With all of the big Festival trials having been run, and with most of the big bookmakers going non-runner no bet on a lot (if not all) of the races, now is the perfect time to have a final dip into the ante post markets.
In terms of our current portfolio, this is how things currently stand:
For those looking to win big, we’d suggest supplementing these selections with an each way Super Yankee or Canadian - some of the field sizes in the Grade 1 contests are likely to fall below eight runners, meaning now is the time to try to grab three each way places in those contests.
SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE
The majority of movement in the markets over the past few weeks has been in the novice events, where the Irish look to have a real stranglehold.
This was reinforced again this weekend, when a horse from Ireland’s second division of juvenile hurdlers, Nusret, ran away with Kempton’s Adonis Hurdle, crushing the hopes of our best chances in the Triumph Hurdle in the process.
However, we think one horse that can buck the trend is TAHMURAS, in the opening race of the Festival, the Supreme.
Paul Nicholls remains just about the only local trainer who can match Willie Mullins when it comes to targeting horses at the big races.
In recent seasons he seems to have adopted a policy of running fewer horses at Cheltenham, with the ones he does run being those he genuinely believes can compete, and Tahmuras has had this race as his aim since showing an impressive turn of foot to win the Tolworth in January.
Nicholls knows how to win this race and 14/1 looks a decent each way price.
BROWN ADVISORY NOVICES’ CHASE
When all of the focus at the end of January / early February was on Trials Day at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, one of the most impressive Festival trials was run by Gerri Colombe at Sandown, who looked a staying chaser to follow when storming up the hill there to win the Scilly Isles in decisive fashion.
He will take a lot of beating in the Brown Advisory next month but is probably one to back on the day.
This is one of the contests where there is likely to be a small field and this, coupled with the fact that Gerri Colombe currently dominates the market, means there is some each way value elsewhere, and the one we like is another British runner, THYME HILL (6/1).
This horse isn’t the biggest and his lack of scope seemed to let him down at Newbury in November, but he bounced back to form at Kempton on Boxing Day when thrashing McFabulous by 15 lengths.
He is a proven stayer and loves Cheltenham, as he showed when finishing runner up in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle. He was also a close fourth in arguably the best Albert Bartlett ever run in 2020.
That 2020 Albert Bartlett was won by Monkfish, with the ill-fated Latest Exhibition second, Fury Road third and Thyme Hill fourth.
That quartet pulled clear of Janidil with multiple winners like The Wolf, Foxy Jacks, Ramses De Teillee, Kiltealy Briggs and Lieutenant Rocco left trailing in their wake.
All in all, it was some race, but it unsurprisingly left its mark on a few of those who were in the firing line.
FURY ROAD was pipped in the closing stages that day and whilst he won his next race, his subsequent form over hurdles read 42PP.
A switch to fences has seen him gradually return to his best and there were real signs of more improvement in his effort behind Galopin Des Champs and Stattler at Leopardstown.
He was arguably travelling like the winner turning for home (as he was back in 2020) only to seem to fail to see out the three-mile trip. He fluffed the last as he was getting tired, otherwise he would have finished second, and a drop back to 2m 5f in the Ryanair should be perfect for him.
He runs in the colours of the sponsors who will be desperate to win their big race again and looks another good each way option at a best priced 7/1.
Nusret’s performance at Kempton on Saturday confirmed what we already knew, in that the Triumph Hurdle looks certain to be won by the Irish.
The bookmakers also think it will be dominated by Willie Mullins’, but it is Nusret’s stablemate, COMFORT ZONE (10/1), that interests us.
He won on Trials Day to back up his earlier success in Chepstow’s Finale Hurdle. He is a strong stayer over 2 miles and looks the ideal type for a fast run Triumph, where the Cheltenham hill might find out a few of his less battle-hardened rivals. We already know that he acts on the track.
CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
Both Cheltenham’s Trials Day and the Dublin Racing Festival featured genuine Gold Cup trials and Galopin Des Champs remains a warm favourite for the highlight of the Festival after his win at the latter.
He beat STATTLER (8/1) by 8 lengths that day, but there are reasons to think his stablemate can reverse that form when it really matters.
Stattler finished the race off really strongly at Leopardstown and the brutal test of a fast run Gold Cup will play to his strengths, as will the extra couple of furlongs.
He looks to have all of the attributes usually needed to win this great race and he has course and distance form to further advertise his credentials having won last season’s National Hunt Chase.
If for any reason you don’t fancy one of the above selections then the other option on our shortlist was I LIKE TO MOVE IT, who is currently 16/1 for the Champion Hurdle.
Unlike many of those close to him in the market for that race, he looks a certain runner and Constitution Hill’s presence could see as few as five or six horses go to post for the feature race on day one of the Festival.