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    Our professional handicapper gives us his Cheltenham preview     
    DATE POSTED: 09/03/2011    
    For the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, our National Hunt private handicapper will be providing a daily bulletin with his views, tips and horses to consider.  Each bulletin will be posted the evening before racing and will be free to view to any visitor to the Ownaracehorse website.  As a taster, Ryan H gives his current thoughts on the Festival, with only five days to go...

For me, this is the highlight of the year.  I concentrate exclusively on National Hunt racing all year round, so the Cheltenham Festival really is the code at its best.  Every owner, trainer and jockey in the sport build up the entire year to this one week in March, and this is where legends are made.

This years Festival is an excellent renewal, with the most important factor being that every single race looks very open.  Usually there are the 'bankers' which punters rely on, but this year the bankers just aren't there.

In 2010 there were the heavily advertised four bankers - but even the likely bankers like Big Bucks have had their chances undermined by new challengers like Grand Crus.  So that gives the whole meeting a very open look and means that there should be plenty of value around if you are sweet on a few.

There are plenty of races to pick out - but the one I'm really looking forward to is the RSA Chase on the Wednesday. Time For Rupert is the highest rated hurdler to swap to fences this season and the inclusion of various unbeaten horses in the line-up including Wayward Prince and Wymott make this a race to savour. 

The antepost market of each race has changed quite radically during the last few months build up - so I haven't been too active in these markets, but I must admit to having had a little bit of the 8/1 each-way on Denman after the Hennessey.  I believe he is still an each-way steal for the Gold Cup at the current 13/2 or 7/1.

Looking back to the Hennessey, I am now kicking myself that I didn't lay Kauto Star for the Gold Cup before that race.  I certainly seriously considered it, as the 4/1 available prior to that race looked excessively short - and now he's out to twice that price or more.  However, Denman is still the each-way bet in the Gold Cup for me, although I wish I'd taken a bit of the 40/1 which was available for Tidal Bay - he's half the price now and I can see him staying on into a place, and perhaps giving the more fancied horses a run for their money.

I'm actually going to Cheltenham on the first two days, but will have probably struck 90% of my bets ahead of the afternoon.  Its such a busy place, you can't enjoy the racing and also dodge around finding a price in such a huge crowd.

The one trainer who I will be following through the meeting is Willie Mullins.  In stark contrast to Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, he has had an impressive run of good winners and solid runs from those getting beat, and l expect he will hold the torch for the Irish hopes.  In fact, Paul Nicholls has had a perfectly terrible time of it in the last few weeks, given the firepower the yard possesses, and I'd like to see a few of his horses run big races on day one before getting in too deep in the Gold Cup.

With the ground looking like its going to end up Good, or Good to Soft, I'd like to see a bit more rain coming down on Tuesday or Wednesday, just to loosen up the surface.  The more rain the better for me - as it will make the recent form stand up better.

I won't be betting in every race.  The Bumper and also the Novice Hurdles are races I will be swerving although I will probably have a little interest in the Cross Country, despite its novelty value.

I'm looking forward to providing my thoughts every evening before racing.  I will be assessing each of the races for the day ahead, and hopefully pinpointing where the value lies and also where it doesn't.  I'll be giving my selection of the day, as well as a longshot for the armchair punters to have a speculative investment - and with luck I'll find a few more winners along the way!

You can read Ryan's Cheltenham Blog every day next week, only at Ownaracehorse. 

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