John Doyle gives punters the inside track on the bankers at this year’s Cheltenham Festival
With the 2018 Cheltenham Festival rapidly drawing near, many a betting portfolio for this iconic of weeks will be dependent on the heavily fancied horses for the big races delivering the goods big style.
Some will have been building up their portfolio all winter, others will be grouping these horses together.
For most, it makes or breaks their week. 2017 saw Douvan’s shock cause consternation amongst the punting public and made it a great Festival for the bookmakers, but now everyone is back for more.
Here we assess the chances of this year’s short priced favourites:
Supreme Novice – Getabird
This horse will represent the Ricci-Mullins-Walsh combination that have such a good record in the opening race of the Festival.
This horse is incredibly overhyped for a horse who has never raced left handed in four races to date. Getabird is very big and may not be suited to the old course at Cheltenham. There is a suspicion that his recent form has been overrated and you couldn’t support him with confidence.
Arkle Trophy – Footpad
This horse has looked super over fences in three races to date. He jumps with real speed and gusto and is very exciting. This year, the Arkle is full of runners who want to force the pace, including Footpad.
That being the case, horses upfront will expend too much energy early and will set the race up for those horses who are finishers
Champion Hurdle – Buveur D’air
This horse is the most solid favourite going into this year’s Festival and has looked an improved performer this year even though he doesn’t want to be in front for too long.
Buveur D’air jumps low and fast and always looks to be doing it easily. With his main dangers looking too old for this level of competition now, Buveur D’air will be very hard to beat providing he avoids any mishap
Mares Hurdle – Apples Jade
Apples Jade was the challenger to the big guns in last year’s race but she stayed on strongly after the last to keep the Mullins brigade at bay.
Since that victory, Apples Jade has continued to perform to a high level and if anything is a much more polished performer this season. Her connections have not wavered from this target all season and she will be extremely difficult to beat in her quest for a repeat.
The dangers again will mainly come from the Willie Mullins team, but their form coming into the Festival this year is nowhere near as strong as it was last season.
Ballymore Novice – Samcro
Samcro has looked a Superstar in the making for the last couple of Seasons and he comes to Cheltenham this year as the main banker of the Irish.
Gordon Elliott has brought this horse along and he does everything with ease. All the vibes are that this horse will be a real star when he goes over Fences but now is his time to deliver the first dividend for his legion of fans.
Everything has gone smoothly with his prep races and he looks to have a super cool temperament too. Now to see him strut his stuff
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Altior
This horse would have been right up there as a heavily backed contender but he suffered a setback early in the season and needed to have a wind operation.
The chance of him not making the Festival would have put people off backing him through the winter but now he has returned with an impressive win at Newbury, it is likely that the big professional players will take the odds on the day as this horse looks different class to his rivals.
He has comprehensively beaten all his main rivals over the last few seasons and barring an unfortunate accident will be rightly crowned Champion Chaser
Mares Novice Hurdle – Laurina
Another Mullins hotpot who looks to be heading a market more on the reputation of her connections than any great substantial form. The problem with this Mares Novice, though, is that the strength in depth is poor enough so it may not take much winning.
However, in this instance where you can have the field running for you against a poor value favourite, it is time to step in and take it on. Laurina has all the hallmarks of a favourite the Bookmakers will take on
In this game, it is all about opinions and you don’t always have to follow the crowd. Winning super impressively in an uncompetitive event is sometimes used to fuel hype and it is without doubt something that is not given due consideration.
Going against the popular opinion can be profitable.