Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival with five bets advised in the supporting races to a mouthwatering Champion Hurdle.
Recommended Bets: Cheltenham Festival Day One
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A superb Unibet Champion Hurdle headlines day one of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival with Apple’s Jade, Buveur D’Air and Laurina set to bang heads in what is all set to be a thrilling renewal of the Tuesday feature.
The rain that is due to fall on Tuesday morning, a forecast 10-12 millimetres, looks likely to turn the ground soft, for the first day and potentially the rest of the week, but such ground conditions are only good news for all three big guns in the Champion.
Buveur D’Air goes for his third consecutive win in the race, but I do think he’ll come up short having to give 7lb to Apple’s Jade, a superb mare that has won her four races by a combined margin of 73 lengths this season.
It’s been well documented she was in season at Cheltenham last year, when underperforming in the Mares’ Hurdle, but trainer Gordon Elliott reckons he can control such things better now he knows her cycle and, if she arrives in the form she's been in all campaign, she’s going to be incredibly tough to beat.
It’s no surprise to see her trading as the clear 2/1 favourite on Friday evening, with Buveur D’Air drifting a little, and I think the market has got this race spot on.
I like Hardline in the Arkle but his price has collapsed recently, while the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is wide open with plenty in with a chance.
Felix Desjy and Brandon Castle tempt me at each-way prices, but the prospect of the pair getting involved in a pace burn-up at the head of affairs puts me off.
In fact, with Elixir De Nutz, Itchy Feet and Fakir D’Oudairies likely to help force the gallop, as well, this could be set up nicely for a hold-up horse and the one I like at the prices is Willie Mullins’ ARAMON at 16/1 (General).
It’s crazy that he’s three times the price of stablemate Klassical Dream after the pair battled out the Grade One Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, a mere head between them at the line after a protracted battle in the straight.
Aramon headed his stablemate that day and looked likely to win, as in-running odds on Betfair of 1.01 suggest, only for Klassical Dream to get back up right on the line.
It’s a little surprising to see Klassical Dream line up in this race and not the Ballymore after that, but Aramon looks a more natural two-miler and, certainly, the price discrepancy between the pair seems all wrong.
An improver since reverting to hold-up tactics, he’s well conditioned to racing at this level having run in three Grade Ones on his last three starts, winning one of them, the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle, by 10 lengths at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Last time he and Klassical Dream pulled six lengths clear of the rest in the Chanelle Pharma, while he travelled noticeably well on his last two starts and should be well suited to a patient ride off a strong pace in a Supreme.
Paul Townend might well delay his challenge after what happened on his last start, but that’s no bad thing in this race and odds of 16/1 underestimate the chance of this improving Grade One winner.
Mullins and Townend could team up successfully in the Ultima Handicap Chase at 2.50, as well, with Up For Review, a horse whose price has halved from 16/1 to 8/1 in the last 24 hours.
He was a big eyecatcher in the Thyestes Chase, where he took a wide trip throughout, and he could be well treated off his current handicap mark of 146.
However, he looks short enough now and I’d rather take the remaining 14/1 (General) about NOBLE ENDEAVOR for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell.
Third behind Un Temps Pour Tout in this race two years ago off a 4lb higher mark, he’s had his problems since and was off the track 600 days, but he’s been given a chance by the handicapper.
Racing off 150, 1lb lower than his Irish mark, it’s worth having a punt that Elliott has got him in tip-top shape for this even though his run in the Becher was nothing more than a sighter.
I wouldn’t worry about that form and instead look at the positives which are his mark in relation to his previous good run in this race, the jockey booking of Russell and the reapplication of cheekpieces.
A winner the first time cheekpieces were applied, he hasn’t sported a pair on his last four starts but they are back on for his Ultima assignment and that could be a significant sign.
The day’s other handicap is the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at 4.50 and I like the look of top weight HIGHWAY ONE O ONE in this at 12/1 (General).
He’s related to two-and-a-half milers and he improved significantly on his first go at the trip when second to Kildisart in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on trials day.
That race has been a good guide to the Close Brothers recently, as Irish Cavalier and Rajdhani Express were both beaten in the trials day contest before winning here, while Mister Whitaker won both races last season.
Highway One O One jumped beautifully in the Timeform-sponsored race and there was no shame in losing out to JLT contender Kildisart trying to give him 2lb.
The pair were ahead of Spiritofthegames, with the trio well clear of the rest, and the time stacked up well comparative to the open handicap half an hour later in which Siruh Du Lac just beat Janika.
He'll keep out of trouble on the front end and he sets a good standard, so, with conditions not a problem, he can go well for Chris Gordon and Tom Cannon off just 2lb higher than when he ran here in January.
I like horses on the speed in races like this and the other one I want to back is Philip Hobbs’ SPRINGTOWN LAKE at 14/1 (General).
He’s also likely to be prominent under Richard Johnson and he should really appreciate returning to a left-handed track after jumping to his left throughout last time at Kempton.
Despite that he didn’t run too badly, especially as it was over three miles, the drop back in trip to 2m4f also a positive for a horse that won over the distance at Sandown in November.
He’s had experience of running at the Festival and looks a much better chaser than he was a hurdler, his mark of 141 still looking workable considering his opening chase win came off just 4lb lower.
Trying to give 5lb to Mr Whipped at Haydock in December wasn’t a bad effort, either, and 14s represents good value for the team that won this race with Copper Bleu back in 2010.
Finally, ATLANTA ABLAZE looks a fair bet at 18/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power) in the National Hunt Chase (5.30).
Experience has been crucial in this race in recent years and she’s had 10 runs over fences, the most chase runs of any horse in this line-up.
She’s improved massively since wind surgery, winning four out of six, and I loved the way she went about beating Molly Childers at Wincanton on her latest start.
That was further evidence that she’s thriving and stays three miles well, which gives hope she'll get four, while the 7lb sex allowance she gets from the rest of the field could be handy.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK and Ireland. Running total: +359.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 11/03/19.
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