Cheltenham Tips

Cheltenham Festival Focus: 25/1 and 16/1 chances added to Cheltenham Festival list

Horse at finishing post
Daryl adds two chances to his ante-post list at 25/1 and 16/1.

"...he must have a good deal in hand off this mark of 133, especially as he is likely to get bottom weight in this compressed handicap."

Welcome to week 17 of Cheltenham Festival Focus, and here with a run-down of the week's action and some more ante-post selections is our man Daryl Carter...

As expected, with under three weeks to go to the Cheltenham Festival's start, the action has become quieter and quieter during the week with little to note. In the final two columns from next week, we will look at some vital stats related to the Festival rather than rounding the week up, given we have seen all we need to by this point.

This week I added a couple of handicappers to our list, and there are a few more I want to get in this column before the Festival kicks off, but I am waiting on clues for their targets which will hopefully come to light before next Sunday.

Anything to note in the last week?

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At Navan on Tuesday, Thedevilscoachman won the Grade 2 2m5f Boyne Hurdle very impressively. He coasted through the race on his first start further than 2m and seemingly had the field covered on the bridle before being shaken up to run down Ashdale Bob by a head in cosy style.

It was a very taking performance that saw him shoot to the top of the Coral Cup market at 11.010/1. His best performances, albeit over 2m, have come on heavy ground and connections after the race said that he loves those conditions. Still, it may have been the trip that improved him with this his first start over further than 2m. He did win his bumper on good to yielding ground, and he has had very few opportunities on a sounder surface since.

It would be folly to pigeonhole him as a deep ground specialist, especially now over a more suitable trip. His latest victory, which was a return to hurdles after two chase starts this season, took his record in this sphere to four for six. He recorded an RPR of 157 for this performance, so we await the English Handicapper's assessment when the weights are revealed on Tuesday, but he looks very useful indeed.

Stattler form given a good boost

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Farouk D'alene won the Grade 2 Ten Up Novices' Chase by 3/4l to owner mate Beacon Edge on the same Navan card. His form this term looks rock solid, and he gave a boost to Stattler, who beat him at Naas in January and sits top of the National Hunt Chase tree at 3.55/2. Braeside 13.012/1 for the National Hunt Chase was a well-held third and looked desperate to need further than 3m.

At Punchestown on Wednesday, Burning Victory was impressive when scoring in good style over Queens Brook in the Quevaga Mares' Hurdle, and she looks sure to take her chance in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, for which she is now a 8.07/1 chance. It was a good performance in first-time cheek-pieces, which positively affected the jumping department, and she is worth an upgrade after making all in a strong headwind. She will have every chance in a wide-open renewal.

The runner-up Queens Brook 9.08/1 could go for the Mares' Hurdle, although her stablemate who finished runner-up in the contest did go to the Coral Cup after this contest, and Queens Brook is 15.014/1 for that contest. She has improvement to come. Still, it's hard to make a compelling case for her at this time.

Ramillies got off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles at Punchestown on the same card, and all roads likely lead to the Albert Bartlett for which he is a 13.012/1 chance. He has always been held in high regard by Willie Mullins, and although he will need to be better than this to hold sway at Cheltenham, he is coming along slowly. He doesn't quite fit the stats and trends for the Albert Bartlett but is an interesting addition nonetheless.

Mares Division becomes clearer

On Thursday at Thurles, Jeremys Flame got her head back in front over Dolcita, confirming earlier Naas form. Although the former doesn't have any Cheltenham entries, she does have a form line with Concertista, so worth mentioning. It must be said, though, that Jeremys Flame has improved for stepping up in trip, and it's hard to argue that she is "boosting" the form of Concertista with her two victories.

The Mares Chase division form lines are working out quite well to give a clear picture of the race at the Festival. Dolcita is a 21.020/1 chance for the Mares Chase and has little chance.

The Goffer won the Grade 3 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle, a race that trainer Gordon Elliott has used previously for Martin Pipe winner Blow By Blow, and he is now 11.010/1 for the race in March.

At Warwick on Friday, Espoir De Guye won in excellent style off a handicap mark of 145 and is due to be reassessed by the Handicapper. Venetia Williams' runner has an entry in the Cheltenham Plate 21.020/1, but we all know by now that this is not a trainer that runs her horses with Cheltenham in mind. He could prove too high in the handicap, but all eyes are on his new mark - he is young, progressive and talented.

Ballyandy took the final Pertemps Qualifier at Chepstow in good style, and he is thriving over this new trip of 3m. He is now 26.025/1 for the Pertemps Handicap Final. Lovely horse, but this will surely be a big ask for the old-timer.

Icare Allen won in excellent style at Fairyhouse to give the Spring Juvenile (5th) form a good boost. He is more likely to head to the Boodles Handicap, for which he is 9.08/1 after proving no match for stablemate Vauban.

British Juvenile form still way off Triumph standard

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All season I have been banging on about the British Juveniles being well-below par (re-read earlier columns), and Saturday's Adonis Hurdle continued that theme. Knight Salute ran out a ready winner to remain unbeaten, but it didn't look likely until runner-up Teddy Blue - a once raced French recruit who has recorded an RPR of 90 on his British debut - fluffed the last flight when making a serious challenge.

Trainer Milton Harris made digs at people analysing previous races of Knight Salute in his interview after the race. He commented that he is unbeaten and has done nothing but win - that's all well and good, providing he is beating worthy rivals. Compared to the Irish, he is miles off what is required to land the Triumph Hurdle, for which he is a 13.012/1 chance.

The overall time of the race was nearly nine lengths slower than the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle won by Acunrisque (126) and unlucky runner-up Shallwehavewonemore (133), which suggests that Knight Salute's current rating of 135 is shooting on the high side and easily 10lbs below what will be required.

Still, saying all that, he is a nice horse, arguably the best the British have to offer in a poor year and connections are entitled to have a crack at Cheltenham.

Our Power was a big eye-catcher at Kempton, running on strongly from the rear of midfield on his first attempt at 3m. He could be one to keep an eye on for the Ultima Handicap, for which he is a 21.020/1 chance.

Dance with Henry in the Grand Annual

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Dancing On My Own 26.025/1 looks a mighty price for the Grand Annual, considering this is his only entry at the Cheltenham Festival and his back class over hurdles.

Henry De Bromhead's runner made a positive return to action on the back of a 687-day break at Killarney back in October when comfortably taking the scalp of Buddy Rich - a 9.08/1 chance for this contest - having plenty in hand at the finish. He has since chased home Blue Lord underhand and heels riding at Naas in a race where many of the fences were dolled off, and he wasn't disgraced, having been eased off after by-passing the final flight.

Henry De Bromhead has used that Naas race in the past for Some Plan as a prep before heading into the Champion Chase (as a novice) - went to the Grand Annual the following year, as well as Sizing Cadelo, who went to the Plate and Sizing Granite who won a Grade 1 at Aintree next time out.

He was given a very easy time at Naas, and connections then sent him to Punchestown, where he fell at the final flight, but for the first time in his career was held up at the rear of the field (usually leads or races very prominently). It's also interesting that connections made comments previously suggesting they know he jumps slightly left and, " we will stick to left-handed tracks for him".

He was a very promising Novice Hurdler. Notably, his four-length third to subsequent Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Klassical Dream at Leopardstown in 2018 - Entoucas, Grand Annual second in 2021, filled the runner-up spot. They also thought enough of him to run him in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (fourth) as a Novice.

He is extremely ground versatile and has been to Cheltenham twice. Once in the Ballymore and once in a Grade 2 Ballymore trial, both times over 2m5f for which he failed to stay.

He looks wildly over-priced at the time of writing.

Gericault looks roque solid for Kim Muir task

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Gericault Roque 17.016/1 is too hard to ignore, and given he may get balloted out of the Ultima Handicap, Kim Muir looks the most likely target for him.

The Irish have a good record in this contest, but those towards the top of the market will be hoping for some lenient action from the British Handicapper on Tuesday.

David Pipe horses haven't done too badly in this contest over the years, and it's positive to see that Gericault Roque has been put away for 61 days for this contest.

His form has worked out remarkably well to think he is well treated. Since going up to 3m, he bumped into Pats Fancy at Chepstow, losing out by 1/2 a length, Saint Palais going down by 1 3/4 lengths and Eclair Surf, who made all to win over 3m5f in the Classic Chase at Warwick.

Pats Fancy is now rated 18lbs higher, and the third from that contest is rated 17lbs higher. At Newbury, he pulled a mile clear with Saint Palais, who is now rated 10lbs higher, and the third beaten 12 lengths was a subsequent winner. Eclair Surf had the benefit of the first run at Warwick and is now rated 10lbs higher and went close, finishing second in the Eider at Newcastle off 143 (due to go up). All the while, the selection has gone up a total of ten pounds, meaning he would be five pounds better off with Pats Fancy should they meet again, 13 pounds better off with Saint Palais and ten pounds plus, better off with Eclair Surf.

He is very lightly raced after just two starts over 3m, and after recording RPRs of 141 the last twice, he must have a good deal in hand off this mark of 133, especially as he is likely to get almost bottom weight in this compressed handicap.

There are only a couple more I want to get on this list before the Festival, so be sure to tune in next week as we finalise our selections.

Be lucky.

Recommended bets

DARYL'S ANTE-POST PORTFOLIO

Back My Mate Mozzie for the Supreme Novice Hurdle @ 15.014/1 1pt win NOW 34.033/1 Back Eric Bloodaxe for the Albert Bartlett @ 17.016/1 1pt win NOW 21.020/1 Back Gaillard Du Mesnil for the Festival Novices' Chase @ 26.025/1 1pt win NOW 15.014/1 Back Constitution Hill for the Supreme Novice Hurdle @ 7.06/1 1pt win NOW 3.55/2 Back Mighty Potter for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle @ 15.014/1 1pt win NOW 14.013/1 Back Minella Indo for the Gold Cup @ 9.08/1 1pt win NOW 5.04/1 Back Braeside for the National Hunt Chase @ 21.020/1 1pt e/w NOW 16.015/1 Back Vauban for the Triumph Hurdle @ 11.010/1 1pt win NOW 3.02/1 Back Brandy Love for the Mares Novice Hurdle @ 6.05/1 1pt win NOW 5.59/2 Back Appreciate It for the Champion Hurdle @ 6.05/1 1pt win NRNB NOW 4.57/2 Back Third Time Lucki for the Arkle @ 9.08/1 1pt win NOW 15.014/1 Back The Tide Turns for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap 1pt win @ 6.05/1 NRMB NOW 5.59/2 Back Sire Du Berlais for the Pertemps Handicap Final 1pt e/w 5 places @ 11.010/1 NRMB Back Gericault Roque for the Kim Muir 1pt win 17.016/1 NRMB Back Dancing On My Own for the Grand Annual 0.5pt win 26.025/1 NRMB P/L = -7pts

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