Profits Over Prejudices

Profits Over Prejudices

1pt Balthazar King to win Cheltenham 3.15 & Festival Cross Country @ 33/1

1pt Cash And Go to win the Greatwood Hurdle @ 13/2

I’ve always dismissed the Cross Country races at Cheltenham as not being proper racing. It was only my recent trip to the Velka Pardubicka in Czech, which is a very different sort of cross-country race, that made me start thinking about Cheltenham’s version. Being new to this discipline, this might turn out to be naïvity but it does seem that the course is so tight that nimbleness and sprinting off the usual crawl are the criteria – rather than jumping ability or class. See here. That looks to be why the same horses can keep winning almost regardless of the weights. Ground conditions vary hugely as they cannot water much of the cross-country course and on good ground Balthazar King is lethal.

It’s hard to understand how he’s as big as 15/8 today, but even more tempting is the 33/1 for him to win this and the equivalent race at the Festival. In other words, if he wins today he’s a double figure price for the Festival equivalent. Only bet365 have priced up the Festival race (he’s 10/1) but even so, its unusual to be able to back this sort of double at bigger than the best combined prices on the two races.

It’s a concern that Philip Hobbs is also aiming him at the National and then a big cross country race in France in May - so it’s possible he might not be peaking at the Festival. He is also ground dependent so if we get a wet run up to the Festival his chances will be compromised. That said, 33/1 looks huge so it’s time to put profits over prejudice and back him.

It’s a shame that connections of Jezki have decided that 2m4f on what is usually bottomless ground in the Hatton’s Grace is the right next step, rather than the Morgiana – which is a bit of a non event now. There’s still a cracking event over timber this weekend though, in shape of the Greatwood Hurdle. It’s grown in stature in recent years and now, like the Paddy Power, is often a springboard for open Grade 1 performers in the making. It’s not uncommon to find them well down the handicap - Rooster Booster, Sizing Europe, Detroit City, Khyber Kim and Menorah have all won this in recent years off marks ranging from 137 to 155.

Inevitably there are plenty of unexposed horses in this so it’s not a race to be dogmatic about. However, Cash And Go looks really well handicapped based on his Grade 1 win as a novice and his 2nd in this last year on unsuitably soft ground. He unseated in the Ladbroke, got stuck in the mud in the Betfair and didn’t stay the Coral Cup trip – so nothing went right after that. He’s reportedly strengthened up considerably and the normally reserved Nicky Henderson has been really bullish about his chances. In his stable tour in the Racing Post this week he said that “he isn’t far off top class but we could always switch him to fences if was not going to be a Grade 1 horse over hurdles.” A top class hurdler will be rated in the 170s and to win a Grade 1 a horse will normally need to at least be in the 160s so he’s potentially chucked in here off 141 – particularly as he looks like getting his favoured sound surface for the first time since joining the yard.

As you’d expect there are plenty of unexposed and talented types in this such as Pine Creek, Sametegal and Court Minstrel. It’s possible one of them could be even better handicapped than Cash And Go, but he sets a high bar and it wouldn’t astonish me if he hacked up. Although I rarely back favourites in handicap hurdles, I think he’s a big price given how much he may have in hand – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off much shorter.

The other race in open company that I’m looking forward to is the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday over 2m. Sire De Grugy is on a roll after beating Finian’s Rainbow at Sandown and then bolting up off 161 on his reappearance. The fascinating runner here is Kid Cassidy who is very headstrong but equally talented, and gets 10lb here. The problem with backing him is that you don’t know whether he’s going to be campaigned to see if he’s a Grade 1 horse or whether a 3rd crack at the Grand Annual is the plan. It looks a classic bet in-running race.

There will be some bubbles burst in the novice ranks this weekend. We don’t have prices at this stage so we’ll have to wait to see where the value lies but there’s a huge amount to look forward to. If I was going to guess the novice race I’ll have a bet on this weekend, it would be the Grade 2 novice chase over 2m at Cheltenham on Sunday. Many will look at the conditions and see 157 rated hurdler Raya Star and 154 rated hurdler Dodging Bullets getting in without a penalty for their wins on debut over fences, and look no further. I’m not convinced either will make as good chasers as hurdlers and am hoping Ted Veale will go off an attractive price. Trip and ground are ideal and this could be the first stepping stone towards the Arkle.

2m chases are the most specialist division and, whilst its disappointing that Jezki’s absence at Punchestown means AP MCoy goes to Cheltenham, I think Defy Logic will have too much toe for Felix Yonger in the Craddockstown on Sunday. The other Grade 2 novice chase at Punchestown is the Florida Pearl over 2m6f. It’ll be interesting to see how hype horse Don Cossack is priced up but in a cracking five runner race I fancy Morning Assembly who impressed when beating two of these here over 2f shorter last month. This step up in trip should suit ideally.

It’s interesting to see that Champagne Fever is starting his chasing career over 2½m at Punchestown on Saturday. With Our Vinnie and the highly regarded Marlbrook in the field he won’t have it all his own way. Back at Cheltenham tomorrow, Albert Bartlett runner up African Gold begins his chasing career (extended 3m,) taking on the penalised trio White Star Line, Le Bec and Shutthefrontdoor. I’m hopeful he’ll be up to the task.

There’s plenty of interest in the novice hurdle division as well over the weekend. In Ireland the much touted Faugheen begins his career over timber with a simple enough looking task in a maiden at Punchestown. It’s interesting he starts over 2m6f. At Cheltenham on Sunday, whilst the defection of the even more touted West Wizard is a pity, it still looks a cracking 4 runner Grade 2 over an extended 2m. I doubt this will be a race for betting on but whilst all 4 have claims, Sea Lord might well complete the 7 timer. There’s also Grade 2 novice hurdle action at Cheltenham on Saturday (2m5f) where Timesremembered bids to follow up an impressive win in the Persian War at Chepstow.

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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