Cheltenham Festival: Thursday: A whistle-stop guide

Cole Harden can repeat his Festival win of last year at big odds
Cole Harden can repeat his Festival win of last year at big odds

It was mainly a day of frustration for Jack yesterday, with big-priced selections nudged out on the line. For Thursday's card, he's used the trends to identify some more great value punts...


"Thistlecrack may have looked impressive in his races this season, but, when it comes to betting at Cheltenham, horses who have been visually impressive but have failed to record a fast time can spell an early death for any betting bank."

JLT Novices´ Chase

The 2015 Supreme looks a better race as every day goes by at the 2016 Festival, and L'ami Serge, who represents that contest in Thursday's opener, has certainly posted the fastest Festival form of any of these and looks like the value bet. I wouldn't completely discount either of Garde La Victoire or Black Hercules, but at the odds would side with the Henderson representative.


Pertemps Network Final

Seen by the market no doubt as handicapped up to his best, it's not surprising that Un Ace is around the 28.027/1-mark in the early betting exchanges; however, it's worth noting that the best piece of clock form on offer in the whole race comes courtesy of his eighth-place finish in the 2014 Supreme Novices. As a proven Festival performer, then, who has posted the best time in the race, and who is a whopping price, Un Ace seems an obvious bet.


Ryanair Chase

It would be no surprise if Vautour won this given his consistent performances at the Festival (and elsewhere) in the past, but his odds look ridiculously short to me, especially when you consider his unusual path to settling for this race, and the hot competition he faces from horses who have specialised at this distance and have targeted this race. On the clock, Road to Riches, Dynaste and Al Ferof are all capable of beating the odds-on favourite, and I'm going to be punchy: laying Vautour win and place and having a small bit on the three mentioned to build a lop-sided but potentially very profitable book.


Ryanair World Hurdle

Thistlecrack may have looked impressive in his races this season, but, when it comes to betting at Cheltenham, horses who have been visually impressive but have failed to record a fast time can spell an early death for any betting bank. That Thistlecrack is around the 2.35/4-mark is ludicrous. That's not to say he's not capable of running the kind of time that usually brings a Festival victory, or that this contest won't be a rare-but-not-unheard-of slowly-run Festival race which won't require a fast time of him, but I won't be taking those odds when the horse is surrounded by such uncertainty. Cole Harden won this last year, can do so again in conditions that suit, and, although 13yo, Knockara Beau is capable of running better than the market suggests and is worth a speculative place punt.


Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate

A very competitive race on paper, but I find John's Spirit and Fingal Bay most interesting. They are both towards the head of the market, which suggests they might not offer a huge amount of value, but the former has run consistently well at the last three Festivals, peaking in terms of the clock with his fifth in the Ryanair Chase last year, and the latter has run here once, winning the Pertemps, whilst posting a fast time. Betfair SP should offer a bit of value about both of them.


Trull House Stud Mares´ Novices´ Hurdle

A race to keep stakes small in, with a paucity of reliable form on which to make predictions about which of these is most likely to perform well in these conditions, and perhaps it's a race to watch. I'll be having a small interest in Tara Flow, though, who posted three strong times in quick succession around the New Year. At the generous odds, I'm prepared to forgive her lacklustre last run and hope she can recapture her best form and go close here.


Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

The Giant Bolster is far-and-away the best of these and has a lot in hand if running to his potential.


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