Betting Strategy: 3 Backs & 2 Lays
Weather: Overcast, very small chance of a shower (2mm maximum). Max temperature 11C.
Going: Good to Soft (official*)
* Good to soft is the desired starting point, so there tends to be a slight bias in the official report, but the official description looks the correct call to our eyes, with the track gradually drying out after heavy rain last Tuesday. The track can dry quickly in warm weather, but that doesn’t look an issue given a cool/overcast forecast.
The main feature of the day is the fact that the dominant Willie Mullins trains the favourites for all four Grade 1 races on the card, and traditional bookmakers will be inundated with multiple bets combining the quartet. Those liabilities may see a significant difference in the odds on offer on the exchange compared with those available through more traditional outlets, and off-course firms will attempt to depress the SP of Vroum Vroum Mag should the first three legs of this bet come in.
*All times AEDT
R1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 2m 87yards – 12:30am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
Min has dominated this market since before making his debut for Willie Mullins and has followed the same route as Vautour and Douvan who have won this race for the yard in 2014 and 2015 with his victory in the Moscow Flyer Novice at Punchestown.
The Deloitte Novice is another key trial in which Tombstone finished second to Bleu Et Rouge. Altior, rated the main English hope by most, won a strong novice at Kempton in December which is often a guide to the best UK runners, as is the G1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown which was won this year by Yorkhill.
6. Min: The archetypal buzz horse, and plenty of punters claim to have backed him even before he saw a racecourse for Willie Mullins. Doesn’t have the best form but was impressive winning both starts and is the designated first string for yard with exceptional record in this contest. Can be headstrong and has raced only on soft/heavy ground to date.
1. Altior: The form horse having won a Grade 2 at the track in November and was very impressive in beating a strong field at Kempton in December. More exposed than Min after four outings this season, but form on ground and at track are positives.
3. Buveur D’Air: Stablemate of Altior and beat that rival on only occasion they have met. Very impressive when beating smart prospect at Newbury in November and easy task only start since. Jockey retained by owner so it’s dangerous to assume he is neglected by the yard on that basis. Exciting prospect and would be no bigger than $6.00 in my book.
2. Bellshill: Stablemate of Min, and won Champion Bumper at Punchestown last term, with several of these rivals in arrears. Won first three over hurdles with ease but form hard to gauge. Ran poorly after an early blunder in G1 Deloitte at Leopardstown last month. Fact that trainer has re-routed him to this race at eleventh hour should be taken as a positive, just as he did with 2013 winner Champagne Fever.
R2 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Grade 1 1m 7f 199y – 1:10am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
A one-horse book for the entire season with the brilliant Douvan unchallenged in the market. Winner of last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he now attempts to become the first horse to win this the following since the legendary Flyingbolt in 1964/65.
Main rival on form may be Sizing John as the pair have met four times in their careers with Douvan winning each time, including on this day a year ago. Vaniteux much the best of the British challenge having beaten Arzal and Fox Norton in Grade 2 event at Doncaster in January.
3. Douvan: Late errors on his first two chase starts took the gloss off a couple of impressive wins but his jumping had looked assured for the most part. He was perfect when waltzing away with Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown in January. Will be better still on good ground and impossible to oppose for win purposes.
7. Vaniteux: High class over hurdles and looks a better chaser on evidence to date, jumping superbly for debut win at Kempton. Beaten next time and didn’t impress everyone with style of victory at Doncaster but the fierce wind that day is a strong mitigating factor. Toppling an in-form Douvan here is asking plenty. Did disappoint on this card last year, which is a slight concern.
5. Sizing John: Very good third in last year’s Supreme and looks a natural chaser. Can’t beat Douvan on paper as he keeps trying and keeps getting repelled and will be opposed in the win market as a result. He’d arguably be favourite if Douvan was taken out, something that gives appeal in the place market.
R3 Ultima Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m 1f – 1:50am
Race Analysis & Key Trial Races
A wide-open handicap with no stand-out in the betting. Several previous winners have warmed up for this in the G1 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Trials meeting, including last year’s winner The Druids Nephew. Trainer Neil Mulholland has brought The Young Master here via the same route.
Previous Festival winners also do well which augurs well for the chances of Holywell, who won this race in 2014 as well as the Pertemps Final the previous year. His trainer Jonjo O’Neill is the most successful trainer in the recent history of the race.
17. Out Sam: Raw novice who has got into this race on what looks a lenient handicap mark having won a pair of 3-runner novices in January/February. Could win well if dealing with this bigger field but a faller at the meeting last year. Lack of experience is a big worry here. Type to win or run poorly, with the latter prospect much more likely (should be a bit bigger than 3.0 to place), value to lay as a result.
2. Holywell: Fourth in last year’s Gold Cup and a dual Festival winner, he looks very well handicapped on last season’s form. Out of sorts this winter, something in common with many of Jonjo’s but could bounce back with drying ground to suit. Negative is that the stable remains below form and he’s a risky proposition having run a stinker in his warm-up race.
8. The Young Master: Trainer Neil Mulholland has a tremendous record with his chasers at Cheltenham, winning with one third of his runners to date. Mulholland took out this race a year ago and has prepared The Young Master in the same way with a prep run over hurdles here in January. The 7-y-o was fourth in the Silver Cup at Ascot prior to that and will be ridden as usual by amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, whose father now co-owns him.
5. Theatre Guide: Has twice been placed in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury which is probably the best staying handicap in the calendar. Took advantage of lenient mark when winning BetBright Chase at Kempton last month. Up in the weights for that but clearly thriving, should go well again.