In the competitive crucible of the Cheltenham Festival, writes Jack Houghton, laying can be your saviour. With a number of shaky short-priced favourites on Day One, it could be a day for the layers...
"I would caution backers of Apple's Jade: her best form has been on faster ground than she'll encounter here, and Benie Des Dieux and La Bague Au Roi are interesting contenders who can improve on their form to date..."
Betting at the Cheltenham Festival can be tough.
The problem is that the racing is just so competitive: other seasonal pinnacles pale in comparison to the lone peak of Prestbury Park in March and trainers and owners - knowing this - make sure their best horses are at their best for a summit attempt. A win at jump racing's mecca just means so much more than a win elsewhere.
Even if you're at the top of your betting game, and you make some great selections, you can still come out with a loss. Your horse runs brilliantly, would have won any other race this season, but somehow only comes fifth.
That's why so many profitable punters turn to laying at the Festival. Rather than having to choose which horse will win, you can instead focus on those short-priced horses who are getting all the hype, but who you doubt will be able to cut it in the Cheltenham cauldron.
Each day of the Festival, I'll identify the horses that are worth a lay, starting with Tuesday...
Every year, it seems, the market for the Supreme Novices' is dominated by a talking horse from Ireland; a superstar in the making who sets off at ridiculously short odds. Some win, but many more do not. Getabird has the honour of being this year's candidate for future glory, but at around [2.86] is worth laying. It has been able to dominate its only two hurdle runs so far at Punchestown - a very different track to Cheltenham - and is unlikely to be allowed such an easy run here. What's more, if going strictly on the form, Kalashnikov and First Flow have at least an equal chance of victory. So ignore the hype of this being a Willie Mullins' horse ridden by Ruby Walsh: Getabird is a lay.
Having beaten his nearest rival, Petit Mouchoir, by 5 lengths at Leopardstown last time, it's probably right that Footpad is the slight favourite. However, it's worth remembering that those placings were reversed over hurdles at the Festival last year, and that Petit Mouchoir was reportedly short of full fitness for that Leopardstown encounter. What's more, Saint Calvados has been quietly picking up lesser prizes impressively in Britain and looks to have ground that will suit him best. Footpad is a lay at around [2.08].
It's probably true that Apple's Jade is the best mare in the race, and it would be no huge surprise to see her add to last year's victory here. I would caution backers, though: her best form has been on faster ground than she'll encounter here, and Benie Des Dieux and La Bague Au Roi are interesting contenders who can improve on their form to date. At very skinny odds of [1.61], Apple's Jade is worth a lay.