we have used the spare time that Sandown's postponement gave us and been working hard looking at 3 of the Championship races and have come up with 3 ante-post tips for them.
This year's renewals look as good as in any recent year, and there are several horses defending their crowns; Altior in the Champion Chase, Paisley Park in The Stayers, Frodon in the Ryanair and Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup so it's a mouthwatering week in prospect.
Most bookmakers are now going NRNB and they will be falling over themselves for your custom. Look out for their special offers but do make sure you read the terms and conditions very carefully before taking any offer as some of the terms can be a little onerous.
We will be back Monday night with the Festival first day selections...
The team at Cleeve
Tuesday - 2.10 Cheltenham 2m (1m7f199y) (Old) Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Notebook – 147
2) Maire Banrigh – 132
3) Esprit Du Large – 121
4) Global Citizen – 110
4) Mister Fisher – 110
Mister Fisher looks a bit overpriced at current odds but that is probably because he heads to the Marsh Chase over half a mile further.
Esprit Du Large won the Henry VIII Novice Chase at Sandown which is historically a good pointer to this race – Altior being the last horse to win both. His price looks fair but I think he has a bit to find with the top two rated.
Global Citizen was the last one I ruled out and I do think he can run into a place. He has won at Grade 2 over fences already and won at Grade 2 as a hurdler. His last win over fences was in the Wayward Lad Novices Chase at Kempton over Christmas and that is a key race for this. He beat Rouge Vif, which has subsequently won the Grade 2 Kingmaker Chase at Warwick. Global Citizen is likely to be the main threat.
Fakir D’oudairies and Cash Back are also respected bearing in mind their connections, but the former is a five-year-old which is a negative and the latter lost last time out to our selection.
Maire Banrigh is a mare and gets an allowance of seven pounds if running here rather than in one of the mares’ races. I will be interested to see how she goes, but she has not won at Graded level over fences or hurdles so has a lot to find with the principals.
Notebook is the standout horse on form and on our ratings and it is rare a horse in a Grade 1 is fifteen points clear. He won back to back Grade 1’s at Leopardstown when winning the Racing Post and Arkle Novice Chases. Notebook is unbeaten over fences and if he gets into a rhythm, he could be very hard to beat.
Wednesday - 3.30 Cheltenham 2m (1m7f199y) (Old) Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Altior – 103
2) Defi Du Seuil – 101
3) Chacun Pour Soi – 96
4) Politologue – 79
Politologue was second in this race behind Altior when fast finishing, but he has been beaten twice this season by Defi Du Seuil. I do think he will run better here and can give the top three rated most to do.
Chacun Pour Soi is talented and was impressive when beating Min last time in the Dublin Chase. My main concern for him is he has never run at Cheltenham, but if he gets a lead coming into the final couple of fences his turn of foot could make him very hard to catch. Saying that I don’t think his current price offers any value.
Altior is the reigning champion and if he is leading coming up the hill will be very hard to pass; however, he is now ten and younger legs are likely to have a better turn of foot. I think that his battle with Cyrname over the longer trip on poor ground at Ascot will have taken its toll on his ageing legs.
One that might run a big race and could challenge the top three is Dynamite Dollars having only had one run this season.
Defi Du Seuil won the JLT here last year, has gone from strength to strength this year and his jumping is now very slick. He has won the Shloer, Tingle Creek and Clarence House chases this year in impressive fashion and a repeat of that form will make him very hard to beat.
I am really looking forward to this race, which could be one of jump racing’s classic races when we look back on it in the years to come.
Thursday - 2.50 Cheltenham 2m4½f (2m4f127y) (New) Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy) (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Min – 126
2) Chacun Pour Soi – 122
3) Frodon – 119
4) Politologue – 117
Chacun Pour Soi and Politologue are likely to run elsewhere at the Festival that then brings Riders On The Storm and A Plus Tard into the picture here.
A Plus Tard won the Close Brothers Novice Handicap at last year’s Festival and looked very impressive when beating Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown last time they met. His price is now very tight and although I do think he is the best on form and the most likely winner, any value has long gone.
Frodon was one of the most celebrated winners last season in this race, and if he and Bryony Frost repeat it will bring the house down…my concern for Frodon is the ground not drying out sufficiently for him to be able to accelerate up the hill.
Min will be many peoples’ idea of the winner here and poor Min will be glad to see the back of Altior, as he has finished second (twice) and fifth behind him in the previous three Festivals. Min is a proven Grade 1 performer but does tend to find one too good when put under pressure.
Riders Onthe Storm is still improving and showed that when he won the Grade 1 Ascot Chase; is a key race for this, winning by 14 lengths on his second attempt at this level. I think he can improve again and if he gets into an early rhythm, I am sure he will be involved in the final stages going up the hill. He is unbeaten over fences since switching to Nigel Twiston Davies and can hopefully extend that sequence here as long as he’s recovered… and I don’t believe that NTD would be running him if he wasn’t.