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Cheltenham preview panel look for longshots

There were plenty of tips flying around at the Cheltenham preview held at the Mason’s Arms in Solihull on Wednesday night. The panel comprised jockey Charlie Poste, Dan Skelton’s head lad Nick Pearce and racing press men Sam Turner and Andrew Bladen. They discussed the main contenders for all the Grade 1 races. They also tried to find a few at long odds for those who prefer taking on the favourites.

Despite the expected presence of the mares Apple’s Jade and Laurina in the Champion Hurdle, Charlie Poste stood by dual winner Buveur D’Air to win it for a third time.

Ruby Walsh says Benie Des Dieux is his best ride of the week in Tuesday’s Mares’ Hurdle. She won it last year and is a short price to do so again. However, looking for something at longer odds, Sam Turner suggested Fergal O’Brien’s Cap Soleil each way at around 25-1. Meanwhile, Nick Pearce confirmed that Dan Skelton’s Roksana would go for the Mares’ Hurdle rather than the Stayers, bidding to give the trainer his first grade 1 success.

Wednesday and Thursday’s big races

Sam was keen on the chances of Sam’s Profile – and not just because of the name! – in Wednesday’s opening race, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. He pointed out that Mouse Morris does not send a horse to Cheltenham just for the day out and, at around 16-1, Sam’s Profile is “a tasty price”. Meanwhile, Andrew Bladen liked the look of Birchdale, a 12-1 shot, in that same race. Champ, the Ballymore favourite, must defy the stats to win. He’s seven years old. No horse over the age of six has won this race since French Holly 21 years ago.

Not surprisingly, the panel thought Altior unbeatable in the Champion Chase. Likewise, it was hard to see past Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle. However, the Ryanair Chase was far harder to predict, as those at the top of the betting might run elsewhere.

Cheltenham preview panel’s views on Gold Cup

It’s a wide-open Gold Cup this year with plenty of strength in depth. Presenting Percy would be the first horse since 1929 to win it without having run in a chase that season. The panel reckoned he won’t win. There’s been plenty of rain around and that will suit last year’s winner Native River. He loves a stamina test. Welsh Grand National winner Elegant Escape is a 20-1 or 25-1 shot but the rain will help him too. Nick Pearce thought he’d be “picking up the pieces” and running on past beaten horses at the end to claim a place.

The panel examine the handicaps

Cheltenham’s handicaps are a minefield at this stage, especially when horses are entered for more than one race. The favourite for Thursday’s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase is named Its All Guesswork. That pretty much sums it up. However, Solihull’s Cheltenham Preview panel came up with a few suggestions.

Andrew Bladen knows how to find value in big field handicaps and put up two 20-1 shots. They were Vision Des Flos in the Coral Cup and Western Rider in Friday’s County Hurdle.

Sam Turner also knows a thing or two about these races. He put forward Master Whitaker in the Ultima Chase on Tuesday and Ch’tibello in the County Hurdle.

Charlie Poste tipped Joseph O’Brien’s Tower Bridge for the Close Brothers Chase on Tuesday. He also went for ante post favourite Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps Hurdle Final.

Nick Pearce said Spiritofthegames was Dan Skelton’s best chance of a winner all week. He runs in the Brown Advisory Plate on Thursday.

Pro punter James Regan was also on hand to give his views on the four days. He suggested a Lucky 15 comprising Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle, Delta Work in the RSA Chase, Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase and Sir Erec in the Triumph Hurdle. He also suggested each-way bets on two 16-1 shots, Kilbricken Star in Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle and Rhinsetone in Friday’s Albert Bartlett. James agreed with panel that Elegant Escape had a good each-way chance in the Gold Cup. He also suggested backing Un De Sceaux without Altior in the Champion Chase if he runs in that race rather than the Ryanair.

Cheltenham Preview panel’s best bets of the meeting

The four panelists were each asked for their best bet of the meeting. Sam Turner gave Lisnagar Oscar in the Albert Bartlett. Andrew Bladen went for last year’s winner Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Chase. Charlie Poste put up Sir Erec in the Triumph Hurdle. Nick Pearce was very keen on Top Wood in Friday’s Foxhunter Chase.


About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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