AS The Festival approaches, those ‘specials’ look more and more tempting as you scan the prices available.
It was a one man wrecking ball last year. Gordon Elliot dominated from start to finish to win leading trainer for the second year on the trot. But is there any value in this year’s market?
Gordon Elliot 5-4
Big Gordon is on the hat-trick hunt and the hot favourite to lift the trophy again.
Apple’s Jade is his flag-bearer heading to Prestbury Park this year. However, if she gets beat early on the Tuesday in the Champion Hurdle the chat will start as to the form of the Irish yard.
Tiger Roll looks Elliot’s banker in the X-Country while Battleoverdoyen will be short and hard to beat in the Albert Bartlett.
Delta Work continues to shorten in the RSA betting and will be another horse the Irish latch on to.
Gordon Elliot's Cheltenham Team
Hardline – The Arkle (12-1)
Dounikos & The Storyteller – Ultima Handicap (10-1 & 12-1)
Apple’s Jade – Champion Hurdle (2-1)
Campeador – Close Brothers Handicap (10-1)
Battleoverdoyen – Ballymore (5-2)
Delta Work – RSA (3-1)
Tiger Roll – X-Country (EVS)
Envoi Allen – Champion Bumper (4-1)
Sire Du Berlais – Pertemps (5-1)
Samcro – Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle (5-1)
Measureofmydreams – Kim Muir (10-1)
Shattered Love – Gold Cup (33-1)
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Nicky Henderson 2-1
Leading the British charge is head of Seven Barrows with superstar Altior arguably the biggest name to run at the Festival.
Hendo has had an up and down year, with the equine flu getting in the way of Festival prep for a large number in his stable.
He may have been shorter had that not been the case and his team of novice hurdlers is probably as strong as any other. He’ll have a job on his hands splitting them all up.
Nicky Henderson's Cheltenham Team
Angels Breath – Supreme (6-1)
Janika – Ultima Handicap (12-1)
Buveur D’Air – Champion Hurdle (15-8)
OK Corral – National Hunt Cup (5-2)
Champ – Ballymore (11-4)
Santini – RSA (3-1)
Altior – Champion Chase (4-11)
Top Notch – Ryanair (8-1)
Epatante – Mares’ Novice (5-2)
Call Me Lord – County Hurdle (14-1)
Dickie Diver & Birchdale – Albert Bartlett (7-1)
Might Bite – Gold Cup (14-1)
Whatswrongwithyou – Grand Annual (10-1)
Willie Mullins 4-1
This price may look bizarre at a quick glance, and could have bookmakers looking silly a couple of days in. But, Mullins has had a very quiet season by his standards.
The ground has been his continued line of frustration and horses like Douvan, Faugheen, Un De Sceaux and Footpad – all potential bankers in years gone past – have all had stuttered campaigns to various degrees.
He holds a decent hand in the Gold Cup. Bellshill, Kemboy, Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only all have solid claims without threatening the top of the market.
Laurina, Sharjah and Melon head a strong team in the Champion Hurdle, but have a task to beat Apple’s Jade and Buveur D’Air; while he’ll have his usual strong team of Novice Hurdlers to go to battle with.
Willie Mullins Cheltenham Team
Aramon – Supreme (10-1)
Klassical Dream – Supreme/Ballymore (10-1 & 7-1)
Duc Des Genievres – Arkle (5-1)
Up For Review – Ultima (11-1)
Laurina – Champion Hurdle (7-2)
Sharjah – Champion Hurdle (10-1)
Melon – Champion Hurdle (12-1)
Benie Des Dieux – Mares’ Hurdle (10-11)
Limini – Mares’ Hurdle (5-1)
Ballyward – National Hunt Cup (10-3)
Uradel – Coral Cup/Martin Pipe (6-1 & 5-1)
Min – Champion Chase/Ryanair (9-2 & 5-2)
Footpad – Champion Chase/Ryanair (6-1 & 7-2)
Un De Sceaux – Champion Chase/Ryanair (8-1 & 7-1)
Blue Sari – Champion Bumper (4-1)
Real Steel – JLT (6-1)
Faugheen – Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle (7-2)
Sancta Simona – Mares’ Novice Hurdle (10-1)
Mr Adjudicator – County Hurdle (12-1)
Carefully Selected – Albert Bartlett (8-1)
Relegate – Albert Bartlett (10-1)
Kemboy – Gold Cup (9-1)
Bellshill – Gold Cup (10-1)
Al Boum Photo – Gold Cup (12-1)
Paul Nicholls 10-1 to 33-1…
The prices range massively for Nicholls to become top trainer next week. He’s in stellar form and punters would have latched onto his team over the last couple of weeks, but he lacks as many favourites as some of the other powerhouses.
Clan Des Obeaux is an obvious starting point. The hugely improving chaser is vying for favouritism with Presenting Percy for favouritism in the Gold Cup at around 7-2.
The likes of Grand Sancy, Topofthegame and Quel Destin are solid chances in the Novice divisions – while he is bound to have a few lined up for the handicaps.
If Frodon is re-routed to the Ryanair, he’ll go there as one of the favourites.
Perhaps the most interesting horse in the squad could be Pic D’Orhy. The four-year-old is a best-priced 10-1 for the Triumph without having run in Britain yet and there’s been strong murmurs bubbling under the radar for him.
Paul Nicholls Cheltenham Team
Grand Sancy – Supreme (11-1)
Give Me A Copper – Ultima (6-1)
Movewiththetimes – Close Brothers (12-1)
Topofthegame – RSA/JLT (4-1 & 6-1)
Brio Conti – Coral Cup (14-1)
Friend Or Foe – Boodles (7-1)
Silver Forver – Champion Numper (14-1)
Ask For Glory – Champion Bumper (14-1)
Frodon – Ryanair/Gold Cup (6-1 & 16-1)
Tommy Silver – Brown Advisory Handicap (14-1)
Posh Trish – Mares’ Novice Hurdle (7-1)
Quel Destin – Triumph (7-1)
Pic D’Orhy – Triumph (10-1)
Capitaine – County Hurdle (12-1)
Southfield Stone – County Hurdle (12-1)
Clan Des Obeaux – Gold Cup (7-2)
Wonderful Charm – Foxhunters (14-1)
Pacha Du Polder – Foxhunters (20-1)
Magic Saint – Grand Annual (8-1)
Le Prezien – Grand Annual (14-1)
Joseph O’Brien (16-1) will be popular with punters, especially if he gets off to a flyer on the Tuesday. Sir Erec is many people’s idea of a banker in the Triumph and the young Irish trainer will have good chances in a lot of the Novice heats.
Losing Arkle favourite Le Richebourg to injury would severely weaken his chances however.
Colin Tizzard (50-1) is worthy of a mention. He sends three with live chances to the Gold Cup and Elixir De Nutz is solid in the Supreme.
What the bookies say…
Oddschecker spokesperson George Elek: “Over the past week, we’ve seen a trend that’s differed from previous Cheltenham Festivals. “Instead of the tried and tested, it appears as if punters’ are looking for longer odds, with Nicholls attracting a plethora of punting action.
“A shift from the Emerald Isle, we’ve seen far more activity on British trainers this time around, which bodes well for these shores before next week.”
With 42% of bets, British trainer Paul Nicholls is the most backed contender in the Cheltenham Festival top trainer market in the past week.
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Priced as short as 14/1 but with some bookies sticking at 33/1, the Somerset-based trainer is still a relative outsider in the market despite his yard’s recent stellar form.
Having won the accolade two years running, Irish trainer Gordon Elliott is favourite at 5/4 and the second most backed in the past week, with 25% of bets going his way.
Nicky Henderson heads to this year’s festival with a particularly strong group of hopefuls, priced at 2/1 for the top trainer crown.
With Nicholls and Henderson heading to Cheltenham in top shape, the 11/4 on offer for Great Britain winning the Prestbury Cup back in October has made way for a price of 6/4.