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|Cheltenham Blog - Day One, Tuesday 13th March 2012|
|DATE POSTED: 12/03/2012|
The biggest jumping show on earth starts on Tuesday. Cheltenham is less than 12 hours away and our private handicapper, Mike D's first Blog of the week kicks off a top class days racing which includes the Supreme Novices, the Arkle and the Champion Hurdle...
AUTHOR: MIKE D
Another year, another Cheltenham and many dreams to fulfil or hopes to be dashed, let's hope there are more of the former than the latter. Tuesdays card should be enough to stir the hearts of every racing fan and with the going on the quick side, we should see some spectacular sprints up that ever-testing final hill. It goes without saying that mud-larks will be at a definite disadvantage.
The opener has a cracking set of novice hurdlers to set the pulse racing. The statistics tell us that favourites have a poor record in this race but that the Irish do particularly well, and 65% of of the last 20 winners won last time out. It also goes without saying that there are very few animals not entitled to be here on merit, so picking a winner is tough. We have settled on Jessica Harrington's STEPS TO FREEDOM (1.30pm) who ticks a good few of the right boxes and already has a course and distance win to his name. He will relish the good ground and the only slight worry is that he has (deliberately) been given a break since November, while the stats favour horses that have raced within the last 6 weeks. Willie Mullins is triple-handed and his expensive MIDNIGHT GAME could be the best of the rest.
Next up is the Arkle Challenge Trophy and we are pinning our faith in the "horses for courses" theory and choose AL FEROF (2.05pm) to continue his impressive Cheltenham stats of 2F11. He has also beaten the Nicky Henderson favourite SPRINTER SACRE who is entitled to the utmost respect, especially as he has benefited from a wind operation. This doesn't look like a good betting race and a forecast on the pair might be best.
The 2.40pm 3m chase is particularly hard to call, with some of these barely out of novice class and others battle-hardened old-timers. We will take a chance that Ian Williams' 8yo BAILE ANRAI (2.40pm) is still ahead of the handicapper and could make a decent each-way choice and a welcome Festival ride for Dominic Elsworth.
Front-running Overturn will make sure The Champion Hurdle is a true-run race and it's very difficult to see past hot favourite HURRICANE FLY (3.20pm), who has won 12 of his last 14 hurdles and looks as good as ever. ROCK ON RUBY is good value for a place at around 10-1.
The cross-country chase needs a very special kind of horse to grind out the 3m 7f test of stamina and agility over the unique obstacles. GUARDE CHAMPETRE (4.00pm) may be 13yo but he has an incredible record in these races and another prominent performance is virtually guaranteed. The Irish have the first four in the market, followed by home-trained MALJIMAR who has tackled extreme distances on several occasions, both here and France, and talented young horseman James Reveley excels at getting his mounts travelling throughout the races and presenting them every chance at the finish.
The Mares Hurdle goes off at 4.40pm and seems to be heading for another Irish victory for Willie Mullins. His QUEVEGA (4.40pm) won this race still on the bridle last year and a repeat seems inevitable. Emma Lavelle's KENTFORD GREY LADY should benefit from a strong pace and could be staying on at the end to be best of the rest.
The finale is the 2m 4f Novices H/cap chase and with the Irish seemingly uninterested in this race, there could be a few value wagers here. TRIOLO D'ALENE (5.15pm) is well thought of and looks the pick of Nicky Henderson's three runners and a tempting price for a favourite. We are also tempted by the 28-1 on offer for Gary Moore's VINO GRIGIO. The horse has a respectable rather than sparkling record around Cheltenham but on a going day could well be in at the finish.
BEST BETS OF THE DAY
The NAP of the day goes to STEPS OF FREEDOM (1.30pm) with the vote for best outsider to VINIO GRIGIO (5.15pm). Most of the bookies are offering special deals this week and it's worth shopping around for the one that suits your selections best. Good luck and enjoy!
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