Cheltenham Festival 2019: Andy Ayres picks out his best antepost bet and reflects back on his recent trip to Ireland

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AFTER a week sitting on the starting grid it’s green-for-go and we are back racing!

The BHA and a delegation that would have done the UN proud debated deep into Monday night before we finally got the all-clear.

Mind you, at the end of the day this decision was a no-brainer. You don’t stop the Olympics because someone in the village is a bit Tom-and-Dick, and you can’t halt racing after a handful of horses get the sniffles.

Over in Ireland they kept the show on the road while two yards with the flu were on lockdown and that might just have forced the hand of our pen pushers.

The rub is that no horse can race unless they’ve been vaccinated in the last six months. Cue moans and groans from trainers and a whole lot of overtime for vets dishing out booster jabs.

The guys with swabs and syringes have made a nice few bob out of this and I reckon we’ll see plenty of James Herriot lookalikes booking an extra weeks holiday come the summer.


Still, at least there’s no more box-walking about Cheltenham being abandoned. Talking of which, we saw a couple of decent Festival trials at Naas last weekend.

Willie Mullins’ Pravalaguna bagged centre stage, jumping like a bunny apart from one semi-bored mistake before running away with a Listed chase.

Jockey Paul Townend had a grin from Dublin to Cork after she won and mighty Mullins reckons the mare is good enough to have a spin in either the JLT or Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.

There were more runners in the 2m handicap hurdle than you see lining up for the London Marathon, but that didn’t stop an avalanche of euros piling on Thereisnodoubt (13-2 to 9-4).


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He checked-out tamely in a race Eviscerating won on the bob from the luckless Coral Blue. The runner-up saw less daylight than a pot-holer in shades up the home straight and will be hard to beat next time.

Joseph O’Brien still looks young enough to earn a living as an extra in Grange Hill, but he’s packed plenty into his 25-years and is bossing the juvenile hurdle division this season.

That probably explains why he wasn’t exactly gushing with praise after Band Of Outlaws bolted-up in a hot four-year-old event here.

That bad boy is now gunning for the Fred Winter Handicap at Cheltenham, while Sir Erec will almost certainly be unstoppable for baby-faced Joseph in the Triumph Hurdle.

Trackman's Festival Fancy

ANGELS BREATH (Supreme Novice Hurdle) is rated a star by connections and could be a skinny price come the big day.

By the way, it was sad to hear news of Albert Finney’s death the other day. This fella was a blinding actor and proper racing man to boot.

He was often spotted watching John Sutcliffe’s string on the gallops at Epsom when I was a kid, and my uncles still purr at a memory of the great man buying them a drink or two after racing.

They just don’t make `em like Albert Finney these days – and more’s the pity.

Betting opportunities have been thin on the ground over the past week but every punter’s ears must have pricked-up when Nicky Henderson mentioned ANGELS BREATH alongside Altior the other day.

That’s some recommendation from Hendo and he’s surely worth a few shekels `non-runner-no-bet’ at around 5-1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

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