Antepost Angle: Free Cheltenham Festival tips for JCB Triumph Hurdle & National Hunt Chase

Mister Malarky is backed at 16/1 for the four miler
Mister Malarky is backed at 16/1 for the four miler

Matt Brocklebank's Antepost Angle returns with 16/1 tips for both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Recommended bets: Cheltenham Festival

1pt win Carlo Biraghi in Triumph Hurdle at 16/1

1pt win Mister Malarky in National Hunt Chase at 16/1

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Take a chance on intriguing Carlo

Joseph O'Brien seemingly has the JCB Triumph Hurdle market cornered.

It’s a race the young trainer will dearly love to win having essentially overseen the preparation of 2016 winner Ivanovich Gorbatov, who was officially trained by his father, Aidan.

It’s also the case that O’Brien jnr has an enviable production line to work with in this division, having received another bunch of blue-blooded Flat performers from the Ballydoyle operation prior to the start of the campaign.

It would be going a step too far to suggest that Joseph O’Brien really ought to be winning the Triumph Hurdle given the ammunition at his disposal, but it’s not hard to envisage him dominating this race for years to come, and that domination may be set to start sooner rather than later.

Leading the line this year is Sir Erec, who is already no bigger than 6/4 in the betting but could be about to get even shorter should his well-touted stablemates Fakir Doudairies and Gardens Of Babylon be rerouted, as has been suggested.

Fakir Doudairies, a wide-margin winner at Cheltenham already earlier in the season, is joint-favourite with the sponsors for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after being snapped up by JP McManus who has previous when it comes to running juveniles in the Supreme, while Gardens Of Babylon, along with impressive Naas winner Band Of Outlaws, seemingly have the Fred Winter on their radars.

Exact running plans remain unclear at this stage but it’s hard to knock the claims of Sir Erec after he stepped up markedly on his Leopardstown maiden win over Christmas to land the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in tremendous style.

His final-flight jump had antepost punters purring and the subsequent price-crash was inevitable. He looks the real deal but if you’re going to be picky – and that is simply an obligation when dealing with a 6/4 shot over three weeks before the event – then he did get a fairly soft lead out in front.

Things will be different at the Festival and the Cheltenham track poses a new kind of challenge for the son of Camelot.

Given his proven stamina on the Flat – he was a fine third to Stradivarius at Ascot on Champions Day in the autumn – a fast-paced two miles around Cheltenham shouldn’t be much of an issue for him, but there is a fascinating horse in opposition who might be able to match the favourite in terms of raw talent.

Fozzy Stack’s CARLO BIRAGHI only raced three times on the Flat last year but he achieved an official mark of 99, winning a Curragh maiden first time up before struggling in a Listed event at Leopardstown and again when 100/1 for the Irish Derby on his final start in that sphere.

That’s still 10lb below the figure Sir Erec reached on the level, but Carlo Biraghi is obviously completely unexposed and there was so much to like about his hurdling debut success at Punchestown on January 14.

There isn’t a huge amount of substance to the form yet but a seven and a half-length victory barely does the horse justice as, after travelling strongly, he made a complete mess of the final hurdle when veering left and blundering, before looking incredibly green on hitting the front.

He’ll obviously need to be a whole lot more streetwise to go from that to a championship race at the Cheltenham Festival, but the experience won’t be lost on him and the way he powered to the line once Danny Mullins straightened him up on the run-in smacked of a horse with a ton of ability.

It seems likely he’ll now head straight to Cheltenham without another run, but Stack suggested after Punchestown that he wouldn’t have a problem with that and, before some of those between Sir Erec and Carlo Biraghi in the Triumph market are nominated for alternative engagements, it looks worth getting the Galileo gelding on side at the widely available 16/1.

Paul Nicholls is having a fantastic season and he has to be applauded for his campaigning of Quel Destin (16/1, General).

He already has a Grade Two Cheltenham win in the bag and he’s gone on to win three more times since that November score.

Making all in the Triumph is no easy task but Quel Destin looks as tough as they come and at this stage heads the home team, though Saturday’s Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton will shed more light on matters with the Nicholls-trained French import Ecco and Dr Richard Newland's Rose Sea Has – of particular interest ahead of their British debuts.


Antepost Angle - 2018/19 National Hunt season record


Tizzard backed to land four-miler

It seems a matter of time before Colin Tizzard wins the National Hunt Chase for the first time, having produced a string of high-class staying chasers in recent seasons and gone close in this particular event with the likes of Native River (second in 2016) and Sizing Tennessee (third in 2018).

The Tizzard-trained MISTER MALARKY put down a really good marker at Ascot on Saturday when winning the Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase with his ears pricked from Now McGinty, a horse who had looked pretty useful himself when beating De Rasher Counter at Chepstow previously.

As is normally the case with horses in this bracket, Mister Malarky has taken plenty of time to reach maturity and it seemed at times last season that hurdling was something of an inconvenience, although a defeat of the smart Highway One O One at Kempton in November 2017 hinted at what was to come.

This season has been one of steady progression, the six-year-old winning three of his four starts and looking a blot on the handicap when readily defying a mark of 130 at Newbury in mid-January.

He was raised 12lb to a mark of 142 following that win over subsequent Sandown scorer Carlos Du Fruitier and will surely be pushing 150 once reassessed in light of Saturday’s performance - that level of form should at least make him a leading player in the National Hunt Chase.

What’s even more exciting is that the horse obviously wasn’t doing a great deal for Robbie Power once he hit the front at Ascot, and there was the distinct impression that a stronger pace, bigger field and more demanding trip would ultimately see Mister Malarky in an even better light.

Ok Corral is clear favourite for the race and has been ever since winning at Warwick under Derek O’Connor. The Irish rider has won this race twice in recent seasons and is the perfect man to guide the head-strong Henderson runner around Prestbury Park.

He’s already shown he can handle the place when second in last year’s Albert Bartlett and he’s got the touch of class required to go very close in what is surely one of the most improved races of the Festival in recent years.

It’s those keen-going tendencies which just about put me off, especially at the prices (100/30 best), and with Willie Mullins’ Ballyward lacking in experience over fences, perhaps the main threat will be posed by Impulsive Star.

He was a staying-on second to Ok Corral at Plumpton before winning the Classic Chase from a mark of 133 at Warwick in January and he looks a stronger, more mature stayer than the horse who finished fourth in the National Hunt Chase last March.


Antepost Angle: Cheltenham Festival schedule


Posted at 1415 GMT on 18/02/19.

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