Paul Ferguson has four seletions for us on day one of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival including a massive each way tip.
Despite the Champion Hurdle being something of an afterthought Annie Power (3:30) can record a Cheltenham Festival success at the third attempt.
Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old receives a very handy 7lb sex allowance here and I believe she has the pace to win a Champion Hurdle, well a weakened renewal such as this at least.
Keen on her recent reappearance, that should have taken the fizz out of her and, despite a lot of her form coming over further, she remains unbeaten at the minimum trip. It is also worth remembering that she began life with Jim Bolger, for whom she won her first two bumpers, and she could easily have ended up running on the level.
In an ordinary looking year, she looks capable of filling the void left by the same connections’ Faugheen. She was trading at 5-2 overnight, but could well drift even further on Tuesday morning.
The same connections’ Vroum Vroum Mag (4:10) is fancied to win the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, on what could easily be another red-letter day for all concerned.
The seven-year-old is unbeaten in eight starts since arriving in Ireland from France and, though six of those successes came over fences, she easily made it two from two over timber for her current connections at Ascot in January.
The daughter of Voix Du Nord travelled like a dream that day, so the drop in trip isn’t a worry and, while she is a short price, she looks a cut above the opposition. Having won on good-to-firm ground in France (AQPS race), quicker going isn’t a concern either. She was trading at 11-10 overnight – if that is too short for your liking, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul Nicholls’ Tara Point go well (22-1 overnight) on her belated reappearance.
Mullins and Rich Ricci will be hopeful of a winner or two earlier in the day, too. Douvan looks penalty kick material in the Arkle though, at the odds, it is a race I would rather watch than play in, while Min bids to provide them with a fourth successive Supreme Novices’ Hurdle success.
He has done little wrong in winning both starts since arriving from France and might well be up to the task, but this looks a strong contest with the Nicky Henderson-trained pairing offering stern opposition.
That said, the one that I think looks over-priced is John Ferguson’s Penglai Pavilion (1:30) who is worth a small each-way interest at 40-1.
Though it will be difficult to crack those at the head of the market, the six-year-old shouldn’t be anywhere near those odds, in my opinion. A classy ex-Flat performer, he bolted up in a couple of summer novice hurdles over 2m, before easily scoring over an extra five furlongs at Cheltenham’s first meeting of the season.
Sent off odds-on to beat Shantou Village at the Open meeting, the Monsun gelding clearly failed to run up to form and hasn’t been sighted since. Given time to recover, you only need to forgive that run to think he is over-priced and a strongly run race over the minimum trip could be ideal.
The selection clearly needs to step forward on what he has achieved over hurdles to date but, at the prices, I can’t resist having a small flutter. It is worth noting that the sponsors (SkyBet) have a money back offer on this race, while Paddy Power are offering 4 places.
Later on the card, this year’s National Hunt Chase looks another strong affair with Noble Endeavor (runner-up at the festival last year) among those that are greatly respected, but Southfield Royale (4:50) gets the vote.
Neil Mulholland’s six-year-old appeals as the type to flourish now he goes up to a marathon distance, having stayed on well to score at Wetherby and Doncaster. Last seen chasing home Tea For Two in the Grade 1 Feltham on Boxing Day, the son of Presenting looks set to run a big race under Nina Carberry. At 8-1 he is worth supporting each-way with most firms offering four places.
Elsewhere on the card, the day’s two handicaps don’t make too much appeal. In the Ultima Handicap Chase, I expect both Morning Assembly and Kruzhlinin to go well, but connections of both will have one eye on Aintree, while the concluding novices’ handicap chase looks extremely compressed with just 4lbs separating the 20 runners.
Tom George’s Double Shuffle looks capable of going well, but his price has contracted a fair bit overnight, so I’m happy to watch at the odds.
1:30 Cheltenham Festival: Penglai Pavilion; 40/1 Skybet
3:30 Cheltenham Festival: Annie Power; 5/2 Stan James
4:10 Cheltenham Festival: Vroum Vroum Mag; 11/10 bet365
4:50 Cheltenham Festival: Southfield Royale; 7/1 Paddy Power
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2015-16
Pre order now, published early September in good time for the new season: Just £9:95 inc p&p
* order online www.cc-publishing.co.uk
* or, send a cheque payable to ‘The Racing Insider’ to PO Box 98, Liverpool L9 1WY (with address details)
Fellow Betrescue columnist and Bet Victor’s Charlie McCann says: “It really is a privilege to write the foreword for such an informative and well-researched publication, which continues to go from strength to strength.”
- Don Poli