• Tue 17 May, 2022
  • 19:40 BST
  • 15:40 EST (BST-4)
  • 21:40 CEST (BST+2)

Each way double at Cheltenham

Paul Ferguson has two selections for us on day one of the Cheltenham Festival: Roksana at 4:10 and Riders Onthe Storm at 4.50.

The Champion Hurdle is the highlight on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival and it might well be the highlight of the whole week, with dual-Champion Buveur d’Air being taken on by the mares, Apple’s Jade and Laurina.

There is no doubting that Apple’s Jade arrives at Cheltenham in better form than she has previously and she heads the betting at the time of writing. Buveur d’Air has never really been given the credit he deserves and this is his chance to prove the doubters wrong, with the race likely to be run to suit (given the pace on up front). Laurina is very much the fly-in-the-ointment, as we just don’t know how good she is, or could be. Given the impression she created when winning the Dawn Run at last year’s meeting, I did think she had the potential to go right to the top and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if she took her winning run to seven. That said, on all known form, she probably should be a shade bigger than she is and, as a result, I’m happy to watch the race and savour what could be a fantastic spectacle.

This year’s Supreme looks wide open and the Arkle looks slightly substandard, so I’m waiting until later on the card for the day’s selections. The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle once again looks a good opportunity for Benie des Dieux and last year’s winner deserves her position at the head of the market.

The fact that we haven’t seen her for almost 11 months isn’t a concern with her hailing from the Willie Mullins yard and she is very much the most likely winner. She’s tight enough (trading odds-on across the board) now, however, and given that there doesn’t look too much depth to the race, I feel Roksana (4:10) is a viable each-way alternative, at double-figure odds.

Officially 9lbs inferior to the market leader, Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old remains unexposed after just six starts over hurdles and this sort of trip on easy ground is just about ideal. A winner of the mares’ finale at Newbury under similar conditions last March, she went on to finish runner-up to Santini in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and we have only seen her once this season, when third behind Buveur d’Air and Vision des Flos over an inadequate trip at Sandown. That should have put her spot on for today’s assignment and she could well run a big race here.

The concluding National Hunt Chase continues to improve quality wise with each year and the top of the market is strong once again this time, with Ballyward and Ok Corral very smart novices. Both lack experience, however, so the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase makes more appeal from a betting perspective.

The Irish look to hold a strong hand here and the one I like is Riders Onthe Storm (4:50) for Tom Taaffe and Brian Hughes, who has twice ridden the winner of this race in the past three years. The lightly-raced six-year-old is very much going in the right direction over fences and he won with a bit more in hand than the official result might suggest last time. The way he goes through his races suggests that he will relish a strongly-run race and I suspect that Hughes will give him a patient ride, easing into contention as the race unfolds.

Currently trading at 7-1, he is another who can be backed each-way, in a typically competitive festival handicap. Be sure to check the place terms with the various firms for each race this week, as the competitive nature of the racing means enhanced terms. For instance, Sky Bet are paying six places on the Close Brothers (1/5 odds) whereas Bet 365 are paying ¼ odds to five places.

Tuesday’s selections:
4:10 Cheltenham Festival – Roksana (e/w); 7/1 bet365
4:50 Cheltenham Festival – Riders Onthe Storm (e/w); 8/1 betfred


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