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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cheltenham Festival Betting Tuesday

From today's Irish Independent:

THE Champion Hurdle (3.20) has racing fans salivating at the mouth and it's one of those contests which has the perfect story behind it too. A brilliant defending champion , which arguably never got the credit he deserves in Britain, out to take on the talented young guns. Can the ageing champ finally silence the doubters? What's more, Hurricane Fly is trained in Ireland so we could even turn it into a tale of 'them and us' if we wanted. But sometimes in this game, the heart and the head can come into conflict and when that happens, it makes betting decisions very difficult. The racing fan and story lover in me is desperate to see the Fly recognised as one of the greatest Champion Hurdlers of all time with another victory today - but the punter in me is acutely aware that fairytale endings are a rarity in this game and the more I watch re-runs of The New One, the more I think he's value at 5/2. The form books would suggest that Hurricane Fly hasn't lost any of his old sparkle and his trainer has expressed a view that he could yet have more to come. But the record books show that only two horses aged ten or more have managed to win the Champion Hurdle (Hatton's Grace in 1950/1951 and Sea Pigeon in 1980/1981). Of course, not all horses decline when they hit the age of ten but unlike their younger counterparts, it's highly unlikely that they will improve by much. In other words, we know exactly what Hurricane Fly is capable of but we don't know for sure just how good The New One, Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours or Jezki might be. Fair enough, The New One has a blot of sorts on his copybook having finished second to My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time but Sam Twiston-Davies lost his iron when he clattered the last so he has excuses. He loves it here at Cheltenham and I've a strong feeling he'll just about edge it.

Nine of the last ten Arkle Chase(2.05) winners came first or second in their previous race. As such, Champagne Fever looks a little short in the betting at 5/2. He went off at 8/15 in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown, but he blundered two out and finished third of the six runners.

THE last eleven-year-old to win the Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase (2.40) was Flyer's Nap, trained by Robert Alner in 1997. In total, 49 horses aged eleven or older have been entered since that year and just two have placed. However, those figures haven't put off backers of Alfie Sherrin for Jonjo O'Neill and Tony McCoy today, and the eleven-year-old may well go off as favourite around 8/1. Alfie Sherrin, which won this race in 2012, joins two other older horses in the race this afternoon (The Package at 20/1 and Fruity O'Rooney at 25/1).

This is usually a great race for specials so be sure to avail of any money back offers to help avoid getting the Festival off to a losing start. Paul Nicholls' Irving was a useful flat horse around Europe and is now unbeaten over timber so it would be no surprise to see him in the thick of the action. But he seems a little short at 9/4 and preference is for Willie Mullins' Vautour following a smart performance in the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last time.
Previous course form is always a plus in the Arkle and nine of the last ten winners had won or placed at the Festival in the past. Willie Mullins' Champagne Fever (5/2) is likely to prove popular in the betting but he finished behind Defy Logic and Trifolium at Leopardstown last time. Trifolium, which was third in the 2012 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, has since went on to beat Defy Logic and odds of 4/1
or thereabouts would appear a little generous today.
Holywell gets a tentative vote at 7/1 in a tricky race where at least six horses have claims. Jonjo O'Neill's gelding was a decent hurdler in his day and won the Pertemps Final at the festival last year. He has taken well to fences and comes here on the back of a couple of wins at Catterick and Doncaster.
This is shaping up to be the race of the Festival, if not the season. Another Champion Hurdle win for Hurricane Fly would raise the roof and Willie Mullins reckons the ten-year-old is as good as ever. I'd love to see him do it but I've a feeling he might be vulnerable to some younger sorts including The New One (5/2), who lost little in defeat to My Tent Or Yours in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
The lightly-raced Quevega can become the most successful horse in Cheltenham Festival history by winning this race for the sixth time. There's no such thing as a certainty but Willie Mullins' wonder mare looks the banker of the day, priced around 4/6.
You'd have to feel sorry for Nina Carberry, who was leading over the final fence in three of the last four renewals of this race, only to be beaten on the run-in each time. She can put things right today on Shutthefrontdoor (3/1), which was second to Le Bec in a Novice Chase here in November.
A tough race to decipher but it may be worth concentrating on horses with good recent form in order to narrow down the field. Eight of the last nine winners had come first or second in their previous race and Jamie Snowden's Present View might be the one to side each-way at 8/1, despite an 11lb hike in the weights for his latest victory at Kempton last month.

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