A fine ride by young Kennedy got the best bet of the meeting Galvin home to give this blog 3 in a row for the Cheltenham Festival best bets. Galvin hardly knew he was in a race until halfway up the run in and won much more comfortably than it looked.
On to Wednesday, where I won’t oppose Monkfish or Chacun Pour Soi; they look rock solid. I will oppose Bob Olinger in the first, though.
1.20 The Ballymore
I like Bravemansgame a lot. He is climbing the improvement ladder several rungs at a time, while impressing in each race. He won the Grade One Challow Hurdle last time, cruising clear of the joint fav Star Gate after the last. That was on soft ground, but he has won on good. With the ground drying, that could prove vital against the very smart Bob Olinger, who has never run on good. I’ll back Bravemansgame with Skybet at 7/2. They offer cash back on losers in this race up to £10.
2.30 The Coral Cup
I think Nelson River is a daft price for this. He can be backed EW to 7 places with Betfair and Paddy Power at 100/1. As I write (late Tuesday) he sits at 169/1 on the Betfair exchange win only. I’ve taken both those options.
I first noted Nelson River in his juvenile campaign in 2019. The best he did that year was 4th in The Triumph. Last year he was beaten just over seven lengths in the Betfair Hurdle carrying 11.1 with a rating of 142. That rating has now dropped to 133. He carries 10.4 in this. His last run over hurdles was in early December, when he finished in midfield. He won on the all weather in early January then ran twice more on the AW without being sighted. He should be fit enough if good enough. This is his first run at this trip, and I believe he’ll be suited by it. My confidence was boosted further when I heard late last week from a very good judge that the yard was confident he’d run a big race.
Another I like here is Monte Cristo on whom I will count for a saver at around 12/1
3.05 Queen Mother Champion Chase
This will be the driest ground Chacun Pour Soi has encountered, but even that cannot put me off him. I used to think he had flaws in his jumping style, but it looks like he has eliminated them. I think there is good value in the betting with the fav market where 12/1 is available about Rouge Vif.
The key to Rouge Vif is good ground, and the way Cheltenham was drying on Tuesday, there’s a fair chance we will be close to his ideal come race time. He ran riot here in good ground in October off 156 in a handicap, looking every inch a future champ. But in his next race, the Tingle Creek, not only was the ground soft, but the yard had hit a slump. From mid November until the end of January, the yard sent out 53 runners without a winner. Since February 1st, Whittington has had 6 winners from 30 runners.
I’ll back him EW in this to 3 places at 12/1 without Chacun Pour Soi with Bet365.
3.40 Cross Country
I love watching these races, but would never bet more than a pound or two which, in this, will be going on Tiger Roll. I thought he looked much more his old self last time for 75% of the race. When he faded quickly I thought he had bled, but the trainer said he had just got tired. He’ll be fitter here, if not back to his best and I think he offers much better value than the odds on Easysland, who won this so well last year.
Easysland came back over in December to run in a handicap version of this and, to my eye, never looked like winning. His trainer blamed it on lack of fitness, but he looked well enough to me and the market didn’t reflect any weakness, sending him off at 8/11. I suspect the good ground had much more to do with that defeat and this drying surface might land him in trouble again.
The other I’ll have a pound on is Hogan’s Height. His best performance by far was in the Grand Sefton in 2019, when his trainer believes the first sight of the Grand National fences enthused the horse. He won by 16 lengths that day. He’s run only twice since, and this will be his first outing over non regulation fences since that Aintree victory. The ground should be okay for him. I’ll back him EW to 4 places at 25/1 with Bet365.
4.15 Grand Annual
I like Ibleo a lot, but this drying ground will cause frowns among his connections. He’s a game and improving horse and I won’t desert him. The next one I’ll back is Not That Fuisse with Harry Skelton aboard (though I never seem to catch him right, young Skelton). This horse has run well on the going and twice at this track. His last steeplechase was at Exeter in November, after which he had wind surgery. Since then he has been 2nd on the all weather before winning a jumper’s bumper last time at Newcastle.
The final selection is On The Slopes, another well suited by the drying ground. After a good run behind Rouge Vif here in October, he was made favourite in a Class 2 Chase over this trip and track in November; he disappointed that day, weakening quickly, and was given wind surgery a week later. He reappeared five weeks ago at Kempton in a jumper’s bumper to finish 3rd of 4. I’m hoping he’ll be one of those who only begins to show the benefits of a wind operation on the second run after it.
4.50 Champion Bumper
I treat bumpers the same way I do juvenile hurdles, and avoid them. Too many improvers. But I am going to dabble here on Chemical Energy, on the belief that he is certain to love the better ground (cruised clear on good on his debut) and that Kilcruit is not sure to enjoy drying ground as much, if at all. Chemical Energy was 4th to Kilcruit last time out, though beaten a long way. But the going was soft to heavy and I’ll be surprised if he is not a lot closer this time. I’m backing him EW at 40/1 to 4 places with Paddy Power.
1.20 Bravemansgame 7/2 NAP 3RD
1.55 Monkfish WON 1/4
2.30 Nelson River EW 7places at 100/1 UNPLACED & Monte Cristo 12/1 – UNPLACED
3.05 EW Rouge Vif 12/1 without the fav PULLED UP
3.40 Tiger Roll 11/2 (Hills) – WON – Hogan’s Height EW 4 places 25/1 Bet365 -6TH
4.15 Ibleo 11/1 – 3RD: Not That Fuisse 20/1 – 4TH: On The Slopes 20/1 – 5TH
4.50 Chemical Energy EW 4 places 40/1 Paddy Power UNPLACED
Good luck, and remember to go easy with the stakes. It’ll help you enjoy it more.
PROFIT/LOSS TO £1 UNIT STAKE: £16 STAKED/£7.75 RETURNED: LOSS OF £8.25