Paul Townend and Galopin Des Champs Saturday February 3, 2024.
Turf Account

Best bets for Cheltenham

My racing tips for Cheltenham

This article is taken from the March 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Like a good Jewish girl, my daughter counts down the days to the next Christmas from the moment Boxing Day has ended. I look on this obsession with pity. “What about the rest of the year?” I ask. “How can you wish it all away?”

There’s nowt like a good bit of hypocrisy, because from the moment the horses pass the post in the final race of the Cheltenham Festival, Friday’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, I count down the days until the following year’s Tuesday opening, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. What about the rest of the year? Pah!

This time last year I did what I said I would never do, mainly because I am essentially useless at it, and offered some tips. And if I say so myself, they weren’t too bad. I am quite proud that I gave you The Real Whacker, who won the Brown Advisory at 8/1. Which means this year is bound to be a disaster, so take all that follows with that large caveat — and the fact that as I write this Cheltenham is still so far off that I don’t even know the state of the ground.

That said, there are some horses which even six months out were standouts. The most obvious — and thus unbackable at 1/3 — is Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle. I’ve rarely seen a horse jump hurdles so fluently, almost balletically. He reminds me of Istabraq in his pomp, but with more panache. I say he is unbackable but with interest rates now on a downward curve, if you think about it as a 33 per cent return on an investment that lasts around 3 minutes, 1/3 becomes pretty tempting. If you want an interest at decent odds, Not So Sleepy at 25/1 is a bit of fun each way.

In the Mares’ Hurdle, Lossiemouth looks nailed on. She won last year’s Triumph Hurdle well, but her return to the track in January’s Cheltenham Trials day was sensational and 8/11 looks worth taking if you’re going to do one of those mad Cheltenham accumulators which, being partial to mad bets, I am. 

Fact To File made his much-hyped Willie Mullins stablemate Gaelic Warrior look a plodder at February’s Dublin Racing Festival so he must be backed in whichever of the Brown Advisory (7/2) or Turners Novices’ Chase (5/2) he runs in. El Fabiolo is surely a certainty for the Champion Chase, but while 4/9 represents his chance who wants to take such skinny odds? I’d rather take a punt on Elixir De Nutz, who beat Jonbon last time out, each way at 25/1.

Nicky Henderson’s stable rate Sir Gino very highly and weren’t at all surprised by his performance on Trials Day, so he’s worth including at 4/5 in the Triumph Hurdle. I’ve not got a clue who will win the Stayers’ Hurdle or the Ryanair Chase, but Galopin Des Champs is on the brink of being one of the all-time greats, and I’d be astounded if he doesn’t win his second successive Gold Cup 10/11 isn’t bad, if you ask me.

But if the ground is good, it makes sense to have an interest in the King George winner Hewick, one of the most likeable horses in training. He’s 10/1. And if Shishkin hadn’t fallen at the last in that race, he wouldn’t be anything like 10/1, so I will put some on him.

I’ve not seen a better handicap win this season than Henry de Bromhead’s Heart Wood winning a seemingly competitive race at the Dublin Racing Festival by 14 lengths, and although he will go up in the weights I’ll be sure to be with him if he ends up running at Cheltenham.

Finally, 2/1 against Willie Mullins having nine or more winners at the festival is worth a go. Enjoy!

Champion Hurdle: Not So Sleepy 25/1, each way

Champion Chase: Elixir De Nutz 25/1, each way

Gold Cup: Hewick 10/1, each way

Gold Cup: Shishkin 10/1, each way

Heart Wood whichever race


Mares’ Hurdle: Lossiemouth 8/11; Brown Advisory or Turners Novices’ Chase: Fact To File 7/2 or 5/2;  Champion Chase: El Fabiolo 4/9; Triumph Hurdle: Sir Gino 4/5; Gold Cup: Galopin Des Champs 10/11

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