Another Festival comes around and I get the chance to put my 100% record of being profitable dating back to when I started in 2005 on the line again. I’m sure I’ll get called a trumpeting nonce for that statement. Anyway if I lose this year I’m blaming Coronavirus. The Festival isn’t like it was a few years ago where you just wake-up and bookmakers were giving money away. A combination of them correctly doing risk analysis plus gamblers now seen as on a par with smack heads by The Guardian has seen a cutback on the fancy offers.

First Tip

Some will think they’re going you a favour going 5th the odds, 5 places in the handicaps this week, they’re not so avoid getting sucked in.

Second Tip

When you win spend it on enjoying yourself!

I’d say when we win I’ll see you for champagne at Meydan but hopes of people being allowed to that decrease each day. Maybe my UK readers can use their funds to import toilet roll, I hear it’s desperate times in my homeland.

13:30 | SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE

All the talk for the opener has been about the Asterion Forlonge, Shishkin and whether Envoi Allen would turn up. As it transpires the Mrs J Donnelly pair have both turned up and Asterion Forlonge has now correctly become the shorter of the two. He was visually impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival, but he didn’t beat much and the time figure didn’t stand out. He went hard on the front end the last day in awful ground, which marks him out as more of a stayer. If the ground is genuinely heavy then it’ll be a huge positive to his chances, but I think the market has now over-factored this in. It hasn’t stopped raining in England for over a year now, so all of these horses have been training and running on slow ground.

Shiskin is another that’s looked impressive and he’s put up some eye-catching sectional figures, but they’ve all been on flat tracks. This is a different type of test and at the prices he’s one to oppose. If Envoi Allen had turned up in this race he’d comfortably be favourite, he’s likely to go off odds-on for the Ballymore on Wednesday. With this in mind the formline that interest me the most is that of the Grade 1 Royal Bond. Envoi Allen won that from ABACADABRAS by 1 ½ lengths.

The selection franked that form next time out when winning a Leopardstown Grade 1 over Christmas. Back in third in the Royal Bond was a horse called Darver Star who’s been touted for the Champion Hurdle (4th fav) on the back of him finishing half a length behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle. If she was going for this year’s race she’d be close to favourite. Also in behind Darver Star that day was Petit Mouchoir, Supasundae and Sharjah who have all been talked about as potential Champion Hurdle winners.

In my opinion Abacadabras brings the best form coming into the race, he’s a genuine Grade 1 horse both on the form and the clock, and he should be favourite. Now you can be filthy and take up William Hills Each-Way offer at 5th the odds, 7 places then you’re on a good bet from a purely mathematical view on the place side. However you’re giving up too much on the win side for the bet to be worth the hassle of 1. Getting on & 2. Having your accounts limited. It’s a win only bet for me.

BACK ABACADABRAS @ 7.00

14:10 | ARKLE

Now then, now then I didn’t think I’d be backing an English horse in this race, but you’ve got to be open to new ideas and I’ve come around to BREWIN’UPASTORM.  There’s just so much pace in this race that I can see it setting up perfectly for him.

Cashback, Fakir D’Oudairies and Notebook are his three main challengers at the head of the market, they like to get on with it. Add Maire Banrigh and Put the Kettle On to that and we look certain of a very strong pace. I think they may cut each-others throats.

Richard Johnson will be riding Brewin’upastorm cold at the back but he’ll travel into the race well for a very long way as we saw in last years Ballymore, where he traded at 4.30 in-running from a BSP of 15.5 over and extra half a mile. The drop back in trip will suit and he’s a much better chaser than hurdler. The form of his chase debut has worked out really well with the 2nd finishing as a runner up to Mister Fisher. He then went on to win at Taunton, easily dispatching Southfield Stone who’s gone on to finish a close 2nd in a Kempton Grade 2 behind Northumberland Plate winner Who Dares Wins.

The selection hasn’t had the chance to show Grade 1 form over fences yet due to him picking up a slight injury in November that kept him out for six weeks. However he won on his flat, bumper, hurdles and chase debuts so I have no doubts about his ability to go well fresh.

BACK BREWIN’UPASTORM @ 7.00

15:30 | CHAMPION HURDLE

Anyone that follows me on twitter will know that I bang on about how important market movements are. Now a market movement from overnight prices in a class 6 egg-and-spoon race aren’t relevant. When you have moves in the top class races in liquid markets on the day then you need to sit up and take notice.

Cast your mind back to Boxing Day, EPATANTE was trading at 4.50 – 5.00 all morning for the Christmas Hurdle. The favourite was Fusil Raffles trading at ~3.00. They managed to send Epatante off at 3.00 joint-fav with Fusil Raffles. This was no on-course SP manipulation either as the pair was sent off at 3.27 and 3.15 at BSP. Shortening up a horse like that whilst holding the favs price takes some doing, it felt like a burglary in broad daylight.

Epatante went on to win that race easily by five lengths. Silver Streak who placed in the 2019 Champion Hurdle was the runner-up and Ballyandy was third. The second favourite is Pentland Hills who has been beaten twice this season, the last time finishing behind Ballyandy. Yes, he won a Triumph Hurdle and the Juvenile at Aintree, but stepping out of that company his for has been awful.

I don’t see why people are scratching around trying to find reasons to back 10-year-old Supasundae or 5-year-olds that have an awful record in the race. Epatante gets 7lbs mares allowance from the field and she has the best form in the race. Even if you don’t think Cheltenham is her type of track based on a single run here last year when connections have said the flu-jab was the reason behind her sub-par performance then you’re hoping she runs 5lbs below her best. I’ve put a line through that run and I’m fully expecting Epatante to go off at 3.00, even then I’d still make her a bet. As we saw with Annie Power, you can’t be giving top class mares 7lbs.

BACK EPATANTE @ 4.00

16:10 | MARES HURDLE

I’m sure you’ve read or listened to loads of people telling you to back something each-way in the without the favourite market. The logic behind that is that you’ll be getting ‘value’ on the place side of the bet in the same way you would in an eight runner race with an odds-on fav. However you need to ask yourself would you back Roksana or Stormy Ireland at 6.00 to beat the unbeaten multiple grade 1 winner Honeysuckle at 6.00?

Roksana won this race last year at 11.0, that helped with my week but I was fortunate to win that day. BENIE DES DIEUX was 1.91 that day, with Stormy Ireland at 8.00. Honeysuckle is top price 1.91 in the w/o Benie Des Dieux market so how can Roksana and Stormy Ireland be good bets at 6.00? They’re going off at least 8.00 on the exchange and that’s before we even mention the most likely result is your bet breaks even. Then on top of that you don’t even have that much in hand over Elfile or Lady Buttons on official ratings. The more I think about it the more convinced I am that trying this snide each-way play is the worst thing you can do in the race.

What you can do instead is just back the winner! Benie Des Dieux was about to absolutely bolt up when she fell last year, but she put that behind her when smashing Stormy Ireland 9 ½ lengths at Punchestown, before a 6 ½ length demolition job in the French Champion Hurdle. She looks even better this year if the 21 length victory over Penhill is anything to go by, which she made it look like a morning gallop.

BACK BENIE DES DIEUX @ 1.57

17:30 | NATIONAL HUNT CHASE CHALLENGE CUP

The 4-mile Challenge Cup is now less of a challenge at 3m 6f and I think we’ll all agree that Carefully Selected is the classiest horse in the race. He finished 2nd in a Champion Bumper and 3rd in a hot Novice Hurdle at last year’s Punchestown Festival. He’s chasing this season and on the face of it all looks well, with a 100% record. However he jumps like a refrigerator!

Mistake at two out on chase debut, mistake at the 6th on his next run. The last day he was even worse, he didn’t jump fluently throughout before making a mistake at both the 3rd last and last. Spyglass Hill fell two out that day and I think he would’ve won the race if he’d stayed on his hooves, he traded at 2.02 from a BSP of 29.39.

At the prices I can’t have Carefully Selected at all here, bigger field stronger pace, inexperienced amateur jockeys all around him and he can’t jump. It looks a recipe for disaster. I think the best bet in the race is to LAY CAREFULLY SELECTED in the PLACE market at anything below 2.00. This means that you’re backing the horse NOT to finish in the Top 3.

For win purposes I really like the look of LORD DU MESNIL. The market is beginning to find him, but I can see him going off at around the 4.50 mark. His form this season reads 221112 and he looks a thorough stayer. The form of his 2nd in the Haydock Grand National Trial hasn’t been put to the test yet but he had horses like Yala Enki, Vintage Clouds and Elegant Escape well beaten.

Perhaps even more importantly in one of these races he has a ‘proper jockey’ on him. Sam Waley-Cohen won the best Cheltenham Gold Cup that I can remember when he beat Denman, Kauto Star and Imperial Commander aboard Long Run in 2008. In what should still be aslog I don’t see something that will be staying on better up the hill. With a chance that the fav falls or is pulled up due to to errors, Lord Du Mesnil looks an attractive play.

PLACE LAY CAREFULLY SELECTED @ <2.00

BACK LORD DU MESNIL @ 6.50

THE MULTIPLE

It doesn’t really matter what size staking punter you are you should be looking to get on a Lucky 15 where they pay a bonus for having a single winner. The markets have tight margins which mean playing multiples can already offer you a value bet. When you add in the Triple Odds One Winner bonus it becomes almost impossible to have a bad bet, if you put a bit of thought in. Betfred offer this bonus so take advantage, they don’t want you to be placing this type of bet. My Day 1 Lucky 15 is;

  • ABACADABRAS
  • BREWIN’UPASTORM
  • EPATANTE
  • LORD DU MESNIL

For example a £1 Lucky 15 would cost you £15. If they all win you receive £2549 back, if Epatante is the only winner you get £10 of your stake back due to the bonus.

If you’ve made it this far then thank you and you should probably give me a