A quick look at every antepost bet advised for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, split into those whom are now shorter in the betting, those whom are now bigger in the betting, and those whom will not be taking their chance for one reason or another.
SHORTER (In race order):
1pt win Ballyadam to win any race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival at 14/1 (currently 8/1)
Ballyadam won his first two starts over hurdles including the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in November, however, he was undeniably disappointing when placing fourth in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. That said, you could easily argue that his performance was too bad to be true and it’s possible that he is another Gordon Elliott trained horse who wasn’t firing on all cylinders this festive season. Jumping certainly appears to be his achilles heel at present. However, there is plenty of time to work on that issue and it’s fair to say that the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, it that indeed remains the target, is far from the strongest contest on paper at this stage, with only Appreciate It and Meteir currently impressing. Therefore he is no forlorn hope just yet.
1pt win Captain Guinness in the Sporting Life Arkle at 25/1 (currently 20/1)
Captain Guinness made an inauspicious start to life over fences when pulling-up abruptly mid race at Tipperary. Found to have suffered an irregular heartbeat on that occasion, Henry De Bromhead’s promising five-year-old returned to action at Punchestown in December and made light work of the 142 rated hurdler Midnight Run, jumping well en route to a comfortable four-and-three-quarter-lengths success. That was much more like it and although Shishkin is very much the one to beat judged on what we have seen thus far, I’m happy enough to be on Henry’s horse at 25/1.
1pt win Saint Roi in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at 20/1 (currently 12/1)
It was obviously disappointing that Saint Roi couldn’t justify favouritism at Leopardstown over Christmas, especially as Epatante’s Christmas Hurdle defeat seemingly left the door ajar for a challenger in the division. I wouldn’t entirely give up on last season’s County Hurdle winner just yet as we know that he likes Cheltenham and remains open to improvement. However, he clearly needs to take a big step forwards on what he has achieved thus far.
0.5pt win Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at 25/1 – 1pt win Bob Olinger to win any race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival at 16/1 (currently 10/1 & 8/1)
While Ferny Hollow’s injury has put paid to my antepost wager for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, it has allowed the mightily impressive Appreciate It to go down the 2 mile route, which is certainly good news for our bets on Bob Olinger. Obviously we still have the comfort blanket of our ‘any race’ wager at 16/1, however, I think he has the perfect blend of speed and stamina for the Ballymore and as impressive as antepost favourite Bravemansgame was in winning the Challow Hurdle at Newbury, he could just give Bob Olinger the perfect to into this race, which is often settled by a turn of foot rather than stamina. His runner-up effort behind Ferny Hollow was encouraging and he won as he should against inferior opposition at Navan. The Robcour owned six-year-old holds an entry in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday, which will obviously tell us a lot more should he indeed take his chance.
1pt win The Big Getaway in the RSA Chase at 25/1 (currently 20/1)
The Big Getaway was very disappointing on his chasing debut at Navan but bounced back with an impressive performance at Leopardstown over Christmas. Last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle third jumped well and ran out an easy 10 lengths winner with decent types in behind, and although that was over two-miles-and-five-furlongs and Paul Townend was quick to suggest that that may prove to be his trip, I can’t help but wonder if those comments may be different if a certain Monkfish wasn’t also in the yard. I remain convinced that this fellow could be top class over 3 miles and hope that the presence of Monkfish doesn’t push The Big Getaway towards the Marsh.
1.5pt win Sir Gerhard in the Champion Bumper at 20/1 (currently 11/4)
Sir Gerhard has won both of his bumper starts to date and is currently the 11/4 favourite for the Champion Bumper in March after defeating promising dual scorer Letsbeclearaboutit in Listed company at Navan prior to Christmas. Connections have already stated that he will follow the Envoi Allen path to Cheltenham and will therefore have his next outing in the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. His turn of foot at Navan was particularly impressive given the testing conditions and I think it’s fair to say that he will be seen to best effect on a sounder surface, which will allow him to fully utilise his impressive range of gears. He is clearly a very exciting prospect is it’s exciting to have him on the antepost team at 20/1.
1.5pts each-way The Bosses Oscar in the Pertemps Final at 20/1 (currently 8/1)
The Bosses Oscar has been on my radar for quite some time and regular readers may remember that I advised backing him antepost for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last season, when rewarding each-way support in finishing fifth. From that day onwards I was convinced that the Pertemps Final would be the plan this season and he is now the 8/1 favourite after qualifying at Leopardstown over Christmas. The Bosses Oscar won over a trip just shy of two-miles-and-seven-furlongs at Thurles in October before placing second behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Flooring Porter at Navan in December. It’s worth noting that the Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown was run in a time 2.3 seconds quicker than the Grade 1 won by the aforementioned Flooring Porter just half an hour later, and a subsequent 5lbs rise in Ireland (now 143) will likely see him run off a mark in the mid to high 140’s at Cheltenham. Further improvement is almost guaranteed and you could almost mark up his effort at Leopardstown given the questionable form of the Elliott runners.
1pt win Thyme Hill in the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at 20/1 + 1pt win at 16/1 (currently 4/1)
Thyme Hill was very impressive when mastering Paisley Park in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, and he was far from disgraced when placing second behind the former champion in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last month. Philip Hobbs’ charge was keen in the early stages at Ascot and often gave his hurdles plenty of air. However, that was just his sixth start over hurdles and just his third run over three miles, therefore it’s fair to presume that he is still perfecting his jumping technique and he clearly remains open to further improvement over staying trips. I also wonder whether horse and jockey were so focussed on Roksana on the stand side that they were caught cold by the fast finishing Paisley Park on his outside. Indeed, it’s safe to say that Richard Johnson’s frustration was clear for all to hear! The Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham Trails Day remains an option, however, his master trainer has already revealed that he could go straight to the Festival. Either way, I remain incredibly optimistic about his prospects in the Stayers Hurdle.
1pt each-way Heross Du Seuil in the Triumph Hurdle at 40/1 (currently 25/1)
Heross Du Seuil was keen, green and wasn’t always fluent when making a successful hurdling debut at Kempton over Christmas, however, he should have learned plenty from that outing. Honneur D’Ajonc led when crashing out at the final flight of hurdles and it’s obviously impossible to know what would have happened had he stood up. However, Heross Du Seuil was staying on well – an asset that will serve him well at Cheltenham – and I do tend to agree with Nico De Boinville that he may have just about come out on top regardless. Zanahiyr is clearly a very worthy favourite and French Aseel and Quilixios have been visually impressive. However, no trainer can better Nicky Henderson’s seven victories in this race and Heross Du Seuil is currently the stable’s number one contender. It will be interesting to see how he gets on when next gracing the racetrack.
2pt win Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 14/1 (currently 10/1)
Minella Indo won comfortably at Wexford and Navan before falling in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, when sent off the 5/2 favourite. Al Boum Photo naturally commands respect and I was very impressed by A Plus Tard, who will provide Henry De Bromhead with a strong second string to his bow. However, Minella Indo possesses all of the attributes to be a big player in Cheltenham’s blue ribband contest and he clearly goes very well in the Cotswolds. He ran out a good winner of the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Cheltenham’s new course and I remain very keen on his prospects if none the worse for his fall.
2pts each-way Wide Receiver in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at 12/1 (currently 10/1)
Wide Receiver split subsequent impressive Grade 2 winner Ashdale Bob and facile Limerick scorer Shadow Rider when placing second over two-and-half-miles at Navan in November, and both that effort and his style of running suggests that he will be much better suited by intermediate trips, in spite of his festive success over the minimum distance. Indeed, it was a shrewd piece of planning to earn a rise in the weights over a trip arguably short of his best, and i am firmly of the opinion that he will relish stepping back-up in distance on a course that already puts an increased emphasis on stamina. Gordon Elliott has won this race twice in the last four year’s – with Champagne Classic in 2017 and Blow By Blow in 2018 – and was also responsible for runner-up Dallas Des Pictons in 2019. All three of those horses carried the familiar silks of Gigginstown House Stud – who have also plundered this prize with subsequent Grade 1 winners Sir Des Champs (2011) and Don Poli (2014) – and Wide Receiver looks likely to be their main hope this spring.
BIGGER (In race order):
1pt win Abacadabras in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at 10/1 + 1pt win at 7/1 (currently 16/1)
Abacadabras clearly needed the run when defeated in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle at Down Royal in October, and it perhaps wasn’t as disappointing as first thought given how well Aspire Tower, who received 6lbs, performed in the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown. Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up deserves credit for his success in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown as the race wasn’t run to suit and he hit the front much sooner than ideal. His fifth placed effort in the Matheson Hurdle was clearly disappointing, however, a number of Gordon Elliott’s big hitters ran below par over the festive period and Abacadabras was found to have mucus in his trachea post race. Therefore I would be inclined to forgive that poor showing and I am still firmly of the opinion that he will be seen to best effect when chasing a ferocious pace in the Champion Hurdle.
1pt win Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at 25/1 (currently 33/1)
Chantry House looked better the further that he went at Ascot before disappointing at Cheltenham in December. He has undergone a small operation on his back since his trip to the Cotswolds and will hopefully be back in action soon. However, on what we have seen thus far, he will need to bounce back to his very best in order to feature in what could prove to be a classy renewal of the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
1.5pt win Queens Brook in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1 (currently 25/1)
Last season’s Champion Bumper third defeated two promising types on her hurdling debut at Fairyhouse and was only beaten a head by subsequent easy Listed scorer Skyace in Grade 3 company at Down Royal next time out. There was certainly no shame in finishing third behind the classy Concertista at Puchestown in December and she is clearly open to further improvement after just 3 outings over timber. However, it does appear that she needs further than 2 miles to be seen to best effect, and is now a 25/1 shot for this contest. While this race remains an option, I wonder if connections may be tempted to try and take advantage of the 7lbs mares allowance in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle or even the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle come the spring.
1.5pts each-way Holymacapony in the Albert Bartlett Novices‘ Hurdle at 20/1 (currently 33/1)
Point-to-point winner Holymacapony was mightily impressive on his hurdling debut at Punchestown in November when proving 8 lengths too good for the Willie Mullins trained Gaillard Du Mesnil, who himself ran out an impressive 9.5 lengths winner at Leopardstown over Christmas. Henry De Bromhead’s five-year-old was sent off a strong 7/4 favourite in Grade 2 company at Navan prior to Christmas and all looked to be going to plan before he stopped quickly on the approach to three out. Clearly that wasn’t his true running and I am hopeful that he can bounce back prior to March. He is now available at 33/1 and I have certainly not given up hope.
GONE (in race order):
1.5pt win Ferny Hollow in the Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 12/1
Suffered a setback and will miss the Cheltenham Festival.
1pt win Aione in the National Hunt Chase at 33/1
Suffered a setback and will remain over hurdles this season.
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