Cut To The Chase

Cut To The Chase

Of the 3 Grade 1 novice hurdles, the Albert Bartlett has been the most predictable. Brave Inca was the last favourite to win the Supreme a decade ago (at 7/2), since which only 3 winners have started at single figure prices. The Neptune has been in the middle with two favourites, (Simonsig at 2/1 and Mikael D’Haguenet at 5/2,) winning in the last decade and two winners going off at a double figure price.

In the Albert Bartlett 4 favourites have gone in – At Fishers Cross (11/8), Bobs Worth (15/8), Wichita Lineman (11/8) and Black Jack Ketchum (evens,) with only one winner going off at a double figure price. I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the race is less prestigious, (only became a Grade 1 in 2008,) and the field tends to have much less depth. Secondly, they go that much slower which gives the best horses more chance not to get into trouble in running.

It’s therefore not been a race where it’s paid to try to be too clever. I’ll always work on a value basis, but there are some races where their nature lends more to backing something nearer the front of the market.

There are 12 at 20/1 or shorter and plenty we can discount for ante-post purposes. Faugheen (14/1) is apparently heading for the Neptune, (even after the same connections Clondaw Court was scratched, there doesn’t seem to have been a change of plan.) Red Sherlock (14/1) and Royal Boy (20/1) also both run in the Neptune.

Of the remaining 9 there are a number who have other feasible targets. Deputy Dan (16/1) has been progressive, winning a Grade 2 at Warwick last time, (2m5f, heavy.) With favourite Rathvinden falling just as it was getting interesting, it’s hard to evaluate that form. His progression has coincided with heavy ground and whilst he has form on good to soft, his breeding suggests he could be a mudlark. Oliver Sherwood has said he’s keeping his options open, but he’s clearly hoping for soft ground so he can run Deputy Dan in the Neptune - so he can’t be backed ante-post for this.

Rathvinden (20/1) then ran a good race to be 2½l 2nd to Red Sherlock (who received 3lb) at Cheltenham. On the heavy ground there he looked to be outstayed over an extended 2m4f and he doesn’t obviously look like he wants 3m at this stage. It’s not clear how Willie Mullins will shuffle his pack but the likes of Briar Hill and Sure Reef look more obvious candidates for this, for all they’re in the same ownership. He’s therefore another who can’t be backed ante-post.

Champagne West (20/1) beat Deputy Dan 1l in December and has won off 123 and then in a novice since. Having qualified, the plan was the Pertemps Final. However, Philip Hobbs was trying to get him up to 137 as that was the mark he guesstimated he’d need to get a run – but he’s been hiked to 145. Given how well in you need to be to win the Pertemps Final, and that the highest mark given to an Albert Bartlett winner so far is 154, it might make sense for him to take his chance here, especially as the yard now has Fingal Bay as a Pertemps Final possible. He’s one to keep an eye on.

Urban Hymn (20/1) has always had a big reputation and started to fulfill it last time in the Grade 2 River Don, (extended 3m, soft,) when chinning Blakemount. He’s seen as a chaser for next season and with Oscar Rock in the same ownership its looking as if will run in the Neptune or bypass the Festival. I’m not sure whether he’d be effective on good ground.

Blakemount (20/1) was only a short head behind Urban Hymn in the River Don on soft ground, and being by Presenting you’d imagine he might well improve if getting a sound surface in this. 3m looks to suit and he has each-way prospects, without having exuded star quality as yet.

Briar Hill (5/1) was an impressive winner of the Bumper at last season’s Festival. He’s 3/3 over hurdles, having started at between 1/3 and 1/9. He’s made hard work of beating Azorian by 4l, (subsequently beaten miles by Faugheen and Vautour,) and Apache Jack, both over 2½m. He may just be lazy and only do enough, but last year’s Festival Bumper hasn’t worked out well and he might just have outstayed a substandard field. He could be anything, but he’s priced up on his Festival win and having a string of 1s next to his name. I’m open minded about how good he’ll turn out to be and, even in what’s looking a threadbare field, he’s not a betting proposition.

Sure Reef (16/1) pulled very hard last time when winning a Grade 2 at Leopardstown and Willie Mullins was understandably concerned that he wouldn’t settle in this. Being in the same ownership as Briar Hill, its possible he’ll go for the Neptune. He may fall between two stools – not quick enough for the Neptune, but not settling well enough for the Albert Bartlett.

The favourite is King’s Palace (7/2) and you couldn’t see a better jumper in a novice race. He’s fast and accurate but his form is starting to unravel. The 4 horses that chased him home last time have all been well beaten since, and whilst Creepy (who chased him home in October) won a Grade 2 next time, he’s been thrashed three times since. David Pipe has described him as a Welsh National horse and I’m not sure he’s got the class for this. I certainly wouldn’t be backing him ante-post at a skinny price.

Captain Cutter (10/1) brings Grade 1 form to the table from the Challow and beat King’s Palace in a bumper, (despite racing very wide and King’s Palace having had the advantage of a run). I’d thought that there would be the usual post-Challow debate about whether the winner should go for the Neptune, but this year commons sense appears to have prevailed and the Albert Bartlett is the target.

In Faugheen’s likely absence, I think Captain Cutter is the most talented horse in this. He was well on top of some classy novices in the Challow and, whilst he doesn’t yet jump as well as King’s Palace, he’s achieved more over hurdles and the feeling is that there’s much more to come. He’s versatile as to ground conditions and the only downside is that he’s been a bit fragile in the past - but the Henderson team appear to have had a pretty clear run with him this time.

It wasn’t until I really went through the market that I realised how few of these look likely to run, and how weak a race it could quickly turn into. I can see his price contracting significantly over the next month as the race takes shape. Ideally he’d be backable non runner-no bet, but based on last year there’s another 10 days before that’s going to be available – and I’d rather go in now ante-post and secure what looks a good price.

Despite it being a race for short priced horses, one that’s interesting at a big price is Gilt Shadow (40/1). He was a good 2nd to The Liquidator in the Grade 1 Bumper at the Punchestown Festival. He bolted up on his hurdles debut and went off 9/2 for the Grade 1 Royal Bond, but didn’t fire. Given a break, he was supposed to have needed the run when 3¼l 3rd to Sure Reef (who received 3lb) in a Grade 2 at Leopardstown over 2½m. That Leopardstown race is usually a strong contest and he was too keen off a slow early pace, before looking to blow up. It’s not clear if he goes to the Festival yet, and if he does whether he runs in this or the Neptune. He’s one to look at once non runner, no bet is available.

1pt Captain Cutter to win the Albert Bartlett @ 10/1

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Cheltenham Countdown

Welcome to our exclusive betting blog focusing on the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

For the third year running, we welcomed National Hunt expert Matt Tombs to blog all things Cheltenham through the winter. The highlight was Jezki's Champion Hurdle win, which was a vindication of a long-term plot and went some way to ensuring another Festival in profit. Click through to view the archive of 2012 and 2013.

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2014 Results:

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Western Boy - Supreme Novices - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Zamdy Man - Supreme Novices - 1pt 33/1 - N/R

Ted Veale - Arkle - 1pt e/w 25/1 NRNB - U/P

Felix Yonger - Arkle - 1pt 16/1 - N/R

Jezki - Champion Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - WON

Cockney Sparrow - Mares Hurdle - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Foxrock - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Gullinbursti - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 33/1 NRNB - N/R

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Rathvinden - Neptune Novices - 1pt e/w 16/1 - 3rd

Corrin Wood - RSA Chase - 1pt 14/1 - U/P

Ifandbutwhynot - Coral Cup - 1pt 28/1 - U/P

Arvika Ligeonniere - Champion Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Balthazar King - Cross Country - 1pt 33/1 - WON

Modus - Champion Bumper - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

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Mozoltov - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Champagne Fever - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 7/1 - N/R

Benefficient - Ryanair Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Baily Green - Ryanair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 NRNB - N/R

Salubrious - World Hurdle - 1pt e/w 25/1 - U/P

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Captain Cutter - Albert Bartlett - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Arctic Fire - County Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - 2nd

The Giant Bolster - Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - 3rd

Dynaste - Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 NRNB - N/R

Certain Flight - Foxhunter Chase - 1pt 20/1 NRNB - U/P

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Gigginstown - Top Owner - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Good Ground - Official Going - 1pt 10/1 - LOST

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Advised Bets:

Sizing Gold - Aon Novice Handicap Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

On The Fringe - Champion Hunters Chase - 1pt 7/4 - WON

At Fishers Cross - World Series Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - 3rd

Balder Succes - Ryanair Novice Chase - 1pt 11/4 - 3rd

Art Of Logistics - Three.ie Handicap Chase - 1pt 12/1 - 2nd

Lyreen Legend - Punchestown Gold Cup - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Shanahan's Turn - Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 33/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Boylesports.com Champion Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Western Boy - Champion Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 10/1 - U/P

Mullaghanoe River - Irish National - 1pt 18/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Powers Gold Cup - 1pt 11/2 - U/P

Quito De La Roque - Grand National - 1pt 40/1 - U/P

Salubrious - Liverpool Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Ted Veale - Maghull Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Saint Are - Aintree Handicap Chase - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Melling Chase - 1pt 7/1 - 3rd

King Of The Picts - Top Novices Hurdle - 1pt 33/1 - 3rd

Themanfrom Minella - Sefton Novices Hurdle - 1pt 50/1 - U/P

Giorgio Quercus - Topham Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Dynaste - Betfred Bowl - 1pt 15/8 - 2nd

Turn Over Sivola - Red Rum Chase - 1pt 8/1 - 2nd

Uxizandre - Manifesto Novices Chase - 1pt 9/2 - WON

Mossey Joe - Aintree Fox Hunters - 1pt 13/8 - 3rd

Baby Shine - Reynoldstown Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Kingwell Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

Bog Warrior - Red Mills Chase - 1pt 9/4 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Irish Hennessy - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Vautour - Deloitte Novice - 1pt 2/1 - WON

Tammys Hill - Hunters Chase - 1pt e/w 5/1 - WON

Vendor - Betfair Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Boston Bob - Cleeve Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

The Giant Bolster - Argento Chase - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Unioniste - Sky Bet Chase - 1pt 9/2 - 3rd

Hidden Cyclone - Clarence House Chase - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

Captain Chris - WH Chase - 1pt 2/1 - WON

The Liquidator - Tolworth Hurdle - 1pt 5/2 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Lexus Chase - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Hey Big Spender - Welsh National - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Shantou Magic - Challow Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Morning Assembly - Topaz Novice Chase - 1pt 9/4 - 2nd

Cue Card - King George - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

My Tent Or Yours - Christmas Hurdle - 1pt 5/4 - WON

Defy Logic - Racing Post Novice Chase - 1pt 6/1 - WON

Salubrious - Long Walk Hurdle - 1pt 9/1 - 2nd

Totalize - The Ladbroke - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Ma Filleule - December Gold Cup - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Prince De Beauchene - Hennessy Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Fighting Fifth - 1pt e/w 10/1 - 3rd @ 9/1

Sizing Rio - Drinmore - 1pt 5/2 - U/P @ 3/1

Jezki - Hatton's Grace - 1pt Evens - WON

Roi Du Mee - Betfair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 8/1 - U/P

Gift Of Dgab - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Cash And Go - Greatwood Hurdle - 1pt 13/2 - U/P

Cotton Mill - Elite Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Cue Card - Haldon Gold Cup - 2pts 11/8 - U/P

Benefficient - Charlie Hall Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Sizing Europe - JNwine Champion Chase - 1pt 3/1 - 2nd