While Altior should destroy the field in the Arkle, the Champion Hurdle looks wide open, says Betway tipster Tom Sutton
Cheltenham Festival. It’s finally here! I had three out of four winners on Saturday (10/1, 8/1 and 4/1) so let’s see if we can start the week off on a high.
Here’s your daily double and each-way Lucky 15 from Betway and don’t forget, you’re covered if you lose the first and last race with our headline offer.
Betway offer: Money Back as a free bet, up to £10, if you lose on both the 1.30 Supreme Hurdle and the 5.30 Close Brothers Chase.
A £10 win double on Ballyandy and Vroum Vroum Mag returns £170*.
Each-Way Lucky 15
Label Des Obeaux 16/1 | Moon Racer 9/1 | Champers On Ice 7/1 | Two Taffs x/1 |
A 50p Each-Way Lucky 15 (£15 total stake) returns £10,900*
Ballyandy looks the one to beat in the Supreme
We start with the 1.30pm Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in a very tough race to call.
Moon Racer was well fancied but has decided to go for the Champion Hurdle, while Neon Wolf goes for the Neptune and Movewiththetimes has been hit by the Cheltenham injury curse.
Willie Mullins’ Melon is the favourite after winning his only race at Leopardstown in January. With little experience and he wasn’t overly convincing that day, it makes it very difficult for me to see him winning.
That’s why I think the value is with Ballyandy. He seems to like this course, having won here in the Open meeting in 2015 and held on to win a tough Champion Bumper last year. He finished third in the Supreme Trial in November but did follow up with victory in the Grade 3 hurdle at Newbury in February. A proven winner on this course and with Sam Twiston-Davies looking for another successful Festival, he looks a good bet at 4/1.
If you’re searching for an each-way chance, then look no further than Elgin. Alan King’s five-year-old has looked brilliant since a disappointing debut, with form reading (12122). He put in a gutsy performance against Neon Wolf at Haydock in January and was unlucky last time out but did finish ahead of both Capitaine and Peter The Mayo Man. Proven to battle over this distance, he looks a solid each-way punt at 25/1.
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Altior should claim the Arkle with ease
Let’s keep this short and sweet – Altior is not losing this race, bar something miraculous happening. Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old is searching for a 10th win in a row and an 11th from a possible 13. After easing off Min in last year’s Supreme, today’s task looks a much simpler task and I cannot see him getting beat.
If you’re after an each-way chance, or something to bet without Altior, then Cloudy Dream looks a good bet. Trained by Malcolm Jefferson, this six-year-old is incredibly consistent notching up six wins, three seconds and two thirds from his 11 rides. He put in a solid performance when he finished runner-up behind Beveur D’air at Haydock in December and has proved he goes well over the 2m. With Brian Hughes in scintillating form this season he looks a solid each-way bet at 20/1 or 5/1 without Altior.
Label Des Obeaux a great each-way shout for the Ultima
Now it’s time for the first big handicap of the Festival – The Ultima. With four places up for grabs, there’s definitely some each-way money to be made here.
Noble Endeavor is among the favourites and Betway ambassador Davy Russell believes he has a great chance with the ground suiting him well.
Un Temps Pour Tout won this race last year and will have a decent chance of retaining his crown.
However, there looks really good value for Label Des Obeaux. Trained by Alan King, he’s looked incredibly impressive in his last two rides – winning at both Exeter and Ludlow. He also put in a solid performance when runner-up at Lingfield but was beaten by Singlefarmpayment on this course in December. However, his jumping in particular has improved a lot since then and with Wayne Hutchinson’s record on board (213-221) he looks a great each-way chance at 16/1.
Moon Racer and Buveur D’air the ones sticking out in the Champion Hurlde
The first of the four championship races comes in 3.30pm Champion Hurdle, a race that has really suffered from injuries with the likes of Faugheen and Annie Power the notable absentees.
Yanworth’s form is exceptional and is the reason why he is rightly favourite. However, a lot of those victories haven’t been massively convincing, especially from his jumping in the Betway Kingwell, so for that reason I’m going to dismiss him today.
Buveur D’air will have a great chance for Nicky Henderson after finishing third in the Supreme last year and has since won three in a row.
Though I’m really drawn to Moon Racer here. It was a big call by David Pipe to enter him in this race, but he will never have a better shot at this Grade 1. The eight-year-old is unbeaten at Cheltenham having won on all three occasions here, including the 2015 Champion Bumper and the Supreme Trial in November. No doubt this is a huge step up but a proven course and distance winner and with Tommy Scudamore unbeaten on board, he looks too good to ignore at 9/1.
Vroum Vroum Mag can get the better out of stablemate Limini
Next up is the 4.10pm Mares’ Hurdle where Vroum Vroum Mag is looking to retain her crown.
It could be silly disregarding a lot of this field, including Apples Jade, but it looks like a straight battle between the Mullins stars.
Limini looked back to her best when she beat Apples Jade impressively last month but was very disappointing at Doncaster in Aintree last April, finishing well behind Buveur D’air.
This is why the value swings me towards Vroum Vroum Mag. The eight-year-old has a fantastic record under Mullins with 12 wins from 13 runs and only beaten by Apples Jade at Fairview in December. Interesting to see Ruby Walsh opt to ride Limini, but Paul Townend is more than capable rising to the task. She won the Mares’ Hurdle with ease last year and looks a solid bet to repeat that triumph today.
Champers On Ice eyeing National Hunt Chase triumph
The 4.50pm National Hunt Chase is the second big handicap of the day and it could be a really good day for David Pipe.
Champers On Ice should have a really good chance here as he usually travels very well round Cheltenham. Five of his nine runs have come on this course, winning once, one second and two thirds. The other, he was slightly disappointing when he finished 6th here in January but was carrying a lot of weight. Beaten by the likes of American, Unowhatimeanharry and Yanworth over the past 12 months is by no mean discrediting, so at 7/1 should go well here.
Dan Skelton will be very confident in the Close Brothers
We finish with the close Brothers handicap where Dan Skelton should be quietly confident of getting the win. He has two which are well fancied in Its’afreebee and Two Taffs and it could be the latter who is set for his first novice chase victory.
Two Taffs has been impressive in his last three finishing second twice and third last time out at Warwick. One of five who are bottom weight at 11st 7lbs could definitely play in his favour and with Russell’s experience on board, he looks a good each-way chance at 10/1.