A week today punters up and down the land will hear the sound that accompanies one of the most anticipated betting opportunities of the year: the famous ‘Cheltenham roar’ which will greet the start of the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the curtain-raiser for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Tuesday of the festival is always well received by punters; not least because it’s the first day but also because it features four high quality renewals.
The Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Arkle Trophy are a particular edifying starter for the main course, the Champion Hurdle, while the Mares’ Hurdle acts as the perfect dessert for a fine day of racing at Prestbury Park.
The ante-post markets are live and kicking, and while we still await the final declarations here are some pointers to help punters draw up their early shortlists:
Supreme Novices Hurdle (1:30pm)
Nearly all of the talk in the build-up to the Supreme has been about Samcro, the outstanding Gigginstown six-year-old who seemingly has the world at his hooves.
The will-he-won’t-he debacle that has been going on for over a week now has confused punters and bookmakers alike, with bet365 offering a bizarre 14/1 non-runner, no bet offer on Samcro in this renewal. Bearing in mind he is a 2/1 shot to win it, that is ludicrous value!
However, punters’ hopes for an early festival goldrush have been dampened by Eddie O’Leary, the Gigginstown connection who has ruled out a Supreme run for his young steed. “Switching Samcro from the Ballymore to the Supreme is something we’re not even thinking about,” he confirmed. “Unless the ground becomes brutally heavy – and I hope for everyone’s sake that won’t be the case – it isn’t something we’ll even consider.”
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to owner Gigginstown House Stud, said: “Switching Samcro from the Ballymore to the Supreme is something we’re not even thinking about. It doesn’t interest us that his price for the Supreme has shortened.
— Paul Smith (@mrsmid888) March 6, 2018
Only three favourites have prospered in this renewal in the past decade, although Willie Mullins’ fine record in the Supreme means that Getabird, the 13/8 favourite, makes obvious appeal. The six-year-old is unbeaten in four starts and really impressed in the Moscow Flyer last time out, making all the running and triumphing by nine lengths to the rest.
Punters seeking a lengthy each way shout to get their festival up and running could do a lot worse than Western Ryder (33/1), who has a win on soft ground to his name as recently as December.
That day he triumphed in an EBF Novices’ Hurdle from Summerville Boy, who is available at 10/1 here, and so there has to be value in the Warren Greatrex six-year-old.
The Arkle Trophy (2:10pm)
Mullins and Nicky Henderson have won five of the last six Arkle renewals, and it is the former’s Footpad who really catches the eye here.
The French fancy outpaced his closest rival here, Petit Mouchoir, by some five lengths in the Arkle Novice Chase in February, as well as taking the honours in comfortable fashion in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase.
Petit Mouchoir has twice beaten Footpad, however, including an outstanding run in the Ryanair Hurdle over the festive period and in the Irish Champion Hurdle back at the start of 2017.
At 6/4 and 5/2 respectively there’s little to choose between the pair, and punters may well be advised to spend the five minutes or so that the Arkle is on hopefully counting their winnings from the Supreme, rather than cutting into their profit margin here!
Champion Hurdle (3:30pm)
Day one of the Cheltenham Festival is typically headlined by the Champion Hurdle, and it’s a race which the betting floor typically enjoys with three favourites hosing up in four attempts prior to 2017’s edition.
There, the rather unconvincing favourite, Yanworth, was trounced by the Nicky Henderson’s game Buveur d’Air, who is a widely-available 8/13 to do the business again and retain his title.
Since the start of 2017 the seven-year-old has been unbeatable, taking the spoils in six straight races with some decent scalps to his name. The Aintree Hurdle and the Christmas Hurdle are always competitive renewals, but Buveur d’Air won them both with minimal fuss to extend a record which sees triumphs on heavy, soft and good-to-soft ground; always a sign of a high quality, versatile performer.
There are numerous each way options in a renewal of this quality, but for punters the game old warhorse My Tent or Yours (12/1) always tends to give a decent run for your money.
Most were willing to write off the Henderson charge given that he went eleven races without a win – albeit with some decent efforts in there, but a fine win in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, over talented sorts like Melon and The New One, really caught the eye.
He was game in his penultimate start in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle too, and twice finished second to Buveur d’Air in 2017 in performances in which he was not wholly outclassed.