Happy New Year sentiments are all very well but what we need is some mezzunah (as Victor’s friend says in those marvellous VC Bet adverts), and as we are now into 2015 our thoughts inevitably turn to Cheltenham. By the by, our stake money for the highlight of the National Hunt season will be gathered in by our hopeful victory in the Super bowl, at this point all I can say is bring it on Aaron (GBP). Anyway on to Cheltenham.
The reason it is held in such high affection by race lovers is that unlike the Flat which boasts champion horses for that year and billionaire owners, the jumps are loved by us all. By that each year our perennial favourites turn out and that is why that when your average Joe or Mrs Joe is asked the question: “Name a racehorse?” it is long odds on that your Yankee would comprise of Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Mick the Miller (yes I know it’s a dog) and Shergar (yes I know it’s a Flat horse) but you know what I mean (Harry).
Anyway, the one good thing about the Championship races at Prestbury Park is that you can put your ante post down now; and secondly because we know the make up of the race so much in advance, then barring injury you know your particular fancy will run. To that end let’s first turn to the Champion Hurdle. I have no doubt that Faugheen is a very good horse but I can’t escape the fact that last year, had THE NEW ONE not been nearly brought down and lost 12 lengths to the field, he would certainly have won at the expense of Jezki. Now 12 months later it is time for him to claim his crown and at a general 4/1 represents tremendous value.
Similarly the Gold Cup participants are laying down their claims, with one exception and that is last year’s winner LORD WINDERMERE who has so far had an inadequate spin over hurdles and over 2.5 miles just to keep him ticking over. If his Lordship was trained by Mullins or Henderson he wouldn’t be so ignored by the bookmaking community, but nevertheless he is trained by the three time winning jockey of the Gold Cup (Jim Culloty) who is perfectly in tune with what it takes to win a prestigious cup and I think the 14/1 currently on offer is an insult to the horse’s ability. Of the other Championship races to make up the Canadian above I would look to the Ladbrokes World Hurdle where BEAT THAT at 7/1 makes plenty of appeal together with VAUTOUR in the Arkle and CHAMPAGNE FEVER in the Champion Chase. As to the former, Vautour was imperious in the Supreme Novices last March and now he has graduated to fences so he could easily be a Gold Cup horse in the future. As to the latter, with the big two guns (Sprinter Sacre and Sire de Grugy) unlikely to contest the Champion Chase this year or at least not be at peak fitness, I think it is politic to look at an up and coming kid on the block. Double Nevis is an acceptable price.
Briefly away from Cheltenham it is now the new season on the European and PGA Golf Tours and it could pay dividends to have speculative punts on JORDAN SPEITH and RICKY FOWLER to come out on top of the US PGA money list (NB this is not the tour championship). At the moment Coral are offering a standout 16/1 on both and is well worth a punt.
So until next month good punting.