Edwardstone to keep the Arkle on home soil
A dry forecast for the opening day of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival although there is a band of rain now due to hit the track on Wednesday. Underfoot conditions were described as good to soft on Monday morning.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Willie Mullins has spoken, and it is Dysart Dynamo that will represent the yard in the Festival curtain-raiser with stablemate Sir Gerhard on hold for 24 hours as he heads for tomorrow’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over an additional five furlongs.
Dysart Dynamo is a keen sort who is unbeaten in four starts on right-handed tracks but doesn’t show a marked tendency to jump right. He can go forward but I would be surprised if he and stablemate Kilcruit- another possible front-runner – take each other on for the lead. I am sure team Mullins and connections will have discussed team tactics and they are unlikely to want to set the race up for a closer given the leading British contenders Jonbon and Constitution Hill are likely to be ridden less prominently.
Dysart Dynamo’s facile win in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer at Punchestown last time is, arguably, the best form available. Kilcruit is getting his act together over hurdles, but his jumping still leaves a bit to be desired. As ever there is a very strong Irish challenge but I think the prize will stay in Britain.
Unbeaten Jonbon is a brother to the mighty Douvan and is a slick hurdler who will have the race run to suit. Nicky Henderson put to bed any notion that his yard was out of form by having three winners over the weekend and Jonbon and Constitution Hill (1.30pm) are potential stars although it is possible that they will be seen in an even better light over fences.
The Tolworth Hurdle is a Grade 1 in name only, but Constitution Hill could not have been more impressive when scoring at Sandown on heavy ground back in January. If he is within a length of the lead going over the last it will take a very good horse to fend hm off. It is possible that the pace set by the Irish raiders will get him out of his comfort zone and he is likely to drift on the day as some will argue he is just a mudlark. I disagree.
Jonbon is another with a nice turn of foot, but I do think he has a bit to find with Dysart Dynamo and Constitution Hill in an intriguing and top-class renewal of the Supreme.
Recommendation: Constitution Hill (1.30pm Cheltenham) @ 11/4 with SportNation
Arkle Novice Chase
Blue Lord was my fancy for the Arkle since the defection of Ferny Hollow earlier in the season, but I was underwhelmed with his win in the Irish Arkle last time and he is not guaranteed to confirm the form with Riviere D’etel despite meeting the Gordon Elliot trained mare on 2lbs worse terms.
I know there are many in Ireland who feel Magic Daze is the forgotten horse in the race, but I will not be supporting a Henry De Bromhead horse this week until I have concrete evidence that his horses are back to form. At the time of writing, he has gone a fortnight and 17 runners without a winner, and he had inmates at 10/3, 7/2 and 6/1 run poorly at the weekend.
Only two 8-year-olds have won the Arkle so far this century Moscow Flyer in 2002 and Sizing Europe in 2010 and Edwardstone (2.10pm) has never won in three previous starts at Cheltenham, but I was very impressed with his Warwick win last time and hope he can give Alan King a third win in the race.
The selection is a fast fluent jumper who has taken his form to a new level over the larger obstacles and is unlucky not to be unbeaten over fences having been brought down when travelling very well at Warwick on his chase debut. He has won his last four chase starts by over 37L and genuine good to soft ground would be ideal.
Recommendation: Edwardstone (2.10pm Cheltenham) @ 11/4 with bet365 (NAP)
Ultima Handicap Chase
There is no question that Death Duty is well treated on his Irish form, but I wonder whether he will find conditions just a shade too quick. When looking at the handicaps over the last couple of weeks I have put up both Doctor Duffy at 33/1 for today’s contest and Gericault Roque for the Kim Muir and it is the latter who gets the each way vote despite being 5lb out of the handicap this afternoon.
The David Pipe yard have saddled the winner of the corresponding race three times in the last 15 years courtesy of An Accordion in 2008 and Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 & 17. Gericault Roque bypasses the Kim Muir to run today which suggests to me that connections may also be considering a crack at the Midlands National at the weekend.
I thought there would be plenty of money for Doctor Duffy but that has not been the case although I do feel this better ground gives him have every chance of reversing recent Punchestown form with market leader Death Duty on 2lbs better terms.
Gericault Roque remains a novice after four chase starts but he has run some excellent races in defeat, and he will think he is let loose carrying just 10st.
Recommendation: Gericault Roque (2.50pm Cheltenham) @ 12/1 with Betfred (Each-Way, 7 places )
Already advised: Doctor Duffy @ 40/1 with Betfred (Each-Way, 7 places)
Unbeaten in fourteen starts the wonderful mare Honeysuckle is odds on to retain her Champion Hurdle crown but, for reasons given earlier, I will be looking at markets without the odds-on favourite.
A month ago, I recommended supporting last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It (3.30pm) in the market without the favourite at 9/4 with Paddy Power and see no reason to jump ship at the 11th hour although I would have preferred the horse to have had a prep run.
It doesn’t look a vintage renewal despite the fact that the last two winners of the race line up with the 2020 winner Epatante also in the field. Her Fighting Fifth dead heat with Oh So Sleepy was nothing special but she looked more like her old self when readily landing the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
She will have her supporters, but I have backed Appreciate It each way and w/out Honeysuckle although I “Appreciate It” is the mare’s race to lose. Honeysuckle clocked a faster time than Appreciate It on the corresponding day 12 months ago, she is the best horse in the race and receives 7lbs from the boys. But at 4/7? Not for me with nagging doubts about the form of the yard.
Recommendation: Appreciate It (3.30pm Cheltenham) without Honeysuckle – Already advised @ 9/4 (now 5/4)
Last year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle winner Telmesomethinggirl is the 3/1 market leader and, if Honeysuckle has prevailed earlier in the day, then I would expect her odds to contract somewhat as she ran her best race of the season last time.
As with the Champion Hurdle, however, I will look for an each way alternative to the favourite and Queens Brook (4.10pm) gets the vote.
The selection finished third in the Champion Bumper a couple of years ago behind Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It and looked to be coming to hand when beaten just over a length by Burning Victory last month. Elliot warned that she would come on for the run, she is 3lbs better off with the winner and gets the vote ahead of Stormy Island who looked better than ever when landing the Relkeel Hurdle back in January.
Recommendation: Queens Brook (4.50pm Cheltenham) @ 4/1 with 888sport (Each-Way)
Boodles Juvenile Hurdle
Willie Mullins has kept Gaelic Warrior (4.50pm) back for this juvenile handicap and there are many in Ireland who believe he has just got to be pointed in the right direction off a mark of 129. His third to Sans Brut and Golden Sun at Auteuil looks top class form although he has been off the track since June. The dogs have been barking for the gelding since the announcement of the weights and he looks sure to run a big race. I do feel he will drift out on the day from his current top price of 5/2.
Saint Segal was my antepost fancy for the race and he is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time by Jane Williams. At 20/1 he looks overpriced, and the yard had a welcome winner at Stratford yesterday.
Recommendation: Gaelic Warrior (4.50pm Cheltenham) @ 5/2 with bet365
Already advised: Saint Segal @ 20/1 with William Hill (Each-Way, 5 places)
National Hunt Chase
When Vanillier won last season’s Albert Bartlett trainer Gavin Cromwell put his improved form down to the fact that the stable had been out of form but had bounced back to form in recent days. Turn the clock forward 12 months and one could argue that the yard have similarly returned to form – 4 winners in the last fortnight – in recent days although they had a couple of fancied runners run well below par on Sunday.
It would be no surprise to see him show his true colours this afternoon although he has finished behind Stattler and Run Wild Fred (5.30pm) in his last couple of starts and preference is for the Elliot-trained runner.
Stattler was well beaten by Vanillier in the Albert Bartlett, but he impressed when scoring at Naas in Grade 3 company last time and looks an ideal type for the race, but Run Wild Fred has been my fancy for the race since winning the Troytown back in November and I am not bothered that he missed his intended prep race last month due to the heavy ground. He has more chase experience than many of his rivals – he finished runner up in the Irish National last easter – and leading amateur Jamie Codd takes over in the saddle.
Recommendation: Run Wild Fred (5.30pm Cheltenham) @ 2/1 with William Hill