Festival Place Lays

Festival Place Lays

I’m not a big layer of horses on the exchanges, although I should probably do more of it. Its often much easier to spot a bad short priced favourite than a horse whose price is much bigger than it should be.

Last year I did put 4 lays up here; 3 of them (all for a place) were duly unplaced. The other was Hurricane Fly and, at the risk of being accused of past-posting, I did suggest that the smart play was to see if he got really buzzed up at the start as he did the year he was beaten (he didn’t – he was much calmer.)

That said, I prefer laying horses for a place, (obviously at much shorter prices,) at the Festival. It’s not like a 6 runner novice chase where you just think the favourite is too short at, say, 4/6 but the rest of the field is much of a muchness, so you just want to oppose that one horse.

At the Festival there is obviously much more depth to the races. I don’t really want to lay a horse to win, that I think is good enough to be placed as I would for the every-day novice chase. I want to lay, (at short prices,) horses I think aren’t going to perform at all. That means I’m not including horses like Our Conor who I think won’t quicken well enough for a Champion Hurdle, but I can see finishing placed because he’s classy enough and stays so well.

Here is one to consider each day:

Rock On Ruby (Arkle) – current win price 9/2 – lay for a place at up to 2.5

It looks like being a small field again and it’s marginal whether there will be the 8 runners required to pay 3 places. That will obviously impact the prices but with 7 definite intended runners, the more likely scenario is that an eighth runner will line up so it’ll be 3 rather than 2 places. That should ensure Rock On Ruby can be laid at a short price.

The first question is whether Rock On Ruby is the horse he was. He was very disappointing at the Punchestown Festival and again behind The New One in October. It’s possible that a couple of hard races in the Champion Hurdle have bottomed him.

The Arkle is all about jumping at speed. Rock On Ruby has very little experience of jumping fences. I think its nonsense to argue that because a horse is battle hardened over hurdles – that’s sufficient. Of course being generally battle hardened helps, but the problem is that he has no experience of jumping fences at speed.

Few of the runners have run at Arkle pace before, which is why year in, year out the jumping of some of the leading form fancies doesn’t stand up to the test. But if you’ve had nothing but a couple of schools round beating 3 opponents in 2 races, the Arkle is going to be much more of an adjustment than it is for Champagne Fever, Trifolium and Dodging Bullets, who’ve all contested good chases run at a good gallop.

9 year olds with a similar profile, (high or top class hurdlers coming to chasing late in life when they can no longer cut it over hurdles,) have a dire record in this. This century four such 9 year olds have run in the Arkle. Overturn was 30l 4th at 7/2 last year, Captain Cee Bee was 18½l 8th as 5/2f in 2010, Ned Kelly was 20l 9th at 12/1 in 2005 and Barton was 34l 7th at 9/2 in 2002. And those 4 all had experience of jumping fences in more races and better quality ones than Rock On Ruby.

Lets hope Rock On Ruby comes back safe and sound but I’m not expecting that to happen until a while after the principals pass the post – he’s the lay of the week, (currently 2.36).

Ballycasey (RSA) – current price 11/2 – lay for a place at up to 3

Similar principles apply to Ballycasey as they do to Rock On Ruby in terms of experience over fences and Ballycasey never proved himself a class act over hurdles, for all he was promising. He does have the advantage of having run in the Moriarty where he beat Grade 1 winners Don Cossack and Carlingford Lough – so he has some experience in a good chase. But the RSA is a much tougher race than the Arkle and its 16 years since Florida Pearl won off just two chase runs, (admittedly trained by Mullins.)

Ballycasey has clearly been a fragile character and whilst he might win, I can’t see Ruby giving him a hard time if he isn’t going to, as they won’t risk bottoming him to finish a moderate 3rd. Whether he’s robust enough to flourish in an RSA is questionable – especially with the likes of Corrin Wood and Annacotty likely to ensure a strong gallop.

Last year he travelled over badly and had to be withdrawn from the Albert Bartlett. If you’re laying him now, then if the same thing happens, you won’t even have to give a run to get your money.

I can see him bombing completely – unfortunately lots of people have had the same idea and so he’ll be a bigger price for a place than his 11/2 odds would suggest. However, I really fancy him to be out of the frame and am prepared to lay him for a place at up to 2/1.

Big Buck’s (World Hurdle) – current price 9/4 – lay for a place at up to 1.8

It goes against the grain a bit to put the great Big Buck’s up as a lay for a place. The reasons are very different than for Rock On Ruby and Ballycasey – Big Buck’s is 11 and nearing the end of his glittering career. It’s hard to know how much ability he retained after nearly 15 months off when beaten by 66/1 shot Knockara Beau in the Cleeve.

Of course Paul Nicholls wouldn’t have had him cherry ripe for the Cleeve and the bad ground was against him, especially after the lay off. But the reality is he’d have won hard held in his pomp. Hopefully he’s as good as ever and it’ll be one of those “I was there” moments if he wins.

Sadly, the much more likely scenario is that he isn’t the force he was. Like Ballycasey he could be a bolt up or bomb out type – there’s no way he’ll be given a hard race if he’s out of contention. Sam Twiston-Davies will be under strict instructions to look after the horse. It’s worth remembering that some of the greats have ended their career being pulled up when out of contention in a Festival Championship race – Istabraq and Kauto Star amongst them.

He’s available to lay at about 4/5 and with more depth to the race than looked likely a few weeks ago, I think he’s odds on to be out of the first three so he’s a good value lay.

Kings Palace (Albert Bartlett) - current price 3/1 – lay for a place at up to 1.9

The more I look at the Albert Bartlett the more open I think it is – I’m expecting at least one long shot to make the frame. Looking again at Kings Palace’s form, I don’t think he should be as short as his. His form with Creepy in October and Masters Hill in December looks nothing like as strong as it did earlier in the season - both have been thrashed by other leading contenders. It’s hard to see why Deputy Dan is 16/1 and Kings Palace 3/1 given their form with Masters Hill.

Kings Palace is a really good jumper but he’s been off since before Christmas, never a good sign with a novice even if it’s been intentional. He faces a horse in Briar Hill who has been put up as the Mullins team nap of the week and a Grade 1 winner in Captain Cutter. The likes of Deputy Dan, Champagne West, Urban Hymn. Mosspark and Blakemount all have realistic chances on form and there’s just too much of a disparity between their prices.

Kings Palace might win, but he can be laid for a place at odds-on and I think this is an open race for which he’s a fair bit too short.

Back to Articles

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.


2014 Results:


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


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


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


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


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

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


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