The biggest week of the year is here for many readers and the Cheltenham Festival this year once again is set to thrill from the roar of the Supreme to the final stages of the Grand Annual.
There’s so much that’s compelling one to watch, not least one of the most intriguing Champion Hurdles of recent times – can Buveur win three in a row? Is Laurina upto this class? Can Apple’s Jade run the finish out of her rivals? – alongside Altior’s bid to win his second Champion Chase and stay unbeaten over fences, the incredible stories of Paisley Park and Faugheen in the stayers, and then the Gold Cup.
There’s also a lot of value here, given that the biggest race meeting of the year takes place on ground much softer than the majoriy of the jumping season, and this is an ideal time to take a chance and go for a decent price or two.
Favourites like the undeniably talented Give Me A Copper make the market for fearsome punting battles like the Ultima (2.50), where it is a surprise to see Magic Of Light as big as 20/1 with starsports.bet. The fact that Jessica Harrington’s eight-year-old mare is one of just nine runners for the stable is an interesting endorsement of her chances here, and her progression this season has been perfect.
Bar a fall in the Bobbyjo Chase, when she was sent off 6/4 to beat Rathvinden, the last time she was out of the front three was back in April of last year. Soft ground and a decent trip have been the making of her, as she showed when romping to victory at Newbury back in December and then when grinding out at victory in a Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot just a month later. There was no shame in her defeat to a game and progressive mare at Huntingdon when tackling a trip too short and a track that was too tight, and this should see her in a much better light.
Vintage Clouds, running for the third time in the Ultima, has some of the best Festival form on offer here. Two years ago he came down when staying on two out in one of the strongest recent renewals of the race and last year he ran a fine race to be third behind Coo Star Sivola. Sue Smith’s charge might be going on nine but he hasn’t run a bad race apart from his limp effort in the Welsh National, but he has had wind surgery, suggesting something was troubling him there, and his previous form is all commendable.
Third in the Scottish National after this, he won a valuable handicap on his return at Haydock, and now just 3lbs higher, he will be tremendously handicapped if ready to go on his first run since surgery.
Given her win last year, the changing ground, and the fact that she will now face neither of Laurina or Apple’s Jade, it’s understandable that Benie Des Dieux is now such a short price to take another Mares’ Hurdle but she surely just makes the market for each/way betting and it’s hard not to be keen on Limini in that regard.
She was still feeling the effect of a hard race on very fast ground in the summer when beaten a long way in the Hatton’s Grace (and then disappointingly at Leopardstown over Christmas), but she appeared to let herself down properly for the first time when fourth in the Galmoy Hurdle and bar the poor run of Killultagh Vic, that looks like solid form.
The rain that’s arrived is perfect for her chances, and the last time she ran in this race only Apple’s Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag got the better of her and she was considered good enough to go off favourite and be the ride of Ruby Walsh.
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival:
12th – 15th March
The Opening Show: Daily, from 9:30am-10:30am (ITV4)
Live racing: Daily, from 1:00pm-4:30pm (ITV1)
All races live on Racing TV, including pre racing analysis.
A number of horses make appeal in the Close Brothers including Highway One O One but the big field and the softer than ideal ground are off-putting enough to leave him alone. In the National Hunt Chase, it is hard to get away from the front three in the market, with Ballyward and Ok Corral rightfully at the head of affairs. Discorama won’t be far away however and Jerrysback, who would have been very interesting in the Ultima, catches the eye.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
4.10 – Mares’ Hurdle
BACK LIMINI each/way 2 pts at 9/1 with starsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 230.46 points
(excluding Premier League ante-post and Six Nations ante-post)