1:30PM JCB Triumph Hurdle
Although there are plenty in with a chance of winning the Triumph Hurdle this year, it looks as if the Irish are going to be the ones that will take the prize home, as the top three in the market are trained by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins. Vauban looks the pick of the bunch after his fantastic performance last time out when he emerged on top, showing a superior turn of foot in a tactical race and passing the line three lengths ahead of Fil Dor, who was currently three unbeaten at the time and a graded winner already. Vauban is a very light raced horse, having only had the two runs for Willie Mullins since coming over from France, where he had four runs on the flat, winning on two separate occasions. He looks the typical Willie Mullins type who will improve with each run, and he looks to possess bags of speed, which he showed last time out when mopping up a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival. He will improve even further from that run and is arguably one of the more exciting horses going forward.
One with a splendid each way chance is the Milton Harris-trained Knight Salute who arguably brings the best form to the table and gets the verdict to come in the places for a very much inform trainer this year, who is bouncing back to the form we once associated them with. He would no doubt be single-figures price wise, if he were trained by the likes of Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls or any of the top Irish trainers. He was also an ex-flat performer who has thrived since going hurdling, winning at Sedgefield and Kempton before taking the step up in class in his stride over course and distance in November in the Grade 2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham. Then he went on to win two more Grade 2 races at Doncaster and Kempton, which was arguably his best career performance to date when landing the Adonis Hurdle last time out by just over three lengths. He is a winning machine and already has form at Cheltenham, which could be key for these slightly more inexperienced horses.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 1 👇🏼
2:10PM McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle
Dan and Harry Skelton have some fantastic chances at the Festival this season, especially when it comes to the handicaps which he has been doing well in over the last few years. West Cork was incredibly impressive in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last November, when running for the first time in just over a year and half, to win going away by just under a length. He beat a horse that day who is going to line up in the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the festival and connections of that horse think he will run well. He was pretty disappointing last time out at Ascot however, but it has been confirmed by his trainer tactics were slightly changed that day, which might not have worked in his favour, and the track might not have been stiff enough for him. He has some winning form at Cheltenham and will appreciate the conditions and trip, also he’s had a short break to freshen him up before this race, something Dan Skelton said worked a few years ago so they are using that tactic again this year. West Cork will run well in this for a very much in form stable who will look to have a good week.
Trainer Brian Ellison is having a slightly quieter season than usual, but he has definitely been in the winner’s enclosure quite a bit recently, and he has the inform Cormier lining up in this contest with a resurgent Sean Quinlan booked to ride, another jockey who is having a brilliant time of things lately riding plenty of winners. This horse has found his feet recently winning his last two runs, once at Cheltenham in January and once at Kelso at the start of the month. They were both in class two contests and he won them both with something in hand, but he has to take a slight step up in class for this race. He is thriving at present and is as game as they come, the type of horse you couldn’t ask anymore of when he runs. He has winning form at Cheltenham recently, a decent weight for this and a jockey who rode him to victory last time, so he could outrun his odds in this very wide-open affair.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 2 👇🏼
2:50PM Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Hillcrest was the big ‘will he, won’t he?’ horse for this year’s Albert Bartlett and the answer is that he will take his chance in the three-mile novice hurdle. Henry Daly’s gigantic stamp of a horse has won many admirers not just for his imposing frame but also his relentless galloping style, exemplified at Haydock on bad ground when laughing at a rival who had looked a serious threat pre-race in Green Book. He is a picture of a horse who will no doubt come even better when going over fences next season, and this race usually does produce a decent chaser if they do go on to win it. He has been excellent this season winning three of his four starts including a Listed and Grade 2 race last time out, whilst being quite unlucky when he was brought down at Cheltenham in January, it wasn’t even his fault that happened, so he was very unlucky to not complete the race.
It would be foolish to highlight too many British contenders in our Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle tips, but Stag Horn cannot be underestimated. Archie Watson is much better known for training two-year-old sprinters than staying hurdlers, but Stag Horn has taken to his new vocation like a duck to water. He was three-figure rated on the Flat (as high as 108 at one point in the summer of 2021) where he was a strong stayer and, unlike many highly rated horses that come from the level, it’s been a seamless transition for the five-year-old. Stag Horn was allowed to set a muddling pace in the early stages of Warwick’s Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, but the tempo lifted with over a circuit to go and he saw his race out in relentless fashion. He is one of the more lightly raced horses in the field but was so impressive last time out at a proper stiff track, so Cheltenham doesn’t look to be an issue with him. Exciting times ahead for connections, especially his trainer as he looks to get his first Cheltenham Festival winner at the first time of asking.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 3 👇🏼
3:30PM Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo won the showpiece race last year, beating stablemate A Plus Tard by one-and-a-quarter lengths under an excellent Jack Kennedy ride and he currently bids to become only the fifth horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup back-to-back. His record around this course is clearly fantastic and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him make a bold effort to potentially defend to his crown, but he’s not been at his best so far this term and it might be that maybe last year’s excursions in this event have taken its toll on him recently as he’s not the same horse anymore by the looks of it, It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened to a previous Gold Cup winner as well. But his form before his Gold Cup win last season was quite similar in that he struggled to win with the two previous runs before the chasing centrepiece race on the Friday, and his season is going to solely be based around this race, meaning he could bounce back and win this race again.
The only horse in the race that hasn’t exactly contested in a race of this calibre yet, looks set to have a decent chance in this. There were question marks on what he would be aimed for this season at the start of it when finishing a close up second in the Grade 3 Paddy Power Chase after being well fancied before the off, but he soon put them questions to bed when hacking up in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last December in his next start, beating former Gold Cup Hero Native River by 25 lengths, taking the step up to 3 miles in his stride. Trainer Dan Skelton has been bullish on his chances stating its worth taking a chance as he is a very nice horse, and that was proven last year when he won multiple graded races including a Grade at Aintree last April at the Grand National meeting. He took the step up in trip in his stride last time out and no matter how he runs in this, he will be a nice horse going forward, bearing in mind he is only a 7-year-old, so the sky is his limit. It has always been the plan to have a nice break before running at Cheltenham, something Dan Skelton has done for a few of his horses this season which worked in previous years.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 4 👇🏼
4:10PM St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters Chase
The current favourite is trained by Willie Mullins who has some decent form to his name, but he was beaten by Winged Leader at Thurles in January and was convincingly beaten by him with no excuses going his way. Winged Leader was electric that day, really jumping nicely and really looked like he enjoyed himself when he was pinging over the fences. He has a phenomenal winning record in his career with 8 wins out of just 15 point-to-point runs, also he has won 4 times in 14 runs under rules and arrives at Cheltenham in this race with five wins in a row, three under rules and two under point-to-point code. He is absolutely thriving at present and already has the measure of the favourite, he is sure to run well in this race, a race I always look forward to watching as it’s fantastic for the smaller connections.
Premier Magic is the proper fairy-tale affair for all that’s connected with him, as his trainer Bradley Gibbs is booked to ride him around Cheltenham for the first time in the horse’s career, a proper tribute to point-to-point racing as this happens quite often. He is another horse in this contest that is absolutely flying at present, with a win under rules at Leicester last February and a decent 3rd at Stratford last May. He was in top form in his first run of the season when beating last season’s foxhunters winner Porlock Bay at Chaddesley Corbett last December, and then won again at Milborne St Andrew, giving his rivals a hammering by a very easy 20 lengths. He always tends to look a class above the runners he comes up against when running in point-to-points and thoroughly deserves his chance at this race, what a day it could be for connections.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 5 👇🏼
4:50PM Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase
This race last season was a cracker, as it was a tussle between two very game mares from Ireland, Elimay and eventual winner Colreevy. Willie Mullins trained Elimay, who was really well fancied to win the first edition of the mares chase last season, but she finished a touched off second, but what is relevant about that form is that she was beaten by a horse who then went on to win a Grade 1 over in Ireland next time out beating Monkfish and Envoi Allen in the process, which was her last run before she went on to be a broodmare. Elimay ran a cracker in this race last season and was just beaten by a very classy horse, who had some terrific form going into the race, and it doesn’t look as if there are any horses like that in this year’s renewal. She was disappointing on her seasonal reappearance at Aintree last December where she was well beaten, but she looked as if she desperately needed the run and Willie Mullins’s horses were badly out of form at that stage. She finally got her win when landing the odds in a listed mares race at Naas last time out and it just looks as if she comes on good for each run, which can happen with a mare. She is the one to beat in this contest, a race that doesn’t quite have the quality of last season for a trainer who is a master with these sorts of horses.
The only horse in this race to beat the current favourite Elimay is the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Zambella who has already had quite a busy but productive season this term. She is a two-time listed winner this season, landing them at Aintree and Doncaster, plus a winner at Uttoxeter last time out in very soft conditions which looks set to put her just right for this race. It looks like the softer the ground the better she runs in a race, as the only two times she has been beaten this season is on good to soft conditions so she might not have the boot to keep up with a few other horses that is shown on better conditions, but the three wins have come on much softer ground, so should the rain come by Friday she will certainly run well. Zambella is a very game mare and has already beaten the favourite once this season, with the yard in terrific form operating a 33%-win strike rate for the last 14 days, she could outrun her odds in the penultimate race of the Cheltenham festival.
Jake has picked out the following bets for Race 6 👇🏼
5:30PM Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
Trainer Dan Skelton mentioned that with these sorts of races, most of the time you have to have a graded horse running in a handicap, which was shown last year as Golopin Des Champs landed this race before going on to win multiple Graded races over Hurdles and fences. A lot of talk has been made of Langer Dan over the last week or two, last season’s Imperial Cup winner at Sandown was thought a lot of since that 4 and a half length win in the Grade 3 contest last season, as he was only put up 5lb’s after the race, which seemed very lenient given the manner he won the race in. He then contested in the Martin Pipe last season (the race that previously mentioned Galopin Des Champs won) and was cruising all over the field coming around the final bend but couldn’t quite catch the leader up the hill and was beaten by just over 2 lengths. He was raised a further 5lb’s after that performance which again seemed lenient considering what horse beat him (currently second favourite in the Turners Novices Chase on Thursday) but was lowered 3lb’s after a slightly disappointing run last time out when last of 6 at Taunton last month. That run was very much needed to blow away the cobwebs and on the current mark he is on, he will go well once again in this race with last year’s jockey Lorcan Williams booked to ride again.
Gordon Elliott is sending over the greatest number of runners he has ever had at a Cheltenham festival, and like usual he has some very good chances for the whole week ahead. It is always hard to gauge what horse coming over from Ireland has been handicapped well (Irish ratings are different to UK ratings, so when they come over their marks have to be assessed by our handicappers) but majority of the time the Irish runners always are pretty well in which is the reason they do well in these sorts of races. I A Connect has won three of his last four races, with the form figures of 212 over hurdles. He only does enough to win, as he has won both of his hurdle starts by a short head and a nose, which will give him a nice mark in this race. Fergus Gregory takes the ride, which is huge for a young and talented conditional like him, and they have booked him up early so that might show confidence behind him and the horse in the last race of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Jake has picked out the following bets for final Race 👇🏼
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