AUTHOR: Star Sports Content


[dropcap]A[/dropcap] week is said to be a long time in politics.

The Cheltenham layers will be hoping a year is a long time in laying short price favourites at the Festival.

It was a bloodbath for the layers last year – day one saw Douvan (1/4F), Annie Power (5/2F), Vroum Vroum Mag (4/6F) all romp home and the results were unrelenting for the rest of the week. It wasn’t the bookies that got rich but Rich Ricci certainly did.

The owner that dominated last year though has suffered misfortune this year with several of his A-Listers who are absent through injury and a lot of the races, on paper, have a more open look to them.  However, none of this will diminish the decibel of the Cheltenham roar come 1.30 this afternoon.

If the layers are to get results this year they may have to be patient. Certainly, until the wide open 23 runner Ultima Handicap Chase at 2.50pm.

I would say that Altior looks a penalty kick in the Arkle but judged by the number of spot kicks I’ve seen missed recently (usually always to my cost) I think that undervalues his chance.

Nicky Henderson’s star chaser is head and shoulders above his rivals – his massive 170 official rating tells you that and it’s hopefully going to be a race to stand back and admire.

Altior romped home in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year and since then is an unbeaten 4 from 4 over the larger obstacles – winning his first, a match, by 63 lengths.

I love all the races at the Cheltenham Festival but perhaps the Supreme the best. Everything is fresh, you get the roar and the results set an early barometer for punters, layers, trainers and jockeys.

Today’s opener (note: I’m trying ever so hard not to refer to as the cliched ‘curtain raiser!’) all eyes will be on Melon.

He is likely to start favourite which is based absolutely on potential rather than the form book but with Willie Mullins winning three of the last four Supremes with Douvan, Vautour and Champagne Fever the fact the Ruby Walsh is onboard Melon in preference to the stables three other entries says plenty.

Melon won in the style of a fine horse on debut at Leopardstown, travelled well throughout and coasted home by 10 lengths with 12 lengths to the third who have both the 2nd and 3rd have been beaten since – for those looking at cracks – but as I said earlier you are not backing Melon at around 5/2 on that run alone.

For me it’s a day one menu of Melon for starters, Petit Mouchoir for main course and Apple’s Jade for dessert.

The Champion Hurdle does look disappointingly below par and it would come as no surprise to see the first double figure priced winner since Rock On Ruby in 2012.

Petit Mouchoir comes into this on the back of a win in the Irish Champion Hurdle and won’t need to improve much to win this.

Willie Mullins dominates the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle with his duo of last year’s winner Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini (another Festival winner in 2016). The Gordon Elliott trained (formerly also Mullins) Apple’s Jade though is capable of spoiling the party. She inflicted a first ever Irish defeat for Vroum Vroum Mag at Fairyhouse and is certainly the value of the three today.

Best of luck this week – if you are at Cheltenham check us out in the ring or call us on 08000 521 321 or use the live chat feature here. Simon Nott will be tweeting direct from the Star Sports pitch with all the latest news and movers so give us a follow on twitter too @starsports_bet

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RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

BACK MELON (1.30) 10 points at SP with Star Sports

BACK PETIT MOUCHOIR (3.30) 6 points at SP with Star Sports

BACK APPLE’S JADE (4.10) 6 points at SP with Star Sports

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: +13.90 points