The Fire Of Temptation

The Fire Of Temptation

Of all my failings as a punter, discipline isn’t generally a problem. Unlike those for whom racing is just horses running round in a field if they don’t have a bet, I love the sport. I can go racing, not have a bet and enjoy it. I’ve always thought it’s that love of the sport that helps me be patient and wait for the right betting opportunities.

However, try as I might, I can’t resist backing Arctic Fire (16/1) for the County Hurdle. There are plenty of reasons to wait. Firstly, he’s really ground dependent – he must have decent ground. The drying forecast is encouraging, and with the race being on the Friday the ground may well be at it’s quickest then. However, there are still 10 days to go and weather forecasts that far out are notoriously unreliable. We saw last year how rain on Gold Cup day made the ground really soft because of the high water table. If that happens again, Arctic Fire would have little chance – which ought to be reason enough to wait until the morning of the race.

The second reason is more difficult in the context of a column putting up tips. Arctic Fire is a really buzzy character, (races in a hood) and it remains to be seen how he takes the razzamatazz of the Festival. Ruby will need to be at his best to get him switched off so he can use his turn of foot late on. It would be better to be making a decision whether to back him after seeing how he takes the preliminaries. For those who like betting in running, watching how he settles in the first half mile or so is probably an even better way to play it.

And that’s before we get to the opposition. The handicapper seems to have had a bit of a blind spot with last year’s Bumper 2nd Regal Encore, (8/1). On the face of it, he’s been a bit disappointing over hurdles but he won a weak event cosily on his 2nd run and was trying to give 7lb to Seeyouatmidnight last time. Given that Seeyouatmidnight is now rated 155 and Regal Encore was only beaten 2l, it doesn’t take a genius to believe he might be chucked in off 130.

In Regal Encore’s case the problem connections have is that they’ve got him too well handicapped and he might not get a run. Whilst 130 would have got a run in several recent renewals, for the last two years the cut off has been 132. He’s also in the Martin Pipe over an extended 2m4f, (he looked to stay well enough in the Bumper, so the Martin Pipe might be his race,) but 130 wouldn’t have got in that for the last 2 years either. Regal Encore therefore heads for the Imperial Cup to get a 5lb penalty. If all goes well he could clearly win the County, but what could be a hard race in testing ground on Saturday first isn’t ideal, and he might go for the Martin Pipe anyway.

Regal Encore fits into the category of a classy horse that hasn’t yet shown his form over hurdles. The other 3 I fear most are the other typical type of winner – those who haven’t been able to show their class recently. First up is Montbazon (25/1) who I fancied at big prices for the Champion Hurdle at the start of last season, only for him to miss the whole campaign with a setback. Alan King had reported him a bit babyish as a novice and that he was the sort that he’d expect to improve a lot as he matures. Given he was leading the Supreme field coming to the last but wasn’t quite streetwise enough at the business end, that maturity might make a mockery of a mark of 140. He travelled well for a long way on his return after nearly 2 years off in the Betfair Hurdle on unsuitably soft ground. However, he was beaten 46l in the end and hasn’t yet proved he retains his ability.

Cheltenian (14/1) is another on the comeback trail. He won the 2011 Bumper in good style, having previously given Montbazon 10lb and beaten him at Kempton. After 2 years off injured he returned in a hot novice at Doncaster last February, when splitting the now 144 rated Minella Forfitness and Arkle fancy Valdez, (albeit getting 6lb from the former and 10lb from the latter.) It was too big an ask in a vintage Supreme at that stage, but he returned this season with a facile win at Uttoxeter, before a good 4l 4th off 134 in the Betfair. That was his first experience of a competitive handicap, he should have learnt lots from it and he still looks nicely in off 137. He won the Bumper on good but his breeding suggests he’ll be best with plenty of cut.

Having put up Cash And Go (33/1) for the last two renewals of the Greatwood, he’s in danger of becoming a cliff horse. He’s clearly had plenty of issues but Nicky Henderson has described him being potentially a Grade 1 horse and, if he can put it all together on the big day, then he’s much better than a mark of 138. The likely drying ground will really suit him and he’s one to consider once we’ve seen how the vibes are nearer the day.

There will be obviously be a stack of other dangers too, but having been through the race I really think that if Arctic Fire puts it all together he could be chucked in off 141. All season I’ve been convinced he was the best horse in the Royal Bond. I wouldn’t be over-critical of David Casey as Arctic Fire is clearly headstrong and he was presumably instructed to try and get him settled at the back. However, he got into all sorts of trouble in the straight in a steadily run race, and when he got some daylight he flew home showing much the best turn of foot, going down by 1½l. If he’d beaten The Tullow Tank that day he’d be at least 10lb higher here.

The British handicapper hasn’t been totally fooled and has upped him 3lb from his Irish mark to 141 but I think if he was with any other stable he’d be in the Supreme. However, the same owners have Wicklow Brave. I’m not convinced Wicklow Brave is the better of the two, but he is the more straightforward and, with both looking 2 milers, you can understand why Arctic Fire is being aimed at the County where the big field and fast pace should suit ideally. He hasn’t had the benefit of Ruby riding since he won his maiden, and that can make all the difference here.

Given that he is ground dependent and might run his race in the preliminaries, he’s not the type that’s guaranteed to run his race. He’s therefore not an each way steal, he’s a win only bet. However, if he goes the right way, I think he might be a Grade 1 horse in open company on decent ground next season – and if all the horses produce their best here, I reckon he’s the winner of this.

It’s great that you can watch Festival previews online these days and on Monday night at the Direct Aid For Africa event in Galway, the forthright Patrick Mullins was very bullish about his chances, making him clearly Closutton’s best handicap chance of the week. I also can’t get out of my mind Willie Mullins comment at Christmas that “lots of people think Arctic Fire is the best novice hurdler around,” (before prophesising correctly that he wouldn’t handle soft ground at Leopardstown).

I doubt any trainer has ever brought a more powerful overall squad to the Festival than Willie Mullins does this year. If he dominates the week, especially in the novice divisions, then I can see Arctic Fire being a 4/1 favourite for this – so I’m giving in to temptation and getting stuck in now.

1pt Arctic Fire to win the County Hurdle @ 16/1

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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.


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 - 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 - 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