14-1 WINNER, 4-1 NAP FOR THE CAUSE: After a 16-1 hit by Pricewise on Tuesday, Daqman retaliated yesterday with a 14-1 winner and a 4-1 nap to storm 31 points clear, reaching 20 big-race returns for the season. Scores Daqman 20 Pricewise 12 (+ 15 and – 16). The winners for a profit on the day of 61 points, all told, were:

WON 14-1 Willoughby Court
WON 4-1 (nap) Cause Of Causes

DAQMAN’S HERO IN VALUE HAT-TRICK: While populist punting searches in vain for a new hero, Daqman’s followers have their own Cheltenham champion within the value domain of BETDAQ: Cause Of Causes. Yesterday was the THIRD time he’d struck for Daqman at the festival:

WON 44.0 (NH Chase 2015) SP 8-1
WON 11.0 (Kim Muir 2016) SP 9-2
WON 5.1 (Cross Country 2017) SP 4-1


Gordon Elliott 5, Nicky Henderson 3. That’s the leading stable score after two days of Cheltenham, as the champions of England (Paul Nicholls) and Ireland (Willie Mullins) watch the losers pile up.

Nicholls has so far returned figures (PF040000) you’d normally associate with a struggling string. And whatever’s happened to Willie?

Struggle – with Melon, Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini all beaten – became slide with just one placed from the last 14 and Douvan defeated. Mullins’ figures:


Such a list of missed strikes, ‘duck eggs’ and ‘parking tickets’ are a warning to punters today: Steer well clear of Willie!

Yorkhill (1.30) and Un De Sceaux (2.50), plus Airlie Beach and Let’s Dance (4.50), will be backed by the faithful to redeem the first two days; but you can’t afford to be brave and stand on the bridge of a sinking ship.

Lays? Well, after 30 consecutive for those who opposed the clan Closutton, you are similarly far too late. You can no more condemn the few survivors than hunt for salvage.

The most likely scenario is that the stable is subdued by a virus, in which case one or two will have escaped it and could win. But which ones? In this situation, it will be the one you lay!


You’d think the bookies would be happy. With the Mullins debacle and the demise of odds-on favourites, they’ve never had it so good at Cheltenham.

But, as I warned yesterday, there were huge take-outs in SP overrounds, – just short of 40% in one case – particularly in the handicap markets and for an open Champion Hurdle.

We said keep those 7 a.m. BETDAQ lists I published, which reveal a near-level playing-field (a round book is 100 bet, 100 paid out), and compare with the SP at the end of the day’s racing.

Here they are. This is what you got, race by race, the offers corresponding to the SP Total percentages beneath them

Betdaq offers 102 101 105 101 104 104 105
Starting price 122 119 133 139 120 133 128


1.30 Cheltenham (JLT Novices’ Chase)

STATS Every winner of this has had a rating between 146 and 154, which today dismisses three of the runners, leaving in official order of merit Yorkhill 155, Disko 154, Flying Angel, Politologue and Top Notch 152.

FORM: The Willie Mullins runner, Yorkhill, would normally be my pick today, despite his guessy jumping sometimes, though not as bad as Might Bite who got away with it yesterday.

Mullins says: ‘I have some in the yard who jump better but none so fast.’ The form of Willie’s yard poses a second question mark over Yorkhill but so does the form of his races: he’s beaten only maidens over fences. Flying Angel was within four lengths of him over hurdles.

Politologue has beaten nothing well, and – like Yorkhill – is temperamental. His stable, too, is out of form. Top Notch has beaten horses which were touted for this meeting: Sizing Codelco (4.10) today) and Romain De Seman (Friday).

PREVIOUS FESTIVALS Yorkhill (won Neptune, 2016), Flying Angel (2nd Martin Pipe 2016), Top Notch (2nd Triumph Hurdle 2015)

VERDICT: In the circumstances, and with his stable in form, Top Notch is each-way value at 5.0, the place part to get back all or most of my win bet. Remember he’s been on target for this since November, when he won the race that would give him a £60,000 bonus for success today.


2.10 Cheltenham (Pertemps Final)

STATS Winners of this are usually placed in the first four in a qualifier without winning. Those ticking this box are Presenting Percy, Jury Duty, Barney Dwan, Sutton Manor, Rocklander, Isleofhopendreams, Theo’s Charm, Ballymalin, and For Good Measure.

The winner has had only six or seven starts over hurdles. The short-list this time is Ballymalin, Theo’s Charm, Presenting Percy and Sutton Manor.

The winner usually carries 11st 4lb or less (9 out of 10 this decade), which has Sutton Manor catching the eye, claimed off by Lisa O’Neill who won for Gordon Elliott on Tiger Roll on the opening day.

FORM Rocklander, Ballymalin and Barney Dwan were in the frame behind Impulsive Star in the Exeter qualifier a month or more back.

Clondaw Cian, who has won at Cheltenham, made late progress into fifth. and has had only eight tries over timber and now has cheekpieces first time.

Front-runner Ballymalin was also third in the Cheltenham qualifier behind Albert Bartlett second favourite Wholestone and West Approach who was third in the Cleeve Hurdle and renews rivalry with the winner of that, Unowhnatimeanhaerry in the Stayers later on today.

PREVIOUS FESTIVALS Caid Du Berlais (2nd Fred Winter 2013, 3rd Martin Pipe 2014, fell on Tuesday); Fingal Bay (won the Pertemps, 2014), The Tourard Man (3rd Pertemps 2015)

VERDICT: Ballymalin (28.0), Sutton Manor (29.0), Clondaw Cian (37.0) are all too big on BETDAQ in a 103% orange. Which one – or which other – will enjoy the fast ground most?


2.50 Cheltenham (Ryanair Chase)

STATS Five of the six winners up to 2015 were rated 166-169, including Cue Card, but Vautour was a league apart a year ago, scoring off 176.

Today’s ratings have Un De Sceaux on 171, Empire Of Dirt 166, Uxizandre 162, Sub Lieutenant 161.

PREVIOUS FESTIVALS: Empire Of Dirt (won Plate, 2016), Josses Hill (2nd Supreme Novice Hurdle 2014, 3rd Arkle 2015), Un De Sceaux (won Arkle 2015, 2nd Champion chase 2016), Uxizandre (2nd JLT 2014, won Ryanair 2015), Vaniteux (3rd Supreme Novice Hurdle 2014).

FORM: The late developer Empire Of Dirt (33lb higher than in January last year) is versatile as to distance and ground.

If Sizing John is to stand any chance in the Gold Cup, then the Empire and Sub Lieutenant have to go well. Both have run him close recently, though I think today’s trip is as far as the Lieutenant wants to gio.

Un de Seaux saw off Uxizandre on the New course in January but that was over 2m, and Uxizandre was returning after a long lay-off .

The dark horse is Vaniteux, who would have been second to Douvan in his pomp (2016 Arkle) but for unseating two out.

VERDICT: Worries about Uxizandre (bounce factor) and Un de Sceaux (stable form) have me siding with Empire of Dirt (3.95, stable in form, still progressive) and throwing a pound at Vaniteux (22.0, stable in form, hidden)


3.30 Cheltenham (Stayers Hurdle)

STATS Unowhatimeanharry is very short when you consider that only one winner aged nine or over has scored since 1986, unless as the end of a sequence of success (Inglis Drever, Big Buck’s).

PREVIOUS FESTIVALS Cole Harden (won World Hurdle 2015), Jezki (3rd Supreme Novice Hurdle 2013, won Champion Hurdle 2014), Nichols Canyon (3rd Neptune 2015, 3rd Champion Hurdle 2016); Shaneshill second in Champion Bumper (2014), Supreme (2015) and RSA. Unowhatimeanharry (won Albert Bartlett 2016),

FORM: Unowhatimeanharry has the edge on Cole Harden and West Approach at the weights but you’re left wondering what might have been for West Approach in two races against ‘Harry’, had he put in a clear round.

Agrapart deserves to get involved on a line through Cole Harden and beats Zarkandar at the weights. Similarly, Snow Falcon should reverse Gowran form with Shaneshill.

Jezki has done well since returning from injury but backing a glass horse in this company is like leaving your wallet on the bar. Ditto an out-of-sorts Nichols Canyon

HIDDEN HORSES: Ballyoptic (second, fourth and challenging when fell) knows all about the favourite in three separate races but should be a better horse after a wind operation. Similar situation to West Approach: off since January but breathing down the favourite’s neck.

VERDICT: There’s a 101% big, bright BETDAQ orange this morning! But not for the first time at Cheltenham you have to decide whether to take a short-priced favourite who’s been there and got the tea-shirt, or dig around in potential paydirt for something hidden, something that might better prefer the ground, something from a top stable in form.

My ‘something’ is Ballyoptic at 15.0. I was on him when he was neck and neck with Harry at Ascot in December, and I’m a big fan of the Twiston-Davies expertise.


4.10 Cheltenham (Plate)

STATS This is one for a big-odds turn-up, with the last eight winners set 10st 11lb or less. Venetia Williams and David Pipe have won it three times each since 2007. Pipe has Starchitect well placed within the weights parameter.

FORM/PREVIOUS FESTIVALS Tango De Juilley (Venetia Williams) was second to Empire Of Dirt in this last year and has been prepared with the race in mind again.

Bouvreuil has run second at the last two festivals but can we trust Paul Nicholls this week? Diamond King won the Coral Cup a year ago and Gordon Elliott definitely can be trusted this week!

If Top Notch has done well, look no further than front-runner Baron Alco (they were one-two at Sandown), a trade horse off 16.5. Equally, Sizing Codelco ran second to Top Notch, also likes to be up with the pace, and is blinkered first time.

VERDICT My original hope, Ballykan, has drifted from the ante-post price. The two I fancy at the offers are Sizing Codelco (17.0) and Tango De Juilley (23.0).


DAQMAN’S ANTE-POST (to win 100 points):
4.10 BALLYKAN (3.5pts at 31.0)
5.30 SOUTHFIELD ROYALE (7pts at 14-1)

DAQMAN ON THE DAY (win 50 points unless stated):
1.30 TOP NOTCH (12.5pts win and place)
2.10 BALLYMALIN (1.85pts win and place), SUTTON MANOR (1.38pts win and place), CLONDAW CLAN (1.38pts win and place)
2.50 (to win 30) 10pts win (nap) EMPIRE OF DIRT; 1.42pts win and place VANITEUX
3.30 BALLYOPTIC (3.5pts win and place), WEST APPROACH (1.85pts win and place)
4.10 SIZING CODELCO (3pts win and place) and TANGO DE JUILLEY (2.20pts win and place)
4.50 (to win 30) TOE THE LINE (2pts win and place)

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