Jezki is clear at the top of the betting but our man fancies a couple of contenders at bigger prices - here's why...
"River Maigue demolished a horse that finished second in last year's Champion Bumper at Kempton and in the process showed the kind of acceleration and ability to travel to suggest he could be right out of the top drawer."
Stats and Trends
Fourteen of the last 16 winners won last time out
Twelve of the last 13 winners ran in the previous 52 days
Thirty-four of the last 38 winners were aged five or six
Only 3 favourites won in the last 21 renewals
My Leading Contenders
The Irish novice hurdler of the season but probably priced on the short side in the market and offers no value. Interesting that he disappointed a little when unplaced in last season's Cheltenham Bumper.
All three wins have come on heavy ground and this race will be a totally different proposition to anything he's faced so far. His form amounts to style over substance but his stable know how to win at this meeting. Too short.
My idea of the winner. Demolished a horse that finished second in last year's Champion Bumper at Kempton and in the process showed the kind of acceleration and ability to travel to suggest he could be right out of the top drawer. Had previously finished well behind a race-fit Dodging Bullets over this course and distance on his seasonal debut. Progressive and from a stable that do well in this race and the fact he's priced shorter than the well touted My Tent Or Yours speaks volumes. The current 12.011/1 is value and should give us a good position.
My Tent Or Yours
The type who should go well on the likely better ground but of the opinion that he'll get beat in the Betfair and if he cannot win that off 149 then you have to think he at least half a stone short of winning this.
Holds River Maigue on previous Cheltenham running but expect that rival to turn the tables. He had the run of the race that day and then went on to run a creditable third in a slowly run Christmas Hurdle. Will find get the fast pace he needs and is likely to be in there at the final hurdle but may find one too good. The fact he has raced 19 times over hurdles and on the flat would make me wonder how much improvement he has left in him.
Won well at Sandown but that race fell apart after two horses took each other on in a suicidal battle up front leaving this fella to come late and win going away. Looks a chaser in the making and think he may come up a few pounds short. Don't think this will be his day, which is not to say he won't go on to be a top class horse in time.
Who I'm backing
The Irish horses at the head of the market have been doing all of their winning on heavy ground and despite winning races well I'd be worried how well they adapt to the undulations of Cheltenham on better ground.
Two horses we have to take a position on are River Maigue and Dodging Bullets. The former has shown the kind of pace and acceleration that only a Grade 1 performer over 2m exhibits, while the second should shorten in the market as the Festival approaches and give us a profit pre-race or free bet scenario.
At the current market prices I have to be a layer of Jezki. He may well go on to run a big race but I think he'll be bigger on the day of the race and the I'd be laying the current 4.84/1.