Matchbook’s Daniel Hussey will be here each day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival with his final tips and selections.
It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. The preview circuits seem to be getting bigger and bigger, with more market movers based on gossip this year than I can ever remember!
The talking’s almost over as the Cheltenham Roar is almost upon us.
With plenty of rain about in Cheltenham on Monday night, do take that into account when having a bet.
The very best of luck!
Cheltenham Day 1 Preview – FINAL DECS!!
What a panel ?
— Matchbook Betting Exchange (@TeamMatchbook) March 13, 2023
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
Where do we start with the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival? I’ve flip-flopped a lot on this, and if you told me post-DRF I’d be putting up Facile Vega, then I simply wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are.
It’s hard to get away from a horse who would be a 1.5 shot here if he had performed at Leopardstown LTO. Having come back lame from the race, I’m happy to forgive him and the vibes from the Willie Mullins camp have been nothing but positive. Ridden a bit differently, I’m hoping for a massive run.
A horse he might pick off at the end is High Definition, but he’s a horse I’m not ruling out from the front. The ground may be slightly against him here but that’s factored into the price and I can see him running a cracker (provided he polishes the jumping!).
Selection: Facile Vega & High Definition w/o fav
I’m finding it hard to split the top two in the market, with El Fabiolo having the best novice chase form this season vs the pedigree (out of Douvan) and supreme jumping of Jonbon.
However, the horse overpriced here is Dysart Dynamo. You have to be the forgiving type as a bettor, and this does take a fair bit of it, considering his fall in the Supreme and his ultimately disappointing performance in the Irish Arkle. Nevertheless, that Leopardstown race is over 2m1f and 11 fences vs 1m7+f and 13 fences in the Arkle.
If Danny Mullins can save enough for the hill, 7.0 at the time of recording seems too big.
Selection: Dysart Dynamo
Ultima Handicap Chase
Despite the Irish Cheltenham success in recent years, this race seems to allude to them. This is a combination of the amount of 3m+ handicap chases to go for in Ireland, plus the British’ lenient handicapping of staying chasers.
It’s also a race that pays to focus on recent runnings and where better to start than last year’s winner Corach Rambler. Everything seemed to go wrong in the run, yet he came there cantering after the last and – with just a 6lb rise in the weights – I can see him emulating Un Temps Pur Tout in 2015/16 by winning back-to-back Ultimas.
I’m also having a small saver on Top Ville Ben, who ran creditably at Leopardstown on a trip that would be too short for him. He could run a big race here.
Selection: Corach Rambler & Top Ville Ben
You don’t have to have a bet in every race, and I’m struggling for an angle here.
Just sit back and hopefully watch an epic performance…
Selection: No bet
Last year’s winner, Marie’s Rock’s connections were tempted with the Stayers (owners seemed in favour of this race, while trainer Nicky Henderson was keen on the 3-miler). The soft ground may have been the deciding factor, but I’m delighted she’s going here.
A repeat of the performance 12 months ago may not be quite enough this time around but she’s a far better Mare this season and is still improving. I’m expecting a monster performance with Brandy Love the main danger…
Selection: Marie’s Rock (NAP)
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Surprisingly a race I have a good record in (don’t worry, you’ll hear about plenty of them that I don’t throughout the week), and I’m going with just the one selection this year.
It’s hard to get away from Tekao, form behind Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau – with a very ‘Boodles ride’ in Leopardstown. Willie Mullins has never won this race but he did bump into an 81.0 shot in Jeff Kidder with Saint Sam, and that horse has a similar profile.
Byker would be the one to fear the most, having been third in Naas LTO. Incidentally, that race has produced three of the last four winners.
National Hunt Chase
Wouldn’t be against the favourite here but given his love of not winning, I’m happy to leave him at his current price of 2.0.
Minella Crooner is a horse I’ve loved since his Nathaniel Lacey DRF win 13 months ago. He ultimately missed last year’s Cheltenham Festival through injury, and things have been slow to happen for him this season.
However, he would have been geared for a Cheltenham race a long way out and with Barry O’Neill riding – after seemingly choosing Mahler Mission – that can only be a positive.
Selection: Minella Crooner
Cheltenham Day 1 Final Selections:
- 13:30 Facile Vega & High Definition w/o FV
- 14:10 Dysart Dynamo
- 14:50 Corach Rambler & Top Ville Ben
- 16:10 Marie’s Rock (NAP)
- 16:50 Tekao
- 17:30 Minella Crooner
Matchbook Double: Facile Vega & Marie’s Rock
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