Six more bets for TC on day two at Cheltenham
I didn't expect the ground to be quite as testing as it promises to be for the start of the Festival - obviously the opening day's racing and the times on Tuesday will tell us a lot more - and I fear that may have scuppered some of my ante-post plays on Wednesday, especially with more rain due that day.
Soft ground could hamper Greaneteen
Of course, with the non-runner money back (NRMB) concession, there is no damage done if they get pulled out on the day should the weather turn even nastier. But I am not sure I want to be backing Greaneteen in the Champion Chase at this stage and it looks like they are going to let him take his chance.
To be fair, if I owned the horse - and Chris Giles is a man in form after a high-profile Sandown double on Saturday - I would, too.
I have been chipping away at his Greaneteen each-way at 33s and 25s for the last couple of weeks, but there is a strong body of evidence that suggests he doesn't want anything approaching soft ground.
Sure, he has won on heavy in a lesser grade and finished second in a Tingle Creek on soft, but all of his premier efforts have been on good to soft or better ground.
Maybe, it will ride a lot nearer to good to soft if Cheltenham gets a largely drying 24 hours from hereon in. The frost covers could go down on Tuesday night with freezing temperatures expected. If so, Greaneteen has solid enough course and form claims, as a three-time Grade 1 winner, to bustle up the front three in the market.
However, with just the seven runners now, I don't think you can argue too much with the Betfair Exchange's win-only market, but I will obviously be cheering on Greaneteen without having a fresh bet.
Warrior is the main man
The day opens with the Ballymore at 13:30 and it looks a cracker.
In many ways it is a race full of unknowns, especially with regards to the unbeaten favourite Impaire Et Passe, very short now at around 7/4 on the Betfair Exchange, as you strongly suspect there is a lot of improvement in most of these.
I guess that is an obvious thing to say about a Cheltenham Festival novice, but I am going to stay loyal to my recent lean and suggest backing Gaelic Warrior at 7.613/2 or bigger to small stakes.
In many ways, he is the most solid horse in here, with one large proviso admittedly. Maybe two, if you acknowledge he does have his stamina to prove over 2m5f in soft ground.
I know his tendency to edge right over many (if not all) of his hurdles is the obvious concern, and that trait probably cost him a win in the Boodles last year, but in terms of form and time credentials then he is the main man going into the race.
The time bandits were rushing for the Festival back button after his reappearance win at Tramore. He then brushed aside a fair chaser at Clonmel and then he won handsomely off a mark of 143 in the valuable 2m handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival.
On what we know, he is the most talented horse in this race, he has experience of the track, and he has clocked the time to shine on this big stage.
The booking of amateur Patrick Mullins may put some off - to be honest you'd rather see Paul Townend staying loyal to him, rather than going with the favourite - but it doesn't harm the horse's price at least (he could well drift further), and you'd have to think Mullins would have been riding him at home, and getting to know him, given that that quirk.
Chosen pair in Brown Advisory
Willie Mullins is responsible for four in the Ballymore and five in the Brown Advisory at 14:10 but he doesn't have the favourite in the 3m novices' chase, a race in which Gordon Elliott's Gerri Colombe has pride of place at the top of the market.
Eight from eight, he is a hard horse to find fault with, other than in the most important area - his price. And it is not as if he is head and shoulders above these on form. In fact, Thyme Hill is rated 2lb higher.
The same applies, to a lesser degree, about The Real Whacker, a horse who I have a lot of time for. It is just that this race has held up very well numbers-wise and the odds don't quite reflect that at the top end of the market, though he is beginning to get pretty weak on the Betfair Exchange.
The two that stand out for me at the prices are Adamantly Chosen and Thunder Rock, and I am going to back them both.
I guess we have become too greedy as punters but I was half-hoping the Sportsbook may give us four places, so win-only it is with Thunder Rock at 22.021/1 or bigger, and Adamantly Chosen at 25/1+ on the Betfair Exchange (currently available at 34.0).
Adamantly Chosen seems the most overpriced to me - he is currently 20/1 on the Sportsbook if you want to back him each-way - especially as he was supplemented into this race, having already had the option of the Turners over 2m4f, a trip over which he has been campaigned this season.
That strongly suggests they think he is well worth trying at this trip - actually there is no suggesting about it, as the cash to enter him underlines - as his efforts behind Gerri Colombe and Mighty Potter in Grade 1 company on his last two starts hinted that an increased stamina test would suit.
He ran better than the beaten distance suggests in the Martin Pipe here last season - he travelled well into the race and traded at 2.982/1 in running - and hopefully the step up to 3m for the first time will be the key to opening his winning chance here. He is ground-versatile too, which helps when betting at this stage, and I love his price.
The initial attempt at 3m is also the angle into Thunder Rock. I think you may know your fate early doors with him as he needs to travel a bit better here, and not get too far back, as he did when third to The Real Whacker in the Dipper. Hence, I want to back him win-only.
But he ran well behind Gerri Colombe in the Scilly Isles at Sandown last time, and, again, he simply shapes as more of a stayer to me. I'll take my chances at the odds, anyway.
Epic looks short
Your eyes glaze over when looking at the 26-runner Coral Cup but I was initially drawn to An Epic Song after the fields were known at 10am on Monday morning, only to see his price ebb away throughout the day.
He obviously shaped far better than his position suggests over 2m behind Gaelic Warrior last time and the step up in trip is sure to suit (he has won over 2m3f in heavy ground). Like many in here, he will have been aimed at this race all season. His owners just happen to be the sponsors of the Ballymore at the start of the card.
He wears cheekpieces for the first time and, while that is a rare move for the trainer (0 from 1 in recent years), the horse's pedigree makes it a very interesting move.
One of his half-brothers won in pieces (two others have been tried in them), and another scored in blinkers, so maybe there is a kink in the family line that needs headgear (and An Epic Song has been tried in a hood twice himself) to correct it.
The obvious downside is that all the 20s to 12s in the marketplace went on Monday afternoon, and I suspect he will drift back out, so I was torn as to what to do.
Actually, I wasn't. I decided I can hardly put him up now as he is just 8s with the Sportsbook, and not that much bigger win-only on the Betfair Exchange. Far too short as it stands.
Endeavour irresistible at the price
Elsewhere in the race, I can fully see the case for the obvious plot horses Camprond and Langer Dan, but I simply cannot resist a few quid on Bold Endeavour at 40.039/1 or bigger. It is a definite win-only bet as there is plenty of blow-out potential. He trades at 46.045/1 as this column goes live.
The stable has won this race four times since 2010 and, while this is an afterthought for connections after the horse's disappointing (possibly non-staying) second at odds-on over 3m in the Reynoldstown last time and he would prefer better ground, the price just looks too generous to ignore.
He returns to hurdles off a mark 5lb lower than his chase mark and - sorry to be a stuck record on the headgear front - the first-time cheekpieces could make him travel far more kindly for his jockey here. Nico de Boinville was never happy with at Ascot last time.
He is actually unbeaten in three starts in a hood for previous trainer Laura Morgan and Nicky Henderson is a very respectable 16 from 67 with this accoutrements angle. It is currently soft at Cheltenham but we are set for a largely dry 24 hours it seems, so he may well get away with it ground-wise.
Benson is best bet in Coral Cup
I finally cottoned out that the obvious was staring me in the face and Benson at 16/1 each-way, seven places, with the Betfair Sportsbook, is the best bet in the race.
He comes here at the top of his game after winning the Morebattle last time, from the right horses, and hopefully a 5lb penalty won't stop him (he went up 5lb for the win, so he is off his correct mark) from collecting the 100k bonus.
He was a very tricky, sulky horse when with Dr Richard Newland but Sandy Thomson has really turned the horse around this season, and for him record form figures of 22211 with such a quirky sort is some going.
He runs off a career-high mark but it is justified and stepping up to 2m5f will not be a problem for a horse that had the pace to win over 2m on good to soft at Kelso, having previously won over 2m4f on soft at Musselburgh.
This horse has won on heavy at Sandown, so the ground can do what it likes, and he has shown he can back up after a fortnight turnaround before, too. Lots to like.
I am not getting involved in the Cross Country as it simply isn't my bag - though I have a very small nibble on Snow Leopardess and Franco De Port - so on to the Grand Annual at 16:50.
Make it Malystic at 40/1
I also had a few quid on Final Orders win-only on the Betfair Exchange for this last week after it became clear that they were swerving the Arkle, but I have gone off him a touch as his price has shortened, and Malystic at 40/1 each way, six places, is calling me now.
His only poor run this season (here in November) can be excused as he scoped dirty and he won his next two - including when beating Saint Segal, an ante-post punt for this but a no-show on Monday, in a good time at Doncaster - before going up in class for the Grade 2 Betfair Game Spirit last time.
He probably ran as well as he has ever done, even though he finished last of four there.
Any 33/1+ will do.
Very unlike me, I have backed Encanto Bruno ante-post in the bumper at 17:30, at 16s and 14s, as I loved the way he put Strong Leader to bed here on good ground in October. He was hugely impressive.
The problem is that soft ground would blunt his speed and this race just looks an absolute minefield, with Willie Mullins laughably saddling 10 of the 24-strong field, of whom all but one are winners.
If it transpires the ground is not too bad on the day and Encanto Bruno is 16/1+ on the Betfair Exchange, I will probably throw another few quid, win-only, his way, but I am not pressing up at this stage.
Racing... Only Bettor - Day 2 at Cheltenham - Watch Here!