The Cheltenham Festival 2013 is near upon us. David Myers previews Day 1 of the festival and gives us his top tips and betting odds for an anticipated great days racing.
Melodic Rendezvous (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) @ 10/1
Benefficient (Arkle Chase) @ 20/1
Fruity O’Rooney (Festival Handicap Chase) @ 12/1
Cinders and Ashes (Champion Hurdle) @ 10/1
Arabella Boy (Cross Country Chase) @ 5/1
Une Artiste (David Nicholson Mares Hurdle) @ 9/2
Shangani (Centenary Novices Chase) @ 14/1
‘Cheltenham Eve’ will soon be over for thousands of racing punters pacing up and down in anticipation of the 2013 Festival getting underway, and when it finally does on Tuesday, the meeting will explode into life courtesy of the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 1.30pm, live on Channel 4.
At the head of the betting is My Tent Or Yours at 7/4, and while his chance is respected having won the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, it could pay to go each-way with Melodic Rendezvous.
Considering the favourite has only a Grade 3 win to his name, Melodic Rendezvous took the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, before bettering that in hammering the well thought of, Puffin Billy, by 9l at Exeter last month. With connections also confident he’ll improve on better ground, his 10/1 odds could get the meeting off to a flyer.
The exciting thing about the Cheltenham Festival is that just half an hour later sees yet another Grade 1 event – this time in the shape of the Arkle Chase at 2.05.
Nicky Henderson’s, Simonsig, has proven all the rage at 4/7, and while he will be difficult to beat having destroyed his rivals in two Grade 2 chase outings this term, the call has to be an each-way punt once more.
With plenty of pace around in the race, this will be run at a furious gallop and become the sort of test that will suit Tony Martin’s, Benefficient, who stays 3m, and could be delivered late when others have had enough. At 20/1, he’ll pay around 13/2 to make the places, should Simonsig prove the ‘real deal’.
It’s handicap time at 2.40 when the Grade 3 JLT Speciality Chase takes place, and where last year’s winner, Alfie Sherrin heads back, this time at odds of 12/1.
Two clues from past renewals of this race show that 7-10yo’s carrying 10st10lb or less dominated, and one who catches the eye with that profile is last year’s runner-up, Fruity O’Rooney.
Gary Moore’s runner gets in on a 1lb lower mark this time around, and warmed up with a cracking second here in January. He looks value at 12/1.
The ‘big one’ comes at 3.20 in the shape of the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, and where all eyes will be on Hurricane Fly at 7/4.
At the age of nine, however, he is a year older than when beaten into third here last season, with this year’s arguably a hotter renewal. With that in mind, and with recent winners of this returning at 11/1, 9/1, 22/1, 10/1 & 16/1, Donald McCain’s, Cinders And Ashes, could go well returned to decent ground at 10/1.
Beaten in the mud during his two outings this term, last year’s Supreme Novice winner (over the same C&D) arrives a fresh horse and could surprise a few people by bouncing back on good ground.
Once punters have got their breath back following the Champion Hurdle, the marathon Cross Country Chase awaits at 4.00, and where trainer Enda Bolger will be keen to get back on the scoreboard in this race having won it four times from 2005-2009. This year sees several interesting entries, including Arabella Boy at 5/1.
It wouldn’t be the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle over 2m4f (4.40) without four-times winner, Quevega, in the field, and this outstanding mare returns in a bid to win for a fifth time. Odds of 1/2 suggest she has a great chance, but one who could bustle her up is Nicky Henderson’s, Une Artiste, who rates the each-way option at 9/2, having won her last two outings.
Day one concludes with a Listed handicap chase for novices over 2m4f (5.15) in which 7yo’s have won six of the only eight renewals, making interesting reading for Venetia Williams’, Shangani, who arrives in top form having won two handicaps with ease in February. It’s a surprise to see this improver as big as 14/1, but those odds may not last.