5 Cheltenham antepost bets to consider before Festival week
With the greatest show on turf just around the corner, Chad Yeomans has scanned the racecards to find the best value around before the madness begins.
1. CAREFULLY SELECTED – currently for the National Hunt Chase (Tuesday, 17:30)
In races with amateur jockeys, it often pays to side with the best riders – and there aren’t many better than Patrick Mullins.
He’s an integral part of his father’s training operation at Closutton and would definitely have had a strong hand in getting Carefully Selected campaigned for this race.
The Mullins combo have teamed up twice in the past seven years to win this race, and I think this horse is easily better than the previous two.
He’s unbeaten in three this term and has everything you need to win this contest. He jumps, he travels and he stays and, with the best jockey on board, is going to take some beating.
2. CANARDIER – currently for the Coral Cup (Wednesday, 14:40)
The Coral Cup is a proper cavalry charge from start to finish and, while Cheltenham form counts in every race, it is far more valuable in these big-field handicaps where they go hell-for-leather all the way.
I’m convinced that Willie Mullins is set for the best Festival he’s ever had – and believe his handicap team is his strongest string.
Canardier will be a bit of an unknown as he hasn’t been in his car long, but did finish fifth in this race last year when staying on up the hill off a mark of 141.
He makes his stable debut this year off a mark of 143 and you’d imagine that, just by moving to Willies’, he’ll improve a few pounds.
He comes here off the back of a few runs over fences, which suits horses in both the Coral Cup and the Pertemps, and was also a convincing winner at Cheltenham in October 2018.
3. ASO – currently for the Ryanair Chase (Thursday, 14:50)
This selection is a fairly recent one as, after looking at the race with a fine toothcomb, it looks like it will cut up hugely.
I believe A Plus Tard will actually win the Ryanair but, at the prices, Aso looks a cracking each-way bet and will surely go off at half his current price.
He was second in the race last year and, as we all know, Festival form counts for a lot.
He’s been campaigned sparingly this season but has run well in all three of those starts – two of which were over three miles with his optimum trip back at 2m5f.
He did have an off day at Huntingdon in the Peterborough Chase, although that was going the other way around when he’s much better going left-handed.
Given a break since his run in the King George, he comes here a fresh horse and can certainly outrun his big price.
4. HOOK UP – currently for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle (16:50, Thursday) or for the Triumph Hurdle (13:30, Friday)
This is a more of a speculative ‘Where will she run?’ look, but I’m very keen on this horse.
She’s very smart and, whether she lines up in the Mares’ Novice or Triumph Hurdle, I think she’ll do herself justice.
There were plenty of strong vibes about her when the winter set in, though we had to wait until a couple of weeks ago to see anything of her.
She ran an absolute blinder that day on her first start for Willie Mullins, and looked the winner from four out until about 250 yards from the line.
She will clearly come on plenty for that run and, in a year where the juveniles aren’t anything special, I’d expect her to go close.
She reminds me of Let’s Dance, who ran very well in the Triumph for the same connections a few years ago after a similar preparation.
5. LONGHOUSE POET – currently for the Albert Bartlett (14:50, Friday)
At this late stage, it’s often difficult to know where a horse is going when they have multiple entries.
That is certainly the case with Longhouse Poet, who could go to the Ballymore Hurdle (which is sponsored by his owners).
However, I’m hoping that he runs in the Albert Bartlett as, not only is it a much easier race, but I also think that he’ll be a better animal over 3m.
This race often suits a horse who is still improving, and Longhouse Poet has been running behind some very good horses in some good races – namely when he was narrowly beaten in the 2m6f Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival and, before that, was in behind Envoi Allen over 2m4f, which will prove to be a trip too short.
He beat Column of Fire the time before that and that horse is sure to go very close in the Martin Pipe.
He was also a point-to-point winner over 3m and is a winner on both good and soft ground, so any conditions will suit. Fingers crossed he goes to the longer novice race on the Friday.
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