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Cheltenham Festival Focus: National Hunt Chase revisited for 20/1 Elliott chance

It’s week 11 of Daryl Carter’s Cheltenham Festival Focus column, and after a quiet period for racing, Daryl has a mid-season review of his current ante-post list and heads back to the National Hunt Chase for his bet.

First, a quick-fire recap on the little action we have to review this week, starting at Fairyhouse last Sunday.

Super Sam has multiple options

Saint Sam was impressive when running out a commanding winner by nine lengths on debut in a Beginners Chase to take the scalps of some solid rivals in Thedevilscoachman and El Bara despite conceding experience and race fitness the pair. He is now a 20/1 chance for the Arkle in which the same trainer has Ferny Hollow, 25/1 for the Grand Annual and 20/1 for the Turners.

He surprised me with his effortless jumping and showed a high cruising speed. On his previous start, the runner-up had been beaten six lengths by Ferny Hollow, which suggests Saint Sam wouldn’t be out of place in Grade 1 contests over 2m. The Willie Mullins runner has an Irish rating of 142 and with an average of six pounds added to the Irish handicap marks by the English assessor as seen with entries from the Gordon Elliott stable this week, might mean a handicap could be exploited.

It could also mean that a step up in trip is on the cards to take on Bob Olinger in the Turners, but his path is likely to be revealed after the Dublin Racing Festival. He is smart.

Dunvegan made it four for four at Fairyhouse with a win in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase off a lofty mark of 146 and is now 16/1 for the Grand Annual Handicap Chase. He needs to go right-handed and loves Fairyhouse so he wouldn’t appeal for the Cheltenham Festival.

Jpr One scored in impressive style at Taunton on Monday and could be one for a future handicap. He will likely contest the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury first for which he is a 12/1 chance.

The two to take from Doncaster’s card on Tuesday were Erne River and Wonderwall. The former made a bright start to his chasing career scoring by six lengths on debut over Beakstown in effortless style and even with a ten pounds ride he would be of interest. He could easily be a 150 horse in the making and something like the Paddy Power Plate or the Ultima Handicap could be on the agenda for which he is not priced.

Wonderwall will head to the Ballymore Novices Hurdle for which he is priced at 20/1. He looks a big raw horse that will need another run or two to sharpen him up. Previously behind Knappers Hill and Stage Star in a bumper and seventh in the Champion Bumper suggests he has a touch of class.

On Saturday at Kempton, Mister Fisher bounced back to form to score in good style over Eldorado Allen in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase. The time was good in comparison to the previous handicap on the card run over the same distance but it was a poor renewal of the contest it must be remembered. Mister Fisher will head back to the Ryanair for another crack, a race he was pulled up in as an 8/1 chance last term and he is now a 12/1 shot, but not for me.

Cobblers Dream won the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle by five lengths and connections have suggested that the Coral Cup is on the agenda for which he is a 25/1 chance. He will surely go up ten pounds in the handicap for this runaway success which could leave him vulnarable.

Jumping masterclass from Warwick winners

At Warwick, Brave Seasca bolted up in good style for Venetia Williams taking the scalp of Sky Pirate and despite being in reciept of 20 pounds he left a deep impression and is now a 16/1 chance for the Grand Annual. You would expect him to get a ten pounds rise mimimum for that effort which would see him hiked in the ratings to a mark of 147 – only five pounds lower than Funambule Sivola – any lower than that and you will see him in this column next week.

Threeunderthrufive made all of the running to score in good style in the Hampton Novices Chase with an impeccable jumping performance and a sensational ride from Adrian Heskin. Three of the last four winners of this contest have gone to the National Hunt Chase for which the McNeill Family owned horse is 8/1.

He has a touch of class about him so it would be no surprise to see him line up in the Brown Advisory Novices Chase for which he is a 16/1 chance. He has built up a good relationship with Adrian Heskin and that could be key in deciding the route they take with him given Adrian wouldn’t be able to ride if he went down the National Hunt Chase route which is for Amatuer jockeys. He is a fantastic horse and is improving with each run.

Mid-season ante-post list review

With just nine weeks to go, it’s a good opportunity to look at our ante-post bets so far and take an honest look at the position we sit in. So far, we have laid out 13 points on our 11 selections. A two-point win on Ferny Hollow 7/2 has been the biggest bet, one each-way selection, which unfortunately looks a little dead in the water, and nine one point win selections.

Mr Incredible for the National Hunt Chase at 17.016/1 was first on the list. He hasn’t turned into what I hoped he would, with a poor performance at Newbury jumping similar to that of a large kitchen appliance and then he refused to race at Leopardstown in the Grade 1 Nevilles Hotel Novices’ Chase when fitted with first-time cheek-pieces. He is not one I have given up on, especially given the third from his win at Naas, Jeremy’s Flame, has given the form a boost, and he is at least running, or attempting to, over the right distance of 3m. He is now a 34.033/1 chance, though, so perhaps not the greatest valued selection on the list.

Next up is My Mate Mozzie for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at 15.014/1. He ran a blinder in the Royal Bond to finish second and would have been a worthy winner but for a mistake at the final flight. He is now a 21.020/1 chance, and I probably attacked this race too early in the season, but I am happy to have him covered albeit, he has a tough ask to win.

Eric Bloodaxe 17.016/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle was the third selection, and I am very happy with our position here.

He is now a 13.012/1 chance, so not much movement, but he did drift out to 34.033/1 after being well beaten by favourite Ginto at Navan over 2m4f. The step up to 3m was what I was banking on here, and he produced a fine staying performance at Limerick in deep unfavoured ground that saw him drop into his current price. The defeat doesn’t deter me from favouring his chances at the moment. Eight of the last ten Albert Bartlett winners suffered a defeat in the same season as winning. At Fishers Cross and second season Novice Hurdler Unowhatimeanharry, the two that didn’t.

Gaillard Du Mesnil 26.025/1 for the Browns Advisory Novices Chase went on the list at time when Bravemansgame was not sure to go to the festival, and stablemate Galopin Des Champs had yet to be seen. I still think he holds good claims despite being beaten twice when running over a trip too short of 2m3f. He will be seen to best effect upped in distance, but whether he goes here now is a question mark? I’m hopeful.

Constitution Hill 7.06/1 has been the season’s success story and for this column so far. He is now a 3.55/2 chance for the Supreme Novice Hurdle and looks like an absolute beast of a horse. I couldn’t be more pleased getting this one on the board. Now it’s squeaky bum time for him to go to the Supreme Novice Hurdle and not the Ballymore and to get there safe and sound.

Mighty Potter 15.014/1 now 11.010/1 for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle is a horse I really like, and we look to have struck at the right time with this one before he landed the Future Novices Champion Hurdle over 2m. Whether he will go down the 2m route or for the longer race sits in the balance. Another one I am happy with.

Captain Ferny Hollow 4.57/2 impressed with a Racing Post Arkle win at Leopardstown over Christmas when giving 13 pounds to the unbeaten chaser Riviere D’etel, and he is now as short as 2.47/5 for the Arkle in March. Very happy indeed.

We took a chance with Abacadabras at 21.020/1 for the Stayers Hurdle, and he not entered for the race after non-staying performance at Leopardstown on his first attempt at the trip. Unfortunately this is a looser.

Minella Indo was tipped for the Gold Cup at 9.08/1 on the back of his King George disappointing run. The reason is he has excuses for his two poor runs this season, and the market has written last years winner off very quickly. Whatever he does will be improved upon returning to Cheltenham in the spring. So keep hold of those slips.

Shan Blue 9.08/1 was our first handicap selection for the Ultima Handicap Chase and a price a shade shorter than I had hoped for, given this does rely on connections wanting to win a race at the festival rather than just run in good company. In terms of handicaps, he will have this and the Plate as two possible options, but strangely connections have expressed the Ryanair as their target pushing his price out to 15.014/1. He would need to have ten pounds in hand of his mark of 148 to even place in a Ryanair so it’s baffling as to why they wouldn’t go down the handicap route.

Funambule Sivola 21.020/1 for the Grand Annual could look the handicap bet of the entire festival should connections see his mark slide, and I will be watching him very closely on his next start. I really fancy him for this, even with connections having Brave Seasca.

Even without the codfather on, he is no 20/1 chance but if he does…

After a mid-season review, I really wanted to get something on this column that I thought was solid, had no worries about the potential target and is in a race that is highly likely to cut up. That almost became Run Wild Fred in the National Hunt Chase, who could prove excellent value come the off at his current 5.0 given these horses have considerably shortened with each passing week.

However, going through the race, I opted for Braeside 21.020/1, who looks a big price on the Betfair Sportsbook, given he has been rated 3lbs higher (148) than the cut off (145) for the Kim Muir in which connections won last year with Mount Ida. Now there is a danger that they attempt to get his mark reassessed for that contest, but this would fit just as well given he has won over 3m5f in the Cork Grand National Handicap.

When going through this race, it’s tough to see how much depth there will be in this contest.

Statler 5.59/2 is a worthy second favourite, but he needs to prove he can stay 3m, let alone 3m6f after being outstayed on three occasions last term at Leopardstown, here in the Albert Bartlett and at Punchestown. Threeunderthrufive 9.08/1 will surely go down the Brown Advisory route to be ridden by Adrian Heskin. Capodanno 11.010/1 has multiple options from the Turners to this contest and is probably too classy. Beacon Edge 13.0 and Farouk D’alene 14.0 are non-stayers. En Baton 14.013/1 is interesting but has many questions to answer and is not yet qualified. Fury Road 13.012/1 would hose up here but is highly likely to head to the Browns Advisory along with Gallopin Des Champs 16.015/1, which leaves outside of the worthy favourite, Braeside.

There is an interesting angle here in that prolific winning jockey Jamie Codd could get the ride. It’s the general consensus that Jamie Codd will ride Run Wild Fred, but he has only ridden one horse for Gigginstown in this contest in the last ten years, and he does have a past affiliation with Braeside, who he rode in his bumpers runs and in a Maiden Hurdle.

Braeside also has a similar form line to that of Run Wild Fred, when catching the eye on his lastest staying on fourth behind School Boy Hours at Leopardstown. He looks tailor-made for this test, could have the winning most jockey onboard on the day, which will collapse his price, and it’s looking ever more likely that he goes to this contest.

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