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
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
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
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.