Cheltenham Festival Focus: Back 40/1 Skelton runner for Grand Annual glory

Daryl Carter
Daryl has two selections to add to his growing ante-post list.

It's week 15 of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus, and this week, he attacks a handicap with a 40/1 chance and the Champion Bumper...

The weather has scuppered much of the racing this week, and Cheltenham clues have been thin on the ground in Britain. Cheltenham Trials day comes this weekend, but last year failed to produce any festival winners, so the final clues will come from The Dublin Racing Festival in two weeks!

Impressive Passe but he beat little

Impaire Et Passe was a comfortable winner of the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer last Sunday - a race notoriously used by trainer Willie Mullins for the Supreme Novice Hurdle. He was cut into 14/1 for that race on the Betfair Sportsbook and 4/1 for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. The latter looks like a more realistic target, with Willie Mullins' Facile Vega standing firm at the top of the market in the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

This was a good performance, but it's something to avoid getting carried away with. He won with any amount in hand over the mare The Model Kingdom, who was still on the bridle before the final flight, which tempers enthusiasm about the performance.

The Model Kingdom had been kicked aside in a Mares Listed race a month prior by Liberty Dance, and we have already touched on the poor standard set by the Novice Mares in Ireland in a previous column.

Impaire Et Passe's jumping was electric. He gained ground at every flight here, which will hold him in good stead at Cheltenham. The performance didn't blow me away, and there was plenty of excitement over him which I couldn't fathom. No doubt he will be much better with a stronger gallop to aim at, and in a year where the Novice Hurdle divisions won't take much winning, he is rightfully a leading candidate wherever he decides to turn up. I can't see him getting much shorter than his current price, though.

Impervious a serious Mares Chase contender

Impervious was cut into 7/4 for the Mares Chase after an excellent victory over Journey With Me, Ha D'Or and Minella Crooner at Punchestown last Sunday. JP McManus picked her up after her victory over the owner's Dino Blue in December, and she delivered here.

This was a good jumping display, and she showed a bright turn of foot to run down Journey With Me in the dying strides. Backers never really had a concern throughout the race which clocked a good time for the grade, and she was giving 1lb to her rivals (she would usually get seven).

Allegorie De Vassy 5/4, won today at Thurles in good style, but backers must be concerned about her jumping out to the right. We learned little but enough for that to be a concern.

Form boosts for Bartlett hope Hiddenvalley Lake

Hiddenvalley Lake didn't run this week, but his form took a couple of noticeable boosts. Letsbeclearaboutit, who finished a well-held fourth behind Henry De Bromhead's runner at Cork, dotted up at Punchestown on Monday, while Eabha Grace (3rd at Naas) also scored in excellent style on the same card.

His form is working out very well, and he remains an attractive 11/2 for the Albert Bartlett.

Gaelic Warrior is all RIGHT

Gaelic Warrior jumping 1280 x 840.png

Gaelic Warrior is miles clear of any Novice Hurdler this season if RPRs are anything to go by. He had now recorded two outlandish victories in no more than a canter, and the racing post handicappers had given him 150 and 155 when scoring at odds of 1/12 and 1/14.

To put those number into context, any horse that usually records above 150 in the Novice divisions are almost certain to place at the Cheltenham Festival. However, both of his starts have come right-handed, and on his latest outing, he showed that he still jumps right. Paul Townend took him wide at Clonmel last Tuesday and left plenty of room on the inside of the hurdle, which allowed him to go right.

Jumping out to the right in last year's short-head defeat in the Boodles Handicap Hurdle cost him the race, and punters should be aware. Other than that, he has solid claims for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle, for which he is a 6/1 chance on the Betfair Sportsbook. Willie Mullins named this race after his defeat in the Boodles last year.

Lucky laboured victory means Fakir can be opposed at Cheltenham

I backed Fakir D'oudairies today in the Horse and Hotel Grade 2 Chase at Thurles, but despite his victory, thanks to a last-flight fall from Haut En Couleurs, I was never happy watching him. He looked laboured and slow, and that's the first time I have noticed that about him, and it's now obvious why connections tried him over three miles last term.

He is still around a 7/1 chance for the Ryanair, but I couldn't have him at that price. This field was ropey today, and he looked well held by the unfortunate faller. They went a good clip here, Chacun Pour Soir predictably was found wanting for stamina over this new 2m4f trip, and anyone that backs French Dynamite needs their head testing. The latter never finds anything for pressure.

The unfortunate faller is the obvious one to take from the race. Haut En Couleurs is only six, and he looks like a big improver. He knuckled on landing, but that shouldn't take away from this imposing performance. He was well-held in the Arkle last year but could prove a different proposition over the middle trip with another winter on his back. He is not in the Ryanair betting but he would be a big player if showing up here.

He is certainly for me at 4/1 for the Champion Bumper

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Willie Mullins' It's For Me was wildly impressive on his racecourse debut at Navan on Saturday, and the 4/1 for the Champion Bumper should be taken.

I am a little disappointed in myself for not putting this horse up before he ran, as I had been aware of him following his eight-length demolition job of a Maiden point-to-point at Loughanmore last April, but I wasn't sure he would make the track.

The form from that Loughanmore contest has worked well, and he was imposing there. The third chased home Weveallbeencaught at Cheltenham, the fourth won a bumper, and the fallen horse went narrowly close in a deep Punchestown bumper on his rules debut.

He could not have been any more eye-popping here.

Patrick Mullins kept it simple on the heels of the leader, who set a strong gallop, and he effortlessly glided clear in the home straight with his rider taking a pull.

The time was good, and this has the makings of strong form. The runner-up was a 15-length point-to-point winner on his previous outing. The third was narrowly touched off in a deep Maiden point-to-point previously, which had a 113-rated hurdler in third, while the form ties in with It's For Me's point win, and the winner has won a bumper next time. The fourth, Run For Harry, was beaten nine lengths previously by Better Days Ahead (14 lengths behind here), who is a 10/1 chance in this bumper market.

I couldn't have been more impressed, and he will surely go off a very short price for this come March.

Take a chance with Skelton's 40/1 Allmankind for the Grand Annual

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The Grand Annual is fast and furious, and it usually pays to be on the sharp end of the pace highlighted by the victories of Global Citizen last year, as well as Next Sensation and Croco Bay, who are just a handful that has been very prominent in the contest.

Many are looking to Third Time Lucki from the Skelton yard for this, but I think the yard has a similar, if not more interesting runner in Allmankind 40/1 as the rank outsider of the field.

Allmankind was a Grade 2 Juvenile winner at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle trial before winning the Grade 1 Chepstow Finale before finishing third in the Triumph Hurdle in the 2019/20 season. He was one of the very few that had a positive experience the season immediately following his Juvenile term, scoring twice over fences, including when scoring in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase, scalping the likes of Hitman (160), Ga Law (150) and Eldorado Allen (162).

He continued his fine season scoring next in the Grade 2 Kingmaker by 14 lengths over Sky Pirate (149, but reached 159), who subsequently won the Grand Annual on his next outing.

Unfortunately for connections, he bumped into a prime Shishkin when attempting to land the Arkle (4th). He went hammer and tongs with Captain Guinness for the entire contest. He was no match for Shishkin, having been beaten 13 lengths, but he was better than the bare result when only one and a half lengths separated himself, Captain Guinness (158) and Eldorado Allen, who had been held up to benefit from the strong gallop.

A 19-length victory at Ayr on his final start that season over the 145-rated Malystic followed to round off an excellent Novice season.

Since then, he has captured the Grade 1 Old Roan Chase in 2021, but three runs in Graded company over 2 1/2 miles have seen him put in no-shows.

However, he has now dropped from a peak rating of 164 down to 149, and this season has seen him suspiciously campaigned over fences in two outings for which the handicapper has dropped him ten pounds.

The hood worn in his excellent Novice Chase season has been missing, and he has been held up at the rear of the field, and for a habitual front runner, this rang alarm bells. On his latest outing, he was given a very easy time at Chepstow, and he had an entry over 2m5f at Ascot on Saturday.

Given his keenness, the drop back to 2m surely looks on the horizon. He did run this course in the Arkle as a Novice, and the possibility of soft ground and a stiff uphill finish would test his stamina over the longer 2m4f Handicap Plate trip. Either way, I wouldn't fancy him for the Plate - we have a handicap blot for that race anyway.

It would be no surprise to see him line up in March with the hood back on and reverting to prominent tactics while British runners have a good record in this race. He is also only seven and has won 50% (5-10) chase starts and looks like a big price on all the evidence.

Recommended bets

Daryl's running P/L

Three Stripe Life for the Brown Advisory -1pt

Bravemansgame for the Ryanair -1pt

Meet And Greet for the Stayers Hurdle -1pt

Daryl's ante-post list

Back Facile Vega for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 7/2 1pt win NOW 9/1

Back Champ Kiely for the Albert Bartlett @ 20/1 1pt e/w NOW 16/1

Back The Storyteller for the St James' Palace Hunters Chase @ 12/1 1pt win NOW 14/1

Back Stattler each way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup @ 16/1 0.5pt e/w NOW 10/1

Back Thyme Hill for the Brown Advisory Novices Chase @ 12/1 1pt e/w NOW 7/1

Back Banbridge for the Turners Novices' Chase @ 10/1 1pt win NOW 12/1

Back El Fabiolo for the Arkle Novices Chase @ 6/1 1pt win NOW 11/2

Back Grangeclare West for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 8/1 1pt win NOW 12/1

Back Tellmesomethinggirl for the Mares Chase @ 14/1 1pt win NOW 14/1

Back Blood Destiny for the Triumph Hurdle @ 33/1 1pt win NOW 5/1

Back So Scottish for the Plate Handicap Chase @ 16/1 1pt win NOW 11/2

Back Mighty Potter for the Turners Novices Chase @ 7/2 2pt win NOW 3/1

Back Shishkin for the Ryanair Chase on the Betfair Exchange @ 8.07/1 1pt win

Back It's For Me for the Champion Bumper at 4/1 1pt win

Back Allmankind for the Grand Annual at 40/1 1pt win


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