Cheltenham Festival
Author : Brian Gleeson  Paper : Sunday Independent

From Monday morning the call will go out. We will answer in our thousands, travelling across the water to lay siege to Prestbury Park. Armed with information, tips and form books, we start our campaign with hope in our hearts and money in our wallets. A spring wind may chill the Cotswolds, but our hearts will be warmed by patriotic zeal. It's Chelten-time again.

Millions of pounds will be bet next week on the Cheltenham Festival, on course and in betting shops. Punters will fill out slips and hand over cash, hearts beating in anticipation, hoping that the months of studying form and watching races will give them an edge over the bookies. For the Irish, however, there is another dimension. Since the days when Arkle led the charge to carry the spoils of the Festival back across the water, we want Irish victories. We want them so badly that we are prepared to put our money where our hopes lie, and there lies the hidden danger for the Irish punter at Cheltenham. Patriotism may be a good thing on St Patrick's Day but it will not put money in your pocket.

Patriotism and racing is a heady cocktail which can prove very expensive. It can cause us to dig deeper into our hard-earned funds. Looking at the form book through green-tinted spectacles will do us about as much good as looking for inspiration at the bottom of a pint glass. When it comes to Cheltenham, we must be strong. We must leave our emotions to one side, and put on the mantle of rationality.

Enough of the lecture. We have all been to the Pre Cheltenham Race Nights and have heard strong word about Sadler's Wings to win the first race on Tuesday, the Supreme Novice Hurdle. He was rated 101 on the Flat and he has impressed shrewd observers with victories over timber at Punchestown and Navan. John Joe O'Neill's Lingo looks the obvious danger but if Mouse Morris elects to run War Of Attrition he might be worth a small each way investment at a big price.

Kicking King carries strong Irish hopes in the Arkle with Barry Geraghty in the saddle. Rooster Booster is the clear form selection in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle but the value is long gone. Ruby Walsh's mount Rigmarole looks ew material but two horses I would suggest at big ew prices are Davenport Milenium and Westender. Value is so imperative at the Festival and with both these horses currently 25-1 shots a little each way on both is recommended.

Stormez and Haut Cercy are two to concentrate on in the William Hill National Hunt Chase while Martin Pipe's Vodka Bleu might be worth a second look in the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle although many people will fancy Keepatem.

Most professional punters believe Inglis Drever is nap material in the Sun Alliance Hurdle. He has been very impressive and the form book tell us he will be very difficult to beat. However if Wexford trainer Colm Murphy elects to run Brave Inca in this contest he will shake up the warm favourite. Admittedly he has to improve to do so but there is so much to like about this horse that I would like to be backing Brave Inca ew at 10-1 than ploughing into Inglis Drever at 2-1.

Edward O'Grady has such an impressive record at the Festival that one has to give serious respect to Pizarro in the Sun Alliance Chase. Nicky Henderson' s Calling Brave will also be involved at the business end but Our Vic will be difficult to beat. A point to point winner as a four-year-old he has been lightly raced by Martin Pipe and granted a clear round I believe he will win.

Rosslea will be a warm order to win the four mile National Hunt Chase for Henrietta Knight. However keep a close eye on Native Emperor and Silver Birch. They will have the valuable assistance of crack Irish amateurs Robert Widger and Derek O'Connor.

The Triumph Hurdle is a complete cavalry charge. Three value alternatives are Moulin Riche, Cherub and Al Eile. Moulin Riche is trained in France by Francois Doumen and word on the grapevine suggests he is well fancied. Meanwhile Cherub and Al Eile are attractive each way propositions at 25-1. Rathgar Beau and Harchibald will be popular Irish fancies in the getting out Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle but have a second look at Grave Doubts and Never. Meanwhile Nicky Henderson is always to be respected at the Festival and keep an eye on Got One Too, Irish Hussar and Lillium De Cotte. Have a successful week but if it starts to go pear-shaped do not start chasing your money-from a betting perspective you must treat it like a normal meeting. Good luck---lets hope we make the right decisions on the day.

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