Well what a start to Cheltenham with my email subscribers backing Montbazon in the Supreme Novices with Bet365 – so being paid on his unlucky 4th place at 8/1. We then lumped on to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle for a nice win but the crowning glory was my selection of Rock On Ruby at 11/1 for the Champion Hurdle after his performance in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. A fantastic start to the week and I have advised 6 selections today – remember you can get involved in my Email Selection Service here >>>>> Email Selection Service
A busy Day 2 ahead and below is the video I prepared showing you how to narrow down the field of the big races today:
Here is my shortlist for each of the big 4 Grade 1 races today:
2:05 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle – 2m 5f
A large field, and a race which has been dominated by the Irish, winning 4 out of the last 6 times. However this is a race in which the market has proved an accurate guide, with 24 winners from the last 26 being in the Top 6 in the betting. The other important stat to consider is that 27 of the last 28 winners have come 1st or 2nd last time out which is a negative against Make Your Mark.
Simonsig (6 yo) – Official Rating of 148 – ex-point to point and won Irish bumper at Fairyhouse before moving to Nicky Henderson. Won hurdles debut at Ascot, finished 2ndFingal Bay at Sandown in a Grade 2 hurdle over 2m 4f, but finished 16 lengths clear of the 3rd that day in a smart performance. He was last out at Kelso last month and won fairly easily in preparation for this race. A negative has to be that Nicky Henderson has not won this race in 23 attempts.
Monksland (5 yo) – Officially Rated 144 – another ex- point to pointer from Ireland. Trained by Noel Meade he is a strong contender, having won his bumper debut and then both his hurdles races to date, including last time out at Naas in January in a Grade 2 over 2m 4f on heavy ground, proving his stamina. Although young, he is a progressive type who could well run a big race.
Batonnier (6 yo) – Non Runner
Sous Les Cieux (6 yo) – Officially rated 145. The winner of the grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse over 2m, he then looked outpaced at Leopardstown to suggest that he would be better over a longer trip. He then came back in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle over 2m 2f at Leopardstown where he was beaten by the much improved Benefficient who had won from the front. A decent 2nd that showed that a further step up was what was needed and what he gets here in the Neptune. The negatives have to be his lack of Cheltenham form and being untried at the trip – but could easily be the surprise of the race at 8/1. Also entered for the Supreme Novices but this race makes far more sense.
Make Your Mark (5yo) is an interesting 5 yr old of Willie Mullins who has had a couple of runs over hurdles, including a win by 10 lengths last year at Leopardstown over 2m 4f on good ground in a 4 yo race. He struggled in heavy conditions at Leopardstown at the end of January finishing very tired, nearly 10 lengths behind Boston Bob. He is still young and there must be doubts about his stamina over this trip around Cheltenham.
Cotton Mill (5 yo) – ex-flat horse rated 96 in that sphere has switched to hurdles with ease and won all three of his outings so far. Last time out in the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle at Warwick he beat Ambion Wood and Highland Lodge to win. He has strong place claims and could spring a surprise.
Benefficient (6 yo) – ex-point to pointer who was pretty inconsistent until he won the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month as a bit of a shock 50/1 outsider. He appeared to perform best on soft / heavy conditions up until then. The race was won more through aggressive front riding tactics than anything else and it has to be a doubt whether he could repeat such a run at Cheltenham. He could be anything and not one I could trust to perform.
2:40 RSA Chase – 3m 110yds
The first long chase of the meeting and a race which has been dominated by older more experienced horses – 10 of the last 12 winners have been 7 or 8 yrs old. Indeed the last 6 were all 7yr olds. One interesting stat is that the last 48 winners have all had a recent run in the same calendar year as the race, interesting because Grand Crus, First Lieutenant and Join Together all fail on that, having last run in December. The Irish have won for the last 3 years.
Grands Crus (7 yr old) – Also entered for the Gold Cup. He has plenty of Cheltenham form and won the Paddypower Hurdle here in November 2010 over 2m 5f , before returning to win the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle over 3m and finished 2nd to the mighty Big Bucks by just under 2 lengths in the World Hurdle before switching to chasing and winning again at Cheltenham in November, at Newbury over 3m at the end of November and then at Kempton in the Grade 1 Feltham Novices Chase beating Bob’s Worth back into 3rd. As the top novice, you would hope he runs in the RSA this year but the temptation of going up against Kauto Star and Long Run may prove too much.
Bob’s Worth (7 yr old) – rated 150 over hurdles he was unstoppable at Cheltenham winning the Grade 2 Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2011 before going on to win the Albert Bartlett at last year’s festival. He then switched to fences and beat Cue Card in a Grade 2 Novices Chase at Newbury in November. He proved he has bags of stamina and heart. He stepped up in trip for the Feltham at Kempton and was a little disappointing, losing to Grands Crus by over 5 lengths finishing in 3rd behind Silviniaco Conti. However he stayed on well and showed plenty to like. He was out again last month in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase and beat Silviniaco Conti comfortably this time, following an operation to help his breathing. He made a couple of jumping errors but stayed on nicely to finish 2nd behind the winner Invictus. A return to Cheltenham makes him a real contender for this race.
First Lieutenant (7 yr old) – ex-point to pointer, who made a real splash over hurdles beating Zaidpour in a Grade 1 race at Leopardstown before coming to Cheltenham and beating Rock on Ruby to win the Neptune Novices Hurdle at last year’s festival. He has not been quite as impressive in his Chase career, winning at Tipperary in a weak grade 3 Novice Chase, then finishing 2nd at Cork before returning in November to win a rather unexciting Grade 3 at Cork. He was then soundly beaten by some 6 lengths at the end of December at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 3m. That performance does cast serious doubts over his credentials to win the RSA. But his Cheltenham form is a major plus – so who knows.
Join Together (7 yr old) – a nice ex-irish point to pointer who is now with Paul Nicholls. He goes well around Cheltenham and has had some great preparation races for this race. He showed some real promise when he won at Cheltenham over 3m in a Novice Chase in November. He then returned in December to win another Novice Chase at Cheltenham over 3m, this time beating the impressive Mossley by some 12 lengths, probably the best thing to see in this race was that he won this on good ground, proving that he does not have to have soft conditions to perform. He is a genuine place candidate, depending on the final field.
3:20 Sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase – 2m
A race which will centre around last year’s winner Sizing Europe and runner up Big Zeb with Finian’s Rainbow an interesting improver, although not yet at the level of the front two. It is an interesting stat that out of the last 11 champions defending their title, 10 have gone on to lose, with only Masterminded successfully winning two years in a row in 2008 / 2009. The last 29 of 30 winners have been at odds of 11/1 or less.
Sizing Europe (10 yo) – Has gone from strength to strength since winning last years race winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December and then the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown last month, beating Big Zeb by some 15 lengths. He loves Cheltenham and has strong claims to this year’s contest. Hard to oppose him doing the double.
Big Zeb (11yo) – Winner in 2010 and runner up last year – he is the model of consistency, coming in the top 2 in his last 10 chases at the highest level. He went on to beat Sizing Europe at Punchestown last May but has since been beaten by 15 lengths last month. He is a rock solid jumper and can push the favourite all the way.
Finian’s Rainbow (9 yo) – won the Kingmaker Chase at Warwick before heading to last year’s festival to compete in the Arkle where he finished 2nd to Captain Chris. He has since won a grade 1 and a grade 2 chase and was last seen at the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot where he beat Al Ferof back into 3rd and just lost out to the talented Somersby. He may not have the experience and class of the front two but he certainly has the ability to cause an upset.
Outside the Top 3 in the market we are looking at Kauto Stone and Wishfull Thinking both of whom are at 16/1 and do not really have the consistent form coming into Cheltenham to challenge the Top 3, the other stat against them is that no horse for 34 years has been unplaced in the race prior to Cheltenham and then come here to win the Queen Mother. Realt Dubh has not raced for 314 days – so to expect him to come back and challenge at this level is a stretch.
5:15 Wetherbys Champion Bumper – 2m
A great race to end Day 2 and can give some real clues to future Cheltenham Festival Stars. The last 16 of 19 winners have come from the Top 6 in the betting so that is a great starting point. We are also looking for horse who won last time out with 17 of the past 19 winners being last time out winners. Also consider the horses age – with 5 & 6 yr olds winning 10 of the last 11 renewals of this race. Finally we have to take into account Willie Mullins and Irish entries in general as they had won 14 out of the last 19 Champion Bumpers – although they have not won for the past 2 years – so they will be looking to put that stat right this year.
So our bumper shortlist will be:
Moscow Mannon (6yo) – Irish trained – has won his last 3 bumpers and sets a fair standard including at Gowran Park and Fairyhouse in heavy conditions. He also won a large field Galway bumper on good ground. Plenty of stamina.
New Year’s Eve (4yo) – Won his last 2 bumpers including last month at Market Rasen on good / soft – however he has age against him and both his bumpers to date were small fields of no more than 9 runners. So there would be a question mark over him handling such a large field likely to be run at a strong pace.
Champagne Fever (5 yo) – former Irish point to pointer and Willie Mullins main hope in the race, came 2nd on his bumper debut but then won by 13 lengths last time out – so has to be a strong contender.
Royal Guardsman (5 yo) – won his bumper debut at Fontwell by some 11 lengths in a large field race. Then disappointed slightly next time out at Aintree, although he probably was not helped by the eventual winner’s jockey hitting him a couple of times in the face with his whip. Again in a large 17 runner field. Finally, ran last month at Ascot in another large field bumper and impressed again with a 7 length victory. The strongest of the home challengers.
Pique Sous (5 yo) – another Willie Mullins horse with strong claims, although disappointed in 3rd on his bumper debut at Fairyhouse last year in a large 22 runner race on good ground. He then reappeared last month at Leopardstown on good to soft ground to win nicely. Negative is that he is French bred and they are currently 1 winner from 25 races in the Champion Bumper, with none bar the winner even making the frame.
Sir Johnson (6yo) of Peter Bowen’s who beat Royal Guardsman back into 4th at Aintree in October and if the ground continues to dry out and quicken to good he has every chance. He has now com ein from 20/1 to 11/1 today.
The New One (4 yo) – won his bumper debut over 1m 6f atWarwick in November before making it 2 out of 2 here at Cheltenham on New Years day, again over 1m 6f but this time in Class 1 listed company. Both races were nice large fields of 15 or more runners. The negatives are his age and the step up to the 2m 110yds.
I hope you find a couple of winners today and have a great day, talk tomorrow.