A super day for Tony Calvin on Tuesday who put up winners at 5/1 and 4/1 as well landing the each-way money with 16/1 and 12/1 tips. Here's our top tipster's quintet of bets for Champions Chase Day...
"One of those came in a Grade 2 Ballymore Trial win here in 2019 and he has a fair form and time chance on that run. I think any significant drying ground of the ground would be a plus for him, too."
The Wednesday of Cheltenham is normally the quietest punting day of the Festival for me because I never tend to go anywhere near the Cross Country Chase or the Bumper - I rarely watch these type of races, so I don't have any meaningful handle on the form-lines - and this year is no different.
In fact, given the make-up of the other three non-handicaps on the card, my punting will be bordering on silent in most of the contests on day two.
You're a brave man if you oppose the front three in Ballymore
The Betfair Sportsbook are trying to drum up some interest in the seven-runner Ballymore at 13:20 by offering three places.
That is great news for those who fancy anything outside of the big three - Bob Olinger, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame - but the problem for those punters is that the named trio present a formidable barrier to outsiders.
They all boast similar credentials on form and on the clock, and it is difficult to see anything else getting a look-in, as the betting underlines.
My lean would be towards Bravemansgame, as I think he is set to get a solo out in front and I can see Harry Cobden attempting to go steady early - his two market rivals are keen sorts, so he may try to get them at it - and then gradually winding it up.
Given the manner in which he has ground out his victories, notably in the Challow last time, his relentless galloping style may win the day, but there was not enough juice in his price on the exchange to tempt me in, though he was a late drifter on Tuesday afternoon.
Difficult to oppose Monkfish
Monkfish is the most likely winner of the whole week in the Brown Advisory at 13:55 and I'd be in no rush at all to lay him at around the 1.42/5 mark on the exchange. He is the next superstar of the chasing game, Envoi Allen included.
Ante-post, I have had a few each-way bets on Eklate De Rire, who impressed me when making all to beat Escaria Ten at Naas last time - and he may lead again here if Monkfish lets him - and I did toy with putting him up at 9/4 with the Betfair Sportsbook in the "without favourite" market.
But, once again, that was just a touch too short for my liking, especially as my nightmare scenario would be Rachael Blackmore mixing it on the front end early doors with Paul Townend. And it could probably be a fair bit softer for him, too.
No, we can let the first two races pass without a bet once again. At least we will still be smiling before the third, whatever happens!
Henderson duo my picks in the Coral Cup
I am most certainly not sitting out the Coral Cup at 14:30, and if there is a plot job in the 2m5f handicap it is Blue Sari, even if he has been pulled up on his last two starts and was a 40-length last of four when he last completed.
However, that fourth came in Grade 1 company, following on from a defeat of a certain The Bosses Oscar at Punchestown, and he just so happens to have run Envoi Allen to ¾ length in the 2019 bumper here, with Thyme Hill and Abacadabras immediately behind him.
If the first-time tongue-tie invigorates him after his Leopardstown run last month, then he could be a blot on the handicap off 138 (the UK handicapper has left his Irish mark alone), but the problem is does his current price adequately compensate for the obvious, and considerable, doubts about his form and fitness?
He was 20/1 and 18/1 in places immediately after the decs, and a general 16s poke, but those prices have disappeared, so I am content to walk away. He is a just a bit too much of a boom-or-bust bet to consider at around the 12/1 mark in such a competitive handicap.
His stablemate Koshari has an obvious chance after his eye-catching run last time (a mistake at the third put him right on the back foot) but my two against the field are the outsiders of the Nicky Henderson quartet, Janika and Birchdale.
Henderson has won three of the last seven runnings of this race and Birchdale, in the same ownership of Blue Sari, looks a decent each-way shot at 18/1, seven places, with the Sportsbook.
He has presumably had plenty of problems in the last couple of years and didn't have the ideal prep when finishing eighth, beaten a touch under 10 lengths, in this race last year and he has at least come down 2lb in the weights since.
He could hardly be said to come in here all guns blazing this time around either, but at least he seemed to show a lot more zest when third in a jumpers' bumper at Kempton last time, finishing off his race really well - he clearly doesn't get on with fences - and this horse remains unexposed after just four hurdle starts.
One of those came in a Grade 2 Ballymore Trial win here in 2019 and he has a fair form and time chance on that run. I think any significant drying ground of the ground would be a plus for him too, and it looked okay on Tuesday anyway.
Janika has to be forgiven a pretty woeful run on his return at Ascot last time, his first since having a wind op, and all the more worrying considering he goes so well when fresh (and he was well backed there, too).
But I am hoping it is significant that he didn't wear a tongue-tie there and does so here - a lot of trainers like to marry the wind op with the tongue-strap - so maybe he choked again at Ascot. I haven't read anything about him in the lead-up to this race, so that's a guess.
Regardless, I still think he is worth a stab at 28/1 each-way, with those seven places.
He has been given the best part of two months off and a reproduction of the form of any of his three starts at this track gives him a fair old chance off a mark of 145, 13lb lower than his chase mark.
In fact, he was rated 21lb higher over fences after his Haldon Gold Cup win and he was a 3/4 -length second off 156 in the Plate at the Festival in 2019 on good to soft ground.
His hurdles fourth to Summerville Boy in the Relkeel here last year also makes him fairly treated off 145, too, so I will take my chances.
I like a big outsider in the Cross Country
I can take or leave Chacun Pour Soi at even money on the exchange in the 15:05 - I'd probably be a layer, if forced - so I am not going to have a bet in the Champion Chase.
All 11 from the five-day stage would have stood their ground had Altior not coughed on Monday morning, and I can't really see a solid each-way angle against the favourite.
I did chuck a few quid win-only at Greaneteen at 85.084/1 last week, but I'd be stretching it to put up a tip in here. If Chacun Pour Soi doesn't take to Cheltenham on his first visit, then it is game on for all the other nine contenders.
As I said earlier, I don't think I have ever put up a bet in the Cross Country or Bumper, but I will admit to a moment of weakness when having £20 each-way at 66/1 on Vivas for the former last week when doing some Podcast prep.
I did toss up as to whether to tip him here at 80/1 each-way, four places, as I loved the way he shaped when a 40/1 chance here in November when 15lb out of the handicap. He traded at 6/4 in the run there before dropping away.
However, last week I was working on the assumption of genuine good ground, and perhaps quicker, for the Cross Country course this time last week - - his best form has come on good and quicker - and we have to factor in he is a 127-rated horse with loads to find after a poor run here in December.
So I was all set to stay loyal to my "no bet" strategy in both races this time around too. I find bumpers such unattractive betting mediums; plenty will beg to differ, but each to their own.
But then I watched the racing throughout Tuesday and I said to myself this ground isn't anywhere as bad as I feared in the morning, so I am going to put Vivas up at 80s, four places.
Two each-way plays in the Grand Annual
Give me an impossible handicap any old day though, so on to the 20-runner Grand Annual at 16:15, in which I originally thought Ibleo was very solid at 12/1 each-way, six places with the Sportsbook.
I appreciate he has left himself vulnerable after going up 16lb for his Sandown and Doncaster wins but it was very hard not to be impressed by those - the Doncaster victory came in a very good time - and his second to Sky Pirate here in December (where he probably hit the front too soon against a fellow big improver) proves he can handle the track.
But I worry about the drying ground (if indeed it is) as much as his handicap mark (he is virtually a Grade 1 horse if winning this off 154), so I ended up looking elsewhere and Glen Forsa at 27.026/1 or bigger on the exchange was my first port of call. 20/1 or bigger will be fine.
If Ibleo is solid, Glen Forsa's claims could be said to be made of jelly, hence he is a win-only bet on the exchange.
The closest this horse has come to winning this season was a 17 ½-length fourth at Wincanton last time and, throw in the fact that his two efforts here have hardly been the stuff of positivity, it is fair to say we are not talking confident here.
But every horse has its price and I am sure Henrietta Knight (she does a lot of work for Mick Channon) has been all over this horse on the schooling grounds since his Wincanton run over 2m4f last time (where he actually showed a bit more than previously) and he has also had a wind op since, too.
And the upside of his below-par efforts is that he has come down 7lb in the weights, too.
I'd like them to adopt more aggressive tactics on this horse down in trip, just as they did when he looked a future worldie when smashing up Kalashnikov at Sandown in February 2019 (he went off at 9/2 for the Arkle afterwards, only to unseat at the fourth), and a mark of 147 could be very exploitable if they have got him right.
At the price, I'll take my chance. Tom Scudamore isn't a bad man to have on board if you want a horse to be ridden positively, though I don't tend to take too much notice of jockeys, it must be said.
Channon's horses have been running well on the Flat, having a welcome winner, as they say, at Wolverhampton on Monday night.
Us And Them finished second in Glen Forsa's Arkle and he is my second bet in the race at 12/1 each-way, six places.
Aside from that Arkle run, he also finished third to Chosen Mate in this race last year.
Now, he could have done without the UK handicapper giving him an extra 4lb, but he is still 1lb lower than last year and I gather this has been his sole aim since last seen out in Fairyhouse in November (without his usual blinkers), and there have been no physical issues.
If we don't get any more rain, and we are effectively racing on genuine good to soft ground, then so much the better for a horse whose best form is away from testing conditions.
Good luck all. Be lucky.
PROFIT AND LOSS RECORDS
FEB: +17.82; JAN: -0.2; DEC:- -20.8; NOV: +23
2020 FLAT SEASON (June 1-November): +20.8
PREVIOUS P AND L (April 14 2017 to Apr 1 2020): +303.4
NB: All recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP, not at prices available at time of publishing.
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Get all the latest Exchange racing odds here
Click 'Bet now' to view the market for the Ballymore where Bravemansgame is around 4.84/1
Back Birchdale in 14:30 at Cheltenham 18/1 each-way, seven places, at 19.018/1
Back Janika in 14:30 at Cheltenham 28/1 each-way, seven places, at 29.028/1
Back Vivas in 15:40 at Cheltenham 80/1 each-way, four places, at 81.080/1
Back Glen Forsa in 16:15 at Cheltenham at 27.026/1
Back Us And Them in 16:15 at Cheltenham, 12/1 each-way, six places at 13.012/1