THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL is renowned for being incredibly difficult to pick winners.
There may be one or two so-called bankers over the course of the week at Prestbury Park, with the likes of Big Bucks in the World Hurdle and Quevega in the mares Hurdle odds-on favourites to retain their respective crowns.
Other than that, here are a few that may just earn you a schilling or two:
Moscow Mannon (Champion Bumper) – Brian Hamilton’s charge looked really impressive the last day out when winnig by six lengths to the well fancied Morning Glory at Gowran Park. With the Irish and Willie Mullins in particular in recent times (14 of the 18 winners, Willie Mullins has incredibly saddled six winners). This is also the only flat race of the week, and Moscow Mannon certainly looks to have all the credentials to go very close. (Currently priced at 6/1).
Sprinter Sacre (Arkle) – Long-time Arkle favourite, Sacre has been imperious since going chasing this year. Doubts remain over his ability to cope with the hill following his tame tail-off to last year’s Supreme Novices. However, jockey Barry Geraghty has compared this horse to the majestic Moscow Flyer and that in itself is a huge endorsement. I feel this year he’s a year older and looks to have more stamina about him, and others will be very hard pushed to beat him. (Currently priced at 10/11).
Noble Prince ridden by Tony McCoy. Pic: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport
Noble Prince (Ryanair Chase) – Winner of last year’s Jewson, the Paul Nolan-trained eight-year-old is my stand out bet in a race where anything up to eight horses could come out on top. Despite being second on his last three outings, this is a horse that powered up the hill last year under AP MCoy. His ability of taking to fences and undoubted staying quality gives him the edge, albeit just, over the likes of Riverside Theatre and Rubi Light in what is a hugely competitive renewal. (currently priced at 11/2).
Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle) – Is there anything that can stop the Fly making it back to back successes in this race? Hugely doubtful in my opinion. His return from a long lay-off quashed any lingering notions of a lapse in form when destroying the filed in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Many Irish pilgrims will be relying on Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh to deliver the goods, and you’d be hard pushed to do otherwise. There simply just doesn’t look like anything beating him, and he is my NAP of the week. (Currently priced at 10/11).
Vendor (Fred Winter) – This juvenile novice handicap may be one of the more obscure races of the week, but in Vendor be sure that we have found something worthwhile. Vendor was quite impressive at Newbury when justifying favouritism to win with what looked like a lot in hand. For a race that is just open to four-year-olds, there really isn’t a mass amount of quality in the field. Trainer Alan King has been talking up his charges chances, as has stable jockey ‘Choc’ Thornton, with Vendor being his NAP of the entire Festival. (Currently priced at 7/2)
Glens Boy (Kim Muir/ Four Mile National Hunt Chase) – I’ll finish off with a flurry (well, try to) by going with a long odds outsider. So here it is: holding entries for both the four-mile chase on the Wednesday and the Kim Muir on the Thursday (the latter being the more probable destination), he showed his staying credentials when holding on gamely at Newbury last day out. Trainer Henrietta Knight knows better than most how to get her horses in tiptop shape for their assault on the Cotswolds, and in Glens Boy I believe there is certainly each-way value. (Currently priced at 33/1 for the Kim Muir, and 20/1 for the Four Mile Chase).