Cheltenham Festival 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 Ante-Post Portfolio

Gold Cup - Gerri Colombe 4-1

Triumph Hurdle - Highwind 14-1 each-way NRNB

Arkle Chase - JPR One  10-1 each-way NRNB

Gallagher Novices' Hurdle - Slade Steel 4-1 NRNB

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase - Daily Present 16-

1 each-way NRNB

Turners Novice Chase - Ginny's Destiny 5-2 NRNB

Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle - Brighterdaysahead 13-8 NRNB

Update: Close but no cigar on Friday, three seconds and a third, means I finish the week +4.35 points to level stakes . It was a weird week with odds-on shots in many races, I feel the festival does need a tweak here and there, but as ever it's been great fun and I am already counting down the days to next year; hopefully no last minute bad scopes for me meaning I can be back trackside as well in 2025! 


We have made it to day four. No daft marketing gimmicks, no silly names, there is no need, it is simply Gold Cup day! 

The going is officially heavy for the start of racing Friday with the chance of a few more showers this morning before the sun possibly breaking through later. Willie Mullins had a great start to the Festival on Tuesday and Wednesday and following a quiet day for him on Thursday has a number in with chances on the final day; he could add four or five to his tally yet!  Triple G heads into Friday +11.35 to level stakes so it's all gravy from here on in as they say and hopefully we have a few winners up our sleeve yet. The fancies for Gold Cup day follow.

Grade One 2m1f JCB Triumph Hurdle

Sir Gino doesn’t run, the nightmare Nicky Henderson has been enduring continuing, so this suddenly looks quite a lot more competitive. Highwind was backed at 14-1 each-way Ante-Post (⅕ 3 places) a while back (generally 25's now) for this but it has to be said he didn’t exactly advertise his credentials last time when eighth at Leopardstown in the G.1 Mccann Fitzgerald Spring Juvenile Hurdle. That said I thought Racheal Blackmore was pretty gentle with him when it was obvious his chance had gone. He won despite mistakes on his Hurdle debut and if, it is a big if I admit, he jumps better he appears to have plenty of natural speed and could be there or thereabouts up the hill. Audrey Turley doesn’t have many bad ones and hopefully this one can pick his hooves up a bit better today and place-up at least; Blackmore is in the saddle again. The Irish have a strangle hold on the market now, Willie Mullins saddled the first four home last year and has seven seven runners this time around. Kargese, winner of the G.1 Mccann Fitzgerald Spring Juvenile Hurdle and Majborough in the ownership of J P MacManus look the best of his brigade aside from Highwind (hopefully).

2m1f County Handicap Hurdle

A headscratcher for punters as ever with plenty in with a chance and a certain amount of luck in running required. A couple I had on the shortlist for this have run elsewhere during the week so I have had to reassess a little. Pied Piper has placed-up a couple of times here at the festival and can pick up some decent cash again today you would think but looks unlikely to win off top-weight. Dan Skelton has won this contest a few times so L’eau Du Sud has to be considered off a mark of 135 having finished second to Iberico Lord last time; that one was of course supplemented for the Champion Hurdle. Last season's Ebor winner Absurde looks the main hope for the Willie Mullins yard but surely a place is his best hope. King Of Kingsfield has been consistent as the day is long placing-up in all his Hurdle starts including two G.1’s. His third behind Ballyburn and Slade Steel in the G.1 Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle last time reads particularly well now! I had the six-year-old penciled in at the start of the week as a mark of 140 looks workable to me. There was talk of Danny Gilligan riding him and claiming so the fact Jack Kennedy rides suggest the yard are happy with the mark as well (Gilligan rides Pied Piper). I have some of the 5-1 this morning.

Grade One 3m Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

Captain Teague looks the best hope for the Brits having won the 2m4½f G.1 Challow Hurdle with a bit left in the locker at Newbury last time. Paul Nicholls said recently “ I am convinced that the way he stays on in his race that the trip of the Albert Bartlett will suit him well.” That man Willie Mullins has a few in here and looks to hold a strong hand. Dancing City appears to be improving winning a G.1 Leopardstown over 2m6f last month and could well be suited by this extra distance and be capable of further improvement yet. Lecky Watson is considered after his third in the G.1 2m4f Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle but the chestnut was no match for Readin Tommy Wrong there and it’s no surprise that Paul Townend has sided with the jolly here. He was on Ile Atlantique at Naas, who was second in the race, and perhaps the only question mark is whether the six-year-old will stay; furthest he’s gone so far is that two-and-a-half miles. I have gone with Readin Tommy Wrong at 2-1

Grade One 3m2½f Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase

The big one is due off at 3.30. Shishkin is yet another big name from the yard of Nicky Henderson that’s sadly not appearing at the Festival but we still have a number of star names in the line-up. I backed Geri Colombe at 4’s before the Savills Chase where he was beaten by Galopin Des Champs, the Champ looking back to his best there. I can really only sit and hope the extra distance and testing going will bring out the best in the Gordon Elliott trained eight-year-old and that Galopin Des Champs falters as well. Galopin Des Champs is generally Evens this morning to defend his crown. As for the others Bravemansgame is a favourite of mine but needs to step-up on his efforts so far this season but could finish in the places again if doing so, whilst Fastorslow, who did beat the jolly at Punchestown, may find this test a little too far. L'homme Presse could get into the mix if getting into a nice rhythm and Corach Rambler should be staying on when others cry enough.

3m2½f St. James's Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase

Run over the same track and trip as the Gold Cup the amateurs take over in the saddle for this. I have said it many times you want a good horse but also a good jockey and that remains very important in these amateur races as far as I am concerned. Its On The Line is short enough for a race like this at 6-4 but Derek O'Connor steered the favourite in the last yesterday to an easy victory and could well do the same here. He was runner-up in this last year before taking the Champion Hunters' Chase at Punchestown last April. The seven-year-old has won both his starts this season, beating both Ferns Lock and Billaway in the process and has an obvious chance. I don't like backing short-priced ones in amateur races but have backed this one at 6-4

Grade Two 2m4½f Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase

Dinoblue has headed the market for this for some time and with the form the stable have been in has simply got shorter and shorter. She has to give away up to 5lb under the race conditions but on official ratings has it hand. Her second to El Fabiolo in the G.1 Dublin Chase last time is the best form on show and she clearly has a favourites chance. Back against her own sex I am with her at 13-8; the step-up in trip is the biggest question mark but it shouldn't be an issue. Second in the race last year, Allegorie De Vassy looks the danger. 

2m4½f Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle

The lucky last for the week, and similar to the Amateurs race earlier on the card it pays to look at the Jockeys as much as the horse here. There has been some money for Waterford Whispers and that one is shortlisted for the in-form Henry de Bromhead yard. Last year's runner-up No Ordinary Joe is another you have to consider but the yard is under a huge dark cloud at the moment. Willie Mullins has won this with the likes of Sir Des Champs, Don Poli and Galopin Des Champs so you can say he tends to target his potential stars at the race. Quai De Bourbon went to the head of the market after winning the Munster Hurdle on heavy in January and clearly the yard has some confidence with Sa Majeste, who did head the market, being sent for the Coral Cup rather than run here; that one ran a stinker mind you. I am taking a chance that the selection has brushed up his jumping, has made small errors, and I am on at 9-2 for Mullins to take the last. 


Day three arrives and we switch to the New Course for the next two days with the going officially now soft this morning and once again there is the chance of some rain during the day.

Triple G is +6 to level stakes at the halfway stage after the first two days. Three of my Ante-Post portfolio go on the afternoon and there could be a few quid to be won if you get them right today as we have a day of relatively competitive races rather than a card full of Willie Mullins odds-on shots. The Triple G fancies for Thursday follow.

Grade One 2m4f Turners Novices' Chase

One of the Ante-Post Portfolio runs here in the shape of Ginny’s Destiny about which I have 5-2 ante-post; he has drifted a little with Grey Dawning now coming for this and with Mullins in the form he is all his runners shortening. The selections three chase wins have all come here over 2m4f and 2m4½ f and course form is no bad thing round here. He has really taken to the larger obstacles since moving to the yard of Paul Nicholls at the start of the season and as mentioned when I backed him ante-post Nicholls said recently “He jumps well keeps on galloping and is a smart animal. I would say he is one of our best chances in the novice chase as he jumps well and loves the course and I think he is still improving. Claudia who rides him says he is as good a Pic D’Orhy and Cliff and I were laughing at her but she might actually be right.” I am surprised to see Grey Dawning in this as reportedly his preference was always for the Brown Advisory. Beaten by Ginny’s Destiny here in December in the 2m4½ f Cheltenham & South-West Racing Club Novices' Chase when he made a bad mistake two out I thought the three-miler may have suited him better. He gained his second win over fences with a bloodless victory in the 3m G.2 Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick last time as his prep and was mentioned as arguably the best chance the Skelton’s had all week so is feared, 3lb better off with the selection as he is on their December meeting. I am convinced though the selection has more to offer. Facile Vega hasn’t gone on as hoped this season to be honest and tries this trip for the first time, if he gets it he could be in the mix and as he is trained by Mullins his price is naturally shrinking.

3m Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

Once again this is a real puzzle with plenty of the runners in with chances. Chantry House isn’t the force of old but was running in the King George and Gold Cup not that long ago and could put in a big run off a mark of 143. Gaoth Chuil has proved consistent this season but is edging up the ratings and a mark of 136 here looks likely to anchor that one and a place is perhaps the best hope. Icare Allen is another who has been consistent for a while without winning. He wasn’t knocked about when a staying on third at Aintree over three-miles last time but a mark of 142 means for me he remains in the grip of the handicapper and is running for place-money again surely. Le Milos is being backed after the good day the Skeltons had yesterday. Cleatus Poolaw goes for Gordon Elliott and I thought it was interesting that he commented in the build-up that “in my mind it’s not as strong a race nowadays”. He has four seconds (one of those behind Ballyburn at Leopardstown) and a win to his name with his latest run a second at Naas last month over 2m6½f. The six-year-old has to run off 139 here but could have a few pounds in hand and the step-up in trip is expected to suit. As a lightly raced six-year-old with this stiffer test expected to suit he's the one for me at 13-2.

Grade One 2m4½f Ryanair Chase

The Ante-Post market for this had a couple towards the head of the market that were always likely to run elsewhere and I held off from punting ante-post. It looks a cracking renewal and should be a very good race. Last years winner Envoi Allen is good but certainly isn’t getting any better at ten-years-of-age and though I expect a big run I am not convinced he can win this again and he is prone to the odd dodgy jump. The money is coming for him after a good couple of days for the team of De Bromhead and Blackmore. Conflated is another possibly passed his best and having unseated on his last two runs his prep has been far from good. Winner of the Arkle on 2022 Banbridge has run just four times since. He won the 2m4½f G.2 Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January to advertise his well-being but did make mistakes. Lightly raced in the last year he could have more to offer yet but Jospeh O’Brien is on record as saying he doesn’t want it too soft and said in the run-up to the meeting “everyone knows that we feel he has a notable preference for better ground, and we were always conscious that he was likely to have a busy spring, so we didn’t want to run him on unsuitable ground for the sake of it.” and I think he is a likely non-runner when the rain arrives. Stage Star usually thrives round here but put in a poor effort when pulled-up in the Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase off top-weight on real heavy ground. He was giving away chunks of weight on New Years day so the run can possibly be ignored and I noted Paul Nicholls saying recently “I wish I hadn’t run him on New Year’s Day on that testing ground under top weight and I don’t think he was quite his best. We were struggling to get any option to run him in the country as he has to go left-handed. He has had lot of physio and bits and pieces after Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, and he is where we want him.” The slight concern is the going, if it was good-soft he’d likely be jolly. I waited till this morning to have a bet in this race as I always thought the ground could be a major factor. In the end I have sided with Stage Star at 5-1  in the hope the ground has come right enough for him and any rain we do get today won't make the ground too bad by the time they run.

Grade One 3m Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle

With Theleme not here we have lost one of the rising stars of the division sadly but it looks a competitive race with a number of old favourites lining-up again. Last years surprise winner Sire Du Berlais is back again and even at twelve-years-old has to enter calculations with a record such as his here (three wins at the Festival). Paisley Park and Dashel Drasher are others flying the flag for the older brigade, in the absence of Champ, and all also have to be considered. Teahupoo looked unlucky last season and can surely gain revenge this year. Won the G.1 2m4f Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle back in December and according to Gordon Elliott “He’s in great form and we’ve been training him for the Stayers’ Hurdle all season.” He has form on soft and heavy ground and connections are considering running in France after this suggesting testing conditions hold no fears if we get a downpour by race time. It’s time for the new guard to take over in the Stayer division and I am on at 7-4.

2m4½f TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase

Crebilly is perhaps a surprisingly short price for this but his fourth off a mark of 139 in the Cheltenham & South-West Racing Club Novices' Chase here in December behind Ginny’s Destiny and Grey Dawning looks pretty good when you consider they’re both in the G.1 Turners earlier on the card. He won at Exeter over 2m3f on heavy ground last time and a mark of 140 looks workable. Theatre Man was second to Ginny’s Destiny here in January off a mark of 134 and is another that could be on a very workable rating now up to 137 plus the booking of Harry Cobden catches the eye. Shakem Up'arry arrives off the back of a track and trip victory in the Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap on heavy; he is up 3lb for that 7½ length victory. Third in this last year he has a 4lb higher mark to contend with this time around but has to be considered off the back of his effort in January. With a decent C&D record, was also fifth in the Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap in 2023, he is the each-way (⅕ 5 places) selection at 10-1.

Grade Two 2m1f Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle

Gordon Elliott is very fond of Brighterdaysahead it would appear and she has done nothing wrong as yet arriving as she does unbeaten. A two-time bumper winner, she has won all three of her starts over hurdles including a 2m1f G.3 Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Down Royal in November and a 2m5f Listed Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Navan last time as she like as her prep run. I took 13-8 NRNB about her for this a few days back Ante-Post as I expected her to get shorter and I am very happy with my bet as it stands. The price of Jade de Grugy has been shrinking but that is as much down to who trains her as her actual chances I would say.

3m2f Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase

Another of the Ante-Post portfolio runs here in the shape of Daily Present and I am on at 16-1 each-way NRNB (⅕ 5 places) about the Paul Nolan trained seven-year-old. I took a chance he’d get in and that connections would get a decent pilot onboard, J W Hendricks will be getting the leg-up taking off 5lb and he’s no mug with one win and five places from his last twelve Chase rides. The seven-year-old is due to rise 2lb in the ratings so a mark of 127 here with the claim his jockey gets looks very nice on paper at least. As for the rest Inothewayurthinkin with Derek O’Conner in the saddle is jolly but does have top-weight to shoulder. He has been running well this season, other than last time where he made a first-fence mistake, and clearly has a chance. Cool Survivor and Angels Dawn could go close whilst good old Cloudy Glen may go well at a decent price.


Day two dawns. We made a small profit on Tuesday, +1.6 points to level stakes, despite being on the two Mullins trained horses that came second!! A couple of winning bets, couple of seconds and a couple pulled-up tells the rollercoaster story of day one. 

Style Wednesday as it is now marketed is one of my favourite days of the Festival, not for girls in daft hats and blokes in ill-fitting trousers, but because the main event is the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase; I do love the race. There is something about a great two-miler that sets the pulse racing. We race on going that is officially Soft on day two with the chance of some rain on the day. Willie Mullins has a lot in with chances this week as we all know but today could be a very good day for him even by his standards.

Grade One 2m5f Gallagher Novices' Hurdle

Wednesday's opening contest has a new title sponsor after the Jockey Club announced the Baring Bingham will be run as the Gallagher Novices Hurdle last week. I backed Slade Steel 4-1 NRNB in the build-up convinced as I was that Ballyburn would go for the Supreme but Mullins did what he does and Ballyburn runs in this Slade Steel having run, and won, the Supreme yesterday. The jolly has a minimum of half-a-stone in hand of the opposition on official ratings and is unsurprisingly odds-on. He won on soft-heavy at Leopardstown, Cleatus Poolaw twenty-five lengths back in second, so all the rain about is likely of little concern and he does look a good thing. I am actually, unusually for me, playing a double today this one with El Fabiolo in the big one.

Grade One 3m½f Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

Fact To File is another trained by Willie Mullins and has been short for this for a while possibly the main reason that the race has cut-up somewhat with just the six runners now due to go to post. That said, if I was doing a Mullins multiple, as no doubt many will today, this is the one that would concern me most. I am convinced he wouldn’t be as short if trained by anyone else. He has looked pretty good in has last two Chases at Leopardstown but the last was a match race with Gaelic Warrior and I am never sure how much you can trust the form from races like that. He was beaten on debut over obstacles by the re-opposing American Mike at undulating Navan and that fact along with this being his first try at the trip makes him too short for my liking. Stay Away Fay was third taking on much more experienced Chasers in the G.2 3m 1f Cotswold Chase here in January last time. He won over three-miles at Exeter on seasonal debut and took the G.2 3m Esher Novices' Chase at Sandown after that. He looks to me to be one that's all about stamina and will surely go over further in time. This could now be a real test and I think the Nicholls trained seven-year-old is worth a punt to turnover the Mullins runner at 7-2.

2m5f Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle

A number of the runners are in with chances here as you would expect. Ballyadam has finished fifth in the County Hurdle a couple of times here appearing to not quite have the speed for the 2m1f against the very best. He has been tried over three-miles at Leopardstown over Christmas which looked too far when he finished third behind Irish Point so you can see why connections have decided to have a go at this. Rated 1lb lower than last year and at a trip that should suit he is considered but does have top-weight with the 147 rating. Sa Majeste has headed the market in the build-up even though was also in contention to run in the Martin Pipe on Friday. Backed as if defeat was out of the question on debut over two-miles, he promptly got beat, but showed what he can do when winning over 2m4f at Limerick over Christmas; beating Noble Yeats in the process. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this one leave his current mark of 140 well behind and I am on at 5-1.

Grade One 2m Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

The main event on day two and we have another Willie Mullins hotpot in the shape of El Fabiolo. With Jonbon missing it looks a fairly straightforward task for the jolly now. I know he doesn't always look the greatest jumper but he gets over them and remains unbeaten over the larger obstacles. I have El Fabiolo coupled with Ballyburn earlier on the card in a double, the bet pays 1.1-1. Henderson has pulled three runners today Jonbon, First Street and Kingston Pride and warned there could be more non-runners on Thursday and Friday with his team clearly not at their best. 

3m5½f Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase)

Not everyone’s cup of tea I actually quite enjoy this race and have found the winner once or twice. They held an inspection on the course, with most of it not actually run on the track proper, and sadly it is too dangerous to host the race end of story this year with more rain forecast. 

2m Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

This once again is a proper competitive handicap and the shortlist was none too short for some time. Saint Roi was on the list but has plenty of weight to carry and is short enough in the betting for a race like this. Liberty Hunter has won his last two, and may still be well handicapped off 139, but he made mistakes again when winning here on New Years day. He’ll need a career best and to be error free to win this. Calico is one that's been running well and with Tristan Durell taking off 3lb could go well but I fancy his stablemate. Unexpected Party drops back down in trip having struggled to live with the likes of Ginny’s Destiny and Stage Star over further earlier in the campaign. I noted Dan Skelton saying recently “I don’t think Unexpected Party stays two and a half miles around Cheltenham and the trip of the Grand Annual is much more to his liking” and I totally agree. A mark of 138 certainly gives him hope and at 14-1 he is worth an each-way investment (⅕ 5 places).

Grade One 2m½f Weatherbys Champion Bumper

A wide-open renewal this year with no standout contender on form. Gordon Elliott has a few in with chances in this perhaps most of all Jalon D'oudairies who is unbeaten in two bumpers and landed an eight-runner event at Leopardstown in December on heavier going on his latest start. The Yellow Clay won a couple of Pro/Am flat races last March and went into a few notebooks G.2 company at Leopardstown last month finishing strongly after being hampered in the Donohue Marquees Future Stars. The Willie Mullins trained You Oughta Know was second in that race having won bumpers at Kilbeggan and Galway before that but Jasmin De Vaux looks the best chance of the Mullins team having won a twelve-runner contest at Naas as he liked recently. Teeshan won on heavy at Exeter on debut for Paul Nicholls last month having won a 3m Irish point previously on soft. He looks the best hope for the home team but there has been no UK trained winner of this since 2016 which is a statistical concern at least. I have watched the race several times and he travelled well throughout before going clear under hands and heels and looked at home on the going; I was really quite impressed. Paul Nicholls said in the build-up to the meeting “Teeshan is in the Champion bumper and he won an Irish point-to-point in the Autumn very impressively and Tom Malone bought him for Johnny de la Hay. We gave him loads of time to acclimatise and he made his debut at Exeter and basically cantered round and absolutely bolted in. We have taken the decision to go to Cheltenham and he is obviously a talented horse. Last year Captain Teague won his bumper at Plumpton and went to the Cheltenham bumper and finished third and won a Grade 1 hurdle this year. I would put Teeshan very much on par with Captain Teague on his homework. He loves soft ground and travelled very well at Exeter and I would say, next year, he will follow what Captain Teague did and follow a similar sort of route. He is a smart young horse and he is so laid back.” He is on the drift with cash coming for various Irish runners but I am still on at 12-1.


It's Cheltenham Festival week! Like the Champ Constitution Hill I have unfortunately scoped badly recently, couple of questionable blood test results, and that means I am confined to quarters sadly this week and for the first time since the early nineties won’t be trackside Champion Hurdle day. Plenty of work had been put in before the poor scope and the usual team will be trackside, albeit without me, and working behind the scenes all week so hopefully Triple G still has a few winners for you over the coming days.

We are on the Old course for the first two days and the going on Tuesday is Soft, Heavy in places, with the forecast for some rain at times on and off all week. The last couple of years have stung me somewhat, pretty big losses over the four days, so it is fair to say this meeting owes me a winner or twenty! Four days, twenty-eight races, here we go again….

Grade One 2m½f Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The roar will go up at 1.30 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle; a race in which I have had some luck in down the years. I had been fairly convinced Ballyburn would come for this for a while but he doesn’t which does at least make it more competitive. Willie Mullins still has the jolly in the shape of Tullyhill who arrives off the back of a couple of wins, the last a visually impressive victory at Punchestown in a Listed heat. Jeriko Du Reponet was on the shortlist following his G.2 Rossington Main Novices Hurdle victory at Doncaster. The Henderson-trained five-year-old stretched his winning run over hurdles to three there but to the eye wasn’t as impressive as he had been in his previous two wins. Rider Mark Walsh said after the Doncaster victory "The race wasn't run to suit. We went too slow and it turned into a sprint. We went no gallop early, which didn't suit him. He didn't jump great early, they were going too slow." There’ll be no lack of pace here you’d think and though on paper he has something to find on the Irish raiders he will surely be there or thereabouts up the hill. Slade Steel now runs in this with connections looking to avoid a re-match with Ballyburn. I had backed him for the Gallagher Novices' Hurdle, thankfully NRNB, and he enters calculations here but I feel the longer trip would have suited him better. By Galileo out of Annie Power Mystical Power has looked decent in his three runs so far and maintained his unbeaten record in the G.2 Moscow Flyer Novices' Hurdle at Punchestown last time looking to have plenty in hand to my eyes. There is more to come from this one you would think, a hood goes on for the first time, and he’s the one for me at 7-2. It looks likely to be a week in which we see Willie Mullins in the Winners enclosure a lot and he can start with the opener.

Grade One 2m My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase

One of my ante-post portfolio JPR One runs here, I am on at 10-1 each-way (⅕ 3-places). The best British two-mile Novice as far as I am concerned I remain convinced he can be in the shake-up and I am very happy with my bet. He would have won the trial but for stumbling and unseating at the last, the mud possibly took it’s toll on him late on at Sandown next time which with the weather as it is today is a slight concern, but he looked back to his best winning the G.2 Lightning Novices' Chase at Lingfield last time. Considered by many the Tizzards' best chance of a Cheltenham Festival winner in recent years a big run is expected. With Marine Nationale absent Gaelic Warrior heads the market. I am far from convinced he likes it here, even his trainer Willie Mullins has gone on record to say that Cheltenham doesn’t seem to suit, but jolly he is and has to be feared. Found A fifty is another that can be on the premises when it matters.

3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase

The entries for this was once again a mixture of old favourites and relatively new kids on the block and its as tricky as ever looking for the winner. The Goffer was fourth last year and another big run appears to be expected. Gordon Elliott said in the build-up “He ran very well in the Ultima Handicap Chase last season and we’re aiming him at it again this season. He hit the front a mile too soon and I thought he was a bit unlucky. He had a perfect preparation when winning a charity race at Punchestown last week.” J P McManus purchased Meetingofthewaters last week and the progressive chaser looked good when winning the Listed Paddy Power at Leopardstown over Christmas but blotted his copybook unseating at the first in a G.3 back at Leopardstown last time. One that has been on my mind for a while for this is Chianti Classico from the yard of Kim Bailey; I have seen a couple of good judges talking him up, though I don’t know if that's a good or bad thing! A mark of 143 looks workable and trainer Kim Bailey knows how to get one right for the Festival. Last seen finishing a keeping on second at Kempton over three-miles carrying top-weight he won a Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Ascot prior to that in November in taking style. The slightly longer trip over this stiffer track should suit him just fine, he is a good solid jumper and I think he’s still fairly handicapped. His trainer said recently “He has been in great form and, like Trelawne will probably get the ground he wants in the Ultima. He is very good form, and I am very happy with him. We have had the race in mind for some time.” I am on at 13-2.

Grade One 2m½f Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

The will he run, won’t he run, saga of Constitution Hill has taken up more than a few column inches in the couple of weeks or so before the Festival. As it turns out the Champ won’t run but we still have an odds-on shot with State Man at prohibitive odds. I waited to have a bet in this with Lossiemouth and Irish Point others involved in their own will they won’t they run stories. In the end I have gone for Irish Point as an each-way (⅕ 3-places) bet to nothing at 6-1. I was very impressed when he won the G.1 Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle (tipped on here) over just shy of three-miles but with Teahupoo in the same ownership a tilt at the Stayers always looked unlikely. There was talk of him not coming to the Festival at all and waiting for Aintree but connections have decided to roll the dice and run here with the soft ground conditions. His Down Royal reappearance win came over 17f so he isn't short of speed and can at least give the jolly something to think about and should be in the hunt up the hill; especially if the ground conditions get heavier as looks likely.

Grade One 2m4f Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle

With the problems Constitution Hill was suffering there was talk of Lossiemouth going for the Champion Hurdle to take advantage of the 7lb mares allowance. Connections have seen sense, I see no reason why she could beat State Man, and she races against her own sex here. A shade odds-on she should win but I can’t be playing her at the odds. Marie’s Rock is one I have tipped-up more than once and she was back to winning ways over three-miles at Doncaster last time back in Mares only company. Seventh in this last year, having won it in 2022, she has to be shortlisted. She has been tried against the Stayers and never looked quite good enough truth be told over three-miles at the highest level so this was really her only option at the Festival. Nicky Henderson said in the build-up “She is in very good form, and I couldn’t be more pleased with her. She goes for the Mares’ Hurdle. Obviously, Lossiemouth is in the way, but she has to go it is the sensible race.” At 14-1 she is the each-way (⅕ 3-places) pick with the testing conditions possibly in her favour with others having stamina to prove.

2m½f Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (The Fred Winter)

Once again this looks fiercely competitive with several in with chances. Liari is one I have kept an eye on, unbeaten in three starts over Hurdles, two at Listed level, since moving from France. He was bred by the Aga Khan and is by Cracksman out of an unraced Motivator mare owned by the Aga Khan, Lidiyana. Entered in the Triumph I noted Paul Nicholls saying in a preview “He is by Cracksman and hasn’t had any decent ground, but he will like that. He is in the Boodles off 134 and in the Triumph on the Friday and if you think Nicky’s horse Sir Gino is rated 145, he will have to improve 11lb or so just to compete with him. If we go anywhere, it will be in the Boodles and plenty of horses around that rating have won the Boodles. I think he has a right mark, and he will have plenty of weight as the top horse at the moment is rated 136. I will look at it closely but if the Triumph looked like ending up a small field, we might take our chance but essentially the Boodles is the right race….” Well here he is, with top-weight to carry. I think there is more to come from this one yet, won't get that better ground today, but I have some of the 8-1 this morning as I think he can still win. Lark In The Mornin was third behind Highwind last time (the winner my ante-post punt for the Triumph) and gets in with just 11-stone to carry and could well have more to offer as they say as could Bright Legend with just 10-13 on his back, fifth in the same race won by Highwind. Milan Tino is another for the shortlist and he should like the softer conditions.

Grade Two 3m6f Maureen Mullins National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Novices' Chase

It always pays to check the jockey bookings in the Amateur races as far as I am concerned; a certain Patrick Mullins does skew the stats somewhat due to the amount of good ones he gets to ride but you want one of the better amateurs on your horse simple as that. This is another race dominated by the Irish in the market. Corbetts Cross took a tumble last time when long odds-on but had put in a decent effort prior to that when second in a G.1 Beginners Chase at Leopardstown in December. He has though made mistakes on each of his four Chase starts and this place, perhaps more than any other, punishes mistakes! He of course ran out here in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle last season. Embassy Gardens has won both his Chase starts to date including a 3m1f G.3 at Naas in January in eye-catching style. He looks a far better jumper than the jolly to me and that gives him an edge. The aforementioned Mr P Mullins rides, another positive, and any further rain won’t hurt his chances as he’s won on heavy. I am on at 2-1 happily this morning as I thought he might be shorter. 


7th March 2024 

Willie Mullins has confirmed Ballyburn will run in the Gallagher Novices' Hurdle rather than Supreme. Speaking to the Racing Post on Thursday, Mullins said "Ballyburn seems very well and I’ve been very happy with him over the last week, so all being well he will go for the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle. Mystical Power and Tullyhill will go for the Supreme." That has punt a chink in my bet on Slade Steel, luckily NRNB, as that one may now go for the Supreme as connections have questioned whether it would be worth taking on Ballyburn again; we will see. 

2nd March 2024 

So we now know that Constitution Hill and Marine Nationale won't be at Cheltenham next week. I am gutted we won't get to see Constitution Hill as you want to see the stars but they get ill from time to time and that's just the way it goes. As for Marine Nationale, well from a very selfish point of view my 10-1 e/w punt on JPR One for the Arkle looks even better now!

Gordon Elliott is very fond of Brighterdaysahead it would appear and she has done nothing wrong as yet and will go to the Festival for the Grade Two Ryanair Mares' Novices' Hurdle unbeaten. A two-time bumper winner, she has won all three of her starts over hurdles including a 2m1f G.3 Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Down Royal in November and a 2m5f Listed Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Navan last time as she like as her prep run. I think she is likely to get shorter, especially if a couple of the ‘good things’ earlier in the week go in and have taken 13-8 NRNB about her for this. Her trainer said in a recent interview “We think she’s very good. Shane McCann, who is as good a judge as we have here, rides her every day and he thinks she’s as good as anything we’ve ever had here. That would include Don Cossack, everything. I wouldn’t have any worries about coming back in trip with her for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. She must have a really good chance."

1st March 2024 

The 2m4f Grade One Turners Novice Chase has several with multiple entries but one keeps catching my eye. Fact to File is jolly for the three-miler and surely will run there Willie Mullins saying after his last win “we’ll ask him the big question and see what happens” meaning the 5-2 about Ginny’s Destiny could look very big come Thursday 14th and I am on NRNB. The Paul Nicholls trained eight-year-old loves it round here having won three times this season including what looked a pretty hot Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase in January. I know he was getting 3lb off Grey Dawning when he beat him in December over track and trip but I am convinced he’s improving and will continue to do so. I noted Nicholls saying in a preview “He is probably one of the most improved horses in training arguably and he has won his last three. He won at Cheltenham and was very good on the New course which suits him well. He has made all in his three runs and galloped on strongly up the Cheltenham hill and probably stays three miles even though we haven’t gone that far yet…..He jumps well keeps on galloping and is a smart animal. I would say he is one of our best chances in the novice chase as he jumps well and loves the course and I think he is still improving. Claudia who rides him says he is as good a Pic D’Orhy and Cliff and I were laughing at her but she might actually be right. He did a fantastic bit of work before he ran the last day and is obvious a very talented horse. He is every bit as good as Stage Star and is higher rated than him going into the Turners. He ran Trials Day and doesn’t need a racecourse gallop and he is one you can get ready at home. He is ready go.”

27th February 2024

The Champion Hurdle market was thrown into disarray earlier today following the reports that Constitution Hill had worked badly at Kempton and subsequently returned a dirty scope. It is 50/50 it appears whether the Champion will make it to the Festival next month with more tests due over the coming days. 'Significant mucus' was visible in the sample reportedly so much now depends on the severity of the infection from which Constitution Hill is suffering and how quickly it clears up; it certainly isn’t the ideal prep.

I have added another horse to the ante-post portfolio in the shape of Daily Present for the 3m2f Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase on Thursday. Trainer Paul Nolan knows how to get one right for the Festival and this one looks his best chance this season. A winner over three-miles at Down Royal in January he had been down the field in his other three attempts over the larger obstacles but in fairness he was in with some pretty good ones such as Gaelic Warrior and Grangeclare West; his trainer said, regarding the apparent improvement in form, that the first time application of a tongue strap had helped. A mark of 127 doesn’t look that harsh to me and the way he kept-on to win at Down Royal the extra two-furlongs here may well suit nicely. I am on NRNB each-way at 16-1 (⅕ odds five-places)

26th February 2024

Slade Steel lost little in defeat to Ballyburn in the 2m G.1 Tattersalls Ireland 50th Derby Sale Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last time, his second looking like one of the strongest pieces of Novice Hurdle form this season on paper. The Grade One 2m5f Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle (now the Gallagher Novices' Hurdle) that gets the card underway on Wednesday looks the obvious target to me now at the Festival for the Henry de Bromhead trained Robcour owned six-year-old; little point taking on Ballyburn again you would think over two. He won the G.2 2m4f Navan Novice Hurdle on heavy before the Leopardstown race so the step back up in trip wouldn’t concern me. I noted de Bromhead saying after the DRF race “We had two sort of slogs, certainly the one in Navan looked a bit of a slog, so I didn’t want to go again over two and a half (miles) on heavy ground, so it was nice to run him over two and I thought he acquitted himself well. The winner looked good but we will improve for better ground ourselves. I think our options are open, we probably don’t particularly want to take on the winner again so we’ll see.” I think Ballyburn will surely go for the Supreme on Tuesday so the 4-1 NRNB about Slade Steel for the Baring Bingham looks tasty as that price will shrink as and when Ballyburn is taken out. Another Mullins inmate Ile Atlantique look the likely biggest danger. 

6th February 2024 

The betting for the Grade One Arkle Chase has a more open look to it following Marine Nationale getting turned over at the Dublin Racing Festival. I always had JPR One on the shortlist for this and have decided to back him. He would have won over track and trip in November but for a blunder at the last stumbling an unseating Brendan Powell and his defeat at Sandown when third in the G.1 Betfair Henry VIII Novices' Chase can be forgiven on the heavy ground. He was back in the winners enclosure in a Grade Two at Lingfield in January, having escaped a chaotic incident at the first fence, traveling strongly throughout. He looks the best of the British runners to me, no surprise Willie Mullins has a few towards the head of the market, and is worth a punt early NRNB as a few in here will surely run in other races come the Festival meaning his odds will likely shorten as we find out who the defectors are. I have the 10-1 each-way NRNB (⅕ odds three-places). Trainer Joe Tizzard said after Lingfield "Today was the best we’ve seen him and it was quite a comfortable watch because he travelled great and he’s got a fair bit about him on his day. We’ve always held him in really high regard. Had he not had that stumble at Cheltenham, he was going to look majorly impressive, and the ground took its toll in the Henry VIII at Sandown. He’s only a novice for one year and he’s beaten the best of the English novices today, so we’ll have a crack at it."

29th January 2024 

My oldest racing confidant Mr Griffiths put me on to Highwind as a possible Grade One Triumph Hurdle contender after he watched the race the four-year-old trained by Willie Mullins won at Punchestown in mid January. I've watched the replay several times and he kicked just about every hurdle out the ground and almost stopped over the last after making a mistake but still won by around three-lengths. A winner on the Flat in France when with Christopher Head he certainly has an engine and if he learns to pick his legs up when encountering a Hurdle could turn out pretty damn good. He is due to run in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown this week, along with several of his stablemates, and a better round of jumping there, and a win, will see his price for the Triumph shrink quicker than your winky when ya dip your toe in the sea at Blackpool. 14-1 NRNB (⅕ odds three-places) is available with Hills and I have a bit of that each-way for the Festival.

26th January 2024

Allaho will miss the Cheltenham Festival, it has been announced. Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park’s managing director, told the PA news agency “Allaho was found to be lame after his race at Thurles and it’s been diagnosed as a strained hock, so he’s going to require several weeks rest and recuperation and therefore sadly misses Cheltenham.” The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old carried the colours of Cheveley Park Stud to victory in 2021 and 2022 in the Ryanair Chase and he headed the ante-post lists for this year’s renewal.

24th January 2024

French raider Theleme is going to miss the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after suffering a setback. Racing manager Bertrand Le Metayer, who manages the interests of British-based owners the Gordon Family said "We wanted to arrive at Cheltenham in the best form possible. The horse is lame and Arnaud [Chaille-Chaille] knows we could be doing him some damage instead of coming back stronger in 2025. It’s just a small setback and we know the horse, he’ll be fine; it’s just the timing. He should be fit again for the spring in France and we haven’t given up on the idea of Cheltenham. We’ll try again next year."

28th December 2023 

Gerri Colombe was defeated in the Savills Chase with Galopin Des Champs looking back to his best. I still think we'll see more from Gerri Colombe over the stamina testing Gold Cup trip but Galopin Des Champs is very much back in the picture after this effort. Trainer Gordon Elliott had no excuses and said: “I thought he was a bit disappointing. The winner was awesome and I don’t think any horse would have beaten him on the day.”

Irish Point (tipped on here) was very impressive winning the G.1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and would be a Stayers Hurdle contender surely for any other stable. He runs in Brian Acheson’s Robcour colours, who already has Stayers’ Hurdle jolly Teahupoo, and it may be that we won't see the pair at the Cheltenham Festival. Talking after the race Gordon Elliott said “Jack said he would have done more in a piece of work at home. He was very professional, settled and did everything great. You are always worried stepping up to three miles. It’s a nice race to win, we’ve a couple for that division now and it’s a good problem to have. We’ve a great bunch of horses and Jack said to me there that all I have to do now is to make sure to split them up. He could be a horse that we’d keep for Aintree, we’ll enjoy today and see what happens. The horse was very good and I thought it was a great performance. I thought he was so relaxed that he ticked all the boxes to stay, but you are always nervous until he does it. Jack said he actually thought halfway down the back that he was so relaxed, but he said when he gave him a squeeze he leapt straight back on it.” I really like the five-year-old but will hold-off from having a punt for now until it becomes more obvious which one will be at Cheltenham next March or if both will go. 

27th December 2023 

I have taken the plunge and backed Gerri Colombe at 4's with Coral for the Gold Cup. The Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old is due to run in the Grade One three-mile Savills Chase at Leopardstown tomorrow (28th December) with the likes of reigning Champ  Galopin Des Champs and Fastorslow in opposition. I fancy him in the race and when he wins (see how confident I am) the price for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham will shrink quicker than your woolly Christmas jumper in the boil wash. I am sure there is more to come from him this year and that we might see even more improvement when he steps up to the extended three-and-a-quarter miles of the Gold Cup, a solid jumper he looks all about staying power to me. Gordon Elliott said at the start of the season "I was happy with him at Down Royal. If he’d been beaten, I probably would have been a bit annoyed about Jack staying on Conflated’s outside when he was jumping left all the way, but that was a decision he made in the moment and thankfully he got up to win. I think there’s loads of improvement in him, and a stiffer track will suit him. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he finds a way to win. We are training him for the Gold Cup and the thought is that he’ll have just one run before then. I think the King George at Kempton would be too sharp for him, I wouldn’t like to run him at Tramore, and I feel the Irish Gold Cup can come a little close to Cheltenham if that is the main goal. At the minute, the Savills Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting is in the mix, but we have a couple of other options too."