Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cheltenham Festival 2011 - Wednesday

Wednesday's feature is the Champion Chase due off at 3.20. On ratings there's little to choose between 2009 winner Master Minded and last year's victor Big Zeb. Normally in such circumstances I would tend to favour the younger horse, Master Minded, but ten-year-old Big Zeb doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock and will appreciate the good ground. Last year Master Minded finished a well-beaten fourth in this - immediately after the race Ruby Walsh indicated his mount may have been feeling the quicker ground. Paul Jones unearthed an interesting stat in his Cheltenham Betting Guide - of the last 12 Arkle winners to contest this race the following year five have won, five have finished second and two have claimed third spot; Sizing Europe is 9/1 with Coral this evening and makes some appeal as an each-way wager. There's a suspicion Somersby may get outpaced but then stay on up the hill while Woolcombe Folly has progressed rapidly through the season and has some more to find here. Captain Cee Bee isn't lightly dimissed and was regarded by McCoy as his best chance of a winner at last year's Festival; in the event the gelding finished down the field in the Arkle after breaking a blood vessel. Having said all that he was beaten just under eight lengths by Big Zeb in December; Big Zeb is taken to repeat last year's win.

Time For Rupert is the clear form choice and favourite for the RSA Chase at 2.40. He has been touted as banker material by many with the result the market has had a lop-sided look to it for months. Tonight they bet 9/1 the field bar one; that looks tempting. Picking holes in Rupert's case isn't easy but he would prefer more cut underfoot and he did miss an intended engagement at Cheltenham in January due to a low-grade infection. On official ratings Paul Nicholls' Aiteen Thirtythree has just two pounds to find with the favourite yet the picture is complicated somewhat by Walsh opting to ride Mikael D'haguenet for Willie Mullins - Nicholls appeared particularly frustrated by that decision. Wymott is interesting in first time cheekpieces and I have to give a mention to blog favourite The Giant Bolster who may find them going a bit fast on quicker ground but will certainly stay the trip - connections are convinced they have the makings of a Gold Cup horse. I'm going out on a limb here - in the past both Mikael D'haguenet and Aiteen Thirtythree haven't totally convinced with their jumping but of the two I prefer Aiteen Thirtythree (9/1 Coral) as a play against the favourite and I'll take an each-way chance with The Giant Bolster (18/1 Paddy Power).

In the Neptune Nicky Henderson's Bobs Worth looked something to have a bet on in this but the yard has declared Minella Class instead; Bobs Worth appears to be heading for the Albert Bartlett on Friday. In which case I'm not inclined to oppose the Irish runners - I'll side with Willie Mullins' market leader So Young.

Others sporting each-way chances I'll consider on course: Aberdale in the opener - Skybet pay a quarter the odds four places in this race; Ballyhaunis in the Coral Cup at 16/1 (most firms paying a quarter the odds five places) and Raise The Beat who'll handle underfoot conditions in the concluding bumper - Harry Redknapp's Bygones In Brid is a 25/1 chance in the same race...

Good luck everyone!

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