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Fridays Tips & Previews

It's the final day and what a festival we have had so far. It's been the usual tough going at times but we hope you've managed to some find some winners through the week. We end with the Gold Cup day and the festivals showpiece. It will be packed out and there will no doubt be plenty of green on show for St Patricks Day as the Irish will look to close out another successful week. So for one final time, lets take a look at each of the races and see if we can go out with a few winners for you here on The Cheeky Punts



Friday 17th March


1:30 Triumph Hurdle, 2m 1f


The Stats

  • Irish trained horses have won 7 of the last 10 renewals of the contest

  • Nicky Henderson has a cracking record in the race, winning it a record 7 times previously

  • 9 of the last 14 winners of the race were unbeaten coming into the Triumph at the festival

  • Since the introduction of the Boodles handicap hurdle, favourites have a great record winning 4 of the last 8 renewals, which would have been increased further had Goshen not fallen at the last and Sir Erec suffering a fatal injury also

  • All of the previous 16 winners had less than 7 career starts over hurdles

  • 15 of the last 16 winners were rated 139+

  • 14 of the last 15 winners had finished 1st or 2nd in their final outing before Cheltenham

  • 14 of the last 16 winners had been either bred in France or Ireland

Last 5 Winners

2022 Vauban

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 6/4f


2021 Quilixios

Henry De Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore 2/1


2020 Burning Victory

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 12/1


2019 Pentland Hills

Nicky Henderson/Nico De Boinville 20/1


2018 Farclas

Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy 9/1


Verdict


As we seem to have said numerous times this week, this week revolves around the Closutton yard of Willie Mullins who is responsible for the top 4 in the betting.


He won the race last year with Vauban and it is hard to see who is going to stop the trophy heading back over the Irish sea this year.

Lossiemouth represents the same connections as Vauban from last season and has headed this market for the majority of the season such is the reputation she was held in before joining Mullins from France.


It is worth noting that she gets the mares allowances from Blood Destiny and therefore carries 7lb less and is very significant that the trainer has added the blinkers for the first time which could bring further improvement. She looked very unlucky last time out when beaten by Gala Marceau at the DRF (a horse she had beaten 7 ½ lengths previously) and would fancy her to finish ahead of that stable mate once again this afternoon.


It would be well worth keeping a close eye on the market in the build up to this opener as those within the Mullins yard must know how the top 4 in the betting compare at home – also if there had been any issues travelling over or in the build up and that will be reflected in the price of their runners.


I have a feeling the yard feel Blood Destiny could be the best of the four, and would be no surprise if is well backed throughout the morning. Though his jumping wasn't as fluent as ideal when last seen at Fairyhouse, his class really shone and the winning speed figure of this effort and on debut at Cork were the best we have seen prior to the festival. The ground will be no issue and is sure to go very close indeed.

Zenta could be the dark horse for owner JP McManus, totally unexposed with just one run on Irish soil this season he really could be anything. Though she didn’t jump great on debut you can put this down to inexperience and would expect a great deal of improvement for this afternoon’s contest. Another that will love the softer ground as won well in very soft conditions in France, certainly a horse for your trackers no matter what sort of performance she puts up today. The horse behind Zenta on debut was Hypotenus for John McConnell, so the same comments apply for him and wouldn’t be a total surprise if seen improving past rivals to the top of the market also.


As mentioned above the British seem to be up against it, the best of them may be Jipcot for trainer Ben Pauling who is making his UK debut and rumoured to be working really well at home. If you remember Pauling had ‘Bad’ really well backed for the Boodles earlier in the week and the vibes from the yard is Jipcot is working better so could be another that could be well backed at bigger prices.


Blood Destiny 2/1

Zenta Each-way 12/1 (4 places Unibet)

 

2:10 County Handicap Hurdle, 2m 1f

The Stats

  • There has only been 3 winning favourites since 2017

  • Only 1 winner since 2011 that wasn't rated at least 134

  • 5 yr olds have an excellent record in the race winning 48% of the renewals, 12 winners in the last 25 years

  • Once again, Willie Mullins has a fantastic record winning the race 6 times. Also worth noting Dan Skelton runners, having won the race 3 times already in his short training career

  • 18 of the past 20 winners were novices or second season hurdler

  • 15 of the last 22 winners were actually running at the festival for the first time

  • Horses making their handicap debuts do not actually have a great record, with just 2 winners from 89 runners

  • 13 of the last 14 winners were rated 134+

  • 12 of the last 16 winners were placed in the top 3 in their prep run for the festival

Last 5 Winners

2022 State Man

Willie Mullins/ Paul Townend 11/4f


2021 Belfast Banter

Peter Fahey/Keith Sexton 33/1


2020 Saint Roi

Willie Mullins/Barry Geraghty 11/2f


2019 Ch’tibello

Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton 12/1


2018 Mohaayed

Dan Skelton/ Bridget Skelton 33/1


Verdict


Probably the hardest puzzle of the week to work out, so as advised earlier in the week it would be worthwhile to draw up a shortlist at fair prices rather fully bank on just the one runner.


The top of my shortlist is a horse that I did back ante-post for this race when the weights were announced and that is Pembroke, for trainer Dan Skelton who did us a favour earlier in the week with another handicap hurdler, Langer Dan. Pembroke looks the ideal type for this race and can see why has been popular in the week leading up to the festival. The 6 yr old put up a massive performance on the clock when winning at Ludlow by 16lengths back in December and was all the rage for the Grade 2 Hurdle at the track at the end of January but just got outstayed by a proper stayer in Rock My Way.


The handicapper has given him a mark of just 136 on the back of this and with Skelton adding the blinkers for the first time everything looks spot on for another big effort.


Gin Coco is also one that is sure to be popular. Trainer Harry Fry is a very shrewd cookie and has put Gin Coco away since only finding I Like to Move It too good in the Greatwood Hurdle back in November. The winner was last seen running in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday and with Gin Coco only going up 4lbs for this effort over course and distance he has to be a major player.

Filey Bay is sure to be popular and could be subject of major support again for JP McManus and trainer Emmet Mullins. The progressive 7yr old was all the rage in the build up to the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury where he only found Aucunrisque too good (the winner goes in this also so needs respecting), but needs marking up for that run as had to make up hell of a lot of ground on the front runner and would expect to reverse the form this time around. He is up just 4lb for the run and little doubt there is much more to come.

One at much bigger prices one that I think could outrun his price is First Street for the Lambourn yard of Nicky Henderson and certainly wouldn't dismiss his chances from a mark of 152. He has been putting up massive figures on the clock and though was beat 17 lengths at Wincanton last time this surely was not his true running – he was backed into favourite that day and clearly disappointed and could be significant that Henderson has had his wind worked on since.


You only have to look back to last year when was second in the race to non other than State Man who chased home Constitution Hill on Tuesday and though 10lbs higher today I still expect another bold effort.


Pembroke, Each-way 8/1 (6 places)

First Street, Each-way, 18/1 (6 places)

 

2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, 3m

The Stats

  • The SP favourite have not won this race since 2013

  • Often pays to look away from the top of the market, with the average returned SP of the last 9 winners is around 22/1

  • Horses aged 6 or 7 have won 15 of the 18 renewals, Unowwhatimeanharry is the only 8yr old to win this contest back in 2016

  • 14 of the last 16 winners had been rated 135 or more, 11 of these being rated 140+. May prove beneficial to side with those already achieving big ratings.

  • Only 7 of the last 12 winners had won their prep run. 11 of the 12 were placed in the top 3 in this run though.

  • 14 of the last 16 winners had 4 or less runs that season

  • 12 of the last 14 winners had run over at least 2m6f

Last 5 Winners

2022 The Nice Guy

Willie Mullins/Sean O’Keeffe 18/1


2021 Vanillier

Gavin Cromwell/ Mark Walsh 14/1


2020 Monkfish

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 5/1


2019 Minella Indo

Henry De Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore 50/1


2018 Kilbricken Storm

Colin Tizzard/Harry Cobden 33/1


Verdict


This is going to be a real test of stamina, even more so if the forecasted rain continues to hit Prestbury Park so the first place you would need to look is those with proven stamina.


My selection ante-post for this contest was Hiddenvalley Lake, and though was beat last time out by stable-mate Monty’s Star I strongly fancy him to reverse that form and would be a solid each-way option for this competitive heat. The winning time when beating Cool Survivor at Cork before the Christmas period was very impressive indeed, and with the trainer applying the tongue tie for the first time I can see him reproducing that level of form and should go very close.


Favori De Champdou is another Irish raider that I would want on my side as very much looks the type to go on and be a Graded staying chaser, the profile of horse that is often successful in this race in previous years. There is no doubt he will love conditions and I was very encouraged that connections decided to go for this championship race rather than take advantage of the handicap mark of just 141 which would surely have been the easier option.


Many judges have put up Corbett's Cross for this race and I can certainly see why, but just looks on the short side for me now and happy to leave alone in terms of backing him this afternoon. It is noteworthy that JP McManus got his cheque book out again to buy this 6 yr old (in the same way he bought the Champion Bumper winner A Dream To Share in the build up to the festival) and really must be a hugely talented individual as had the speed to win when dropped back to 2miles last time out having won over 3miles previously. A horse with a massive future.


Three Card Brag will be popular for Max McNeil and I feel the softer the ground gets the bigger his chance. This is a real plodder, classy but stamina in abundance and will be seen doing all his best work at the business end. McNeil was the previous owner of Seddon who did us a nice turn yesterday so will be hoping to go one better himself this afternoon.


At much bigger prices I can give a good mention to another Willie Mullins trained horse Shanbally Kid who looks the type to stay longer than the mother in law and has a very strong form line when beat Monty's Star at Navan last time out. I am sure he will outrun his current price.


Hiddenvalley Lad, Each-Way – 8/1 (5 places)

Favori De Champdou, Each-way – 10/1 (5 places)

 

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup, 3m 2 1/2f

The Stats

  • 15 of the last 16 winners had been aged 7-9yrs old

  • Only 1 winner in the last 25years was aged 10+

  • 14 of the last 16 winners had 3 or less runs that season prior to the Gold Cup

  • 12 of the last 16 winners were rated 166+ coming into the festival

  • 12 of the last 16 winners also won their previous start prior to the Gold Cup

  • 12 of the last 15 winners ran at the previous years festival and placed in a Grade 1 chase

  • 16 of the past 20 winners were in the top three in the betting

  • 12 of the past 19 winners had no run after January 1st prior to the Gold Cup – coming in fresh is clearly a big pointer

  • Only one British trainer has won the race since 2016

Last 5 Winners

2022 A Plus Tard

Henry De Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore 3/1f


2021 Minella Indo

Henry De Bromhead/Jack Kennedy 9/1


2020 Al Boum Photo

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 10/3f


2019 Al Boum Photo

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 12/1


2018 Native River

Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson 5/1


Verdict


This could be a race to remember for many years to come and from a punters point of view really revolves around one horse – the Willie Mullins trained Galopin Des Champs.

It really is the age old question of ‘Are you with the favourite or against’ when looking at this race and certainly wouldn’t knock anyone for being on either side of the fence.


The 7yr-old could be an absolute superstar, he has always been held in this highest regard in the Mullins’s yard and is hard to forget last year when thrashing Bob Olinger before slipping on landing with the race at his mercy. Many people have doubted his stamina over this trip but he did not look to be stopping over a strongly run 3miles at Leopardstown last time out and can see why he is such a warm order for the week’s highlight.


If I was backing him I might be looking to put a lay in the system as the worry would be if he might not get up the hill if they do go a proper gallop, but no surprise to see him win and win well, but personally will look for value elsewhere and let him win at the price.


In the build up to the festival I could not believe the price of last year’s winner A Plus Tard but the market has corrected itself now and looks just about the right price. He was one of the most impressive winners of the race we have seen in recent years when beating stable-mate Minella Indo by 15 lengths last year and if anywhere near that level of form this afternoon will take some serious stopping. You might know your fate early, as he never looked comfortable when beat at Haydock last time out and should he be seen jumping well from fence to fence he must have a massive chance once again.


I really like Noble Yeats for place claims, last year’s Grand National winner is a real stayer and though may be seen under the cosh for the majority of the contest is likely to be staying on best and may pass sitting ducks on the run-in.

Bravesmansgame was an impressive winner of the King George at Christmas, but I feel this is a very different kettle of fish and will need to improve further to figure here. Trainer Paul Nicholls had a nice winner with Stage Star yesterday so must have his string in good order but I am happy to look elsewhere at the current prices.


The ground has gone against Hewick and would be no surprise to see him announced a Non Runner with the trainer keeping him fresh for the Grand National later in the season, but one at huge prices I do like and looks a value selection is Sounds Russian, for northern trainer Ruth Jefferson. He was a big eye-catcher behind Ahoy Senor last time out and had things worked out differently could have been a good winner of that contest, and with conditions likely to suit much better today I cannot understand why one firm has put him up as a 40/1 shot.


With some firms paying the 5 first 5 home he could offer some value in the days highlight.


Noble Yeats, Each-way 11/1 (5 places)

Sounds Russian, Each-way 33/1 (4 places) 40/1 (3 places)

 

4:10 St James Fox hunters, 3m 2 1/2f

The Stats

  • The last 8 winners of the race have been aged 10 or 11

  • Irish trained runners have won 11 of the last 16 running's of the race

  • 11 of the last 14 winners had won at least 2 races under rules

  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run at least 6 times over fences

  • Form in the race is important, with 6 winner featuring in the race previously and finished in the top 5 places in previous years renewals

  • 14 of the last 17 winners have an official rating of 125+

  • Paul Nicholls and Enda Bolger are the only trainers to have more than one winner in the last decade and their entries are always worth a second look

Last 5 Winners

2022 Billaway

Willie Mullins/Patrick Mullins 13/8f


2021 Porlock Bay

Will Biddick/Lorcan Williams 16/1


2020 It Came To Pass

Eugene O’Sullivan/Maxine O’Sullivan 66/1


2019 Hazel Hill

Phillip Rowley/Alex Edwards 7/2f


2018 Pacha Due Polder

Paul Nicholls/Miss H C Tucker 25/1


Verdict


Not a discipline I will pretend to have a great knowledge of from a form perspective so certainly not a race that I will be getting stuck into from a punting point of view.


The obvious place to start is Vaucelet for trainer David Christie who excels with his Hunter Chasers and the trainer was just denied last year with Winged Leader. The trainer has also been very bullish in the build up to the festival and those in the know seem very confident he is the one they all have to beat.


Personally I think Chris’s Dream could be the value for trainer Henry De Bromhead and owners Robcour and seems under estimated in the market. This is a horse that was sent off 20/1 for the Gold Cup just 3 seasons back and assistant trainer (former jockey) Robbie Power seems very sweet on his chances back into Hunter chases.


Last year’s winner Billaway is sure to be popular but is not one for those faint hearted. He is not an easy ride at all and the type that will trade much bigger in the run itself if you do play on the Betting Exchanges. I am sure he will look the winner, and then look to have no chance at all at different periods of the contest and sure to run another big race but happy to look elsewhere.


At much bigger prices I am surprised to see Dorking Cock priced quite as big as he is. He gave likely favourite Vaucelet a big shock last time out at Down Royal, going down by just a neck in defeat and with his shrewd trainer going for the headgear it is easy to make a case that he is well overpriced currently.


Chris’s Dream, Each-way 9/1 (4 places)

Dorking Cock, Each-way 20/1 (4 places)

 

4:50 Mares Chase, 2m 4 1/2f

The Stats

  • Willie Mullins has won both renewals of the race to date

  • Both winners were obviously Irish Trained

  • Both winners were either favourite, or 2nd favourite

Last 5 Winners* (Only 2 renewals)

2022 Elimay

Willie Mullins/Mark Walsh 9/4


2021 Colreevy

Willie Mullins/Paul Townend 9/4

Verdict


One of my best ante-post positions goes in this contest – Impervious was my selection in the build up to the festival and lucky enough to have backed her at 5/1, and despite being obviously biased with that coupon sat in my pocket I still honestly feel she is the most likely winner of this contest and am tempted to go back in again this afternoon.


Trainer Colm Murphy does really well with Mares, and this 7 yr old really caught my eye back at the start of December when beating Dinoblue 3 lengths which was backed up by the smart figure on the clock also. She jumps wonderfully and would be a strong selection if reproducing that level of form this afternoon.


The main danger and likely favourite is Allegorie De Vassy for trainer Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci and it is easy to see why she is popular. She also is unbeaten over fences but there is a big doubt over her reproducing that level of form at the track as she does jump violently to the right. This is not ideal at Cheltenham as we saw last year with Mount Ida and then again with Gaelic Warrior earlier in the week and may give vital ground away at each obstacle. She may have enough class to get away with it in most renewals, but against the likes of Impervious I am happy to take her on.


At much bigger prices Riviere D’etel should be respected as has always been well regarded and the yard feel she is coming back to somewhere near her best. With the headgear applied for the first time she could be the value against the two heading the market.


Jeremy's Flame is consistent but doesn’t win as often as you would like for a race of this nature, and I would slightly prefer the chances of Magic Daze who is a free going front runner and may get the run of things on the front end. That said, I do strongly fancy Impervious and given an error free round really should take some stopping.


Impervious 2/1

 

5:30 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, 2m 4 1/2f

The Stats

  • The SP favourite has not won the race since 2011

  • Age is very important in this contest, 8 yr-olds have not won the race despite having 59 runners, only 2 7 yr-olds have won the race in its history and has been dominated by 5 & 6yr olds

  • Weight is also a strong pointer – 95 horses carrying less than 11st have tried to score without registering a winner, and all winners of the race have carried more than 11st. 4 of the last 5 winners carried at least 11st 9lb

  • Sir Des Champs in 2011 is the only winning favourite of the race to date

  • All of the last 8 winners had run in less than 4 handicap hurdles

  • 7 of the last 9 winners were Irish trained

  • The bigger yards have excellent record in the race and their entries need to be monitored closely, Willie Mullins winning the race 4 times, Gordon Elliott twice and Joseph O’Brien twice

  • Despite the race being named after his Father, David Pipe is yet to taste victory in the race from sending out 22 runners

  • 8 of the last 12 winners were 11/1 or bigger

  • 11 of the 12 winners ran within the previous 55 days

Last 5 Winners

2022 Banbridge

Jospeh O’Brien/M M McDonagh 12/1


2021 Galopin Des Champs

Willie Mullins/Sean O’Keeffe 8/1


2020 Indefatigable

Paul Webber/Rex Dingle 25/1


2019 Early Doors

Joseph O’ Brien/Jonjo O’Neil Jr 5/1


2018 Blow By Blow

Gordon Elliott/Donagh Meyler 11/1

Verdict

The final race of the 2023 Festival – and certainly not an easy task to go out with a winner!

This is a race I have done well in recent years with both Blow By Blow and Early Doors being nice winners and very nearly had a major touch in 2020 when Column Of Fire fell at the last looking the most likely winner for Giggingstown Stud.


I always like to have a look at all runners Ryanair supremo and Giggingstown Stud owner Michael O’Leary has specifically in the handicaps at the Festival as certainly does not waste entries and often brings horses over that end up being proper graded horses. My first selection looks to fit this criteria and is Cool Survivor, who I feel will prove to be a lot better than a 140 horse. I really like horses for this race who get handicapped on the back of running in graded races and Cool Survivor was seen chasing home Hiddenvalley Lake in a grade 3 at Cork just before Christmas – something that reads as a very strong form line and was also really impressive on the clock. The booking of the promising Sam Ewing catches the eye and is a runner I expect to go close and could be really well supported throughout the day.


Stable mate Imagine has been a real talking horse throughout the Cheltenham Preview Evening circuit and is worth noting that trainer Gordon Elliott put this up as his charity bet across the whole meeting so clearly thinks is well handicapped from 139. He does look a lot better than that mark on his four hurdle runs to date and has to be respected.

Spanish Harlem will be a lot of peoples bankers and it is easy to see why, hailing from the stable of Willie Mullins who would have had endless amount of options for the race and is significant has once again gone for the headgear just to help him settle and bring the necessary improvement, though does look short for such a competitive contest.


At a huge price No Ordinary Joe could outrun his price as has always been well regarded at home and the vibes are that he is working much better now following his run in the BetfairHurdle, he could be sneaky one at much bigger prices.


Cool Survivor, Each-way 5/1



Whatever your backing, good luck – I hope you end up profitable and thanks for following us this week!


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