CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – Cheltenian just might surprise
IT’S going to be a testing week for the human and equine battalions descending on a corner of Gloucestershire this week.
Soft ground and chilly temperatures will put both to the test as the greatest show on earth, the Cheltenham Fest-ival, plays out in the shadows of Cleeve Hill.
Fewer scrunched up betting slips will be cast aside if the markets have got it right about the favourites, with Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Quevega expected to deliver at skinny prices.
My Tent Or Yours is also pretty short for the curtain-raiser of the meeting, as he bids to back up an impressive Newbury win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
That sets a benchmark for his fellow young guns to follow, but it’s worth noting favourites have a pretty bad record in this race in recent years.
The Gwent-bred Cue Card was one example in 2011 and I would not be surprised if McCoy’s mount is turned over.
The one that interests me is Cheltenian, the Champion Bumper winner of two years ago.
The undulating course and a big field clearly suit him and while he must improve on his hurdles debut, there is every chance he might given it came after a lay-off.
There’s no end of dangers, but they are all at the head of the market and this French-bred fellow can be backed at 20-1 each-way.
Should the Henderson hotpot fold in the first, bookmakers might push out his Simonsig in the Arkle Chase.
If priced up a shade of odds-on, it is worth taking, as the lightning quick grey should be suited by getting a lead from Overturn.
The latter is an incredible servant to the McCain family and hard to pass once in front, but Simonsig should have too much class for him up the famous hill.
The Henderson treasure chest is opened once more in race four, as Grandouet is another jewel of day one’s cracking action.
I picked the six-year-old out for this race some time ago, but his odds are drifting like a barge now the heavens have opened.
A good ground specialist, punters have deserted the six-year-old after Zarkandar outpointed him in the mud here in December.
I don’t think there will be much between the two on that run, as the ground surely can’t be as bad as that day.
It would be folly to write him off and he is looking good value now.
Favourite Hurricane Fly won this race for my column two years ago and he is a decent tool, but in such a competitve contest the current odds are too short.
All the usual players are due to line up in the Cross Country race, a unique test of its kind and a thrill for racegoers gaining access to the centre of the course.
Last year’s winner Balthazar King missing out opens the door for quirky sort Any Currency, who ran a good 4th here in November and could be the type for such a test.