Cheltenham Festival 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 Ante-Post Portfolio

Arkle Chase: Kalashnikov 7-1

Champion Hurdle: Buveur D'Air Evens

Altior remains unbeaten. Tingle Creek day at Sandown is always good and I have been lucky enough to see some great horses down the years and some great races and this years renewal of the Tingle Creek Chase was bang up there. Two of my favourite horses coming to the Pond Fence, three from home, together side by side they eyeballed each other for three fences then slogged it out in the mud up the hill; Un De Sceaux is good, very good, Altior is exceptional.

Winning trainer Nicky Henderson summed it up as well as anyone afterwards by saying: "On paper it was going to be something special with the four best two-mile chasers. It was a great race, a spectacle and the crowd were great. That was what top-class two-mile chasing around Sandown is all about.” He added "The ground today was for Land Rovers not Ferraris, but he is a bit of both!" The Champ is generally 8-13 to regain his crown come March. 

Lalor is now out to 8’s for the Arkle following his third on the same card in the G.1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown. What did we learn, he does not go on soft end of story! Kalashnikov is now clear favourite at 4-1 best and I for one – on at 7’s - won’t mind it being a bit wet in the run-up to the Festival.

After the weekend there is no other horse you can have on you mind for the Champion Hurdle as far as I am concerned and than the reigning champ Buveur D'Air. I have taken Evens as I honestly think the only danger is injury. If he gets there in one piece come March, and he will be wrapped up in cotton wool, he wins. 
Samcro will surely now be either kept at home mopping-up races at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown or tried over further - the Stayers division looks wide-open.  
As for Kalashnikov he passed test number two at Plumpton earlier today jumping well and winning by a wide margin. He is now in to 5-1 best for the Arkle straight after the race. 
Kalashnikov is likely to have his second outing over fences at Plumpton on Monday (3rd December) and if successful he will then be in with the chance of nicking a £60,000 bonus. The track is putting up a bonus for any winner from one of their five nominated novice contests at the track that then go on to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival in the same season. Trainer Amy Murphy said: "The plan is to run Kalashnikov at Plumpton where the £60,000 bonus is attractive but he also needs some more experience. He's been fine since Warwick and has only schooled once since. Obviously there is some rain forecast which will be a help as he likes to get his toe in." 
was duly trimmed to a top price of 6-1 (Coral as low as 9-2) for the Racing Post Arkle after registering a comfortable 11-length victory on his chase debut in the £50 Risk Free On Racing With Smarkets Novices' Chase at Warwick.
Kalashnikov will make his eagerly anticipated debut over fences at Warwick on Friday.
Amy Murphy’s stable star showed plenty of talent during his novice hurdling campaign last season, winning the Betfair Hurdle before being narrowly agonisingly caught in the shadow of the post by Summerville Boy in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival - was my tip!
He'll be no sort of price tomorrow, even though the ground is perhaps quicker than he'd like, and his trainer is taking nothing for granted. “We could have done with a bit more rain, but we are where we are. I’ll go up to the track early in the morning and check we’re happy with the ground,” said the Newmarket handler. "It’s exciting for the team to get him started. Whatever he does tomorrow he will come on for it as we’ve not been able to get the horses on the grass yet because the weather has been so dry. It’s no easy task for him, but as long as he has a clean round of jumping and learns a lot we’ll be happy. It will be great to get his season under way.”
He is already the favourite for the Arkle in March before he has even faced larger obstacles in public, a good show on Friday and he will no doubt shorten further. I have taken the 7-1 with Paddy Power as I am a fan of this horse. I know what you're thinking, betting on Cheltenham races in November I need my bumps felt, but I can see him shortening all the way through till March and faint heart never won fair lady.