Cheltenham Festival tips 2018: who should you back?

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  • There are plenty of opportunities to win — and lose — during the Cheltenham Festival next week week (13-16 March). H&H hopes to guide you straight to the front of the bookies’ collection queue with these Cheltenham tips from those in the know…

    Marcus Armytage, H&H’s racing correspondent

    Thebannerkingrebel — Weatherbys Champion Bumper
    “He has yet to come off the bridle in two bumper starts. If from a Mullins or Elliott yard he would be single figure price but because he is from Jamie Snowden’s smaller yard he is 33-1. Snowden has already proved he can train a Festival winner with Present View in 2014 and he’s keen on this one.”

    Vision Des Flos — Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
    “So he is up against the second coming, Samcro, but he may not be invincible. Vision Des Flos won a bumper at Punchestown Festival where he beat Hollowgraphic, second favourite for this year’s Festival bumper. He cost the Potts family a bomb and then ran three poor races with Colin Tizzard but his horses were under par at the time and he had his wind tweaked. Last time he won by 31 lengths hard held at Exeter. That was more like it. Racing Post have rated him only 3lbs behind Samcro which make his 25-1 look the value bet in the race if not the meeting.”

    Definitly Red (pictured, below) — Timico Gold Cup
    “Won over the course in January. It is an open race. The favourite, Might Bite, is quirky and needs decent ground, the best of the Irish all have ifs about them and this improving chestnut looks fantastic each-way value at 16-1.”

    Credit: John Grossick/racingfotos.co/REX/Shutterstock

     Henrietta Knight, author and trainer of three-time Gold Cup winner Best Mate

    Samcro — Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
    “He’s such an amazing horse who has a very exciting future. He started his racing career in point-to-points and I’ve met him a few times at his trainer Gordon Elliott’s — he has a lovely nature and is a nice person with a great temperament. His jumping is very impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing him go over fences next season. I think he’s a future Gold Cup horse.”

    Getabird — Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
    “Another former point-to-pointer who is unbeaten in four starts under Rules. I really like his sire Getaway, he is a stallion I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in the future. The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old suffered a setback last year, which prevented him from running at the Festival.”

    Might Bite (pictured, below) — Timico Gold Cup
    “Such a beautiful, quality horse but also very quirky. His sire Scorpion is by Montjeu, who is known to produce quirky offspring — however, Might Bite is also very talented. I also think Road To Respect is a very talented young horse, who has been saved for Cheltenham, however, he doesn’t like the ground too soft.”

    Laurina — Trull House Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
    “I was also very impressed by this five-year-old mare trained by Willie Mullins. She’s won her last two runs in mares’ hurdles and I like the look of her a lot.”

    Credit: Photo by Steve Davies/racingfotos.com/REX/Shutterstock

    Hayley Moore, presenter on At The Races and daughter of trainer Gary Moore

    Apple’s Shakira — JCB Triumph Hurdle

    “Although my favorite race of the Festival is traditionally the Champion Chase, this year I think it’ll be the Triumph because it looks so competitive on paper.

    “Apple’s Shakira should be far too classy to be beaten with her recent performances and what she has shown us at the course, also on testing going. However, we’ve also had a very taking performance from Redicean at Kempton, however, the ground may have gone against him.
    “I don’t think it’ll be straight forward for Apple’s Shakira, even receiving the mares’ allowance and the danger could come from We Have A Dream (if he runs) — her stablemate. This is a horse I am really attracted to. I would love to have seen him on better ground as he’s such a good mover but he still performs well on soft, looks well balanced and handled the undulations of Chepstow (to beat my Dad’s horse Sussex Ranger, who is tough), therefore Cheltenham should be no problem.”
    FootpadRacing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase
    “He looks faultless for a novice chaser. He looks to have serious scope and he’s proven that by winning comfortably on all three starts over the bigger obstacles. He is straight forward and uncomplicated. Not only does he have pace but he’s proven stamina too so he’ll be staying up the Cheltenham hill well. I’m not worried about the opposition, even though he has a couple of good horses up against him like Petite Mouchoir, who’ll need to reverse recent form and the continually progressive Saint Calvados to beat, I still think he is the class act and his major strength is his beautiful jumping.”

    Carl Evans, racing journalist

    Fagan — National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
    “His second to Unowhatimeanharry in Cheltenham’s 3m Albert Bartlett Hurdle in 2016 is smart form, and this four mile trip should be within his compass. From a top stable and Barry O’Neill is one of the best amateurs on either side of the Irish Sea.”

    Blackbow — Weatherbys Champion Bumper
    “There was something very authoritative about his win at Leopardstown last month, when he won the best bumper run this season in Ireland. Trainer (Willie Mullins) has a great record in this race.”

    Virak — St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase
    “Lorcan Williams is a very talented amateur who has struck up a fine partnership with this horse, winning twice this season. Yet to score in three visits to Cheltenham, but his recent Haydock victory reads well, and the trip should hold no fears.”

    Sue Russell, racing journalist and H&H’s bloodstock writer

    No Comment — National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase
    “A very smart staying handicap hurdler last season and finished an eye-catching third when pitched into Grade One company for his chasing debut at Sandown last month. Has not tackled as far as four miles, but the Kayf Tara gelding is from the close family of Welsh and Scottish National hero Run For Free.”

    Rhinestone — Weatherbys Champion Bumper
    “A wide-margin winner on heavy ground at Thurles in December when ridden prominently, and will have learned plenty more when runner-up from off the pace at Leopardstown last month. The Montjeu gelding can turn the tables on his conqueror that day, Blackbow, particularly on better underfoot conditions.”

    Stormy Ireland — JCB Triumph Hurdle
    “Ran her rivals ragged at Fairyhouse in December on her first run for her current stable after her transfer from her native France, where she was twice narrowly beaten over hurdles. The Motivator filly isn’t the biggest, but her jumping is assured and she has gears to spare, and looks a bit special.”

    Tom Peacock, racing journalist

    Presenting Percy — RSA Novices’ Chase
    “Not a big price now but a horse with past Cheltenham form as last year’s winner of the Pertemps Final. Has been campaigned very cleverly by his shrewd trainer Pat Kelly, running well against Our Duke last time, and could even be a Gold Cup horse this time next year.”

    Valdez — Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
    “Not seen for well over three years before running quite nicely for a long way behind Altior in the Game Spirit at Newbury. Still lightly-raced and fitting a lot of the trends, Alan King’s horse appeals as being nicely handicapped for this.”

    Any Second Now — Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
    “No disgrace to have been beaten by the fleet-footed Footpad a couple of times this season when looking as if a step up to two-and-a-half miles probably suits him better. There are few trainers better at getting one ready for the Festival than Ted Walsh.”

    Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s Cheltenham Festival preview, on sale now (8 March 2018). And read the Cheltenham Festival report in the 22 March 2018 issue of Horse & Hound, plus read daily round-ups online at horseandhound.co.uk (13-16 March)

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