It’s almost here. The wait is over…. Yes, the 2023 Cheltenham Festival starts tomorrow.
I have just had two Cheltenham Festival ante post bets this year and just one of them Appreciate It (Turners Novice Chase 12/1) is a live bet. In truth it wasn’t intentional it’s just the way its panned out.
I had missed the boat with several horses, so in the end I decided to treat Cheltenham like it’s a standard days racing from a punting perspective. Do the card the day before and then place my bets.
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The Cheltenham Festival is a place where heroes both equine and human are made. It’s the place where owners get the chance to live the dream. And its why these four days of racing are some of the best the sport has to offer anywhere in the world.
This jumps season hasn’t exactly been stellar, and the Cheltenham Festival must deliver if the season isn’t to be consigned to the dustbin. The expectations are high. Can it deliver to save a poor season? Let’s hope so.
Don’t get me wrong though these are my favourite four days of the year, and I will be having plenty of bets.
Before my review of Saturday’s action, a few parish notices.
Tote £1 Million Placepot
For the first time, the Tote will offer £1 Million Placepot every day at the Cheltenham Festival. For the last five years, Cheltenham has yielded the highest Placepot dividend of all British racecourses, returning an average of £2,361.39.
In the last 10 years Cheltenham has also returned some huge Placepot dividends, including in 2019: £91,283.90.
The Tote will be offering all online customers a free £1 placepot on the opening Tuesday of the Festival and the first £1 Million Placepot Pool of the week. If you’re a Tote customer, you have to opt-in and then they will be credited with £1 Tote Credit to be used on Tuesday only.
Cheltenham Weather Report
This time last week we though the festival would start on good to soft at worse. A week is long time when it comes to the British weather and the rain/snow has arrived, easing the ground everywhere. Its welcome though as I don’t want to see such an important meeting run on quick ground.
You’ll need to keep an eye on the weather forecast this week. I think we’re in for a very unsettled week with some rain forecast for all four days of the meeting. How much rain the track will receive though and that is likely to have a big impact on the ground later in the week. We all know what happened when the track received much more rain than expected on the Wednesday last year.
Cheltenham is sold out for Gold Cup (Friday) and hospitality for the four days. However, it looks like there’s plenty of space for the other three days if you’re thinking of heading there for a day’s sport.
If you don’t want to be caught up in affordability checks going to the course maybe the only way you can get a decent bet on with no questions asked.
The final declarations for the Day 1 came out on Sunday.
Facile Vega will be joined by stablemates Il Etait Temps, Diverge & Dark Raven in the Supreme.
El Fabiolo and Jonbon face seven rivals in the Arkle Novices' Chase.
Constitution Hill faces just six rivals in the Champion Hurdle. Last two winners of the race Honeysuckle and Epatante both head to the Mares Hurdle 40 minutes later. We now know that Marie’s Rock will head for that race rather than wait for the Stayers Hurdle.
Whilst the Champion Hurdle looks uncompetitive the Mares Hurdle looks the deepest since the race was first inaugurated.
This week’s column
It’s going to be a very different week for the column.
Plenty of you took up the Victor Value £5 offer for all this week’s previews and selections. Because so many readers have paid money for my previews, I won’t be covering more than two races each day of the festival.
I am sure you will understand why. People have paid money so it wouldn’t be fair to cover three or four races in the column for free.
Fear not dear readers. There will be stats for each of the day’s races. And I will be looking back at the best performances from the previous day so there’s still going to be plenty to read over the next four days.
By the way there are few places left here for anyone who wants to join me for a one off £5 but they will all be gone by this afternoon.
No joy for my Sandown selections on Saturday. However, those who joined the Victor Value service also got two selections from Wolverhampton and both won Dubai Station (9/1) & Alrehb (8/1).
A second successive profitable Saturday for my subscribers and more money to invest at Cheltenham this week.
I’m heading into this year’s festival in great form. The trick now is stay in the same form for the four biggest days racing in the sport.
A brief review of Saturday’s action this week.
Plenty of clues to be taken from the European Breeders' Fund Betfair “National Hunt” Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final. A race has traditionally produced plenty of future winners.
Given the conditions they went a sensible early pace and race produced a pulsating finish. Coming to the last it looked like Inneston would land the winners prize for Gary Moore. However, the rallying Crambo wasn’t to be denied and prevailed by ½ length to give trainer Fergal O’Brien a second success in the race. The front two pulled nicely clear of the third Hugos New Horse and will both win more races next season.
Nicholls Lands Sandown Big Race Double
Imperial Cup first run in 1907 was won by the Paul Nicholls trained Iceo. The winner built on the promise of seasonal reappearance effort over C&D and won with more than the 3 ¾ length margin of victory suggests. He saw out the stiff 2m well on stamina sapping ground and was strong at the finish. Soft ground clearly suits the winner, and he will stay further.
Saturday’s selection Saint Bibiana crashed into a rail at halfway in the valuable mares’ bumper and unseated jockey David Bass. Larchmont Lass got up under strong ride from Harry Cobden to overhaul Casa No Mento close home. Outpaced two out when Casa No Mento went for home it looked like the runner-up was in control 1f out, but the winners reserve of stamina won the day.
The winner got the ride of the day from Harry Cobden and looks a mare who can do well over hurdles next season. Especially when the emphasis is on stamina. Casa No Mento is another mare with a future over timber.
What did we learn from Sandown? We do know Paul Nicholls is heading into Cheltenham with his horses in tremendous form after a Sandown double. Another trainer who had a good day was Gary Moore who saddled a treble.
On the eve of Cheltenham there are couple of interesting handicaps at Taunton and Stratford.
3:25 – Golden Sovereign has placed on both starts since returning from a 22 month layoff. He’s been nudged up 2lb since finishing a 2 ¼ length 2nd of 14 to Certainly Red at Wincanton last month but will go close if staying 3m 4f.
No stamina issues with Bangers And Cash who won the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen two starts back. Not at his best dropped back to 3m when only 10th of 12 at Uttoxeter but can bounce back and resume his progressive ways.
3:15 – Bubble Dubi travelled for a long way like a well-treated horse when a 5 ½ lengths 5th of 10 at Warwick last month. He’s unexposed in handicap company and looks capable of going close here if handling today’s softer ground.
Galice Macalo ended a bit of a losing run when winning a handicap hurdle at Chepstow two starts back. Not disgracedwhen a 12 length 4th of 6 to Epatante in a Grade 2 at Doncaster last time. Now 8lb higher than when winning at Chepstow. This previous C&D winner should give another good account of herself back in handicap company.
I’m torn between Bubble Dubi and Bangers And Cash. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Golden Sovereign and Galice Macalo won.
In the end I opted for Bangers And Cash to return to form from an underwhelming run last time.
3:25 – Bangers And Cash – 9/2 @ Coral & Ladbrokes.
Good luck with you Monday bets.