is as big as 14/1 for the Mares Novices’ Hurdle, Wilde About Oscar never ran his race and Bravemansgame got a completely uncontested lead with Does He Know running out. On top of that, he’s been mentioned in the same bracket as Denman, which has also contacted his price. I can’t justify 9/2.
I really like Bob Olinger for this.
For starters, I think he has it all. A point to point winner so he has stamina, he’s won over slightly further than two miles as well as two and a half miles including a Grade 1, so he isn’t short of speed either. His form is rock solid – being beaten just a length by Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow, who was favourite for the Supreme prior to his injury. In winning at the top level at Naas, he beat Blue Lord who was then a staying on third to Appreciate It at Leopardstown.
The quicker they went at Naas, the better Bob Olinger seemed to jump and he quickened impressively after the last, hitting the line strongly. In terms of an all round profile for the race, you couldn’t really ask for much more.
Back Bob Olinger @ 9/2 (or 4/1 NRNB)
My first handicap bet has come pretty late this year, mainly because I wanted to wait until the Non Runner No Bet concession was available, so there is then at least the option of that too.
This contest looks the prime option for Joseph O’Brien’s Embittered.
He is by no means a serial winner, with only a single success over obstacles to his name, but something he doesn’t lack is ability. Beaten two lengths in a Grade 1 Bumper and under ten lengths behind Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle last season, he’s also acquitted himself well enough in a couple of top level events over fences this campaign, producing RPR’s of 140 or above in each of his four chase starts.
Running particularly well for a long way behind Energumene last time before weakening on the run in. He wouldn’t have a chance in the Arkle, so the Grand Annual looks a logical next step. He’s got an Irish rating of 144 over fences compared to 149 over hurdles, so should have a little in hand even after he’s raised a few pounds by the English handicapper.
Crucially, he ran a blinder when third in the County Hurdle last season behind Saint Roi and Aramon at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, so his course form is right up there.
Back Embittered @ 20/1 Each Way (or 12/1 Each Way NRNB)
Paddy Power Plate
JP McManus took home four handicap prizes from Prestbury Park last season and he’ll no doubt add to that tally this year. Gavin Cromwell last tasted Festival success with Espoir D’Allen in the 2019 Champion Hurdle in the famous green and gold hoops, hopefully Alfa Mix, in those same silks, can be his next winner.
A few things have led me to this bet, the first being that Alfa Mix hasn’t had many runs over two and a half miles, only three to be precise.
All three of those came over hurdles last season and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are his three best performances, both from a form and RPR perspective. A seventh in the Coral Cup last season shows good course form too.
He’s been kept to the minimum trip over fences so far and while never really challenging, I think his efforts have been encouraging with a few to a handicap over further. In particular his last run behind Aramax, when seemingly about to drop back through the field, he stuck at his task very well to reclaim third.
A step up in trip is going to bring about a good amount of improvement I feel.
A chase mark of 135 is 7lb below his Coral Cup rating of 142 last year and with the likely extra few pounds the English handicapper will give him, that should be enough to sneak into the bottom of the weights for this race.
Back Alfa Mix @ 25/1 Each Way (or 20/1 Each Way NRNB)
The Irish appears to hold a formidable challenge in the juvenile division, with Zanahiyr, Quilixios and French Aseel all looking high class horses.
Because of the nature of this race and those horses being unbeaten over hurdles, there are some good prices knocking about.
As all the focus is on the Irish contingent, the English runners are being slightly overlooked in my view. I can see Tritonic serving it up to the raiders. The first thing to say about him is that he was an extremely good flat horse, rated 99 with runner up efforts in Listed company and at Royal Ascot.
To be honest he had no right to win on hurdling debut at Ascot from where he was positioned going round the home bend. Casa Loupi stole a few lengths and looked all over the winner, but the way Tritonic knuckled down impressed me, as well as how brave he was at the final hurdle. He jumped well in the main for a hurdling debut and should only be able to step up on that.
Due to run at Kempton in either the Adonis or the Dovecote towards the end of February, I’d like to think he can win there on route to Cheltenham. He was better than Zanahiyr on the flat, he jumps well, has enough tactical speed from the flat but showed at Ascot he definitely doesn’t lack stamina and his attitude is great, so I’m hoping he can upset the raiding party.
Back Tritonic @ 12/1 Each Way NRNB
In Issue 75 Alex also offered the following Antepost bets
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Back Appreciate It @ 11/4
Champion Hurdle – Back Abacadabras @ 20/1 Each Way
Champion Bumper – Back Ramillies @ 16/1 Each Way
Mares Novices’ Hurdle – Back Gauloise @ 5/1
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Back Fakiera @ 25/1 Each Way