Cheltenham Festival 2019: Altior is no certainty in Champion Chase
With three successful lays out of three on Tuesday, Jack Houghton thinks he's uncovered some other dodgy market leaders for Cheltenham's day three...
"Altior is the most likely winner, but the odds are too short. I'm a layer at [1.43] and will stand by my bet until the grim end..."
Three out of three successful lays on Tuesday means the coffers are full as we go into Wednesday and, while it was poor fortune on the part of Benie Des Dieux that saw us collecting there, the race highlighted the difficulty of finishing prominently when the racing is so competitive: even when you've beaten the rest of the field, you have to clear the obstacles.
With confidence high, then, there's one worth going after in Wednesday's opener...
Battleoverdoyen has potential in the Ballymore Hurdle, but has proved little so far
A recurring narrative at every Cheltenham Festival is the story of the up-and-coming talent who could be racing's next superstar. They are usually Irish, and they've usually won a series of races with small fields, and they've always done so impressively. When they get to Cheltenham, the narrative goes, their full potential will be realised. The market sends them off at short odds.
Some go on to deliver on the hype. But, often, the reality of big fields, and races run at a relentless pace, means that the hype evaporates as the horse, overwhelmed by the unfamiliar test, gets buffeted about and finds themselves down the field. It's why previous Festival form is so predictive of future Festival form: you have to be suited to Cheltenham's unique requirements.
In the Ballymore Hurdle, Battleoverdoyen fits the mould of waiting-to-be-anointed superstar. Two starts over hurdles, both won well, and from the same connections that won the race last year. The concern for backers of the horse is that, while a winner of a Grade 1 already, the form of that race was not especially strong, and I have six of this field stronger against the clock, and three stronger on handicap ratings.
I won't be going in heavily, but a lay in the place market at [2.16] looks to be a sound bet. Finishing in the top three in this 16-runner, competitive race, will not be easy, especially with Beakstown and Champ bringing confirmed fast-paced form to the party.
Altior is the value lay in the Queen Mother Champion Chase
For the record... I've got nothing against Altior. A fine horse, so he is... I knew his dad well, a fine horse too. I'm sure his mum was lovely as well, although I don't remember her much. The thing is, [1.43] in a competitive race? It's a short price.
Altior's win in this race last year is the best piece of form on offer, and his win last time at Ascot was quick, putting him around 4lbs clear on the clock according to my ratings. That clocking is an outlier in his form, though, and looking back to last year, although Altior was impressive, he wasn't completely dominant: three out he looked like he would finish fourth.
Altior is the most likely winner, but the odds are too short. I'm a layer at [1.43] and will stand by my bet until the grim end, but in-play punters may want to pursue a lay-to-back policy at least, with the expectation that he will find this more difficult than many seem to expect. If laying is new to you, check out our guide, here.
Blue Sari should be opposed on principle in the Bumper
Bumpers are generally worth avoiding if you want to remain profitable. So much of what punters must go on is no more than rumour and hearsay dressed up as expert analysis, and unless you are privy to the right rumours and hearsay, things rarely end well. It's with trepidation, then, that I recommend laying the favourite, Blue Sari, in the place market at [1.84].
The issue I have is that the race he won was a seven-runner affair run at a pedestrian pace and yet, as the choice of dream connections, bejewelled with Barrry Geraghty on top, we're expected to accept him as race favourite.
Although the form of Blue Sari's rivals is naturally sparse - it's a bumper, after all - there's enough of it to suggest that the favourite will have to be a talented horse to win. Envoi Allen, Meticulous, Master Debonair and The Glancing Queen all make more appeal on the form we've seen so far, and I'll be hoping to end the day with another successful lay.
Lay Battleoverdoyen at [2.16] in Ballymore Hurdle Place Market
Lay Altior at [1.43] in Queen Mother Champion chase
Lay Blue Sari at [1.84] in Champion Bumper Place Market