Cheltenham Festival Focus: 20/1, 14/1 and 25/1 final Festival Focus selections

Daryl Carter.
Daryl Carter adds his last three Cheltenham ante-post bets to his column.

In week 18, the penultimate Cheltenham Festival Focus ante-post column of 2024, Daryl Carter is busy adding his final selections to his list...

  • Daryl adds his final three selections to the 2024 ante-post series

  • Wants to strengthen the Ryanair hand with soft ground a serious possibility

  • Says Master Chewy is a strong E/W bet in the Arkle

  • Cheltenham Festival 2024: Everything you need to know in our ultimate guide


  • It feels like it's been a long week, hasn't it? We've had the news that Constitution Hill has the sniffles, which rocked the Champion Hurdle market, sending State Man into 1.834/5 and the Nicky Henderson defending champ out to 3.02/1 at the time of writing.

    The Betfair Exchange market told us that JP McManus and John Berry have paid their annual visit to Clousutton with the move for Mystical Power backed into 4.3100/30 for the Baring Bingham and Ballyburn out to 6.611/2 and hardening up in the Supreme Novice at 2.26/5.

    Say it quietly, but Corbetts Cross is now 3.45 a favourite for the National Hunt Chase.

    Gaelic Warrior has also been quietly backed for the Turners Novices Chase and is now favourite at 3.55/2, although that changes on the hour, while Grey Dawning has shifted Ginny's Destiny out of the top three in the betting and is now 3.7511/4.

    Those have been the primary market movers for the week, but it's clear decisions are being made by the riddler Willie Mullins, who holds many of the aces in the pack.

    This week, I want to add our final selections to the list and thank you for following this column for the past 18 weeks.

    In our final column next Sunday, we will simply recap our position and explain how this column will affect our positions during the week of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.


    Back Master Chewy to win the Arkle @ 25/126.00 1pt e/w

    I know straight away you've read the headline and thought he's lost his mind, but I put it to you that Master Chewy - 25/126.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - is overpriced and could cause a surprise for Nigel Twiston Davies, so give me a chance.

    This Arkle is wide open unless Marine Nationale decides to bring his Supreme Novice performance to the table, which is entirely plausible.

    However, something looked like a miss with him at the Dublin Racing Festival. I am not as against him as the bulk of people seem to be. I will forgive him for that run because this is a poor renewal.

    His natural ability is respected, so I wish to play each way on this selection. When going through this field, it's tough to fancy any of those toward the top of the betting. The only possible horse I could like for this race outside of Marine Nationale is Facile Vega and he looking more likely to go for the longer race on the Betfair Exchange, although I'd happily revisit him on the day should he line up.

    Found A Fifty has been dictating absolute dawdles in Ireland and has been allowed to get away with jumping out to the right. I am keen to place LAY him.

    Il Etait Temps' jumping in the Irish Arkle was sticky enough, and he will have more trouble with these undulations in that department - three-out outcomes to mind.

    Hunters Yard is interesting. He is another who has trouble with his jumping, though.

    Quillixios I respect. However, he is another who goes violently to the right, and is he quick enough for this? I doubt it. That leaves My Mate Mozzie, who wants good ground and could head to the Grand Annual and Blood Destiny, who doesn't run. While JPR One is woefully underpriced, it could easily leave a field of just ten.

    However, Master Chewy, it could be argued, has the most substantial piece of form with his brilliant Newbury second to Elixir De Nutz when putting in a jumping masterclass and chasing him right to the line, having given him too much rope.

    That was outstanding, and the pair went 13 lengths clear of the field and clocked a good time figure. Elixir De Nutz, as fortunate as he was, has since won a Grade 1 at Cheltenham and had a wealth of experience as a vital advantage.

    Master Chewy enhanced his profile with a brilliant win at Kempton in the Wayward Lad, and although that race was set up for him, he beat a subsequent Grade 1 winner.

    He was firmly on the up before his latest run at Lingfield, which can easily have a line through, having lost all chance at the first flight by being badly hampered, but he wasn't beaten far by JPR One, who went off twice his price.

    Nigel Twiston-Davies was bold enough to throw this horse into the Ballymore last year, where he shaped well against the Irish before his stamina gave out, and he has improved 30 pounds for the switch to fences, unlike those at the top of the market.

    This race is crying out for an upset should Marine Nationale not be straight, and even if the favourite performs - which I hope he does as I will be on him - the place part of the bet is very live.


    Back Palamon to win the Boodles Handicap @ 20/121.00 1pt

    I put up Palamon - 20/121.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - on the Podcast this week, and it's a little frustrating that his 33/134.00 price has gone for the column, but I do like his chances, and while he is bigger in one other place, he is a general 20/121.00 in the market place.

    The Paul Nolan runner was picked up from Richard Hannon's yard after a dominant victory at York on his final flat start. He was progressive in that sphere but has shown a natural aptitude for this discipline. However, that wasn't evident on debut at Leopardstown when he only jumped adequately in a deep race won by Intellotto. He was buried away in atrocious conditions on the inside rail and was short of room in a race that saw Ethical Diamond disappoint but with Lark In The Mornin and Ndaawi in sixth and fifth.

    He was a big eye-catcher the next time at Punchestown in January, making swift headway alongside Lark In The Mornin from an impossible position against the rail before blundering. Still, he stuck to the task eye-catching well when that could have easily knocked him out of the back of the TV.

    It was his latest run at Naas that forced him into this column.

    He was held up well off the pace, giving leader and eventual winner Ndaawi ten lengths only to circle the entire field and get to the front effortlessly. Once there, his rider gave some animated moves but hardly asked the question, allowing the winner to skip away and win by three lengths eased down.

    The BHA Handicapper gave Ndaawi a rating of 134 and the selection Palamon 121, meaning he will be 13 pounds better off with that one at the festival, and I am positive they have been keeping some up their sleeve. Still, even on his progressive flat rating of 79, a mark of 121 could easily look exploitable.

    He is one of two I will be betting in this race. However, the other is a much bigger price elsewhere, which will have to wait for the day, I suspect.


    Back Protektorat for the Ryanair Chase @ 14/115.00 1pt

    We already have sided with Envoi Allen in this race earlier in the season at 14/115.00, and I am thrilled with our position there. I want to strengthen our hand with Protektorat - 14/115.00 on the Betfair Sportsbook - who is a certain market shortener if the ground is too deep for Banbridge, who is a fragile favourite.

    The Dan Skelton runner is also only a couple who want to be prominent, and given all of the last ten winners have been ridden forward or been described as "tracked winners", it makes sense to have him on the side at a big price.

    He has consistently run RPRs in the mid-high 160s in his last five starts outside of his reappearance, and he found only Gold Cup challengers L'Homme Presse and Shishkin too good the last twice, and he looks to be hitting form at the right time. Despite his excellent run in the Gold Cup last season, he is not at that level anymore, and this race represents much calmer waters.

    Dan Skelton has already said they will be aggressive with him in this race, and with his stamina reserves, he may prove hard to catch - particularly if it comes up testing. His record over fences and left-handed over this middle-distance trip read 211, and the defeat was narrow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his seasonal return off of a rating of 154.

    He could relish this return to this trip under a positive ride, and indeed, double figures about a Gold Cup third and fifth on his last two attempts will look a wild price when this race cuts up.

    Until next week, be lucky.



    Cheltenham Festival 2024: Everything you need to know in our ultimate guide


DARYL'S ANTE-POST LIST

Back Salvator Mundi to win the Triumph Hurdle @ 14/115.00 1pt NOW 9/110.00

Back Sir Gino to win the Triumph Hurdle @ 16/117.00 1pt NOW 8/111.73

Back Irish Point to win the Stayers Hurdle @ 14/115.00 1pt NOW 3/14.00

Back Envoi Allen to win the Ryanair @ 14/115.00 1pt win NOW 7/24.50

Back Jeriko Du Reponet to win the Supreme Novice @ 12/113.00 1pt NOW 8/19.00

Back Better Days Ahead to win the Albert Bartlett @ 33/134.00 1pt NOW 20/121.00

Back Indiana Dream to win the Turners Novice Chase @ 10/111.00 1pt

Back Flooring Porter to win the Brown Advisory Novice Chase @ 14/115.00 1pt NOW 25/126.00

Back Mighty Bandit for the Triumph Hurdle @ 8/19.00 1pt win NOW 16/117.00

Back Mystical Power to win the Ballymore @ 25/126.00 1pt win NOW 3/14.00

Back Corbetts Cross to win the National Hunt Chase @ 20/121.00 1pt NOW 2/13.00

Back Mystical Power to win the Supreme Novice Hurdle @ 14/115.00 1pt NOW 5/16.00

Back Grey Dawning to win the Brown Advisory @ 10/111.00 1pt now 11/26.50

Back Under Control to win the Mares Hurdle @ 50/151.00 1pt now 20/121.00

Back Fastorslow to win the Ryanair Chase @ 33/134.00 1pt NOW 9/25.50

Back Fact To File to win the Turners Novice Chase @ 10/111.00 1pt NOW 6/42.50

Back Good Time Jonny to win the Kim Muir @ 12/113.00 1pt NOW 7/18.00

Back Trelawne to win the Ultima Handicap @ 20/121.00 1pt win now 14/115.00

Back Saint Roi to win the Plate Handicap @ 33/134.00 1pt win NOW 10/111.00

Back Gaelic Warrior to win the Turners Chase @ 7/24.50 2pt win NOW 3/14.00 NRMB

Back Master Chewy to win the Arkle @ 25/126.00 1pt e/w (3 places) NRMB

Back Palamon to win the Boodles Handicap @ 20/121.00 1pt win NRMB

Back Protektorat to win the Ryanair Chase @ 14/115.00 1pt win NRMB

CHELTENHAM FOCUS P/L

Total Staked: 25pts

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