Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Similarly, the second day kicks-off with a novices hurdle and as mentioned previewing the Supreme, at this stage many of the main protagonists are double-entered and with this being an intermediate distance, it will also have entries that end up in the (3m) Albert Bartlett on the Friday. The perils of ante-post betting also bring opportunities, particularly if you can get on NRNB. Envoi Allen has been ante-post fav throughout the winter, in fact probably since he won the Champion Bumper last year. He’s been so impressive that there have been calls for him to forego novice glory and go for the Champion Hurdle. I doubt that connections are considering this option and I’d be surprised if he turned up in March in anything other than the Ballymore. The form of last year’s Bumper has worked out well with: Thyne Hill, Abracadabras, Master Debonair among those that followed him home last March. His claims for glory are undisputed but he’s 10/11 with firms that aren’t even refunding non-runners and I can’t see him being shorter on the morning of the race so I cannot see the logic in backing him at this stage, the value has to lie elsewhere. Sporting John and Chantry House are both fairly prominent in the market and are both owned by JP McManus. JP’s not averse to running his horses against each other so I think both will run if Hobbs and Henderson respectively feel that this is the right race. They’ve had contrasting preparations, Sporting John winning a competitive race at Ascot in bottomless ground and Chantry House taking the Seven Barrows route of collecting small races beneath his grade. Chantry House ‘could be anything’ while Sporting John has the form in the book but that race at Ascot may take it’s toll; Hobbs also has Thyme Hill in the race and he too has been contesting graded races and progressed. He may prove to have the best guide between the Irish and British novice form based on the bumper mentioned above, some horses improve for hurdles but I doubt that he is good enough to challenge Envoi Allen. In fact, outside of the McManus pair, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fiddlerontheroof proved to be best of British, should he take up this engagement. My preview of the Supreme mentioned that Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge are in the same ownership and there appears to be a growing opinion that Mrs Donnelly will run both in the festival opener, leaving The Big Getaway to take on Envoi Allen. Having already mentioned Stolen Silver as a big price for the Supreme, his run in the Betfair Hurdle did suggest a step up in trip is needed and the 50/1 NRNB here is tempting.
Stolen Silver – each-way @ 50/1 NRNB
RSA Novice Chase
This year’s renewal will come some way to topping the 2019 running in which Topofthegame beat Santini and Delta Work, the former is out for the season while the latter two are prominent in the Gold Cup betting. As talented as Champ is, I can’t help but think that he’s position at the head of the market is more to do with the whole ‘AP’ story than what he’s achieved on the racecourse and he looks a bit of a risky proposition. When Minella Indo won last year’s Albert Bartlett it was one of the most remarkable performances I’ve witnessed, running far too free for most of the race I’d have backed it to be pulled-up but he stayed on again to win well and immediately looked the attraction for this year’s RSA and I’ve seen nothing this season to put me off. Copperhead must be one of the most progressive chasers in training having started the season getting beaten into fifth on his seasonal debut when rated 125 and then won 3 on the spin cumulating in capturing the Reynoldstown and a new rating of 155. He has every right to go RSA but has been talked about as more of a NH Chase staying type for which he is also entered. That and the fact that he had a tough race at Ascot just three weeks from the festival puts me off of a bet at 7/1. A win for Faugheen would bring the house down but he looks to be going for the Marsh, if he lines up at all.
Minella Indo – 4/1 NRNB
The QM has built-up so far into one of the most eagerly-awaited races of the week. Defi Du Seuil has been the 2m star all season, Chacun Pour Soi has been spoken about with glowing praise from connections still searching for there first 2m champion. Then there’s the returning champion, Altior, back to try and retain his crown after an abortive attempt to be the next Kauto Star. It’s a mouth-watering prospect and if I had a free bet I would side with Altior. I was quite surprised by some of the opinions after he won the Game Spirit on his return, particularly that “he hit a flat spot” and “workman-like” as to my mind he always hits a flat-spot before powering away and winning anyway. I was impressed by that Newbury run and I’m sure there’s plenty to work on. I wouldn’t suggest a bet on either of the three at this stage at 10/1 ON; but I think there could be some each-way value with Dynamite Dollars (25/1). He also ran an encouraging comeback in the Game Spirit and I expect him to improve the most from the race. I certainly don’t see why he is a bigger price than Sceau Royal with some firms; I’d confidently back the Nicholls horse in a match bet.
Dynamite Dollars – each-way @ 25/1 NRNB (BOG with Bet365)
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
I hate it when people “after time” that they have a big price on a Cheltenham favourite, so I won’t say that I do actually have some 25/1 Aramax, in all seriousness it is only small stakes and I can’t take any credit for it having taken the hint from David Jennings in the Racing Post. Premium Members may have had a few quid on Knight Edition at 33/1 NRNB after I suggested it before he won at Ludlow, he’s now around 16/1 and should at least get into the race off of 133+. I’ve no other angle at this stage.