Cheltenham Festival: Tuesday: A whistle-stop guide

Annie Power falls with the race at her mercy, but are her times fast enough?
Annie Power falls with the race at her mercy, but are her times fast enough?
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With most Festival trends previously debunked, Jack Houghton focuses on what matters: the ability to run a fast pace and proven Festival form. On that basis he thinks Annie Power is an unconvincing favourite for the Champion Hurdle...

"Annie Power is not an attractive proposition at 3.55. Although second in the World Hurdle in 2014 and having last year's mares race at her mercy when falling at the last, both of those races were unusually slow for Festival affairs..."

Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Min is the typical kind of favourite you get in this race. He's come from Ireland, with a big reputation, having looked impressive in winning races where the quality of the opposition is uncertain. Some of these types of horses turn out to justify the reputation; others don't. What I'm clear about is that I'm not prepared to take 3.45 to find out, especially when there are three other horses in the race who have posted faster times. When outlining the trends to believe in, I said that proven ability to handle the frenetic pace of the Festival was an advantage, and we can't be certain that Min will do this.

Altior looks the most-likely winner, with course and distance form and a fast win at Kempton which suggests he'll flourish in these conditions. At big odds I wouldn't discount Holly Bush Henry either, whose Musselburgh win looks good against the clock. And 17.016/1 might look big about a previous Festival winner should Silver Concorde win. I'll likely build a position around laying Min and backing the other three to varying degrees.

Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

Slightly unkindly, perhaps, one publication has marked Vaniteux as a horse to beware of at this course. Unkind because he finished third in the Supreme in 2014. Having said that, even if he does have previous Festival form, it's not as good as Douvan's, and whilst I won't be backing the favourite at such short odds, the price is probably about right.

Ultima Handicap Chase

Two horses that appeal - both in terms of how they are handicapped and based on their previous Festival form - are Holywell and Un Temps Pour Tout. Holywell has won at the Festival twice, and finished fourth in the Gold Cup last year, and Un Temps Pour Tout didn't disgrace when posting a decent time in the World Hurdle in 2015. At bigger odds, both are significantly more attractive propositions than Out Sam, who is a fair bit short on the clock and whose fall at the Festival last year is a concern.

Stan James Champion Hurdle

Annie Power is not an attractive proposition at 3.55 to win her first race at the Festival. Although second in the World Hurdle in 2014 and having last year's mares race at her mercy when falling at the last, both of those races were unusually slow for Festival affairs, and she has yet to post a really good time in any of her races. That's not to say she can't, of course, given the right conditions, but My Tent Or Yours and The New One are more proven in these conditions.

OLBG Mares´ Hurdle

Vroum Vroum Mag's win at Fairyhouse last April is the best piece of clock-form on offer here and I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from supporting the mare; however, Bitofapuzzle and Polly Peachum were both placed in this race last year, with the latter having posted a fast time at Sandown last year.

National Hunt Chase

Definitely Red's seventh-place finish in the bumper here two years' ago reads pretty well in the context of this race, and a fast time at Haydock in 2015 suggests he will cope with the likely high-pace here. This market looks skewed towards popular trainer and jockey combinations, and although those at the front of the betting are not without merit, the prices don't represent value.

Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase

Ballyalton, Killala Quay, Twelve Roses and Bouvreuil are all contenders based on their performances against the clock, which show that they will relish this competitive contest. They have also performed at or near their best at previous Festivals, and so I'll be having a small bet on each of them in the hope of getting a big-priced winner up.

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