One of the best ante post betting opportunities every year is the “To win any race at the Cheltenham Festival” market.
So far Paddy Power, William Hill and SkyBET are the only majors to have dipped their toes in the water, but no doubt most of the remainder will be following in the weeks ahead.
William Hill have already been stung with support for Black Hercules, though they are still best priced, by some way, at 14/1.
He runs this weekend so we’ll know more quite shortly, but it’s easy to see his appeal as he seems a tough and very versatile sort.
Certainly he would have plenty of options, and were the wheels to come off this week he could finish up in one of the handicaps – remember Wicklow Brave did something similar last year.
One eye catcher for me is Long Dog who is chalked up at 12/1 by Paddy Power.
Sizing John really could be anything, and “tens” with Paddy Power and William Hill is not be sniffed at.
It’s an important market as trainers – or owners – can change their minds so often.
Perhaps the most obvious case – though not perhaps widely known – was Hardy Eustace.
On the first of his Champion Hurdle years, connections crossed the Irish Sea with the intention of running in the Coral Cup!
In fairness to the late and greatly missed Dessie Hughes, a gentleman to his fingertips, any time the horse won that season on the home circuit he did mention the possibility of a Champion Hurdle tilt.
“He could be good enough for it you know, and might just go for it.”
“He’s a real two and a half miler and that’s what you need for that race” mused the man who had booted Monksfield home in his second time winning the Champion.
It’s history now of course that Hardy did indeed run in the Champion in 2004.
Given a great front running ride by Conor O’Dwyer he scored at 33/1 from defending champ Rooster Booster.
He repeated the dose a year later winning that epic finish with Harchibald.
Incidentally the much under rated O’Dwyer has a remarkable Cheltenham record.
He won four times at the Festival – the Champion Hurdle twice with Hardy Eustace and the Gold Cup twice Imperial Call (1996) and War Of Attrition (2006).
I haven’t seen Monksland priced yet for that win any race at the Festival market.
He has certainly made an excellent start over fences, but should the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott teams dominate in the novice chase department, he could always be switched back to hurdles.
The Ladbrokes World seems unlikely though as he never landed a blow last season and didn’t seem to get the trip anyway.
Coneygree was a great Gold Cup winner last year – when, relevant to what we were talking about earlier, it was a late call to run him in that too – a lovely family triumph and a wonderful and heart warming display.
Not sure I’m mad about the vibes about him this season though.
The latest we heard is that he may now go for the Lexus, as it seems an easier option than the King George.
Well it might well prove to be that indeed, though it’ll be no penalty kick either with Road To Riches, Carlingford Lough and Don Poli likely rivals.
But either way looking for the easier route is not exactly a ringing vote of confidence behind the defending Gold Cup champ.
Hopefully the whole Gold Cup picture will be a lot clearer after the Christmas jousting and indeed Smad Place is now in the mix too.
Don Cossack certainly commands respect and while Vautour should get the three miles at Kempton, though going further again at the Cotswolds is an unknown factor.
That said, many thought Kicking King and War Of Attrition wouldn’t get the Gold Cup trip yet they did – and how!
In fact War Of Attrition had to hold off the previous year’s Aintree Grand National hero Hedgehunter and in the end he did so with plenty to spare.
Back next Saturday.
Irish Racing Club