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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cheltenham Festival betting 2013: Wednesday, day two

Today's Irish Independent article:

WHEN you see a horse at a very skinny price, it's your job as a punter to look for chinks in its armour and try to find a reason to take it on. So-called good things get beaten all the time and already this year we've seen plenty of shocks in the markets including Good Evans, Spirit Of Shankly and Cockney Sparrow  which were beaten at 2/13, 1/6 and 1/6 respectively. While I do accept that the market is more efficent at the shorter end, plenty of hype horses get beaten at the Festival and for the past few weeks, I've been trying to come up with a list of reason to oppose Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.20). But I've been left holding my pen, staring at a blank piece of paper and I have to concede that the seven-year-old looks bombproof.  It all invokes memories of the great Moscow Flyer and Barry Geraghty is a very lucky man to get the chance to ride both. Some believe he's much better than Moscow Flyer; although with superlatives being dished out like there's no tomorrow it's worth reminding ourselves that Sprinter Sacre hasn't yet taken part in a Champion Chase so let's give him a chance to prove himself at the top. Still though, it's what Cheltenham is all about and it will be good for the sport to have another chasing superstar with so many of the old guard winding down in recent years. If we are to find a negative, it's that Sprinter Sacre hasn't really met a serious rival that was up to his level but that's hardly his fault and he comes to Prestbury Park with an unblemished chasing record. Last year, I foolishly took him on in the Arkle but I certainly won't be clicking the pink button on the machine today. To drum up a few quid, bookmakers have specials in the 'betting without Sprinter Sacre' markets and I wouldn't put anyone off Sizing Europe or Wishful Thinking if you are thinking of having a play but for me, it's one of those races to savour and enjoy without a penny leaving the wallet. In the RSA Chase, (2.40), Ruby Walsh has picked Paul Nicholls' Unioniste over Willie Mullins' Boston Bob but I hope the Kill native lives to regret that decision and the latter looks a decent bet around 11/4. Both trainers have good records in the race and while it's far from a simple match race, I'm expecting both horses to be battling it out in the final stages. A very smart hurdler, Boston Bob has plenty of stamina to see out the trip and I suspect he'll make a very good chaser in the seasons to come. At times, he appears workmanlike but he gets the job done and it's hard to pick holes in his chase form. Unioniste is not dismissed easily although I can't say I'm entirely convinced by his latest win in a Novice Chase at Newbury at the expense of Hadrian's Approach. It was a messy affair where he needed to go all out for the win, having being less than fluent over the seventh fence. There's not much separating the pair and I actually think this could turn out to be the best race of the day.

WITH British, Irish and French form to assess, chief handicapper Phil Smith has said that the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.40) is one of the hardest races of the year to rate and the race has thrown up quite a few unexpected results since it was established in 2005. Fitness is essential it seems, and seven of the eight winners had raced in the previous 25 days. Backers of the likely favourite Saphir Du Rheu may find that statistic a little unsettling as the Paul Nicholls trained gelding hasn't been seen since winning a novice hurdle at Taunton on 7th January. 

ON official ratings, there's only 1lb separating Back In Focus and Tofino Bay in the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase (1.30) yet the former is trading around 11/4 and the latter is expected go off at a double figure price. While Back In Focus is respected, a case could be made for a number of others including Rival D'estruval, Godsmejudge and Hawkes and I suspect this race will be closer than the market suggests. At the prices, Back In Focus is opposable today.

Nina Carberry can get backers off to a good start on board Tofino Bay at 10/1. He was below par at Navan last time but he's expected to stay the extra distance this afternoon.
Willie Mullins' Pont Alexandre looks a fantastic prospect and at 6/4, the Grade One winner can follow up his latest impressive victory at Leopardstown.
Despite the fact that Ruby Walsh has abandoned Boston Bob in favour of Unioniste, Boston Bob looks a stayer in the making and should be able to grind them down on the soft ground.
No need for a bet here. Sit back and enjoy the majestic Sprinter Sacre become racing's latest superstar.
A big-field handicap where stakes should be kept to a minimum. Black Thunder gets a token each-way vote at 20/1. He won a couple of novice hurdles last term and could have more to come before the handicapper catches up.
Some readers may remember Zamdy Man winning on the flat at Newmarket last summer. He's still learning the ropes as a hurdler but he's got plenty of scope for improvement and can be backed each-way at 20/1.
With seven wins since the race was established in 1992, Willie Mullins' entries demand attention. But Tony Martin's
Golantilla looked exceptionally good when storming home to win a bumper at Cork recently and the fact that Barry Connell paid €375,000 for the gelding says a lot. Early odds of 8/1 seem generous.

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