Holding and Sticky – not, as you may think, two West Indian fast bowlers, but the type of ground to be encountered on day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival, which has as the centrepiece the Betway Queen mother Champion Chase at 3.30.
Favourite in all books is the Nicky Henderson trained Altior, unbeaten in seven starts over fences, including the Arkle at last year’s event. Opposition includes the returning Douvan, not seen since going lame in this race a year ago, when a 2-9 shot to continue its devastating run of victories and its stable companion Min, which, but for a disqualification, would be unbeaten in five.
The presence of these two means that Altior is backable at odds against for the first time in its chasing career and, despite a late scare with a minor foot problem, we recommend a win bet at 11-10.
The opening race, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 1.30, sees the appearance of the flying machine that is called Samcro, a facile winner of all of its six races to date. When someone of the stature of N J Henderson says if there is one horse he’s like to train it’s this one, note should be taken and no doubt NJH is hoping that Samcro’s brother ‘Vel’ will soon be sent to his yard.
Best price about Samcro is 8-11, which we can’t recommend, but we can suggest a sporting each way option against it.
Step forward Vision Des Flos at 16-1.
Bought for a paltry £270,000 after winning a Punchestown bumper, everyone was wondering what the fuss was about after failing to win three hurdle races for the Tizzard team. However, a wind op and the addition of a tongue tie saw VDF saunter home by no less than 31 lengths on heavy ground at Exeter, giving 10 lbs to a horse rated 135. Can’t say this horse will beat Samcro, but it could well beat everything else.
The RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at 2.10 has ten runners, including the amazing Black Corton, always underestimated but always winning under Bryony Frost. This time, however, we are going to say ‘a race too far’ and suggest a win bet on Ireland’s pride and joy Presenting Percy at 5-2.
The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at 2.50 is a simple matter, with just the 26 runners going to post, but needs must, so the suggestion is each way bets on William Henry at 8-1 and As You Were at a more artisan 25-1.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase is at 4.10 so let’s move on to the 4.50, shall we?
22 line up for the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and our first investment (each way) is on the Dan Skelton trained Nube Negra at 10-1. This horse plied its trade in Spain before joining the Skelton team (the name means Black Cloud in Spanish) and has won two from three hurdles. The only defeat came at the hands of Apple’s Shakira, to which it was trying to give 4lbs and which is hot favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. An opening handicap mark of 135 is looking good now.
We also recommend an each way punt on the ex-French trained The King Of May at 11-1. Now trained by Brian Ellison, this horse made a highly promising British debut when just behind Act Of Valour at Musselburgh, will come on for that and is weighted to reverse the form.
The day finishes with the Wetherbys Champion Bumper and despite concerns about the ground conditions, we stay with the Nick Gifford trained Didtheyleaveuoutto, each way at 14-1. Despite Barry Geraghty jumping ship, if this 5-y-o can reproduce its devastating turn of foot, it’ll take the beating (as they say).
Altior 3.30 Cheltenham win @ 11-10
Vision Des Flos 1.30 Cheltenham e/w @ 16-1
Presenting Percy 2.10 Cheltenham win @ 5-2
William Henry 2.50 Cheltenham e/w @ 8-1 (6 places)
As You Were 2.50 Cheltenham e/w @ 25-1 (6 places)
Nube Negra 4.50 Cheltenham e/w @ 10-1 (5 places)
The King Of May 4.50 Cheltenham e/w @ 11-1 (5 places)
Didtheyleaveuoutto 5.30 Cheltenham e/w @ 14-1 (4 places)