Irish bookmaker Paddy Power became the first firm to offer the concession of non-runner-no-bet on the four championship races ( Stan James Champion Hurdle – Betway Champion Chase – Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup ) at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival although with the company going worst price about most of the market leaders, looking for anything in the way of value may prove a far from easy proposition.
While the last two Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle winners – Faugheen and Annie Power – can be backed at 5-2 ( Skybet ) and 5-1 ( Stan James, William Hill and Betway ) respectively to win the race for a second time Paddy Power are not so generous quoting just 5-4 and 2-1 about the pair. However, should the Willie Mullins-trained duo fail to make it to Prestbury Park on Tuesday 14th March they may regret their offer of 20-1 about the ex Closutton inmate Apple’s Jade, now in the care of arch rival Gordon Elliott.
The n.r.n.b proviso is a must for anyone thinking of backing the daughter of Saddler Maker who is also likely to have entries in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle but owner Gigginstown House Stud may find the temptation of going for the championship contest too much, especially if the ‘ fragile ‘ market leaders fail to turn up. The mare may have failed to fulfil expectations this season but did end the unbeaten record of Vroum Vroum Mag on her most recent start and looked awesome when winning at Aintree and Punchestown last spring.
At 1-3 the Irish bookmaker expects the Champion Chase to prove a procession for the Mullins’ stable star Douvan and with second favourite Altior available at just 3-1 ( n.r.n.b. ) value looks thin on the ground in the two mile test of speed and jumping unless bad luck befalls the two at the head of the betting. The long-absent Jezki however could easily start much shorter than the 10-1 on offer for the Stayers’ Hurdle as the conqueror of non other than Hurricane Fly when stepping up to three mile on his most recent start back in 2015 could be challenging Unowhatimeanharry at the head of the market if successful on his imminent reappearance. As for the Gold Cup the 25-1 about Minella Rocco looks tempting should anything befall Thistlecrack in the weeks ahead. Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding beat Native River ( 5-1 generally for Gold Cup ) fair and square at last year’s festival and will be staying on better than anything as the race unfolds.