Lay bet specialist Patrick Weaver returns for Cheltenham week with his horses to oppose and his lay of the day for Tuesday comes in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle...
"Goshen may well not make the first three in the Champion. I reckon the winning distance of 22 lengths in the Kingwell at Wincanton flattered him."
I'm not one to set great store by five-day declarations and the complexion of some of Tuesday's races changed radically at the 48-hour stage yesterday.
Bob Olinger dropping out of the Supreme (13:20), with his owner preferring Wednesday's Ballymore, and Royale Pagaille going for the Gold Cup rather than the National Hunt Chase (5:20) completely changed the shape of the races.
I made those two bankers for their races on Tuesday but will still advocate laying the favourites, despite them having easier tasks than it had looked last week.
As for Energumene being injured, I was ready to lay Shishkin all day in the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase at 13:55 but he looks unopposable now. He is 1.558/15 and, on form, only needs to put in a clear round to win.
Hard to Appreciate why favourite is so short
So to the opener and I will put up Appreciate It as a lay in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
You won't see me lay many Grade One winners, or indeed many Willie Mullins' runners, but there are a couple of trends that make the market leader opposable. Firstly, just one clear favourite, and one joint-favourite, have won the last 10 runnings. Secondly, only two seven-year-olds have won the Supreme in the last 50 years.
Appreciate It has experience of being a beaten favourite here, too. He was 15/8 for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper 12 months ago, and was beaten by his stablemate Ferny Hollow.
Trends alone are not a sufficient-enough reason to lay a favourite, so who do we have on our side without Bob Olinger in the line-up? There is always a chance that Ballyadam and Blue Lord will reverse placings with Appreciate It who beat them fair and square in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.
More likely though is that either Metier or Soaring Glory will topple the favourite.
Metier was a most impressive winner of the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown in January and had won his two previous starts over hurdles. Soaring Glory comes on from Newbury where he could be called the winner of the Betfair Hurdle some way from home. That was a handicap over 10st 7lb, so he needs to improve to take the favourite down, but he is very much on the up.
Goshen makes limited appeal in the Champion Hurdle
The Unibet Champion Hurdle at 15:05 looks open, with eight of the 10 runners rated within a 7lb range. The two that look out of their depth are the outsiders, Not So Sleepy and Saldier.
I wouldn't be thinking of laying either of the two mares that get a 7lb allowance. Honeysuckle is 10 from 10 over hurdles and last year's winner, Epatante, six from eight.
Goshen, though, may well not make the first three. An unlucky loser in the Triumph last March, he had looked lacklustre on the Flat in the autumn and also when last of 10 in a Champion Hurdle trial here at Cheltenham in December. He has since won the Grade 2 trial at Wincanton by a considerable margin but it was a slow-run contest and I reckon the winning distance of 22 lengths in the Kingwell flattered him.
If you think that, then he comes out the equal of Sharjah, Silver Streak, Abracadabras and Aspire Tower. Add in James Du Berlais having his first run outside of France having moved to Willie Mullins, and it is worth laying Goshen at under 2/1 to be placed.
Houx Gris or not Houx Gris that is the question
I'm going to take on Houx Gris in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 16:15.
Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in recent years, so know what is required. Houx Gris was nothing to write home about in France, though, and lacked the stamina to play a part in the finish to the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow - his first start for Nicholls.
He was 20 lengths behind Nassalam that day and I would sooner be on Gary Moore's 18/1 shot than Houx Gris at 5/1.
Like the favourite, the next four in the betting have winning form in France or Ireland. Saint Sam, Coltor, Busselton and Riviere d'Etel. All of them look better each-way bets than Nicholls' grey.
Then we have the likes of Cabot Cliffs who has won his last two starts at Warwick, Nassalam, and the Wincanton winner Balko Saint. With 22 runners it is not hard to see Houx Gris failing to improve sufficiently to make the first four.
Royale Pagaille defection leaves Galvin was a better chance
I strongly fancied Royale Pagaille to win the last, such was the ease with which Rich Ricci's seven-year-old won at Haydock last time.
He goes for the Gold Cup instead, though, so I will not put Galvin up as a lay after all in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices' Chase at 16:50.
He has won all his four chases for Gordon Elliott this season but was a beaten favourite here 12 months ago when fancied for a novices' handicap chase over two miles, four.
He has not run since winning his first start over three miles here in October and moved yards to Ian Ferguson this month.
He may not see out the extra mile and a quartet and, if he tires, could make a costly error or two.
In that case the race could well go to his former stablemate Escaria Ten who has a good turn of foot over three miles. Remastered and Next Destination are in form and others that could outstay the favourite.