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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheltenham Festival betting 2013: Tuesday, day one

It's Christmas!!!

The best few days of the year are finally here. Day one is important for a lot of people with the Supreme Novice and Champion Hurdle. Then, of course, there's Simonsig. I risk looking like a right Wally but I've decided to oppose, reasons explained in today's Irish Independent article (see below). Have a good one and remember to pace yourself if you want to see out the four days.

FINANCIAL traders will be familiar with the term 'analysis paralysis' and it usually happens when a trader has too many indicators on his chart, some of which are telling him to buy a stock and some of which are telling him to sell. At this stage, I feel like that about Cheltenham and between formbooks, preview nights, magazines and jockey/trainer interviews, I've probably found a good reason to back every single runner this week. The more one seems to study, the harder it is to decide on what to back. Information overload can make the festival seem daunting but if you stick to what you've seen with your own eyes and back proven form horses rather than tips and whispers, you shouldn't go too far wrong. One horse we all seen hack up in the Betfair Hurdle last time was My Tent Or Yours and the six-year-old made a mockery of his mark of 149, beating some very good horses in the process. Yes, Supreme Novice hotpots do get turned over all time but the selection is definitely exceptional and he appears to have buckets of natural talent. He jumps well, he's proven in a big field and he has a high cruising speed so I don't think Tony McCoy will be left wanting as they turn for home and face the hill. This one looks the real deal and could be a Champion Hurdler in the making. Speaking of the Champion Hurdle (3.20) I'm going to sit on the fence somewhat and split my stake up to back both Hurricane Fly and Rock On Ruby at an overall price of even-money. I'm still quite worried about Zarkandar though so stakes will be kept to a minimum to keep the stress-levels down on day one. 

A mate of mine has promised to buy me five pints of stout if Simonsig is beaten in the Arkle; a bold statement coming from a man who still has first Holy Communion money stashed away at home. The general consensus is that those of us opposing the seven-year-old need our heads examined but at 4/7, all the value is long gone and it is worth pointing out that layers would have shown a small profit opposing all horses priced even-money or less at the festival since 2006. He does look outstanding but let's not get too carried away with his two wins over fences as they were both in small fields with no real strong opposition. A dirty scope ruled him out of the Game Spirit so a lack of a prep race means he hasn't been seen since December 27th. In his hurdling career, he only came off the bridle once but he found little and was beaten fair and square by Fingal Bay. That's a while ago now but Overturn certainly won't go down easy and it will be interesting to see how Simonsig reacts if he's asked to fight for the race over a trip which might not be his optimum. 

THE Philip Hobbs trained Rooster Booster (2003) became the first nine-year-old to win the Champion Hurdle since 1992 and generally speaking, older horses have a poor record in this race. While the number of older horses entered over the years hasn't been huge, it's noteworthy that only three aged older than eight have won since 1951. A worry for backers of Binocular, Hurricane Fly and Khyber Kim?

The festival curtain raiser has an awful habit of throwing up surprises and the last horse to win priced under 6/1 was Brave Inca in 2004 so caution is advised. However, My Tent Or Yours' performance in the Betfair Hurdle was outstanding and it's rare we see a novice easily dismiss some very good handicappers in that fashion. I'm struggling to find a reason to oppose at 13/8.
Nicky Henderson's Simonsig is the festival banker for many but his odds are restrictive and it might be worth looking elsewhere for better value. Overturn has looked a natural in his three unbeaten chase runs to date and if he goes off in front at a good clip as expected, he'll give Simonsig his toughest workout to date.
A tricky race where stakes should be kept fun-size. Pete The Fete came on in leaps and bounds this term but was showing the effects of a long campaign when pulled up at Kempton last time. He's had a few weeks to recover and gets a tentative each-way vote at 33/1 in places.
Rock On Ruby bids to become the first horse since Hardy Eustace to do the Champion Hurdle double while Hurricane Fly seeks to emulate Comedy Of Errors (1975) by regaining the crown he lost the previous year. Both have serious claims and dutching (backing both) the pair at an overall price of even-money should be considered.  Fifth in the race last year, Zarkandar is another one for the short-list.
Enda Bolger has had the winner or runner-up of this race in seven of the last eight renewals. The race went to Philip Hobbs' Balthazar King last year but Bolger's Arabella Boy can reclaim it for the Irish in 2013 with Nina Carberry on board, priced around 7/2.
Willie Mullins' Quevega is impossible to oppose as she goes for her fifth win in this race. The last horse to win five consecutive festival races was Golden Miller (1932-1936 Gold Cups) but this high class mare is in a league of her own. With 21lbs in hand on official ratings, she should win with ease.
Gordon Elliott knows how to raid a prize and CD winner Carlito Brigante is respected. However, Venetia Williams Shangani is on an upward curve at the moment with recent handicap wins at Sandown at Catterick. He may have a bit more to come before the handicapper catches up and odds of 8/1 or thereabouts have each-way appeal.

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