The death of the ante-post betting was one of themes of Cheltenham 2017 but punters ruling out this sort of bet might be guilty of over-simplification as there are still times when you can find value here. One case where this almost certainly isn't true however is in the post-Festival markets for next year's championship races.
Consider where this year's winners sat in the market in March 2016: Buveur D'Air was likely going chasing and had lots of ground to make up on Altior and Min; Special Tiara was hoping for another Champion Chase placed finish, best-case scenario; Nichols Canyon was about the most findable, if you believed he needed a trip; Sizing John was pretty much impossible to find for any championship race after being hammered by Douvan, again.
Their respective top prices in the ante-post markets were [240.0], [80.0], [75.0] and [1000.0]. Good luck in attempting to find those so let's try to tackle something simpler at Navan and Limerick.
Gordon Elliott brings a pair with graded form back off breaks and they might be worth opposing with Augustin who has more recent form on his side. Despite coming off an absence, he won a race that has worked out at Naas in late-January, shaping like one that would be suited by a step up in trip. Willie Mullins mentioned the possibility of the Albert Bartlett afterwards and while that would have been ambitious, this looks his level. Getting Ruby Walsh in the saddle of the first time is an obvious plus.
This represents some soft black-type for connections of these mares with the top-rated coming in at just 125. That is The Green Lady who has an obvious chance after running into the well-treated Peace N'Milan last time but Miss Mardan looks the pick of the prices. A reasonable bumper mare a few years back, she has returned better than ever this season, placing in Augustin's maiden before following up at Navan next time.
She was out of her depth last week at Naas but still went with a degree of promise, staying on from rear before being hampered by a faller. Her hold-up style should suit in a race that seems likely to be run at a decent gallop and in those circumstances I have doubts about the stamina of Kate Appleby Shoes.
Both the fancied runners can be opposed here. Slowmotion has to prove she stays this far having seemingly not gotten home over two furlongs shorter behind Let's Dance at Christmas though this is a weaker race. The combination of deep ground and a pair of front-runners won't make life easy. Daisy's Gift simply has massive jumping issues; she has fallen in three of her six chase starts and made mistakes in two of the others.
There are cases to be made for the next three in the market but I'm going to side with Not For Burning and Twiss's Hill. The former is not so good away from Fairyhouse but was good enough to place in a Grade 3 a few starts back and her pulled up effort last time is easy to forgive as she was sickened by forcing an overly strong pace against horses rated far above here. The latter is simply an improving mare, getting better run-to-run over fences, and would have won last time but for falling.
As referenced here last week, I think Oscar Knight is one of the better-treated handicap chasers around judged on his third place in the Paddy Power and he should be able to account for the likes of Retour En France (aided by a last fence faller in winning last time) and Mick The Jiver (stepping up in grade). The 82-day break is not ideal and fitness would be a worry but his trainer has said that the valuable Irish Grand National is the plan and he would need to win this to ensure the required penalty to get into that race.
1 Point Back Augustin @ [4.8] or bigger in the Navan 14:10
0.5 Point Back Miss Mardan @ [15.0] or bigger in the Limerick 14:20
0.5 Point Place Back Miss Mardan @ [3.3] or bigger in the Limerick 14:20
1 Point Back Not For Burning @ [9.0] or bigger in the Limerick 16:00
0.5 Point Back Twiss's Hill @ [16.0] or bigger in the Limerick 16:00
1 Point Back Oscar Knight @ [4.2] or bigger in the Navan 16:20
National Hunt Season P+L: +2.7 points