Doesn’t run, wrong race, died. Doesn’t run, wrong race, survived. The fate of my ante-post bets for this year’s Cheltenham Festival have fared only marginally better than Henry VIII’s wives, meaning the quest-for-riches barometer is in the red before the tapes are up for the Supreme.
The good news is we have 27 races to put that right; every horse is off for its life and the bookies are falling over themselves with fancy offers in a bid to lure us in.
Consider me lured. All we have to do now is find some winners…
Simon Claisse promised us relatively balmy conditions this week. Only on Sunday, he predicted temperatures of 17 degrees, drying conditions and not a spot of the wet stuff in the run up to Tuesday. Yet the grey cloud hanging over England suggests that forecast was well wide of the mark and I started to get worried when it was still raining on the M1 south of Sheffield. Will this rain have fallen at Cheltenham? Do I need to revisit the form book for soft-ground specialists? Thankfully only 2mm is reported to have dropped on the track, but leaving the vests at home may have been a mistake.
A dig-out on digs
If you’ve ever tried to find some accommodation for the Cheltenham Festival fairly last-minute, and by fairly last-minute I mean anytime within three months of the Supreme, you’ll know it’s a thankless task unless you’ve more Euros than Rich Ricci. Thankfully, many of the good people of Cheltenham throw open their doors for rabble like myself and I’ll be staying in Prestbury, a stone’s throw from the track, with a family that once only had room for me in the dining room. Under the table. I believe I’ve been upgraded to a bedroom this year but only if I give them a mention here. So thanks, Craig and Michelle!
Up for the Prestbury Cup
The Prestbury Cup is a thing now, thanks to the marketers. Ireland v Great Britain. It’s not long ago it couldn’t have been a thing, not when Ireland came back with nothing back in 1989. Dark days indeed, but they are long gone now thanks to Willie Mullins, Noel Meade, Gordon Elliott, Tony Martin and more, but mainly Mullins.
The King of County Carlow has favourites in 11 of the 27 races as I type on Monday afternoon, and, with a fine supporting cast too, the 11/4 about Ireland winning the Prestbury Cup is sorely tempting.
The bookmakers fear Ruby Walsh today and with good reason. If Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and Annie Power all go in, the battle scars will run deep thanks to accumulators up and down the land. Not even a result in the CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices’ Handicap Chase will be able to save them and the consequences of a nationwide touch are already on the layers’ minds. William Hill are bracing themselves for a €23m battering, the worst day since Dettori Day. Their spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke whimpered: “It could be one of the worst days in bookmaking history if the Four Horses Of The Apocalypse all win.” Pass me the tissues.
Hitting the bar
If you haven’t been to Cheltenham this season, there are some new watering holes to quench your pallet. With the redevelopment well under way, the tower crane has been removed, all the major steelwork has been completed and there are 156 new toilets on the lower ground floor of the new stand alone, so hopefully less queues and more booze. The See You Then bar and terrace overlooks the parade ring and is placed above Quevega’s, a snazzy new bar and plaza placed under the walkway before you get to the paddock. It’s looking good, and all you have to do to get a bar named after you is win (at least) three races at the Festival.
Anyone fancy a pint in the Hurricane Fly next year? No, me neither.
So, let’s get down to business. I can’t have Douvan at that price but I am tempted by his stablemate Alvisio Ville in the Supreme.
The Deloitte was the best novice hurdle we’ve seen this season for my money, run at a frantic pace, and Alvisio Ville was too keen to do himself justice.
He’s better than that and 16/1 is a good price.
I can’t bring myself to back either Un De Sceaux or Annie Power at odds-on, but Faugheen at a shade of odds-against is a different story. I doubt we’ll see him available at a shade of odds-against again in a hurry.
Keltus, unlucky when fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe, is the one for me in the CHAPS.
Off we go!