Ceebee previews Day 1 of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and his bets include Tully East, The Druids Nephew, Bunk Off Early and Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle.
Supreme Novice Hurdle 2miles
Very eager to be against the first favourite of the Festival, Melon. His form doesn’t justify his short price and he is quite inexperienced for this test. I’ve backed both Cilaos Emery and Bunk off Early. Bunk Off was beaten narrowly on his most recent outing but showed up really well in defeat and will appreciate this test. He didn’t have the stamina for 2m2f last time so the step back to 2miles and on better ground will suit. His form has a bit more depth to it than stablemate Melon.
Cilaos Emery is the Mullins fourth string in the betting but he was regarded as potentially their best prior to his defeat at Punchestown last time. On that occasion he was beaten by an underrated novice in Mick Jazz. Ruby may have went for home too soon and got caught in the dying strides, both were miles clear. Interestingly a hood is applied for the first time – this may help him settle and conserve some energy for the finish. His two previous wins, bumper and maiden hurdle are strong pieces of form. He’s overpriced.
1pt e/w Bunk off Early at 7/1 with Paddy Power
1pt e/w Cilaos Emery at 22/1 with Bet365
Arkle Novice Chase 2miles
Altior wins by half the track. Unfortunately just as we’re getting into the buzz it’s a no-bet race. Remember there are 28 races so no harm sitting out one. If you must, stick the favourite in some crazy accumulator that won’t come off.
Ultima Handicap Chase 3m1f
Competitive as always and loads that catch the eye. Same goes for all the handicaps at Cheltenham – there’s plenty of value to be had, don’t be afraid of a big price and there’s no harm having two or three shots at it (once you stake sensibly)
The Druids Nephew won this race impressively in 2015 – off 146, the same mark he runs off on Tuesday. He followed it up with a great effort in the National that hinted he could be a cut above handicap company. His 2016 campaign revolved (unsuccessfully) around the National so was a bit of a waste but he did sign off with some promise. He was unlucky enough when 5th in the Bet365 Gold Cup at the end of last season. An early mistake left him too much to do and it was a ‘never nearer’ effort. He has been dropped 7lbs from that mark which is generous from the handicapper. Knowing he handles the course, ground and nature of the big field handicap, off a workable mark he ticks all the boxes.
TDN’s stablemate, The Young Master, wasn’t quite quick enough for this last year when running on for 3rd. He excelled over further next time in the Bet365 Gold Cup. He’s solid and could place again but I expect his big day will be at Aintree or Sandown later in the spring.
I worry the ground may be a touch too soft for Holywell and Noble Endeavour isn’t guaranteed to get around in my opinion. He’s too short now anyhow. At fancy prices I could make a small case for previous course winners Viconte du Noyer and Annacotty, both of whom have dropped a few lbs recently. Un Temps Pour Tout is defending his title here but off 7lb higher he doesn’t appeal as he’s short enough already.
Ibis Du Rheu improved for good ground when taking the Martin Pipe hurdle on the Friday last year. The same again wouldn’t surprise. As a 6yo novice he’s open to loads of improvement and his handicap debut looks to be coming from a fair mark. Inexperience is the question-mark.
Henri Parry Morgan easily won two novice handicap chases at Chepstow and Uttoxeter before then chasing home Native River at Aintree to finish last season as an above average 150 rated chaser. Things haven’t gone accordingly to plan and he has dropped to 142 as a result meaning he sneaks in at the bottom of this. If he bounces back to his best he’s well handicapped.
2pt win The Druids Nephew at 10/1 with William Hill, Coral and BetVictor
1pt e/w Ibis Du Rheu at 14/1 with Betfair Sports
1pt win Henri Parry Morgan at 12/1 with William Hill and Skybet
Champion Hurdle 2miles
There’s a detailed preview of this race HERE. It was written a few weeks ago now but I still believe everything in it. Yanworth is rock solid, Petit Mouchoir will tee it up for him by going off in front and Buvuer D’Air will be found wanting when the pace quickens.
Ch’tibello could be the best each-way long shot. He wasn’t far behind Yanworth last time and has since had a small wind operation that should help him see out the race better.
3pts win Yanworth at 11/4 with William Hill, Coral and Skybet
Mares Hurdle 2m4f
There will be better betting opportunities throughout the week. Apples Jade will come on a lot for her last effort. She wasn’t fully fit and went for home early which left her as a sitting duck for Limini. In the Hattons Grace she benefitted from a good ride from Bryan (or bad one from Ruby) when defeating Vroum Vroum Mag. There’s probably not a whole lot between the trio but must be some doubts as to the health/form of the Mullins mares if he deems them not good enough to run in graded company. If betting is a must 9/2 Apples Jade to beat both the Ricci/Mullins mares.
National Hunt Chase 4miles
The way Genie in a Bottle struggled to travel comfortably over 3miles on soft does kind of worry me about him being taken off his feet on good ground – even over 4miles. Edwulf isn’t a safe jumper and travels a bit too strongly (opposite of Genie) to last home over this trip. Martello Tower generally excels on softer ground.
A small shout for Arbre de Vie. He has had just two chase starts this season and was beaeten by two fairly smart novices. The form isn’t that bad and he could improve remarkably for this big step up in trip. He’s ran well at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and as a 150 odd rated hurdler is probably as classy as any of these.
1pt e/w Arbre de Vie at 20/1 with Bet365
Novices’ Hcap Chase 2m4f
Tully East has been on my shortlist for this for months. He was a good winner on his chase debut with the form working out fairly well. Then it appeared connections had this idea as he didn’t try very hard on his two following outings. He has Festival form when placing (off 140) in the Martin Pipe last year so trip and ground won’t be a concern and handicap chase mark of 137 is lenient enough (as a result of those quiet efforts).
Two Taffs has had genuine excuses for his novice chase defeats – he’s well handicapped as a result but I’m not made about ones that always seem to have excuses. Gold Present is the market leader I like the most and Killiney Court could be way overpriced at 25/1 but my second selection is another Irish horse.
Powersbomb may be better suited to 2miles but must enter calculations based on his latest effort at Leopardstown. He made a shuddering mistake 2out to drop from first to fifth yet battled back to go down by a whisker. It was an effort that suggested he’d have won by 5L+ on the bridle had he not made the mistake. Previous to that he fell at the last when clear over Christmas. He’s clearly in form and on the upgrade but still a huge price here, possibly as a result of coming from an unknown yard.
1pt e/w Powersbomb at 28/1 with Paddy Power, Betfair Sports and BetVictor
Summary of bets for Day One:
The Arkle is a no-bet race and Mares Hurdle too. Five races is more than enough to get stuck into any day!! Taking two small shots against Melon and Ballyandy in the Supreme. Yanworth is the first and only favourite I’ll be backing on Tuesday. Just a small e/w play in the 4miler – I don’t like the market leaders but nothing jumps off the page in it really. The Ultima and Nov Hcap will decide my fortunes for day one. Tully East is the bet of the day and The Druids Nephew is next best. Both Powersbomb and Ibis Du Rheu have great each-way chances at tasty prices also.