Friday fancies

3.10 Newton Abbot – Ballyoptic 3/1 (NAP)

3.35 Newmarket – September 15/2ew

3.45 Newton Abbot – Flying Angel 3/1

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Thursday feast as jumps season kicks into gear

Wednesday tip Prospectus ran well for second at Gowran Park to give readers who took the advised 8/1 some decent place money. It is money that should be invested in a cracking day of jumps action on Thursday at Exeter, Worcester and Thurles.

At Worcester it can be a good day for Alan King, who has already had a great start to the new campaign. His Dusky Legend makes her debut over fences in what is a novice chase to really get the juices flowing. The seven-year-old had some top form last season over hurdles, finishing third in the Mares Novice at Cheltenham, less than three lengths behind Let’s Dance, while in November she was second in a listed contest at Newbury behind Warren Greatrex’s smart La Bague Au Roi. Here she faces Coillte Lass and Copper Kay amongst others, but is taken to have enough to prevail at 5/2.

At 2.55 King runs Deyrann De Carjac, a four-year-old whose only appearance so far came in a hot bumper at Newbury in March, when finishing down the field in 11th. Apparently rushed by the trainer to get him fit for that race, after suffering a stress fracture during the winter, much better is expected of him now and the available 11/1 could well prove to be a very generous price. Meanwhile, at Exeter King’s Good Man Pat can upset favourite Challico, who runs for Paul Nicholls. A 12-length winner of an Irish point, he cost connections £70,000 and good things are expected of him this season.

The NAP goes in the 3.15 at Exeter where Steely Addition makes his debut in handicap company for Philip Hobbs. This former pointer joined Hobbs in the summer and could be very well treated off of his current mark of 116. He had some good form last season, finishing just four and a half lengths behind Movewiththetimes on debut and then in third behind Harry Fry’s Bags Groove second time out. He disappointed on his third and final outing but that was over the minimum trip and he should appreciate the extra couple of furlongs here.

Selections:

1.50 Worcester – Dusky Legend 5/2

2.10 Exeter – If The Cap Fits 5/4

2.35 Thurles – Mitchouka 6/4

2.45 Exeter – Good Man Pat 2/1

2.55 Worcester – Deyrann De Carjac 11/1ew

3.10 Thurles – Vengeful 5/2

3.15 Exeter – Steely Addition 7/2 (NAP)

3.40 Thurles – Mullinavat 4/5

4.20 Exeter – Coastal Tiep 11/8

Tango time again

Tuesday’s NAP, A Genie In A Bottle, did the business for us at Galway, scoring at 5/2 for those of you that took the price when advised last night. Elsewhere, it was a disappointing first outing for Poli Roi over hurdles, but I’m certainly not going to be giving up on him after one run and we will see him at his most effective over a longer trip. 

Wednesday’s jumps action looks devilishly hard to me and I’ll just be on a watching brief with regards Ludlow and Towcester. However, there is one race I’ll be getting stuck into and that’s over at Gowran Park where there is a very competitive handicap on the Flat over 1m 6f. Dara Tango needs one to come out to get in but if he does then Tony Martin’s 10-year-old has to hold good claims off bottom weight. A winner at Galway in August, he’s ran well twice since without getting his head in front and I feel he is still fairly treated off of his current mark of 62, especially when you consider his hurdles rating of 135 before his injury hiatus. 

In the same race I also like the chances of Gavin Cromwell’s Prospectus, another horse with room for improvement in his flat mark (71). He went close when well backed at Galway last month but will strip fitter now and is primed to run a big race. 

Selections:

5.30 Gowran Park – Dara Tango 15/2 (NAP) & Prospectus 8/1 (both ew)

Take Poli price before it’s too late

As advertised in my Cheltenham Festival antepost piece yesterday (click here if you haven’t seen it yet), I expect Poli Roi to be one of the leading lights in the staying novice hurdle divisions this season. He makes his debut over timber at Galway on Tuesday and my advice is to take the 33/1 available for the Neptune before he does so. Of course he could end up going down the Albert Bartlett route, but these are the chances you take, and my hunch is that he’ll end up going Neptune along with Samcro. Either way it will be fascinating to see him at Ballybrit and here’s hoping he puts in a good round.

Later on the card I also like the chances of another Gigginstown runner – A Genie In A Bottle. Noel Meade’s six-year-old was an impressive third in the 3m Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival behind stablemate Disko. Here he’s been priced up as second favourite behind Willie Mullins’ Arbre De Vie, who at the same festival was second in a handicap. Yes, his victory over Shaneshill at the Galway Festival reads well, but if anyone has seen Shaneshill recently, he really hasn’t been firing on all cylinders. Arbre De Vie is actually rated one pound higher than A Genie In A Bottle on the back of that Galway success, but it is the Meade horse who surely has the bigger potential. 

Meanwhile, over at Leicester Minotaur looks very fairly priced at 12/1 in the wonderfully named Squirrel handicap over 1m 3f. JonJo O’Neill has enjoyed a cracking start to the jumps season and this fella could be very interesting for him this term after hacking up the last twice over hurdles. Before arriving at Jackdaws Castle he showed smart form on the Flat in France, winning a listed prize in September 2016 over 1m 4f, and may well have been underestimated by the bookmakers here. At the price he’s certainly worth an each way poke.

On Sunday Neverushacon brought readers of these pages a nice each way return at 28/1 in the Irish Cesarewitch. This Saturday the English version takes place and the two I like are London Prize (16/1) and our old favourite Swamp Fox (20/1). Both are really consistent types who rarely let you down and both have also been in cracking form this summer. London Prize, a winner on his last two outings, has been aimed at the race by Ian Williams while Swamp Fox is particularly interesting having missed the Irish race seemingly in favour of this. The Galway Hurdle runner-up, rated 155 over timber, has a mark of 90 on the Flat which would seem to have room for improvement in it. With five places already on offer from certain bookmakers I think both horses have a cracking chance of making the frame.

Tuesday selections:

3.55 Leicester – Minotaur 12/1ew

4.00 Galway – A Genie In A Bottle 5/2 (NAP)

Antepost:

Neptune Novice Hurdle, Cheltenham – Poli Roi 33/1ew

Cesarewitch – London Prize 16/1 & Swamp Fox 20/1

Cheltenham Festival 2018 Antepost 

OK, call me brave or stupid but I decided that with the core jumps season now pretty much upon us I would pin my colours to the mast and put in black and white who I think will be tasting glory at Cheltenham in March for all of the major races, as well as offering up some of the value worth snaffling early doors. I’ll then review how we’re doing as the season goes on.

Supreme Novices Hurdle

The race that kicks off the Festival and for that reason arguably the most exciting of the week. Obviously very difficult to get any sort of handle on at this stage, with most of the main protagonists having never even jumped a hurdle, but I do have two selections whom I think will take high rank this season. The first of these is Getabird, who is pretty much a forgotten horse after getting injured before last year’s Festival but may well have gone into the bumper as favourite had he made it. The Willie Mullins  son of Getaway won both of his outings impressively, showing a great turn of foot in the first that suggests he has the speed for the 2m opener. He also has stamina in his locker though, having won a point over 3m, so as with a lot of these selections there is always the danger he could go for another race, but that’s the risk you take at this stage if you want a nice price. Rich Ricci has had lots of success in the Supreme down the years with Douvan, Vautour and Champagne Fever and Getabird is likely to be his biggest chance to adding to that list. At 25/1 he is surely worth a couple of quid.

The other one I like at the current prices is Dortmund Park, who is with Gordon Elliott and will run in the Gigginstown maroon and white. Currently available at 50/1, he was a seven-lengths winner of the French champion bumper (the Grand Prix Des APQS) and cost his new connections €230,000 in July. 

Getabird 25/1 & Dortmund Park 50/1

Neptune Novices Hurdle

He didn’t contest the championship bumper races at Cheltenham or Punchestown but a good case can be made that Samcro was the most impressive animal that we saw in the graduation national hunt category last season, certainly in the top two alongside Fayonagh. He was a three-time winner last term, a series of wins which culminated in a 17-length destruction job at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, but promises to be better still with something to jump. A son of Germany, like a certain previous Neptune winner in the shape of Faugheen, Gordon Elliott’s charge has the perfect mix of speed and stamina you need for this race and won’t be 16/1 for long as soon as he steps out onto the racecourse.

Another one in Gordon Elliott’s yard worth following at an even bigger price is Poli Roi. Third in the Punchestown champion bumper, he was a winner at Navan before that but was always going to be better over timber and eventually fences. A ten-length winning pointer last November, he cost Gigginstown £300,000 and is expected to take high rank in novice hurdles this term.

Samcro 16/1 & Poli Roi 33/1

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

This time last year I was all over one horse for the Albert Bartlett, Blow by Blow, but it proved to be a frustrating year for the son of Robin Des Champs as he never reached the race track due to injury. He’s reported to be back cantering now by trainer Gordon Elliott and should be seen this side of Christmas in a maiden hurdle. I haven’t lost faith in him and believe he can still be a major star of the game. His performance in beating Moon Racer and Bacardys to win the 2016 Punchestown champion bumper, leading from flag fall to finish line, was one of the highlights of that year’s festival and showed that he has a serious engine. I think he’s tailor made for the stamina sapping test that is the Albert Bartlett and at 25/1 he’s the one for me.

Blow by Blow 25/1

Mares Novices Hurdle

She might be a pretty obvious selection but if Fayonagh runs in this race, as Gordon Elliott is suggesting, then surely the 5/1 still available rates as well worth getting in the locker early doors as she’d be a red-hot favourite come March. Last season’s Cheltenham and Punchestown championship bumper winner showed she’s a natural over timber when making a very pleasing hurdling debut at Fairyhouse and although I wouldn’t normally be keen on taking such a short price this early, in this case I think an exception should be made as she could well be odds on by Christmas.

Fayonagh 5/1

Champion Hurdle

Buveur D’air was a very impressive winner of the premier 2m hurdles race of the season in March, of that there can be no doubt, however if you step back and look at it then it has to be admitted that it was not a vintage contest. Missing through injury were the winners from the two previous years, Faugheen and Annie Power, while the likes of My Tent or Yours and The New One were a shadow of their former selves despite, especially in Tent’s case, running gallant races. This is to take nothing away from Buveur, but you can be sure that he will face a far sterner test if he is to defend his crown. Defi Du Seuil was imperious in the juvenile division last term and is without doubt a contender, although it is notoriously difficult for Triumph horses the following season. 

The two I like, and I’m taking a bit of a gamble with both, are the Mullins pair Faugheen and Yorkhill. Little needs to be said about either but the vibes are that Faugheen is back in good shape and if he is back to the same horse that he was at the start of 2016 then he is going to take some stopping. It will be fascinating to see him in the Morgiana next month (his intended return race) and if he shows he is back to himself then you can wave goodbye to the 8/1 currently on offer. Then there’s Yorkhill, one of the sport’s biggest enigmas and a winner at the last two Festivals. He could well stay chasing but the vibes are that he may well revert back to hurdles with owner Graham Wylie reported as saying “we think he’s a better hurdler than a chaser” while Mullins himself was talking about him as a Champion Hurdle horse even before this year’s Festival. You can get 12/1 at the moment and I think it’s worth the risk having a punt. I think he would be the most serious rival to Faugheen if both lined up – and what a contest that would be! 

Faugheen 8/1 & Yorkhill 12/1

Stayers Hurdle

Penhill‘s win in the Albert Bartlett in March was one of my highlights of 2017, having backed him at 16/1 following his win at Limerick over Christmas. The 3m trip has been the making of him for me and he can continue his rise in the senior staying ranks this term, in what looks a division lacking a star like Big Bucks and Thistlecrack of years gone by. At 18/1 he is surely worth a poke, while the other contender I feel has a good chance of avenging his defeat in this year’s race is Harry Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry. I have to admit it took me a while to accept he was the real deal, but the clincher for me was his performance at Punchestown when he outbattled Nichols Canyon – the pair of them 18 lengths clear of the rest. His defeat in last year’s Stayers at the Festival was his only reverse in ten races and he surely will be a major contender again this time around.

Penhill 18/1 & Unowhatimeanharry 8/1

Mares Hurdle

This was one of the races of the 2017 Festival as Apples Jade repelled the twin Mullins attack from Vroom Vroom Mag and Limini and I can’t see any reason that she won’t make it back-to-back wins in 2018. If she were mine I’d certainly be aiming her at the Stayers but it seems the same route as last year is the most likely one so a Gordon Elliott mares hurdling double with Fayonagh in the novice could well be on the cards, even if I wouldn’t be piling into her at 3/1 at the moment.

Apples Jade 3/1

Arkle Chase

There can be few better sights than seeing chasers at full pelt around two miles of Prestbury Park and there have been some amazing winners of the Arkle down the years – Moscow Flyer, Sizing Europe, Simonsig, Douvan, Sprinter Sacre and of course the 2017 winner, Altior. Whether we will see anything of that class win next year remains to be seen and at this early stage it looks as though it is doubtful with most of the contenders at the top end of the betting unlikely to take their place come March – Defi Du Seuil, Finians Oscar, Melon, Sutton Place, Yanworth. Finians is the one out of that bunch who could still turn up, but I remain convinced that he’ll be going for the JLT, even though he obviously isn’t short of the speed for the shorter race. With all of this taken into account last season’s Irish Champion Hurdle winner, Petit Mouchoir looks the most likely candidate and the current 14/1 available is well worth taking. The grey had a brilliant campaign last term, winning two grade ones before finishing third in the Champion Hurdle, and could be better going chasing. Henry De Bromhead is a master at eking out improvement over the bigger obstacles and has won this race before with the great Sizing Europe. 

I also think Paul Nicholls’ Movewiththetimes is potentially interesting in this division – last year’s Betfair Hurdle runner-up is available at 25/1 – and I’ve already in a previous blog made my claims for why Tombstone is a good bet at 50/1. Yes, he was beaten on his chasing debut but I thought he jumped well and with race fitness on his side I’d certainly be backing him against Bamako Moriviere when they meet next time. It’s very early days and Tombstone can still make his mark this season.

Petit Mouchoir 14/1 & (previously advised) Tombstone 50/1

JLT Novices Chase

Finian’s Oscar had a remarkable breakthrough season last term, going from winning a point in October to winning the Grade 1 Tolworth at the turn of the year and then another top level contest, the Mersey Novices Hurdle, at Aintree. He finished the campaign rated 151 over hurdles but there is every reason to think he will be even better over fences and the JLT is a race that is tailor made for him. Reported to have schooled well, which is no surprise considering his pointing background, he is not sort of speed and literally oozes class, akin to previous winners of this race Yorkhill and the late great Vautour. This could well be a stepping stone to a crack at the Gold Cup in 2019 and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he is spoken of as one of the best chasers in recent years in due course – he’s very exciting. 

As we know from the build-up to this year’s festival, it’s not always plain sailing and injuries happen. So I have two backup options who are also worth keeping an eye on. Gordon Elliott’s Sutton Place is another horse with bags of potential and a winner of five of his seven starts under rules, including a Grade 2 last term. He was pulled up on his last start, at Punchestown, but you can draw a line through that and he’s reported to be in good order. The other one worth following in this division is the lesser known Chacun Pour Soi. The Willie Mullins French import has yet to appear for his new trainer but showed some smart form back in his homeland, including a staying on third behind the well-regarded King’s Socks over fences in 2016. He’s been put forward by owner Rich Ricci as his horse to follow this season and can currently be backed at 33/1.

Finian’s Oscar 10/1, Sutton Place 20/1 & Chacun Pour Soi 33/1

RSA Novices Chase

As well as the aforementioned Petit Mouchoir, another exciting new recruit to the chasing game this season for Henry De Bromhead is Monalee. Runner up behind Penhill in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, the six-year-old is a certainty to go for this race if fit and will go there as one of the leading contenders alongside the likes of Yanworth and Bacardys. At 16/1 he’s my current idea of the winner, while at 25/1 I’m also keen to take a chance on Paul Nicholls’ Give Me A Copper. A winner over two of his three races over hurdles last season, he was always going to be a better chaser having been a winning pointer in Ireland. Mightily impressive when winning his maiden hurdle by 14 lengths at Exeter in December, he’s definitely one to look out for in a race Nicholls landed with Denman in 2007.

Monalee 16/1 & Give Me A Copper 25/1

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Altior v Douvan is the showdown that everyone wants to see this season but I have a feeling it may not happen. The Ricci/Mullins axis have always opted to go for races they can win rather than those they face more of a battle to win and with this in mind don’t be surprised if Douvan gets stepped up in trip and ends up in the Ryanair, a race won so brilliantly in the past by another horse in those pink colours – Vautour. In addition, don’t forget that they have another genuine contender in the shape of Min, who would have seriously tested Altior if he would have made it to the Arkle last time. Indeed, for me Min at 12/1 is most definitely the bet in this division with Altior prohibitively priced at 6/4. If Min does end up as the main Mullins contender then he’ll be a fair bit shorter than 12/1 come the new year and as an each way play would look a very solid option. Of course, the likelihood is that Altior will follow in former stablemate Sprinter Sacre’s footsteps and follow up an Arkle success with one in this race and he has to be the selection, if not the bet at this stage.

Altior 6/4 & Min 12/1

Ryanair Chase 

As just touched upon, I fancy Douvan to step up in trip this term and if he does then the 10/1 currently available for the Ryanair looks a very tasty bet. He has always travelled so well in his races that you get the feeling the extra half a mile wouldn’t bother him and he would surely be a strong favourite if he did turn up here. From an antepost betting perspective the other angles I like for this race both come from the same ownership as Douvan, namely Vroom Vroom Mag and Benie Des Dieux. The former has been a stalwart for the stable over the past few years and actually made her mark over fences before her recent exploits over the past couple of seasons on the bigger stage over hurdles. She’s a brilliant jumper and is likely to return to chasing this term. With her mares allowance she would definitely be a contender. The same applies to the much less exposed Benie Des Dieux, who put up one of the performances of last season when hacking up at Limerick over Christmas on debut for Willie Mullins. A setback meant that we didn’t see her again last term but she’s a fascinating prospect this time around and at 25/1 is worth throwing a couple of quid at.

Douvan 10/1, Vroom Vroom Mag 20/1 & Benie Des Dieux 25/1

Gold Cup

The blue riband event of the week, Sizing John prevailed in March but rather like Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, it was a contest weakened by the absence of some of the big guns. One of those is Thistlecrack who looked like an absolute monster over fences until he was beaten in that epic battle with the much missed Many Clouds. He subsequently missed the Festival through injury but is reportedly back to fitness and if back in the form that saw him win the King George I think he’ll take a lot of beating come Gold Cup day. 

You might say I’m crazy with my next selection, but I was amazed to see More of That priced up at 100/1. Last year’s sixth in the race may have had his fair share of problems but that price is surely an insult. A lot can happen between now and March so the former Stayers Hurdle champion, and only horse to beat Annie Power outside of that fall, got to be worth a small each way nibble.

Thistlecrack 6/1 & More of That 100/1

Sunday selections 

2.15 Limerick – Fabulous Saga 5/4

2.40 Kelso – Beyond the Clouds 11/8

2.55 Uttoxeter – Palmers Hill 7/4

3.20 Limerick – Irish Bulletin 12/1ew

3.55 Limerick – Some Plan 9/4

4.20 Kelso – Forest Bihan 5/2 (NAP)

4.25 Limerick – Alpha Des Obeaux 9/1ew

5.15 Navan – Neverushacon 28/1ew

Saturday selections

The core jumps season really begins to crank it up another notch today with the reappearance of Tombstone, Shattered Love and Champion Bumper winner Fayonagh for Gordon Elliott at Fairyhouse. All should win and the most interesting for me is most definitely Tombstone, as he makes his debut over fences.

As advertised yesterday, and again earlier today, on these pages, I really fancy the seven-year-old to make an impact over the bigger obstacles and if he’s going to then he needs to be taking care of this field today with the minimum of fuss. I think he will and the 7/4 on offer could prove to be a gift.

I also like one in the concluding bumper where Biddy the Boss goes for Gavin Cromwell. This mare finished just over a length behind Henry De Bromhead’s Classic Theatre on her only public appearance to date, back in April, form that looks pretty strong with that one since winning a maiden hurdle and last time running in a grade three. You couldn’t wish for a better pilot than Jamie Codd and I fancy her to get the better of Gordon Elliott’s Moonlight Escape, who disappointed at Navan a couple of weeks’ back.

Over at Fontwell, there is a very decent looking handicap hurdle at 3.05. Azzerti has been put in as favourite for Alan King, but the one I like is Diable De Sivola for Nick Williams. The trainer has been in hot form, winning with two of his three runners over the past fortnight, and this lad was last seen running a cracker in the Fred Winter at the Festival, finishing fifth. Earlier in the season he also got about as close as anything did to Defi Du Seuil and he rates a very good looking bet at 5/1, with Lizzie Kelly also taking off a handy three pounds.

Selections:
1.45 Fairyhouse – Tombstone (NAP) 7/4

3.05 Fontwell – Diable De Sivola 5/1ew

5.40 Fairyhouse – Biddy the Boss 2/1