21 March 2022; The homecoming of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Turf Account

Chasing champions

Potentially winning picks for the Cheltenham Festival

This article is taken from the March 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Last month I wrote about my time as the Mug Punter — a tipster column based on the fact that I am useless. So naturally, I devote this month to tips for the Cheltenham Festival (14-17 March).

Just to give you some idea of my capacity for giving the bookies money: today I managed to back an 11/1 winner and still lose. I’d placed a £5 trixie (three doubles and a treble). The first won at 11/1. The other two … well, you know the drill.

I don’t have a bad record ante post at Cheltenham

But let’s be positive. I don’t have a bad record ante post at Cheltenham. When Best Mate was winning three Gold Cups I had a perfect system: I backed him heavily before his first at very good odds, and then as soon as he passed the post at Cheltenham would put a third of my winnings on him winning the following year. (After his third win, it was clear he wasn’t going to run again so I held on to all the winnings).

I think my greatest triumph was Flakey Dove at 25/1 for the 1994 Champion Hurdle; she won at 9/1. That fine and underrated trainer Mark Bradstock also tipped me the winner of the 1999 RSA Chase, Looks Like Trouble, at 18/1 — of course he went on to beat Florida Pearl in the following year’s Gold Cup. And Mark’s own Coneygree was a scintillating winner as a novice in 2015, helping to turn my balance sheet into a decent profit.

As for this year: I write this with over a month to go and — crucially — before the Dublin Festival, which will sort out many of the “who runs where?” issues, especially for Willie Mullins’s horses. It says everything about his dominance that the best odds you can get for him to train more Cheltenham winners than every British trainer combined is just even money. He’s only 9/2 to train more than 12 winners.

One race I don’t think he will win is the Arkle. Jonbon would have been hailed as one of the great winners of the Supreme Novices last year had it not been for the little matter of the 22 lengths by which his stable mate Constitution Hill beat him.

But Jonbon is a serious machine in his own right and has looked tailor- made for chasing. 11/8 looks good to me. (All of these bets should be done NRNB — non-runner no bet.)

I write this with over a month to go and — crucially — before the Dublin Festival, which will sort out many of the “who runs where?” issues

In the mares’ novice hurdle, Luccia looks good at 7/4 and I’ve a feeling Honeysuckle will run in the Mares’ Hurdle (perhaps 5/2). I’ve had some money on one-time Derby favourite High Definition in the Supreme Novices each way at 16/1, and Hermes Allen looks decent for Paul Nicholls in the Ballymore (5/2).

If The Real Whacker goes for the Brown Advisory (the old RSA Chase) rather than the Gold Cup I’d back him at 5/1. As for the Champion Chase: Energumene can surely be forgiven his defeat in January; if anyone can bring him back to his peak it’s Willie Mullins. I’ll have the 5/2.

Allaho has made the Ryanair his own and even at 6/4 I’d back him. But I am floored by the Stayers’ Hurdle, with only the tentative suggestion of Marie’s Rock at 10/1 if Nicky Henderson decides to bypass the Mares’ Hurdle.

In the Gold Cup I am afraid I’ve nothing original to say: I think favourite Galopin Des Champs will win. But I do like Ahoy Senor each way at 16/1, now he’s shown he is back to his best.

What this all means in terms of bets for me is this:

Jonbon 11/8
Honeysuckle 5/2
Hermes Allen 5/2
The Real Whacker 6/1
Energumene 5/2
Allaho 6/4
Galopin Des Champs 15/8
A quarter point fourfolds, fivefolds, sixfolds and sevenfolds.
High Definition 16/1 5 points each way
Marie’s Rock 10/1 5 points
Ahoy Senor 16/1 5 points each way

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