it's finally here! The 2020 Festival starts tomorrow and will kick off with the traditional mighty roar when the tapes go up on the Supreme. We have a total of 6 selections tomorrow so let's hope we can kick the meeting off with a winning day as it is always easier to front-run than come from behind.
Two of our selections originally went out as ante-post selections and on the first we have locked in some decent value as the price has halved but the second only went out on Saturday so the prices are roughly the same. We have given you a pointer as to what to do if you haven't backed them already.
Here's a reminder of the full Cleeve ante-post portfolio. Also we've published the full set of ratings for every runner in every race... you can see them here.
We are back on Tuesday night with our selections for Day Two.
The team at Cleeve
1.30 Cheltenham 2m½f (2m87y) (Old) Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Cleeve Top 3 Rated:
1) Asterion Forlonge – 158
2) Abacadabras – 146
3) Fiddlerontheroof – 139
We put out the ante-post for this race over a month ago with the view that Envoi Allen would run in the Ballymore locking in the value on Asterion Forlonge. If you haven’t backed him already he is now very tight from a value point of view in a race such as this and any EW angle has now gone. If you haven’t backed him already We wouldn’t put you off having a small interest but it will be going down on the P+L as an ante-post bet.
Original Race analysis:
If Envoi Allen was to line up here, I fully expect him to win, but his favoured engagement appears to be the Ballymore Novices over five furlongs further. It would also be no surprise to see him take his chance in the Champion Hurdle, despite his trainer preferring to keep him in novice company. He won the Champion Bumper here last year and will be a real threat in whichever engagement he takes up.
Abacadabras was beaten by Envoi Allen in last year’s Champion Bumper and is the stable second string, but he will be a threat here if he jumps round smoothly. He looked very good in the Future Champion Novices Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas and that form puts him in the mix here.
As always in the Supreme there are multiple threats including market leader Shishkin from the Henderson yard. Fiddlerontheroof and Master Debonair from the Tizzard yard, also Captain Guinness (Pricewise tip today) from Henry de Bromhead and they all have decent form in the book.
Asterion Forlonge has only had the two hurdle runs winning both, including the Grade 1 Pharma Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend which he took in impressive fashion. The Pharma is a good yardstick form-wise with previous winners Klassical Dream, Vautour and Champagne Fever all winning and then going on to take the Supreme.
He looked very impressive despite jumping slightly right on occasions and he showed to me that there is still improvement to come. I like him a lot and feel he has more scope than several of his rivals, and I can see him travelling strongly and tucking in behind the front runners, before making a decisive move coming down the hill. I think he has the talent to power away up the hill to beat Abacadabras and Fiddlerontheroof.
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
We only put out the ante-post for this race on Saturday and the price has actually drifted slightly with some firms, our advice if you haven’t backed him yet, is to wait until the morning to place your bet and get best odds guarantee. To be fair as with the previous selection even if the price drifts we will be posting on the P+L at the ante-post price.
Mister Fisher looks overpriced to me but probably heads to the Marsh Chase over half a mile further.
Esprit Du Large won the Henry VIII Novice Chase at Sandown which is a good pointer to this race – Altior the last 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 here, but she has not won at Graded level over fences or hurdles so has a lot to fine 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 here.
2.50 Cheltenham 3m1f (Old) Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Kildisart – 197
2) Brave Eagle – 195
3) Cogry – 183
4) Mister Malarky – 174
Brave Eagle has a lot of weight and despite winning 4 from his 6 chase starts and has done most of his winning over shorter. He finished down the field in the Martin Pipe at last years Festival and I think he will struggle off this mark here.
Cogry ran in this race in 2018 and overall has a good record at Cheltenham and if he gets into a rhythm early, he could have a few of these struggling behind him. I would suggest though that his chance of winning this has passed and he runs off a higher mark this time. He does have place prospects if he gets into an early lead.
Mister Malarky was fourth in the RSA last season but his form has been in and out since, until winning at Kempton last time. I think he goes better right-handed and he may have to settle for a minor place at best here.
Other challengers are likely to come from The Conditional (last one I ruled out), Who Dares Wins (stamina doubts) and top weight Vinndication (classy but weight is a concern).
Kildisart has had a mixed season to date but has slipped down the handicap as a result and now sports first-time cheekpieces. Which will hopefully aid his concentration. He won a Grade 3 at Aintree last season over three miles one furlong, so stamina is not an issue. He has got Festival form having finished fourth in the Grade 1 JLT last season and he can go well again in this at a fair price
NB make sure you use a bookmaker going 6 places
3.30 Cheltenham 2m½f (2m87y) (Old) Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Supasundae – 144
2) Cilaos Emery – 128
3) Epatante – 126
4) Sharjah – 125
Epatante is the 3/1 favourite and is unbeaten this season including winning the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in impressive style. She is bidding to add another Champion Hurdle to J P McManus’s impressive haul. I think she is a likely winner here, but any value has gone, especially in such an open race.
Cilaos Emery has switched this season from chasing back to hurdling and won a Grade 3 impressively last time. He is a talented horse but would need to make his hurdling a bit slicker to win here. He was supplemented for this race and is a likely challenger.
Supasundae is a horse long term members know that I like a lot. He has placed in the stayer’s hurdle here and has won at Grade 1 over this shorter trip when winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. I do think he will go well again here and if there’s a searching pace he can use his stamina on the soft ground to put these 2 milers to the sword.
Sharjah is a speedy type more suited to being held up off an even pace and has won multiple Grade 1 races, my only concern is if the ground gets any softer it will test his stamina to the full. He has a high cruising speed and can tuck in behind before making his move down the hill. Sharjah ran in this race last season when he was unluckily brought down by the falling Buveur D’Air, hopefully he will get better luck this time.
4.10 Cheltenham 2m4f (2m3f200y) (Old) Festival Mares' Hurdle (Registered as The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle) (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Benie Des Dieux – 97
2) Honeysuckle – 96
3) Elfie – 84
4) Roksana – 78
Benie Des Dieux should win this without much difficulty and her price reflects that. She fell at the last in this last season gifting the race to the ultra-tough Roksana. That rival and Honeysuckle can give Benie Des Dieux most to do, but if she stays on her feet she wins. No Bet.
4.50 Cheltenham 2m4f (2m4f44y) (Old) Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+ 0-145)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Imperial Aura – 202
2) Jarvey’s Plate – 190
3) Espoir De Guye – 184
4) Precious Cargo – 163
Jarvey’s Plate has lost his way this campaign having looked very promising last season and more worryingly he now has first-time blinkers which is a massive negative. Best watched at present and maybe needs to switch back to hurdles to freshen himself up again.
Espoir De Guye won a Class 2 at Ascot on heavy just before Christmas but being off the course for that length of time is a concern and the fact he has not run in a Graded chase. I do think he has the potential to improve but he may need to settle for a place here.
Imperial Aura has been well backed and has finished second on his last two starts both at Cheltenham. He has finished third in a Graded hurdle but is yet to run in a Graded chase. I think his price is now too short to back him here, but no surprise if he features at the finish.
Galvin has been heavily backed into favouritism for the Elliott/Russell combination, but he has not shown me the level of form required to win this. The major concern is that he has not run since November, so his fitness will need to be taken for granted. The trainer/jockey combination means Galvin must be taken seriously, but his price is too short based upon his form to date.
Precious Cargo has top weight, but the weights are very compacted so I am not concerned about his weight. He ran in a Graded race last time over too short a trip and on ground that was too quick. The step-up in trip should suit and the soft ground will suit him more than many of his rivals. I hope that Nicky Henderson can add to his huge tally of festival winners here at a very generous price.
5.30 Cheltenham 3m6f (3m5f201y) (Old) National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Cleeve Top 4 Rated:
1) Carefully Selected – 137
2) Newtide – 130
3) Ravenhill – 124
4) Springfield Fox – 116
The big problem with this race is that three of the top four rated Carefully Selected, Newtide and Springfield Fox are all very inexperienced over fences and this race usually goes to a horse that has had at least 10 runs over fences.
Both Carefully Selected and Newtide are the best of those and have already run well at Graded level in novice events and have top amateurs booked to ride in Barry O’Neill and Patrick Mullins. Both horses though have only had 8 runs over fences between them and that includes three over point to point fences. That lack of experience could cost them and at their respective prices of 7/4 and 17/2 I will look elsewhere.
The final one I ruled out was Lord Du Mesnil and ultimately that was due to him tending to finish second. He has loads of experience and jumps soundly. Lord Du Mesnil has the top amateur Sam Waley-Cohen up, although he is not riding as often these days and this slog will test his stamina as much as that of the horse.
In the end, I settled on Ravenhill due to his win percentage being 36% as opposed to Lord Du Mesnil’s 11%. He also has the able assistance of Jamie Codd, who is probably the top amateur on either side of the Irish Sea and has a 21% strike rate at the Festival. Ravenhill fell last time but that was a blip on his clean jumping record. He has run well in big field handicaps in Ireland and that form is equivalent or better than Graded novice contests in my view.
NB make sure you use a bookmaker going 4 places