With three winners on day one of the Festival - at 4/1, 11/1 and 12/1 - and a host of other highly-placed selections, Jack Houghton continues to focus on the trends that matter. He thinks the Queen Mother Champion Chase is more open than the market suggests, and that Somersby has a chance of causing an upset...
"Take Somersby. He may be unglamorous, but in seven consecutive Festivals, he only failed to post a decent performance on the clock on one occasion, when unseating in 2013..."
Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle
Both Yorkhill and Yala Enki have claims on the basis of posting fast times in recent respective outings at Sandown, but neither of them have yet to get anything in the book that matches Yanworth's win at Cheltenham in January. The latter-named Y has also got solid Festival form and is worth backing. I'll also be having a small outside interest in Vigil, whose Festival bumper form shows that he can run well here.
Shaneshill's current odds of 22.021/1 are no doubt a result of jumping concerns raised by his last outing at Doncaster, but his second in the Supreme at last year's Festival is easily the best piece of clock-form on offer here, and although I can make a case for both Seeyouatmidnight and More Of That, I'm prepared to take the risk, at the prices, that this step up in trip will put less pressure on Shaneshill's jumping.
You have to go back a bit, but looking at all the previous 18 Festival starts of horses in this line up, the best form on offer comes in the 2014 Supreme, courtesy of Sgt Reckless and Three Kingdoms. Given that both will likely start at a BSP of upwards of 40.039/1, I'll be happy having a small bet on each in the hope of throwing up a big-priced winner.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The market might have us believe that this is a shoot-out between Un De Sceaux and Sprinter Sacre, but I can't help thinking that this race is going to be more closely contested that the odds suggest. A number of these have Festival form that is comparable to what the top two are likely to run to, and are arguably more reliable than the market leaders. Take Somersby. He may be unglamorous, but in seven consecutive Festivals, he only failed to post a decent performance on the clock on one occasion, when unseating in 2013. He has finished second in this in the last two years, and with a guaranteed fast pace, can be prominent again. I'll be having an interest win and place.
I have no idea.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
An open race with a number of unexposed horses, none of whom have previous Festival form. The best performances on the clock in this line up come from Romain De Senam and Coo Star Sivola, in the same race here during the November meeting. I'll be splitting a small stake between the two at long odds.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Augusta Kate has returned two good performances on the clock for an inexperienced horse, and I'll be expecting a bold showing from the Mullins charge, alongside the more experienced course and distance winner, Ballyandy. Perhaps one to watch, rather than get stuck into, though.
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