Empire of Dirt & Top Notch – Ceebee Thursday Cheltenham Bets

Ceebee previews Thursday Cheltenham card with bets including Top Notch, Empire of Dirt and Jezki in the Stayers Hurdle.

JLT Novice Chase 2m4f

This race obviously weakens the Arkle and RSA every year but this year the JLT robbed us of Altior v Yorkhill which is an awful pity. But Yorkhill still has a big race on his hands here. Whilst Yorkhill has been brilliant it must be said he got an absolute dream passage in last year’s Neptune whilst his main rival Yanworth got the exact opposite. After that he was beaten at Punchestown and nearly at Aintree – he’s vulnerable here for sure. This season he’s 2 from 2 but hasn’t really had a meaningful challenge. I believe he’s better over shorter and the last public schooling session wasn’t ideal viewing either. Loads of reasons to oppose.

Top Notch has been a proper G1 novice chaser this season. He is 4 from 5 after opening with a reasonable effort on his seasonal reappearance. His last victory at Sandown was very impressive travelling well and shooting clear from two horses who’ll have live handicap chances this week. Top Notch was rated 158 when finishing 5th in last year’s Champion Hurdle, best of the 5yos. It’s not a fair comparison but Yorkhill finished the season as a 154 hurdler.

Disko was really good at Leopardstown and by forcing a strong early pace may trouble Yorkhill – ok it’ll help Yorkhill settle but it won’t allow him make an early mistake without giving up lengths. It’s a strong piece of form from a key Irish trial. He didn’t stay over 3miles previously to that. Fear he may not have the pace from 2out to the line on ground to match his rivals after giving them a lead.

Politologue has won 3 from 4 over fences, all at this trip, but his overall form leaves him with a bit to find in my opinion. His wins have all come in fields of 5 or less, the only time he has faced a big field he finished closer to last than first in the Coral Cup last season.

Disko and Top Notch have more experience, less jumping and mental issues, and race over their optimum trip. Back both against Yorkhill.

Advised Bets:

2pts win Top Notch at 4/1 with Paddy Power, Bet365 and Betfair Sports

1pt win Disko at 5/1 with Paddy Power, William Hill and BetVictor


Pertemps Handicap Hurdle 3miles

I wrote an ante-post piece on this race also when the weights came out. Read that HERE.

Electric Concorde (1.5pt e/w 33/1), For Good Measure (2pts e/w 14/1) and Golden Doyen (1pt e/w 16/1) were the selections whilst Impulsive Star narrowly missed making the cut.

Looking at it now – Impulsive Star still misses out as the Mulholland horses I fancied Tuesday ran poorly. For Good Measure is best price 10/1 but looks a solid each way selection. The other two should appreciate the good ground so I’m happy to stick with them. Golden Doyen is 20/1 in a place and Electric Concorde is generally 25/1. 

Ryanair Chase 2m5f

Another favourite that I’m eager to be against this week – Un de Sceaux. The 2m5f trip may stretch his stamina but the bigger issue for me is the ground. He runs at the same pace (relatively) on soft ground as he does on good ground – which very few horses can. This better ground really diminishes his superiority that he displays through the winter months. Last year’s Festival for example saw him finish alongside Special Tiara – that’s not good enough here.  He’s only 9yrs old but has always been very hard on himself so may not be the force of past – the Clarence House Chase form is suspect enough. A half fit Uxizandre finished second. With a better ride Ar Mad would’ve beaten him in the Tingle Creek as well.

I wrote a little about this race a few weeks back and I still like the same two. Read that HERE.

The obviously alternative to the favourite is Empire of Dirt. The fact some connections have expressed a desire to run him in the Gold Cup tells us of his ability but I actually believe this race could be best for him. He’s a strong traveler with loads of good form over 2m5f –including a comfortable 4L win at the Cheltenham Festival last year. That was a handicap but he’s much improved since joining Gordon Elliott this season. He turned the Troytown into a procession carrying 11-8 – only G1 horses can do that. And followed it up with an Irish Gold Cup 2nd when just caught for speed by Sizing John in a slowly run race that turned into a sprint. The form of team-Elliott on Tuesday is a major positive also.

Sub Lieutenant is the saver bet. He’s more of a 2m4f specialist that Empire of Dirt and his form is only marginally behind the fellow Giggi gelding. Another to have benefited from a change in stable he’s now in the care of Henry de Bromhead. Won his first two, the latter a competitive G2, before chasing home Djakadam and Outlander in the G1 John Durkan. That form got a right boost in the Lexus 2wks later. His fourth outing for the season was at Thurles where Sizing John got the better of him but again that fella went on to win the Irish Gold Cup 2wks later. None of those who beat him this season will re-oppose at Cheltenham. The market is underestimating him a little.

Advised Bets:

3pts win Empire of Dirt 10/3 (2pts win advised ante-post 6/1)

1pt e/w Sub Lieutenant 8/1 (0.5pt e/w advised ante-post 14/1)


Stayers Hurdle 3miles

Unowhatimeanharry is a banker for many this week. Not me. On a day where I’m taking on Yorkhill and Un de Sceaux I may as well go for the hat-trick. My reasons to be against him – The Albert Bartlett he won last year fell apart upfront after some went too fast, Harry didn’t look like a G1 star when off the bridle struggling in behind turning for home.

This season he’s been flawless but what has he beat? The Cleeve form is let down by West Approach getting so close, Cole Harden shouldn’t get too close on that ground either. At Ascot and Newbury he beat a lot of the same horses, none of which are G1 quality.

Similar to the Ryanair piece linked above from a few weeks back I still like the same two horses here. And again two Irish ones!

In the Irish challenge, Jezki and Shaneshill there are G1 horses and both have tremendous festival form to their names. Shaneshill has been 2nd in the champion bumper, 2nd to Douvan in the Supreme (got closer than anyone else has) and 2nd in the RSA last year despite not being a fluent chaser. His form in the spring on good ground is his best so the fact he was going to be 2nd to VVM at Leopardstown before winning at Gowran means he has had a strong season already. I’m not worried Ruby hasn’t chosen him – Paul Townend has ridden him more often in recent years and won on him last time.

Jezki was beaten last time out but it was on awful ground which he has struggled with in the past. His Festival form reads 8th in bumper, 3rd in Supreme, Champion Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle 4th. Add in the fact he has won G1 hurdles over 2m4f at Aintree and 3miles at Punchestown. Back to his best or close to it and he’ll give them all a race. The good ground will suit his pace. He’s not an each way bet as he could flop like last time or not stay and fade out of the places late on. Win only.

Advised Bets:

1pt win Jezki 8/1 (1pt win advised ante-post 10/1)

1pt e/w Shaneshill (2pts e/w advised ante-post 11/1)


Festival Plate Hcap Chase 2m5f

I wrote a decent preview of this last week, read that HERE.

Balko des Flos doesn’t run but Voix D’Eau does and I like him a lot. He’s still 25/1 everywhere.

I also had half an eye on the following trio: Irish Cavalier, Ballynagour and Gwencily Berbas but none of them were declared (wasted homework). The good ground will give Mad Jack Myton a right chance but it’s another Irish horse I want to side with. Noel Meade’s Road to Respect.

Road to Respect is one of the better handicapped Irish novice chasers. He has mostly been campaigned over 2miles but looks suited to more of a staying test. He won his maiden hurdle over 2m6f last season. His close up 4th in the Drinmore behind Coney Island and co is a strong piece of form. Diamond King finished behind him and now must concede 5lbs to Meade’s runner. After two decent 2mile efforts his sole run over 3miles came in a well talked about novice chase where Acapella Bourgeois was given a soft lead and victory. Had RtR been campaigned and/or ridden better over 3miles more often he’d be rated higher than 145 now. A strongly run 2m5f here should be ideal.

Advised Bet:

1pt e/w Road to Respect at 20/1 with Coral

Already advised

1pt e/w Voix D’Eau 25/1

Mares Novice Hurdle 2m1f

On a busy day (judging by how much I’ve typed already) this is a race I’m happy enough to bypass.

Ante-post advised:

4pts win Airlie Beach 5/2

Kim Muir Hcap Chase 3m2f

Mall Dini is the popular choice. I’m not convinced by his jumping or his handicap mark 4lbs higher than his hurdle winning mark in last year’s Pertemps. The other short priced Irish one is Squouateur (hardest name to spell). He looked ace in heavy ground last season before flopping at Cheltenham and Aintree. That tempers enthusiasm. He’s well handicapped because he hasn’t tried very hard over 2miles this season but staying 3m2f here is not a guarantee.

Southfield Royale was one of my bets of the Festival last year. He ran ok to finish 4th in the 4miler but in hindsight it was a hot renewal with the likes of Native River and Vicente winning big races since. He hasn’t been missed this time around and looks too short now at 8/1.

Potters Legend is only a novice but has plenty of experience to his name. He has raced 5 times over fences yet is still rated on a par with his hurdles mark of 139. A mark that saw him come close in a big spring handicap. He also placed in the G1 novice hurdle at Aintree – he’s a decent sort. He won his first two novice chases before meeting defeat to a smart rival in a Doncaster G2. His two handicap starts have promised more than they delivered. A bad mistake at a vital time left him too much to do at Newbury and a combination of mistakes and being hampered twice last time at Cheltenham also gave him no chance. These could be a blessing as he remains very well handicapped for the big day. The key for me is the step up in trip. He always looked to be going flat-out over 2m5f. If putting it all together over 3m+ he’s a far better horse than a 139 handicapper.

Advised Bet:

2pts e/w Potters Legend at 14/1 with William Hill and Skybet


Summary of bets for Day Three:

Two bets against Yorkhill; Top Notch & Disko. Two bets against Un de Sceaux; Empire of Dirt and Sub Lieutenant. Two bets against Unowhatimeanharry; Jezki and Shaneshill. Ignore the mares race and there’s still three big handicaps to get stuck into. Busy day.

For Good Measure, Electric Concorde, Golden Doyen, Voix D’Eau, Road to Respect and Potters Legend are all double figure prices with plenty to like about their chances on Thursday. Enjoy it all.