Monday 16 December 2019

Cheltenham Festival Tips: What are the Best Ante-Post Bets?

The 2019/20 National Hunt season is well underway and several exciting contenders have already emerged for the biggest prizes at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The Gold Cup, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle are all up for grabs at the most important and prestigious meeting of the year. All roads now point to Cheltenham and these are the top ante-post selections:

Lostintranslation for the Gold Cup

Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old superstar has displayed superb form this season and he has stormed to the top of the ante post betting for the biggest race of the year.

Lostintranslation was second to Defi Du Seuil at the JLT Novices’ Chase in March, and he has been on an upward curve ever since. He blitzed a strong field to win the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, and he was impressive in winning a Listed chase on his seasonal reappearance.

That saw Lostintranslation installed as joint favourite along with defending champion Bristol De Mai at the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. It was difficult to separate as they went over the last, but Lostintranslation found another gear on the home straight and earned a one-and-a-half length victory. Everything now points to a Gold Cup trip, but first he must tackle the second leg of the Triple Crown of Jumps Racing: the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He is the second favourite, after only the impressive Cyrname, but he looks dangerous in that field and he should be a serious Gold Cup contender.

He has only lost to Defi Du Seuil in his last seven, but he beat that horse twice previously, and Tizzard is feeling confident. “Lostintranslation has come out of Haydock beautifully, he is a big strong horse in the peak of his powers at the moment and I couldn’t be happier with him,” said the trainer. “He has got everything going for him, he is a beautiful young horse. He has now moved into Cue Card’s box which tells a story of where we think he is. He has still got to do it, he still hasn't won a king George and he still has not won a Gold Cup. It is still all in front of him.”

Altior for the Champion Chase

Altior could aim for a third straight victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March. Nicky Henderson’s magnificent chaser became the punters’ darling by storming to victory in 2018 and easily defending his crown earlier this year. Victory at the Grade 1 Celebration Chase in April extended his long unbeaten record over fences, and suggested that his invincibility would continue.

Yet Henderson then took the bold decision of stepping Altior up in trip and heading down the King George route. That meant a visit to Ascot to contest the Christy Chase over 2m 5f 8y last month, where he came up against a bang in form Cyrname. That is the distance Cyrname specialises in, and it showed. He did not let Altior assume his usual position at the front of the field, and he then ran on well to secure a strong victory, with the 1/3 favourite more than two lengths back.

The result leaves Henderson at a crossroads with Altior. He could continue down this path and hope that Altior begins to build up his stamina, adapt to the longer trip and seize major honours. Alternatively, he could return to the distance that Altior was so successful over and see if he still has the pace to dominate his rivals. He has already said “bring on round two” against Cyrname, but if he struggles at Kempton on Boxing Day – where Cyrname, Lostintranslation and 2018 winner Clan Des Obeaux are all ahead of him in the betting – then Henderson could change tack. Altior was a huge, odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase in 2019, but he is now as long as 7/2 for the 2020 renewal, which could provide plenty of value for punters.

Cyrname for the Ryanair Chase

Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname has been in devastating form throughout 2019. The seven-year-old moved ahead of Altior in the official rankings with a stunning triumph in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in February and that announced him as a serious contender for glory this season. Punters were giddy with excitement about the prospect of him locking horns with Altior – it was likened to the epic duels between Kauto Star and Denman – but Cyrname was far stronger in the Christy Chase. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on away from Ascot, but his potential looks huge.

It will also be interesting to see where he fits in at the Cheltenham Festival. He has been cut from 33/1 to just 12/1 with some bookmakers for the Gold Cup, but the Ryanair Chase seems like a far more suitable contest for Cyrname. Defi Du Seuil is the favourite in the Cheltenham Ante Post odds, with Min and Chacun Pour Soi and even Douvan in the mix, but Cyrname might be an interesting option at 10/1.

Paisley Park for the Stayers’ Hurdle

The legendary Paisley Park extended his winning streak to six races when he triumphed in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle over 3m 52y at Newbury in November. His victory in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle was the stuff of fairy-tales. The hurdler nearly died two years previously from a serious illness, but he went on to give trainer Emma Lavelle and jockey Aidan Coleman their first top-level Grade One wins after years of trying.

What really captured the public’s imagination was the excitement, determination and wry humour of owner Andrew Gemmell, who was born blind. He could not watch the race, but he was clearly exhilarated as he absorbed the action, and the victory brought tears to the eyes of many viewers. Paisley Park continues to improve and he will surely be back for another crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2020. It will be difficult for anyone to stop him triumphing again.

Tiger Roll for the Cross Country Chase

Another returning hero will be Tiger Roll, who is bidding for a third consecutive Cross Country Chase win. He is probably the most famous horse in Britain right now, having won back-to-back Grand Nationals and moved alongside Red Rum in the pantheon of all-time greats. Owner Michael O’Leary famous described him as “a little rat of a thing”, but Tiger Roll has the heart of a lion and the stamina of an antelope.

The big story in 2020 will be his attempt to secure an unprecedented third straight victory, but first he is highly likely to head to Cheltenham for another Cross Country challenge.

He jumps really well, his stamina is superb and he never seems flustered, so another win for the little legend certainly looks on the cards. “He will go back to Cheltenham for the Cross Country race and then we'll go for the Randox Health Grand National,” said trainer Gordon Elliott, much to the delight of jumps racing fans. He is the favourite for the Cross Country and he should be able to pull off another famous victory.

No comments:

Post a Comment