With the 2016 Cheltenham festival drawing ever nearer (Just 24 days until “The Roar”) we take a look ahead to all four championship races as well as horses to look out for in many of the other great contests the four days has to offer.
We spoke to the full PFTP Team and asked where they’d be putting their money.
CHAMPION HURDLE (TUESDAY):
Chris Roke – Faugheen’s only loss came in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown back in November but his jumping wasn’t fluent that day, since then he’s gone on to assert himself well in his next two races and its hard to see any of the others taking his crown away from him here off his current form. – Faugheen (WIN) (N/R)
Dean Kilbryde – My Tent Or Yours hasn’t been seen since April 2014 but has an excellent career record. He is yet to finish outside the top 3 in 14 runs, boasts a winning record 7 from 13 over the Champion Hurdle race distance and has gone close on two previous runs at Cheltenham, finishing a ½ length 2nd to Champagne Fever in the 2013 Supreme Novices Hurdle and a neck 2nd to Jezki in the 2014 renewal of this race. – My Tent Or Yours (E/W)
Graeme Lafferty – Willie Mullins yard looks unstoppable with no real challenger emerging from the pack this year. An easy title defence beckons however with the red hot favourite now withdrawn it’s left the door open for an outside challenger and if returning to last season’s exploits Peace And Co could surprise a few. – Peace And Co (E/W)
Karl Hedley – Arctic Fire looks set to benefit the most from the absence of stablemate Faugheen and he can land the Champion Hurdle. He has raced at the track twice before and finished runner up on both occasions. Talented in his own right he has had to play second fiddle to both Hurricane Fly and Faugheen more recently. A repeat of his valiant effort in this last year now means that he is the one to beat and he can take the prize back across the Irish Sea. – Arctic Fire (WIN)
Matthew Kirby – For some value the 2014 second in this race My Tent Or Yours is worth a look. He had a racecourse gallop at Kempton on February 12 where he jumped four hurdles slickly and looked a picture of health. He hasn’t been seen since a third in the Scottish Champion Hurdle 703-days ago but looked fit at Kempton and may be worth a punt now that Faugheen no longer takes its place. – My Tent Or Yours (E/W)
Rory Paddock – When it comes to Cheltenham, course form is always a big tick in the right box and now with Faugheens injury leaving this horse as the most likely Mullins runner and never finishing outside of the top two in its previous Cheltenham efforts it’s worth keeping on side. – Arctic Fire (WIN)
QUEEN MOTHER CHASE (WEDNESDAY):
Chris Roke – Un De Sceaux is a machine and tends to make the running in his races; he dominated the field at Ascot last time out showing a great turn of foot when being let loose two out, he may not get it all his own way in this race but non of these seem to have his speed late on. – Un De Sceaux (WIN)
Dean Kilbryde – Un De Sceaux has won every race he has finished and although fell on both seasonal re-appearances he bounced back from both in fine style, culminating in an impressive six length victory in last years’ Arkle Chase. He is a worthy favourite and although short enough in the betting even the mighty Sprinter Sacre shouldn’t be able to trouble him with a clear round of jumping. – Un De Sceaux (WIN)
Graeme Lafferty – The Nicky Henderson stable star is looking to regain his crown, has improved for each run this season when showing glimpses of old ability and the most likely to expose the warm favourite if on a going day. – Sprinter Sacre (WIN)
Karl Hedley – Sprinter Sacre bids to enhance the stranglehold that the English have had on this race in recent seasons. He has looked impressive on his two recent starts and it is worth remembering that he has made the frame in all twenty of his completed starts. Nicky Henderson looks to have him back to somewhere near his best and he can become the first horse sine Moscow Flyer to regain his crown. – Sprinter Sacre (WIN)
Matthew Kirby – Un De Sceaux made amends after a fall at Leopardstown to win the Clarence House Chase. He won the Arkle by dominating proceedings last year but I’m looking to take him on. Sprinter Sacre has been back to somewhere near his best this season and likes it around Cheltenham with four wins from six starts. Will Un De Sceaux the likely leader he can sit off the pace and pick him up late. – Sprinter Sacre (WIN)
Rory Paddock – The Mullins favourite is hard to ignore and Sprinter Sacre seems rejuvenated but Spcial Tiara was somewhat unlucky not to win the Tingle Creek and looks a decent each-way value bet. – Special Tiara (E/W)
WORLD HURDLE (THURSDAY):
Chris Roke – Alpha Des Obeaux looks a very good E/W prospect at his current price for this; he destroyed some good horses to win at Gowran Park at the end of January in boggy conditions and will appreciate any cut in the ground for this. – Alpha Des Obeaux (E/W)
Dean Kilbryde – The Colin Tizzard trained Thistlecrack has been pretty much faultless this season, winning three from three and beating the likes of Cole Harden, Whisper and Saphir Du Rheu with relative ease. Furthermore he is versatile with regards to conditions having won on ground from good to heavy so won’t be inconvenienced by whatever the weather decides to throw at him. Another worthy favourite, proven time and again over race distance and very difficult to oppose. – Thistlecrack (WIN)
Graeme Lafferty – Although her engagement is hard to pin down with non-runner no bet now available Annie Power could be worth a shout. The talented Mullins mare would be a danger to all if taking her place in this field. Well clear when unseating at last in 2015 Mares Hurdle and the one to throw the gauntlet down to the in-form Thistlecrack. – Annie Power (WIN)
Karl Hedley – Thistlecrack has done nothing wrong all year and showed he was a leading contender for this race when adding The Long Distance, The Long Walk and Cleeve Hurdles to his CV throughout the winter. His emergence on to the staying scene occurred when he romped to victory at Aintree last season. Colin Tizzard has his team in excellent form this year and this eight year old hasn’t looked back since. – Thistlecrack (WIN)
Matthew Kirby – This race revolves around the impressive Thistlecrack. Colin Tizzard’s charge has dominated this division this campaign and has to be the main focus. He bolted up in a trial over course and distance at the end of January and there wouldn’t be a concern about him on drying ground. With the way in which he has won his races so far it is a surprise not to see him at odds-on and despite being a short priced favourite still seems, in some part, value for money. – Thistlecrack (WIN)
Rory Paddock – A selection seems a bit out of “left field” and goes to a horse I was raving about throughout the build up to the National Hunt season. It’s been disappointing not to see the Nicholls horse run yet however I don’t think this years renewal of The World Hurdle is the best we’ve seen and despite the trainer having a lacklustre campaign he certainly knows how to ready a horse for this race and knows what it takes to win it. – Aux Ptits Soins (E/W)
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP CHASE (FRIDAY):
Chris Roke – What a race we’d have if all the entries were allowed to run this but my vote is Don Poli, he’s proven again and again he’s a real stayer and even though sometimes he’s not a convincing winner he seems to just do enough to get the job done. There maybe a couple here that will test him in this but you can guarantee he’ll not let them get away from him. – Don Poli (E/W)
Dean Kilbryde – Vautour has a 100% win record at Cheltenham having won last years JLT and the 2014 Supreme and although beaten a head into 2nd by Cue Card in the King George he was well clear of third and should be capable of making the frame at the very least. – Vautour (E/W)
Graeme Lafferty – Gigginstown Stud look to have an embarrassment of riches in a wide open field, last year’s RSA Chase hero looked every bit a gold cup horse in the making that day and will relish the extra distance and looks a solid each way option. – Don Poli (E/W)
Karl Hedley – Vautour looks increasingly likely to head here for a crack at the most prestigious prize in racing due to the recent fall of stablemate Djakadam. Ruby Walsh will be the first to admit that the ride he gave the six year old in the King George was far from perfect and he can improve on what he did there on what is likely to be much better ground. He definitely has the ability to see out this three and a quarter mile trip and with age very much on his side, he ought to take the world of beating. – Vautour (E/W)
Matthew Kirby – Cue Card has been revitalised this season winning all three starts and goes for the £1 million bonus after winning the Betfair Chase and King George. He did just get up to win the King George but that run came just a month after his win at Haydock – here he has a near three month break to freshen up and that will help him against his younger opposition. – Cue Card (E/W)
Rory Paddock – It’s unfortunate that we have seen the withdrawal of Conneygree but I feel the other Irish powerhouse, aside from Rich Ricci and Mullins, Gigginstown will scoop this race but not with the current favourite but with Don Poli instead. A horse that’s been lightly raced this year and may be fresher than its main rivals. – Don Poli (E/W)
ALTERNATIVE ANTEPOST SELECTIONS:
Chris Roke – Barters Hill is one of the most versatile horses I’ve seen in along time it doesn’t seem to matter what conditions or distance put in front of him he just powers through; he obliterated the field when last sent over this trip back in November by over 14 lengths and can make it 8/8 here. – Barters Hill (WIN) (NEPTUNE NOVICES HURDLE)
Best Price: 20/1
Dean Kilbryde – On The Fringe looked pretty much unstoppable last spring, winning this race before going on to win at both the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. He has taken a similar preparation route this year and should prove tough to beat in his attempt to retain his crown. – On The Fringe (WIN) (FOXHUNTERS CHASE)
Best Price: 11/4
Graeme Lafferty – A horse who could contribute to a big festival for Gigginstown Stud. Absolutely relished the switch to fences, improved for every outing and looks the bet of the entire festival in this years RSA. – No More Heroes (WIN) (RSA CHASE)
Best Price: 11/4
Karl Hedley – Vicente looks decent odds to stop the Mullins juggernaut on the first day as is undefeated around here when there is any mention of good in the going description. Paul Nicholls will be the first to admit that his yard has been underachieving this year but this seven year old could well atone for that. He is a half-brother to Scottish Grand National winner Al Co so stamina is unlikely to be an issue. He looks a lively each way price and should make the frame at his favourite track. – Vicente (E/W) (NATIONAL HUNT CHASE)
Best Price: 20/1
Matthew Kirby – No More Heroes dominates the picture for this race but he is unlikely to get ground that has seen him at his best. The one at a price that I like is Seeyouatmidnight, who is a recent course winner here at Prestbury Park. He won the Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day in good style and that form has been franked after the second Blaklion won the Towton on his next start. He is a solid jumper, who has to be respected at a double figure price. – Seeyouatmidnight (E/W) (RSA CHASE)
Best Price: 12/1
Rory Paddock – The Paul Nicholls horse is entered into a couple of handicap hurdles and after a few impressive performances at the end of last season it looks to go well again at this years festival. I was disappointed not to see it line up in The Betfair Hurdle a few weeks ago but whatever race it is set to go for it’s worth punting. – All Yours (E/W) (COUNTY HURDLE)
Best Price: 25/1
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